The last post received a lot of comments. Catching up on magazine reading, I came across some related content from Dr. Swindoll. He was asked:
“How do you, as a growing Christian, keep from competing with other believers?”
“I have a few characteristics that are true of me – one of those traits is that I don’t have an ounce of envy inside me. (I have many weaknesses, but envy isn’t one of them, thankfully.) Not even when I was much younger many years ago, pastoring a small church in Massachusetts. We didn’t experience numerical growth. One July Fourth weekend, we had about seven in our congregation, and three were Swindolls. I refused to let it bother me that another church near ours was growing steadily. They had about two hundred on that same Sunday, but I never let it trouble me. We weren’t in competition.
Refuse to think competitively. God has gifted everyone uniquely and distinctively – believe that. He has gifted many in various ways – and that includes you. Let it be. Don’t sweat it.
Put competition to rest. We can choose to compare ourselves with others and not surround ourselves with those who have a competitive spirit. We’re all in this together – so if one is in need, we all pitch in. And if one rejoices, we all rejoice. Envy is a thief; it will steal your joy.”
Wow – it is hard to imagine that years ago Dr. Swindoll had a tiny congregation that did not grow!! If you aren’t familiar with Swindoll, he eventually founded a church that grew large, and his ministry through preaching, teaching, radio, and print has helped so many – worldwide – grow in their walk with Christ. Check out: Insight for Living.
Now, the point here is not that: If you are struggling – don’t worry – you will eventually have a huge ministry like Swindoll! Many people labor for Christ in small fields their entire life. Rather, I just found it encouraging that years ago Swindoll labored at a tiny church. He wasn’t disgruntled or envious, but did his best to serve God in the situation he was in at that time. Which reminded me of a statement from the martyred missionary Jim Elliot:
“Wherever you are, be all there! Live to the hilt of every situation you believe to be the will of God.”
Are we refusing to give our all until we find an ideal situation or have a bigger crowd? Give your all, whether it is 5 or 20 or 200!
What is our underlying motive? Are we giving our all but from envy or for self-serving purposes? Wrong motives may lead to “success” but at what cost? A weak foundation will eventually crack in one way or another.
The apostle Paul is such an example here. For him, it was all about Christ from beginning to end.
“When I came to you, I did not come with eloquence or human wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God. For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. I came to you in weakness with great fear and trembling. My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith might not rest on human wisdom, but on God’s power.” 1 Cor. 2: 1-5