It only took a quick glance at Instagram for my heart to sink. An acquaintance had launched a new ministry, a needed and beautiful ministry. And in record time, it grew beyond everyone’s expectations. She was thriving, serving, and Jesus was changing lives in the process. But rather than a heart of celebration, I felt a twinge of defeat. After all, I have a new book releasing in less than two months — how in the world would I get similar results?
I’d like to think I’m beyond the comparison game, that I’ve grown up enough not to waste time counting toys and comparing successes. But a few moments on social media forced me to face the truth:
I still have some work to do.
It’s hard to admit it, but some days it doesn’t take much — the story of another’s wildly successful ministry, the image of a friend’s beautifully perfect family — for me to start cataloguing my achievements (or lack there of). Without realizing it, I stack them up against those of friends and strangers alike, and somehow I always end up with a bitter case of lack.
In the book of John sits a story of John the Baptist. From birth, John was set apart for a special purpose, a divine purpose. His parents knew at his conception that God had placed His hand on John’s life, calling him to be the forerunner to the Messiah, to live a life removed and set apart as he prepared God’s people for the promised Christ.
John had an important job, an admirable job. And one that came with outward signs of success. People flocked to hear him preach and have him baptize. He was making a difference, and everyone knew it.
But then Jesus showed up. And in the blink of an eye, John’s previously vibrant ministry dwindled. Whereas thousands of people once followed him, now those same crowds started following the new guy on the block, the one named Jesus, who not only promised salvation and the kingdom of God but also healed and rescued and saved with a touch.
This worried John’s disciples, who feared their livelihood and place of prominence would evaporate if they didn’t figure out a way to do a better job marketing their wares.
They came to John and said to him,
“Rabbi, that man who was with you on the other side
of the Jordan—the one you testified about—look,
he is baptizing, and everyone is going to him.”
John 3:26 (NIV)
In other words, they stacked up their achievements against those of the next guy, and admiration turned south toward disappointment and defeat.
To this John replied, “A person can receive only what is given them from heaven.
You yourselves can testify that I said, ‘I am not the Messiah but am sent ahead of him.’
The bride belongs to the bridegroom. The friend who attends the bridegroom waits and
listens for him, and is full of joy when he hears the bridegroom’s voice.
That joy is mine, and it is now complete.
He must become greater; I must become less.
John 3:27-30 (NIV)
John’s response is a good one, filled with a grounded sense of purpose and freedom from fear. He knew his ministry, his work, his family, his followers weren’t the point.
Jesus was the point, and as long as people turned toward Jesus, it didn’t matter who was doing the work.
That’s the beauty of becoming less — seeing Jesus shine is our sweetest success.
What would it look like if you and I determined to find our joy in the Bridegroom’s voice, regardless of who was sharing it? What if someone else’s life and work didn’t make us less satisfied with our own? And what if, in all things, we were able to say, “Joy is mine. Jesus must become greater; I must become less”?
The point is Jesus. The point is always Jesus. And when you and I remember this — regardless of how our achievements stack up — we’ll be far too busy marveling at His work to take stock of someone else’s.
What if someone else’s life and work didn’t make us less satisfied with our own? -@MicheleCushatt: Click To Tweet Leave a Comment
John’s story is amazing! If I were in his shoes, I would have said, “and now it’s time for me to head back to town, get myself a little house and family and live like a regular person. I did my part, whew!” Instead, he gets prison and unjust beheading. That’s a lot less than even John bargained for.
Michele Cushatt says
Isn’t that the truth?! His faith and steadfastness strengthens my own.
So encouraging are your words. I needed to hear this. It is so easy to compare. The enemy loves for us to compare when Jesus just wants us to love and celebrate each other success.
Bev @ Walking Well With God says
What a beautifully humbling post! I, too, tend to look around and compare (even though I know not to). Having a thriving non-profit ministry, I admit a tinge of the green monster rises up when others are publishing books left and right. Instead of looking and thinking the grass is greener on the other side of the fence, I need to be about watering my own grass. Praying that together we would celebrate each others’ victories in winning lost souls to Christ and building His Kingdom. Much needed and well received post!
Michele Cushatt says
For me, these moments of humanity remind me of my absolute dependence on Jesus. I need His grace now more than ever. And no matter how much “I know better,” He alone can create the inner transformation I continually need.
Carmen Horne says
Oh Michele! I needed this today. I just published a book and it’s hard not to compare my launch to another’s. Your words were sent for me today. Blessings, friend
Michele Cushatt says
I bump into this every single time I launch a book or any other resource/ministry. I pour so much of my heart into it, and then I slip into gauging results by comparing. And yet, even there, God’s grace is big enough for me. His reminders are gentle, his correction kind. With you, sister.
