I've battled comparison since I was old enough to realize some other kids' toys were cooler than mine. My heart has come a long way, and I'm pretty content with my life now. But it's been a journey.
As a junior varsity football player, I longed for my 5-foot-2-inch, 120-pound frame to be as tall and muscular as the varsity players. But once I finally made varsity, I immediately wanted to be as big and strong as my college buddies.
On college graduation day, I watched many of my classmates accept academic honors. I pitied myself for my lack of awards, thinking I could have earned some too if my parents had footed my tuition bill so I wouldn't have had to work my way through school.
Then I entered ministry, where you'd think God would have immediately convicted me of comparing myself. But it actually grew worse. The stakes got higher, the impact grew bigger and the sacrifice became greater. As a pastor, I felt insecure plenty of times when I saw other churches' annual reports announcing thousands of salvations and baptisms, new community groups, expansion and increased giving.
I still wasn't good enough.
But I discovered something new happening as I gained more experience as a pastor. Not only did I still feel inadequate, but I also started to deal with the opposite end of the comparison spectrum: I felt a little too proud of what I was accomplishing.
As the new campus pastor of a large church, I baptized 72 people from the stage. I learned that number was more than some pastors baptize in their careers. Wow, I told myself, I'm more than just good enough. I'm better than. I know. I still cringe when I think about my attitude back then, but the Holy Spirit was definitely working on me.
Whether my sin was pride or jealousy, comparing myself and my ministry got me nowhere. I know I'm not alone. If you've ever been there, remembering these three points can get you back on track:
1. Comparisons are based on deception. We know ourselves pretty well—the good, the bad and the ugly. But when we look at others, we only see what they choose to reveal, and that picture is often distorted or incomplete.
Don't be fooled. Victories are often public, but the struggles are private. You're not the only leader with tough days.
2. Comparisons downplay God's standards. Here's the truth: Someone else will always seem to make a bigger impact than you, and someone else will always seem less effective than you. But "bigger impact" and "less effective" depend on your perspective, not God's.
In 2 Cor. 10:12, Paul said: "For we dare not count or compare ourselves with those who commend themselves. They who measure themselves by one another and compare themselves with one another are not wise."
God doesn't call us to hold ourselves to human standards but to His standards alone. So don't worry if your ministry isn't "measuring up" to someone else's work, and don't gloat if your stats seem better than those of the church across town.
Instead, ask God, "Am I better today than I was yesterday? How is my ministry living up to Your plan? Am I a good steward of all the tools and resources You have blessed us with?" That's the only way to have a clear benchmark for measurement.
3. Comparisons diminish gratitude. When we stop worrying about what everyone else is doing and focus on Christ's calling for us, we become more grateful for everything He has already given us. We also become more aware of His role in it all.
Here's the thing: When we're jealous, we feel as though God has blessed someone else more than us. We feel resentful and ungrateful. When we're prideful, we feel as though our success is our own doing, and we lose sight of God's role. Both attitudes miss an important point: Without Him, we would have nothing.
My heart finally changed when I chose to stop comparing. I quickly realized how much God has blessed me. I am favored. I am anointed. And I am humbled. Gratitude began to flow from my heart. The more thankful I am for what He has asked me to do right now, the less I care about what someone else is doing.
As a Christ-follower and a leader, you have been chosen. You have your own big impact to make. Compare your obedience to your unique calling and your progress to your yesterday, then watch gratitude overflow and jealousy and pride subside.
Chris Brown is a nationally syndicated radio talk show host, pastor and speaker carrying the message of stewardship and intentional living nationwide. Available on radio stations across the country, "Chris Brown's True Stewardship" provides biblical solutions and sound advice for questions on life and money. Follow him at stewardship.com, on Twitter (@chrisbrownonair) or on Facebook (chrisbrownonair).
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