This blog post has been written in conjunction with a LIVE teaching that I did on Instagram for Believers on Track.
Before I discuss WHAT comparison and competition are, WHY we want to tackle these things and HOW we can do that, I firstly want to highlight WHO this teaching is for.
You would need to be living under a rock in order not to recognise that we live in a comparison and competition driven generation. Though this spirit has always existed in the world, the rise of the internet, and in recent decades, social media (which give us unimaginable access to one another), have meant that comparison and competition now operate on a level unexperienced by previous generations. It is this amplification of personal platforms and perceived self-importance that seems to have made life itself feel like a “competition”. The constant bombardment of one’s “best life” innately causes us to compare ourselves amongst ourselves (which the Bible calls unwise – 2 Corinthians 10:12); however, although comparison may make it appear that we are in competition with others, the reality is, this is not true. In most cases, one person “winning” does not diminish you from being able to win. For example, as an author, me publishing a book does not stop or hinder another person from publishing a book. In most cases, what may feel like “the standard” is actually non-existent, manmade and/or self-created by individuals or specific social circles.
But what about in a field where there is quite literally only one winner? What about in a field where there is quite literally a set standard that you have to meet? What about in a field where there are quite literally only 1, 2 or 3 places up for grabs? How do those of us whose field is quite literally competition-based tackle the spirit of comparison? How are we to keep our hearts pure and our eyes fixed on Jesus? It is to people who work/practice/operate in this kind of field or industry that I believe the Lord wants to speak.
So, what are comparison and competition?
Comparison can be defined as: identifying features that are similar or dissimilar; superior or inferior between two things.
Competition can be defined as: rivalry between two or more persons or groups. The struggle for supremacy or reward.
Let’s put it plainly. In a competition, your work or performance will be compared with or against others. That’s what makes it a competition in the first place. Comparison exists within competition; that part is inevitable. No one who is serious about their field enters a competition to lose or for the sake of it (I say serious because some people just enjoy their discipline and really do just take part for the sake of it). However, for the majority of us, we want to win, we want to be the best (“why” is a different story altogether); nevertheless, if this is the case, then we must learn to tackle comparison in a healthy, godly way.
If you didn’t know, I am an athlete; but before that, I am a Christian. Athletics is a sport and is, therefore, a competition-based field by nature. However, as a believer in Christ Jesus whose desire is to please God above all else and glorify Him, I can’t allow the culture of my sport to dictate the way I operate. I must learn to operate in my field CHRIST’S WAY.
Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life. (Proverbs 4:23, KJV)
As believers, we must learn to guard our hearts regardless of what we do. As believers, we are still in a spiritual battle, and still representatives of Christ, regardless of if we are in a competition-based field or not. If we allow our hearts to be left unchecked, then they will all too easily become filled with jealousy, envy and other works of the flesh, all things which do not glorify God and (if not dealt with) will hinder us from inheriting the kingdom of God. Everything starts in the heart.
When you follow the desires of your sinful nature, the results are very clear: sexual immorality, impurity, lustful pleasures, idolatry, sorcery, hostility, quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, dissension, division, envy, drunkenness, wild parties, and other sins like these. Let me tell you again, as I have before, that anyone living that sort of life will not inherit the Kingdom of God. (Galatians 5:19-21, NLT)
For the rest of this post, we will look at HOW we can deal with comparison the Kingdom way, even though we are in a literal competition. For the rest of this post, I will use athletics for my examples because that is what I know; however, you can apply the principles discussed to your own industry or discipline.
I am going to hone in on 3 ways we can deal with comparison in a competition-based field. There are of course more, but these 3 are a great place to start.
1. Separate your identity from your work / performance.
Earlier we established that in a competition “your work or your performance” will be judged, they will be compared with or against others. Notice that I said your work or performance and not you. You are not your works or your performance. Who you are (your identity) cannot be founded on anything that can change. This means your identity cannot be in your career, another job/role/hobby, your family or even yourself. No. Your identity must be founded in the unchangeable, and that is in Christ Jesus alone, the Solid Rock who NEVER changes!
Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever. (Hebrews 13:8, NLT)
If you equate your work or performance with your identity, then when you perform well or win, you will see yourself highly, but when you perform poorly or lose, you will see yourself lowly. Both are wrong and both will also cause you to see others through the wrong perspective also.
Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect. Because of the privilege and authority God has given me, I give each of you this warning: Don’t think you are better than you really are. Be honest in your evaluation of yourselves, measuring yourselves by the faith God has given us. (Romans 12:2-3, NLT)
From the world’s perspective, people increase or decrease in value based on their works/performance/achievements. However, we are called not to live and think like the world but to think and behave according to the ways of God. If you measure your worth or the worth of others based on these things, you are not being honest in your evaluation. The scripture above tells us to measure ourselves by the faith God has given us; that is our faith in Christ. As believers, our faith is the most precious thing that we have (1 Peter 1:7). The world may judge people by their achievements and possessions, but that is not the way God judges us. He doesn’t look at the outward appearance (looks, achievements, possessions) but He looks at the heart.
