By the grace of God I am what I am. (1 Corinthians 15:10)
God made you to be you.
You have the body God gave you — with all its genetic capacities and limitations (Psalm 139:13). You were born at the time and place he determined (Acts 17:26).
And if you’re a Christian, he has called you out of darkness into light (Ephesians 5:8). God considers you a necessary part of Christ’s body, the Church (1 Corinthians 12:27), and he has given you particular gifts to use for the sake of this body — along with a measured amount of grace for using them (Romans 12:6).
That means the life that you have is a sacred calling (1 Corinthians 7:17). By the grace of God, you are what you are (1 Corinthians 15:10).
It also means that the lives others have are sacred callings by the grace of God. And some of those saints have received sacred callings resulting in greater levels of gifting and prominence than yours.
And this means that you and I frequently must battle against comparing ourselves with others.
Hijacked by Pride
Comparison is not inherently sinful. In fact, the Bible wants us to be “imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises” (Hebrews 6:12). Imitation requires comparison.
But if we are not vigilant and ruthlessly pursuing humility, pride will hijack comparison. Pride wants glory for the self and sees others not as necessary parts of Christ’s body carrying out sacred callings, but as threats to self-glory. When pride rules comparison, jealousy and selfish ambition result (James 3:16).
A Weight to Lay Aside
We can tell this is happening in us when we look at others and don’t see the grace of God, but reflections of our own inferiority. We don’t see them as windows into God’s glory, but as mirrors into which we are asking, “Who’s the fairest one of all?” — and we know it’s not us.
The resulting discouragement becomes like an iron ball on our spiritual leg making it very hard to run. Which means prideful comparison is a weight we must lay aside (Hebrews 12:1).
How do we do that?
Name the Craving
When you feel that familiar discouragement — that faith-depleting, courage-sapping self-pity that tells you that you’re a loser — don’t be passive. Pride and Satan are conspiring to abort your race. It’s war.
It might feel like a general discouragement, but there’s something specific you’re believing that’s giving life to this discouragement. Develop the habit of asking your soul questions. “Why are you cast down, O my soul?” (Psalm 42:5). Make yourself put it into words. Be specific (don’t just accept “I don’t do anything well”). Name what it is that you crave.
As soon as you recognize a desire for self-glory, repent. Lay it aside. It’s an idolatrous, God-belittling, joy-destroying sin. Call it what it is, and God will forgive you (1 John 1:9) and give you grace (James 4:6).
Feed Your Weary Soul Nourishing Promises
Pride-fueled jealousy and selfish ambition leave the soul empty and tired. But the promises of God believed immediately produce the energy of hope. Eat promises like these:
Jesus chose you and appointed you: “You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you” (John 15:16).
God will equip you — “with everything good that you may do his will, working in us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ” (Hebrews 13:21).
God will always provide sufficient grace for you: “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (1 Corinthians 12:9).
God sees and rewards faithful, obscure labors for him: “Your Father who sees in secret will reward you” (Matthew 6:6).
God assesses the heart, not outward impressiveness: “The Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7).
God will complete the work he began in you: “I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:6).
Jesus will always be with you: “I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20).
Serve in the Strength God Supplies
Get back in the faith race! Carry on with your serving! Don’t be immobilized by less than pure motives. Nothing you do this side of glory will be perfectly pure. Everything is sanctified by the work of Jesus. Serve in the strength that God supplies (1 Peter 4:11), according to the grace he’s given to you (Romans 12:6), in the sacred calling he has on your life (1 Corinthians 7:17).
Let’s resolve again today to lay aside the weight of prideful comparison, doing “nothing from selfish ambition or conceit” (Philippians 2:3), but in humble faith, remaining “steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord [our] labor is not in vain” (1 Corinthians 15:58).