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3 Ways the Comparison Game Cripples

“I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers, that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints,… (Eph. 1:16-18 ESV)

      In Christ, we all have a ministry. Some work for a “public” or vocational ministry, others less formally minister “privately” to coworkers, colleagues, friends, etc. There are three things we typically tend to compare ourselves to in ministry – 

  1. Insiders – Ministries, other peoples’ ministry efforts, organizations, or businesses
  2. Outsiders – People in “secular” careers, the unsaved, or those not following God’s call (“but I’m doing God’s work!”)
  3. Ideal vs. real – Our internal vision of how things should be vs how they actually are.

      Generally it’s when things aren’t going well. It commonly manifests as either shame, self-doubt, or anxiety. Shame says “Woe is me, I should be further along, like so-and-so.” Doubt says: “If I were all I should be for God, I’d be making a bigger difference doing x, like them.” Anxiety (fear) says “what if program x flops?”. In all of these cases, we’re putting the course before the heart. Why? Because, it’s not about you.
      Can I rub some salt in? Really,  it’s not… about… you. Contrasting where we are to where we think we should be, where others are, or where we’d like to be factors out where God has placed us and what He desires of and for us. God didn’t make you them… He made you you. Does that clear anything up?

      Repeat that to yourself while I do the same, so we both remember it, mmkay? Guilty.

Matters of the Heart
      At the heart of this struggle is this: by grace, God has me right where He wants me. If I’m disappointed with where I am, I have a vertical issue: an idolatry issue with God. What I’m in effect saying is this –

“God should respect my plans and efforts above His.” 

     Core issue: we’ve taken a man-centric view rather than a God-centric view of things. But, take heart – “no temptation has seized you, but that which is common to man.” Easy enough mistake to make. As a card carrying member of the “been there, done that” club, I ain’t mad at ya…

Sovereignty?
     My dissatisfaction with where He has me, even if I’ve been disobedient along the way, is ultimately dissatisfaction with His sovereignty. He can do whatever He wants and He’s not out to make you or I rich, famous, or even successful in and of ourselves. If He has me stalled out (which I’ve felt like many times in “full time ministry”), He’s aware of it. There is not a circumstance that has come about in history that hasn’t passed through his fingers. Nothing surprises God.

Side Note:
      Satan‘s very first ploy was to get Eve to believe she was missing out on something. Trouble is… If you’re longing to be doing something else, there’s a good chance the only thing you’re missing out on is what you’re supposed to be doing right now. Read on, and we’ll uncover what it is we’re really missing… 


Did God Allow It or Cause It?
     I’ve been wrapped around that axle before, too. So, let me ask you… What difference does it make? Are you going to prosecute a case against the God who told the oceans how far they could go and no further? In my darker, heavier moments, I’ve tried it. Losing battle. Turn back. 

     Scripture contains enough references to God causing disaster and affliction (e.g. Daniel 9:14, Psalm 119.75) and God allowing the same (just search “God permitted”) that the doctrine of sovereignty ought to put to rest our anxieties over what isn’t, what could have been, and what calamities or shortcomings are yet to come down the pipe at us.


     This isn’t to say that our desires and dreams don’t matter to God. Louie Gigilio recently tweeted: “What you do matters to God and man, but you matter because of what God has done. First things first.”

What’s Really Missing?
      Paul gets it. His unceasing prayers (above) for the church at Ephesus are that they would know God, not see their ends to their desires met. Rather, that through a deeper heart knowledge of and intimacy with the Father their desires would become His desires. How about you?  

     If a dissatisfaction is a holy dissatisfaction, it is the kind that points us toward knowing God, not questioning Him or our circumstance. I would argue that sanctification is about God purifying us from matters of the heart that obscure us from truly knowing Him. Agreed?

Benediction
     I pray today, that you would come do a deeper intimacy with God so that your anxieties, fears, disappointments, and shame over what is not would be eclipsed and replaced with joy over who He is and what He has done. Don’t be robbed of present joy by what went wrong in the past, is missing in the present, or looms in the future.

“We weren’t meant to be somebody–we were meant to know Somebody” 
– John Piper 

in Christ,

AP

How to Make the Gospel Seeker Friendly

Watch Your Own Film Lately?
     There are some great communicators out there in the world. Last month, I had opportunity to communicate truth through a 90 minute one man show. While I don’t think it put me in a class among those men, it did renew my appreciation for such men. 

     The amount of time poured into the craft of communication cannot be understated, if one is to do it with excellence. Today, I’m watching video of my performance with a critical eye and a yellow pad of paper. World class communicators make it a habit to “watch the film” like elite athletes who seek to achieve peak performance.

Two Extremes and an Extremely Dangerous Center
     There is great value in learning from mistakes and honing one’s craft. But, there is a tension in our culture between sharpening one’s communication skills on one end, foolishly “winging it” on the other end, and yet an even more dangerous spot in the middle where we become worshipers of our gift of communication instead of relying on the Giver of all gifts (often referred to as “the liability of ability”). This happens when we cross the line of developing our skills and believing our own press…

     But, there is a reason why Paul makes it a point to explain that he didn’t use flowery language, etc., isn’t there? There is a reason why so many were astonished at Peter and John, though they weren’t “educated men” (Acts 3 & Acts 4), isn’t there? Was it because they dumbed down the gospel? Was it because they had graduated from the Tony Robbins school of Communication on the Cutting Edge of Relevant Leadership?

Who Does the Attracting?
     In His letter to Titus, Paul gets to the bullet points of preaching and teaching and makes it clear how to make the gospel as appealing as possible. Paul never advocates for being intentionally foolish and simply blurting out nonsense. But, Jesus hints that it’s not our words that draw people to God, rather the God of the word who does so. (See John 6:43) Further, here are a few points Paul also does not make:

  1. Make the music in your worship service as appealing as all other contemporary artists so that converts to Christianity will not be repelled by it.
  2. Manipulate crowds of people by emotional altar calls designed to answer temporal needs (freedom from addiction, restored marriages, financial prosperity) rather than clearly addressing their greatest need: a Savior and Lord, who delivers them from depravity and eternal damnation.
  3. Stay away from words like “sin” and “judgment” that are unappealing or even offensive to a culture steeped in the gospel of self esteem.

     The gospel is about grace, not performance. But, the overflow of a life surrendered to Gospel is… wait for it… godlinessGod initiated, God directed, God glorifying and God pleasing performance. (Not to be confused with man made behavior modification or putting on airs of “fake it till you make it”.) 

     The common thread here is this: don’t rely on your slick communication, some grandiose new, “relevant” presentation of the truth, or softening, denial, or watering down of the truth to make the teaching of the gospel more appealing to the lost.  Instead, abide in Christ and God’s agape love so tightly that the natural overflow of your life is godliness – this is the outward manifestation of a changed, exchanged life which God Himself uses to attract others to the Savior. Performance is the result of grace, not the other way around. And, it is this performance that God uses to attract the lost and dying.

Meditate today on these:

“Teach slaves to be subject to their masters in everything, to try to please them, not to talk back to them, and not to steal from them, but to show that they can be fully trusted, so that in every way they will make the teaching about God our Savior attractive. (Titus 2:9-10)”

For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not come to know God, God was well-pleased through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe. For indeed Jews ask for signs and Greeks search for wisdom; but we preach Christ crucified, to Jews a stumbling block and to Gentiles foolishness, but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men. (1 Cor. 1:21-25)”

“No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws them… (John 6:43a)”

in Christ,

AP