Dawn Ferguson-Little says
We have to satisfied with everything we have. Sometimes that means become less. Like giving our seat that we so love in Church to that stranger that comes to Church for the first time. Making that starnger feel welcome. By saying would you like to sit here. Even if you have sat in that nice cosey warm seat for years. Even if that person is dressed old dirty clothes because they have been sleeping rough. We still have to put our pride to one side. Do what Jesus would want us to do and that is to love that person like he would. I heard a story it is true it still sticks in my mind to this day. Of a Church having bread and wine every Sunday like the breaking of bread. There was Man who lived in a Motor home with sitckers on it telling you he love Jesus. That came into this Church one Sunday. He sat away at the back of the Church. The Church did every Sunday the breaking of but would not walk down to give it to the man in the Motor home that sat away at the back of the Church. The man theb shouted Jesus would not forget about me. He said Jesus would walk down to let me par take in the bread and wine if he was hear this Sunday. Then they went down to let him take part in the bread and wine. I thought that was not nice of that Church to do that. As Jesus would leave no one out. He fed 5000 people with 5 loaf’s and 2 fish heald the sick. Did many more things in his day when on earth. Still does today. He never leaves or side. He is always with us. So we have to do what today reading says. No matter what the person look like. Or how they are dressed. Love them and treat them with the beauty Jesus would have us treat them with. Not leave them out. Love Dawn Ferguson-Little
Michele Cushatt says
There is no soul that Jesus does not see. Oh, that we would learn to love the way He does! Thank you for sharing, Dawn.
Thank you, Michele, for reminding us to ‘increase Jesus, decrease (ourselves)”. I recall the prophet Michah’s (VI:8c) recording (God’s voice): “…walk humbly with your God”; and was it Paul’s (perhaps Peter’s) teaching when he (they) wrote to, be content?! We reckon credit where credit is due when we look at Jesus’ perfect example (and live to follow-Him-through), to wit: “I glorified You on earth, having accomplished the work that You gave Me to do”. (John XVII:4) Soli Deo Gloria! indeed…
Beth Williams says
Social media is yet another tool of the devil. We look at it & start comparing ourselves to others. We get down & he snarls for a win. We must remember that God made us all unique. We don’t all have the same talents, drive, ambitions or gifts. Our only job down here is to use our talents to point everyone toward Jesus. I use social media as a means to applaud people, agree with them on topics & share information. Recently I used social media to announce two new books just released. For me I know that I will never be in the forefront of anything. God has me in the background helping out like Timothy. I’m the hands & feet of Him. This world is all about comparison, doing more, better & bigger things. Even in ministry. I am happy for those who start ministries. I will lend a hand when I can. Not compare myself to them.
Oh boy…such truth here. I’ve struggled with this myself for most of my life! And as soon as “that” feeling creeps over me I know it’s just a lie. Time and time again Jesus tells me to just wait. One day we will see how what we think is insignificant had so much meaning in God’s plans
Michele Cushatt says
Yes! Exactly Connie. We can rest now knowing what we see then will be more than we could possibly hope for.
Ann Woleben says
Guilty as charged! I had become an expert at comparison, and so often, in time, it would be revealed to me that God is the expert and His plan for my life is perfect for me. Yes, the comparison thoughts still creep in from time to time, but I am becoming better at renouncing those thoughts and focusing on the gifts God has chosen for me. Thank you for sharing your reflections. I think you are a wonderful author!
In Beautiful Chaos says
Comparison is SO deadly!! I’ve compared myself to different people over the years only to later realize that they have the exact same struggles I have. The side of people we see on social media or in public is not always who they are deep down inside. I just started a series on my blog called “Misfit Heroes” about several heroes who we all admire and compare ourselves to without realizing how much we have in common with them. You can check it out here: https://www.inbeautifulchaos.com/misfit-heroes/ . Feel free to share it with anyone who might be encouraged by it!
Great post! Your post was so relevant and hit home for me as well. So many times we look at the successes of others thinking “when is my turn coming or why is my life not as prosperous?” I will say, I too have just completed my first manuscript and one of my chapters talks about “not focusing on the blessings of others but celebrating them!” When we allow the Holy Spirit to transform our thinking, we are able to see Jesus’ light shining brighter in the world, thus us becoming less. Again, I enjoyed your insight. Thanks for sharing your heart! Charisse 🙂
Nancy Ruegg says
Another avenue to joy: praying for those achieving success in ministry. Even if jealousy starts to whine in the background, prayer soon drowns it out.
Linda Hoenigsberg says
I’ve wrestled with this at times over the decades since finding Christ. As a young woman (20’s) I had a lot of people tell me I would have a huge ministry to other women because of my “testimony.” I pictured speaking engagements, book deals, etc. Instead, my life continued to be filled with loss, divorce, the hard work of a full time job while raising three children to adulthood, serious injury and surgeries. Even now, in my late sixties, as I cheer on and follow beautiful young women with little kids who are making big impacts in the body of Christ (mostly with long, blond, beachy waves, it seems), I feel a touch of envy. In today’s world, they have the Internet. They can live on a farm in the middle of nowhere and still make a huge impact. When I feel that sense of…well…I’ll call it what it feels like…envy, I remind myself, “But that wasn’t your job.” Now I am more about mentoring the younger women and pointing people to the Jesus who changed my life forever, staying in my lane, and so grateful for life itself.
Shay Prendergast says
Any time I think I’m doing a great job in my Christian walk, I am reminded of how frail my faith is if I think I need to compare myself to others. It’s so silly, yet I walk into that trap repeatedly. Thanks for this piece, such a great reminder!