When the lake is smooth like glass, usually as the sun rises above the treeline, it calls to me. A paddle during these quiet morning hours is among my favourite moments.
I pass through a shallow area where reeds sway back and forth around a small island, then a bald eagle soars over me. I stop paddling, almost losing my balance as I gaze upwards, trying to keep it in view as long as I can. The magnificence of these birds up close, their effortless flight, massive wingspan, and distinct markings give rise to a special moment.
Continuing on, I paddle across open waters. Now a pair of ducks fly past me. They’re unremarkably brown in color, flying low across the water, settling again on the water near the shore.
Comparing these two birds, I notice my response to them both. The eagle in its magnificence has me pausing in wonder, where the ducks barely cause me to bat an eye. If we’d play the “would you rather” game, the answer reveals a little about ourselves and what we wish for.
Our tendency to compare leaves us wanting.
As we serve the Lord within our local communities, we’ve experienced a time or two when we’d rather be someone else and possess their giftings or abilities: We’ve felt frustrated, discouraged, and envious.
While we know and believe God has created each of us with our own set of talents, strengths, and passions, as an integral part of His body, why do we so easily linger on the service of others?
Consider these three reasons.
Discontent In Our Identity
Perhaps we’d rather fly alongside someone, rather than soaring alone - or vice versa. Maybe we’re more bold than blending. We each have our own unique personalities and preferences.
It’s one thing to notice our brothers and sisters serving with their gifts, it’s another to wish it were us. Comparison is a trap because the more we focus on what others are doing, the easier it is to become discontent with who we are. Envy seeps in and rather than walking in our own steps of obedience, we start to lose our footing like hiking across a rocky trail after a rain.
The apostle Peter reminds us, “as each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God's varied grace: whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies—in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen” (1 Pet 4:10-11). Friend, you’ve been blessed and empowered by God to serve your people and it’s for the gospel to go out through you. Pause the question, “would you rather” and instead consider how you're uniquely positioned for building up the body.
Let’s be honest.The act of comparison becomes a storyline centered around us. When we feel discouraged because we’re not noticed or we’re not seeing immediate fruit in our ministry, doubt creeps in and our pride takes a hit.
“For if anyone thinks he is something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself. But let each one test his own work and then his reason to boast will be in himself alone and not in his neighbor” (Gal 6:3-4). When the desire of our heart is for our own benefit, to puff up our own feathers, we’re masquerading among the crowd.
Peeling off the mask and humbly confessing our error is how we begin again to order our priorities and steward the good gifts the Lord Jesus has given us. It’s only then we can assess our service, without needing to measure it against the work of someone else.
Disbelief About What’s Best
The grass is always greener on the other side.
When there are chairs needing to be stacked, they’re there. If someone needs prayer, a brother always seems to find them. When a child is restless, she always provides distraction with patience. The lesson each week is taught with grace and knowledge, how do they do that?
Another reason we’re discontent is watching others serve effortlessly (perhaps seemingly). With ease and comfort they fit where they are and it just looks so easy. Why can’t it be that way for us?
While we continue striving to grow in effectiveness for the kingdom, it’s God who works in you according to His good purposes (Phil 2:13). It’s His plan and purposes, not ours. You may be enduring a season where God is doing more work on you, but that’s His way of growing you to maturity, that more fruit will come to bear through you. Though you can’t see the end result of the divine potter’s work, He continues to spin and mold the clay, fashioning it patiently and tenderly.
It’s about His best, not ours.
The eagle flew toward the marsh, diving for breakfast. The pair of ducks nestled along the shore, reuniting with a brood of ducklings.
Each had their own tasks to accomplish and needs to meet.
It’s the same for us.
When comparison sets in, we can easily be overtaken and toppled over, the same way big waves disturb your balance on a paddleboard.
But God is at work in us.
He’s given us a circle of influence, our families, friends and communities, for us to encourage, equip and walk with, to the best of our abilities. We’re admonished to throw off what hinders and “run with endurance the race that is set before us” (Heb 12:1) keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus, not on others around us.
Let’s praise God for how the gifts He’s given our brothers and sisters in Christ, pray for them and support them, while serving alongside them with the work He has given us to do for His glory and the good of others.
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