1 Peter 2:9 9 But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out fo darkness into his wonderful light.
Hebrews 12:1-3 1 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. 2 Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3 Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.
What I want to talk with you today is about living a life of comparison. There is no shortage of opportunities to compare ourselves to other people. We live in a competitive society. Kids are taught to compete from a very early age. Is it possible to compete without comparing ourselves to others? Is it possible to compete with the attitude that we will be the best versions of ourselves, give the best performance we can give, study to our maximum potential, and execute to our highest ability without getting hung up on other people’s performance or how we rate compared to them?
The Bible actually says it isn’t smart to compare ourselves to other people. Listen to this Scripture from 2 Corinthians 10:12 12 We do not dare to classify or compare ourselves with some who commend themselves. When they measure themselves by themselves and compare themselves with themselves, they are not wise. It isn’t smart to focus on who we are in light of who others are. Our eyes only need to be on One person for self-worth and value and direction. It isn’t about how we stack up to others. It is about pursuing what God has for us as individuals.
Comparing ourselves to others is a natural tendency. What we may not realize is that it is a dangerous one. The comparison game is a never-ending game and is one we can’t win. Jealousy will eat us up from the inside out. I believe Satan is delighted when we start to compare ourselves with other people. No matter what conclusion we draw, comparing ourselves to others won’t honor God, and it will create problems for us.
Here is the problem with comparisons. We can evaluate what others have, what they have achieved, how they dress, what they can do, how pretty or handsome they are, and we can feel inferior OR we can evaluate all of that and feel superior. Neither one of those outcomes will be helpful for us. If we feel inferior we may retreat, shrink back, and just try to blend in rather than reach our potential. Of course, Satan would love to sideline us from our own race by getting us to think our race is about other people. That is hogwash. Our race is about us as individuals. Feeling superior isn’t any better as it leads to arrogance, rudeness, abrasiveness, bullying, and people like that become ostracized by others.
Philippians 2:3 admonishes us: 3 Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Neither inferiority or superiority will be God-honoring or helpful for us.
We need to learn how to do what Hebrews 12:1 tells us to do. We need to learn to run the race marked out FOR US. (Hebrews 12:1) Each of us has a God-assigned lane to run in. My lane isn’t your lane. Your lane isn’t my lane. So regardless of how well you run or don’t run, my lane has nothing to do with your lane, but my lane has everything to do with me and what God has set out for me to become and accomplish. Therefore, I don’t measure myself by you or your life or your performance, but only by the standards and goals that God has in mind for me.
How many likes you have on Facebook, what your GPA is, how many people follow you on Twitter, how new your car is, what kind of fashion you are wearing, what kind of house you live in, how many vacations you get to take each year, what office you hold, what standard of living you achieve, how handsome or cute your significant other is, how athletic or musical you are, or how smart your phone is or whatever-NONE of that has anything to do with me and my lane.
And here is the thing: When I get that, I don’t have to be threatened by your success or minimized by your achievement. I can rejoice with you, be happy for you and still run in my lane the race that God has marked out for me. Also, if I see you struggling, I can lend a hand to help you get back up and get into your own lane without thinking that if I do, you will somehow threaten my success! Is this helping anyone this morning?
It is easier said than done. Just this past week as I listened to a few podcasts by Andy Stanley and Craig Groeschel I started to feel very insignificant and struggled with confidence regarding my ability to write and to preach. I told Thom after listening to them I felt like my sermons ranked right up there with “One fish, two fish, red fish, blue fish.” They are brilliant minds, passionate communicators, experts on delivery and timing. And instead of coming away with the message they were trying to deliver, I made it a competition and walked away feeling minimized and discouraged.
I don’t know Andy Stanley or Craig Groeschel. I have never met either one personally. They don’t know I exist. Why did I allow two gifted servants of God to make me doubt my calling and ability instead of receive the Word of God with humility through them and their amazing ministries? It was because in my head, I got out of my lane. I started to look at them in their lanes and started comparing my calling with theirs, my ability with theirs. God spoke to me clearly and said, “Get back in your lane.”
So: Point number one for this message is this:
- Get in your own lane. Hebrews 12:1 I have an assigned lane for an assigned race. I can’t win your race. You can’t win mine. We need to realize we aren’t competing with anyone for anything God has for us. If we are submitted to Christ and we are seeking His will, if we don’t get the promotion, then the promotion wasn’t in our lane. If we don’t have something someone else has right now, it may not be that it isn’t in our lane, but that it is simply down the road, and the surest way to miss it is to jump out of our lane to try to run someone else’s race!
