Years ago my husband and I opened a small automotive shop in our city. As with most small business we experienced some growing pains. During one particularly slow season, I cried out to God. He brought me to a little-known passage in the book of Jeremiah. And the words from Jeremiah 29:7 seemed to make sense for my situation when I read:
“Seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.”
Truly my first thought was, “Wow! He carried me here.” I thought I’d picked the city for its good schools. My next thought was just as awe-inspiring: If this city prospers, we prosper. I’ve never forgotten that lesson.
This world is full of competition. In a free market some competition is healthy. It promotes honesty and fairness. Sports competitions are great for entertainment. For me, the fiercer and faster, the better. As a spectator, I’m not a fan of golf. Every year friends of mine hold a golf tournament to benefit orphans around the world. My dad is a golfer, and last year my son and I rode in the cart while he played. It was one of the longest days of my life. Midway through I told my son I would pay him to finish the course with grandpa and I bailed. However, give me some drag racing or pro football and I’m in!
Competition is good, it’s thrilling, but it’s beautiful to be part of a community who looks out for one another. There should be no competition in Christ.
My pastor recently shared how he drove to church Sunday morning and remembered each pastor in our city in prayer. We’re not in competition. We’re one church, one body with one Spirit and one Father. He encouraged us to keep them in our prayers too. He expressed the same thing I learned concerning our business: We’re all in this together; when one of us does well we all benefit!
Webster’s defines competition: To strive against a person or group to attain a goal, such as an advantage or a victory. Sometimes we’re thrown into competition without even entering the race. Paul addressed the matter to the Corinthians when he heard they were fighting with each other. “I’ll tell you exactly what I was told: You’re all picking sides, going around saying, ‘I’m on Paul’s side,’ or ‘I’m for Apollos,’ or ‘Peter is my man,’ or ‘I’m in the Messiah group.’” Paul asked if Jesus had been chopped up in little pieces, so we can each have a relic of our own. He explains God didn’t send him out to collect a following for himself, but to preach the message of what He has done. And, we’ve all been given the same assignment, to tell who Jesus is and what He’s done for us.
“So what’s the point of all this comparing and competing? You already have all you need. You already have more access to God than you can handle. Without bringing either Apollos or me into it, you’re sitting on top of the world—at least God’s world—and we’re right there, sitting alongside you!” 1 Corinthians 4:8, The Message.
Ahh, what a picture: you and me on top of the world, sitting right alongside each other! Sometimes I need a reminder. I’m going to make a confession: I’m the world’s slowest writer. My editor is reading this right now saying, “I can attest to that!” So when I read the accomplishments of other writers, the education, the multiple books, the far-reaching impact of their ministry, I can get depressed. This recently happened when a friend shared the bio of a fellow writer we know on Facebook. Then, almost on queue the next post I read spoke truth and healing to my soul—The secret (drum roll, please) is: You don’t have to be a super woman, you just need to be supernatural!
Someone wrote, only two things that happen when you compare yourself to others—a feeling of superiority or a feeling of inferiority. Neither is scriptural nor beneficial to our walk with Christ. Galatians 5: 25-26 reads: Since this is the kind of life we have chosen, the life of the Spirit, let us make sure that we do not just hold it as an idea in our heads or a sentiment in our hearts, but work out its implications in every detail of our lives. That means we will not compare ourselves with each other as if one of us were better and another worse. We have far more interesting things to do with our lives. Each of us is an original.
You are an original, uniquely gifted, chosen, and wildly loved by God. I am an original; I don’t write or speak with eloquent words. Paul said that’s OK. Even Paul came in weakness, with fear and trembling, the opposite of self-confident. But he came with a message. Determined not to know anything except Jesus Christ and Him crucified. Paul said, “My speech and my preaching were not with persuasive words of human wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith should not be in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.”
It’s a dog-eat-dog world. But the family of God should always be looking out for the benefit and welfare of others. We’re not in competition; we’re all merely signposts pointing in the direction of the one true Hero, the only one with the power to rescue! Christ crucified, the only one to defeat death and the grave!