But the LORD said to Samuel, “Don’t judge by his appearance or height, for I have rejected him. The LORD doesn’t see things the way you see them. People judge by outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.” (1 Samuel 16:7)
Learning to live in the truth of who you are in Christ is a process and one that will take a diligent renewing of the mind. It will not be an overnight thing and you may struggle with this truth from time to time; however, as you continue to read the scriptures and allow the Holy Ghost to teach and lead you, you will grow in this area and begin to view yourself and others from God’s perspective.
Here is a blog post I wrote which shares some of what the Lord took me through in order to detach my identity from being in education and athletics to being solely in Him: “Christ is my identity”
2. Get a word from God
My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: (John 10:27, KJV)
One of the privileges of being in Christ is that He leads and guides our lives through the Holy Ghost who lives in us. In other words, He speaks. Our God is not a mute (Hallelujah!). He is fully involved in the intricacies of our lives. He cares about the things you care about, and He really does want the best for you. Yes, the truth is that His will for your life is most likely different to the plan you had for your life, but His plan is better and more fruitful (blesses more people) than what you could have considered.
For I know the plans I have for you,” says the LORD. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope. (Jeremiah 29:11, NIV)
“My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts,” says the Lord. “And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine. For just as the heavens are higher than the earth, so my ways are higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts. (Isaiah 55:8-9, NLT)
In athletics, almost everyone goes through highs and lows, and since only one person can win, the majority of people experience more lows than highs. This is why so many in the world of track and field have faith of some kind. “More to come”, “Next time,” “It’s all a learning curve,” “Trust the process.” These are all common phrases that we hear reverberating around the athletics world. Most people have faith, but that faith is usually in themselves and their own abilities. This kind of faith doesn’t help with feelings of jealousy or envy that may arise in your heart when others seemingly achieve what you believe you could or desire to achieve. Getting a word from God is a privilege we have as believers because it gives us something sure to stand on and eliminates the feeling that someone has stolen what belongs to you (i.e. jealousy). When you have a word from God, you know that no one can take what He has promised you. What God has said is for you, is for you. Even if you have to wait for it (which you will lol); whatever He says can be trusted as true.
God is not a man, so he does not lie. He is not human, so he does not change his mind. Has he ever spoken and failed to act? Has he ever promised and not carried it through? (Numbers 23:19, NLT)
So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it. (Isaiah 55:11, KJV)
As I mentioned before, the promises of God are going to be about more than just you and your achievements. When God does something through your life it has eternal value, not just earthly success. That’s why His promises come with a process, because He is more concerned with you becoming the vessel and developing His character, then just achieving worldly accolades.
When you get a word from God, you can be sure that what He has promised will come to pass. Even if time and seasons pass and you don’t see anything yet, you can have faith that because God has spoken, it will eventually happen. This is a surety you cannot have outside of Christ.
Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. (Hebrews 11:1, KJV)
3. Rejoice with others
Have you noticed that it is easier to be genuinely happy for those of the opposite sex or those in a different discipline than you than it is to be happy for someone who is your direct competition? Why do you think that is? If we’re being honest, it is because of jealousy and envy. Jealousy is that feeling that someone is taking something that belongs to you (where your position/opportunities feel threatened). Whilst envy is the feeling of wanting what someone else has. These are real feelings that arise in our hearts, and if left unchecked will cause us issues in our lives. However, when we begin to believe, apply and live the 2 points that we’ve discussed so far, we will see these things begin to diminish and this 3rd point will become easier and more genuine.
Rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep. (Romans 12:15, KJV)
When you have a word from the Lord, you can be sure that what He has for you, is for you. This makes it easier for you to now rejoice or weep with those who are either experiencing success or loss in your very field. If someone is experiencing success, you can be genuinely happy for them as you will not see them as a threat or need to have what they have because you know God has something for you too. If you know who you are in Christ, then you will not now feel inferior or more superior than someone who is experiencing success or loss in your field. You can have the heart of Christ and actually remember how it feels (empathy) or share the things you’ve learned from your own personal experience.
Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. (Philippians 2:3, NLT)
As an individual sport, you will often hear people tell you that you need to be selfish in athletics. They may mean well, but the reality is, this goes against the culture of the Kingdom. As I said at the beginning of this post, we are supposed to operate in Kingdom culture regardless of the field we operate in. When we know who we are in Christ and that what He has for us, is for us, we will have no fear of being replaced, or of our ideas being stolen, etc. because we will know that it is impossible for anyone to replicate or do exactly what He has called us to do (no matter how similar it may look). When that fear is eliminated, we no longer need to promote ourselves but trust God and His timing, living a life where considering others above ourselves becomes more of an experienced reality.
So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets. (Matthew 7:12, NIV)
So, in summary. Our works and/or performances will be compared against others because that is what makes our field competitive. However, our achievements, or lack of, do not increase or diminish who we are in Christ. Our value is not in our accolades but in Christ who does not change and cannot lie. Whatever the Lord has promised for your life (in your field) will come to pass, you just have to wait and trust Him. Rejoice with others from a pure heart in the meantime, and if you are on top, share with others from your experience because that is what you would want someone to do for you.
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I look forward to connecting with you online and in person!
In His love always.