Do you know what Satan wants more than anything else? It is to disrupt your race. Comparison will kill your contentment, and once Satan has you discontented, he will do everything he can to get you to wander out of your lane into other people’s lanes where you will stay discontented. That isn’t abundant life. That isn’t God’s plan. Our lane has a pace and a purpose that is tailor-made for us. We will have rest and refreshment and surges of strength at just the right time if we stay in our lane. We weren’t meant to jump the obstacles in other people’s lanes, just like they aren’t designed to try to run our race. We are the only ones who can run our race, so we need to get in our own lanes and stay there.
Do you think the disciples ever struggled with staying in their own lane? You bet. There was definitely the competition kind of comparison between the disciples as they were trying to figure out what it meant to be a Christ-follower and to be part of this new Kingdom that Jesus was always talking about. More than once they argued among themselves and wanted Jesus to declare which of the disciples would be the higher ups in the Kingdom of God. They were often vying for position, wanting to know who would be the greatest.
It’s interesting that John, the guy who wrote the book of John, called himself “The one that Jesus loved.” Have you ever wondered what that was about? Do you think that was a nickname all the disciples used or did John just want everyone to know he was some kind of favorite of Jesus? I mean, can you see James or John saying, “Hey, guy Jesus loves the best, let’s go fishing?” I’m not so sure. I can’t really make too much out of his self-given title, but what about something else that appears in John 20? It seems maybe John had some comparison issues with a certain disciple named Peter.
Look at this text with me:
John 20:1-8 1 Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene went to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the entrance. 2 So she came running to Simon Peter and the other disciple, THE ONE JESUS LOVED, and said, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we don’t know where they have put him!” 3 So Peter and the other disciple started for the tomb. 4 Both were running, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. 5 He bent over and looked in at the strips of linen lying there but did not go in. 6 Then Simon Peter, who was behind him, arrived and went into the tomb.
Verse 8:8 Finally the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went inside. He saw and believed.
Do you see what John did as he wrote out this Resurrection story? He wanted us to know that the tomb was empty, but he wanted us to know something else as well. He wanted us to know that he could run faster than Peter! I’m not making it up. It is right there in the text. After reminding us that he, John, was the one Jesus loved, he told us three times, in three different ways, that he beat Peter to the tomb. Is that just colorful writing, or did John and Peter have some comparison rivalry going on?
Let’s develop this theory further. In the very next chapter of John, we read about the reinstating of Peter. Peter, of course, had really messed up. He had promised to follow Jesus to the end, even unto death, and during the events leading up to the crucifixion, Peter denied he even knew Jesus, not once, not twice, but three times. So, after the Resurrection Jesus appeared to the disciples in John 21 and decided to have a direct conversation with Peter about how things were going to need to be going forward. I do love that about Jesus. He didn’t want to rehearse Peter’s past. He wanted to talk to Peter about his future.
We pick up the story in verse 15. Stay with me! 15 When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you truly love me more than these?” “Yes, Lord,” he said, “you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Feed my lambs.” 16 Again Jesus said, “Simon son of John, do you truly love me?” He answered, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Take care of my sheep.” 17 The third time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, “Do you love me?” He said, “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Feed my sheep.
So, Jesus basically was telling him to get back on track and get back to work to do what Jesus had taught him and called him to do. At the end of verse 19 Jesus said, “Peter, follow me.” Look what happened next!
John 21:20-22 (NIV) 20 Peter turned and saw that the disciple whom Jesus loved was following them.
Skip to verse 21
21 When Peter saw him, he asked, “Lord, what about him?” In other words, Peter wanted to know when Jesus was going to talk to John and what John’s future would include.
22 Jesus answered, “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? You must follow me.”
If I could summarize what Jesus was saying, it might sound like this: “Don’t worry about John and what I have planned for him. You just follow me. You just do what I have assigned to you. You just get in your lane and stay there.”
We will waste a lot of time and energy if we spend time focusing on others and what they are doing when we need to be concentrated on our own lives.
Point two quickly:
- Look at Jesus. Hebrews 12:2 “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”
I remember when our kids were learning to walk, as they toddled forward we would hold out our hands toward them to encourage them forward and our eyes would lock with theirs. They watched our excitement, they saw our smiles, they were eager to reach us. As they focused on us, they gained focus for their steps. As they focused on us, they had a goal. They knew where the finish line was.
The way to avoid the comparison trap is to get our eyes fixed on Jesus. Notice how verse 2 highlights how Jesus endured the cross. He made it through the tough times. He knows how to navigate through life’s trials. He has become victorious and is seated at the Father’s right hand. He has crossed the finish line.
Because He is the One who is the author of our faith, because He is the One who is the perfector of our faith and knows why we were made, what lane we are to run in and where the finish line is, we need to be focused on Him! Let’s develop the holy habits of Bible reading and prayer. Let’s purpose to seek the Lord and His plans for our lives and not just consult Him from time to time or include Him in certain parts of our lives. Let’s lock eyes with Him and not allow anything or anyone to deter us.
Satan wants you to look at others. Satan wants you to look at how fast someone else is running or how easy someone else’s race looks. If you look at Jesus, you will remember what He went through. He had it worse than anyone else, and He crossed the finish line. You can too. Stare at Jesus. Get your eyes off of the other runners.
I have always loved Proverbs 4:25. “Let your eyes look straight ahead; fix your gaze directly before you.”
There is a race to win! If you keep looking ahead, you won’t be distracted.
- Run with purpose. I Corinthians 9:26 “Therefore I do not run like a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man beating the air.”
We need to take this race seriously. We can’t be lackadaisical or random about our approach to this race. We need to run with purpose on purpose. How can we make a difference as we run? How has God gifted us as individuals? When we compare ourselves to others we lose sight of the fact that we have a specific job to do for the Lord. When we compare ourselves to others we may conclude we aren’t doing enough, and then we spread ourselves so thin with all kinds of activity to the point that we don’t really make a significant impact in any one area. How can you run on purpose?
Are you called to foster children? Does God want you to volunteer at the Crisis pregnancy center? Are you supposed to be leading a Bible study at work? Has God wired you to help people with spiritual questions or emotional issues? Are you supposed to visit the sick, send cards to people, or adopt a neighbor? Maybe you are supposed to coach sports teams or teach young people how to build something. Perhaps you are to impact people by generously giving money and other resources away. What is the focus of the lane where you are running? What can you use to glorify God? How can you impact the coming generation or older generations for Jesus? Find your purpose. Find it and don’t be distracted by what everyone else is doing. Focus on your purpose.
I’m not called to be Andy Stanley or Craig Groeschel. My purpose isn’t the same as Joyce Meyer, and I will never be as sweet, as funny or as pretty as Beth Moore. I am not in competition with them in order to fulfill my purpose, so I am going to run in the lane God has designated for me and to run with as much focus as possible. I don’t want to be sidetracked by competition or comparison.
- Run with perseverance to win your race. Hebrews 12:1
We need to make a commitment to the entire race. We need to run and not give up. We need to make the determination that we won’t let disappointment or hurt or frustration cause us to “take our toys and go home.” We need to push past barriers and jump over obstacles as we lean on the Lord and stay focused on the finish line. Listen, it isn’t how we start. It is how we finish. Do you want to finish well? Do you want to hear God say one day, “Well done, good and faithful servant?!” (Matthew 25:23)
Look at 1 Corinthians 9:24-27 24 Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. 25 Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever.
Run to get the prize! Run with all of your might. Run through the storms. Run through the hurt. Run for the crown.
You may feel as if you have gotten off to a slow start. You may feel as if everyone else is so far ahead in their race that you shouldn’t even try. You may feel like a loser, today, but God is telling you to quit looking at who you think is in front of you or who might be behind you and run YOUR race with perseverance, to keep running, and to run to win.
Craig Groeschel had this to say about this topic: Who or what defines your worth? You are living for a dad who is no longer alive. You are living for a mom who will never give you what you want. You are living for an ex-spouse, “I’ll show him,” whatever. He isn’t even thinking about you. You are living for your friends. Who or what is going to bring meaning or define your worth in this life? If your answer is anything besides Jesus you are running a race that you will never, ever win.
You have a race to run and a prize to achieve. If you compare yourself to someone else, you make what is special about you become devalued, and you will become distressed and distracted and discouraged and defeated. Get in your lane and stay there. Fix your eyes on Jesus. Focus on your own purpose, and make up your mind to persevere until the end!