I used to look at a lot of young preachers doing amazing things as a measuring rod. I used to look at their lives from the outside in, wondering how I would ever measure up. Petty, I know, but it happens. I just couldn’t seem to beat this ‘I should be much further along’ mentality. If I’m honest, those thoughts can creep back in at times. Thoughts like ‘when Steven Furtick was my age they already had a few thousand people at his church’ or ‘Driscoll planted when he was 26…I’m three years behind!’ And before long I spend half an hour letting my life be dictated by someone else’s ‘success.’
My comparisons are geared towards ministry…but I would wager you have had some similar struggles. How do I know? Because pastors are regular people too! I’m 29. I rent. And I can get frustrated when I see a 25 year old with a career, buying a house. Never mind the fact that we gave up a lot to pursue planting a church, or that we turned down better paying ‘jobs’ in ministry to pursue a calling, or that God has been stupid faithful to us. You see, comparison will cause you to overlook God’s goodness in your current situation.
Insecurity is an Identity Issue
At the root of every comparison issue is insecurity in who you are. And at the root of who you are is the identity of a son or daughter of God. I may be a pastor, a father, a friend…but the core of my identity has to be a son of God, otherwise I will continuously fall prey to the comparison game. Our sonship is level playing ground.
If you’re going to stop playing this game you’re going to have to lean into this reality. I may not be preaching in the places that people I admire are. But I’m a son. I may not have the opportunities of other young preachers my age. But I’m a son. I may not have the life or income or status of that other young couple. But I’m a son. This only sounds ‘low’ to super spiritual people, but to the rest of us it’s a reality that we have to stay on top of.
Another name for insecurity is ‘pride.’ We think of pride as a high and lofty thing, but insecurity arises out of pride when you take pride in the wrong things and find you don’t make the cut. For example, I put a lot of stock in preaching, but if I am prideful about preaching I could look at Judah Smith and get insecure because I’m not as good as him (he flippin’ kills it by the way) and I am taking pride in the wrong things. Killing pride and boasting only in Jesus is a phenomenal antidote to comparison and insecurity.
The Metrics are Liars!
How many followers do you have? How many likes did that get? Even my son asked how many hits a video got on YouTube I uploaded recently. The only problem is social media is a poor standard of comparison.
When you measure your life by someone else’s social media it’s like comparing your worst day to someone else’s highlight reel. It creates a seriously unrealistic model to compare your life, your ministry, your work to anyone else.
Case in point. My church doesn’t even exist yet. We can count the people on my launch team on my fingers and toes…and we have 2300 ‘likes’ on our Facebook page. Now imagine a pastor that leads 150 people faithfully that doesn’t know our story seeing that on a bad day and comparing his ministry to ours…because of something as petty as Facebook likes.
Outside of social media this could be comparisons to surface level issues. We look at someone else’s life from the outside in, and in doing so we see their surface victories compared to our deep failures. Tell me how fair that is to do to yourself?
Get an Eternal Perspective
Your twitter follower count will not matter a thousand years from now. The size of Pastor so-and-so’s church compared to yours won’t matter a million years from now. Jesus will matter. Your accolades, both the empty ones and the real accomplishments, won’t.
I was reading recently the different success stories of church plants and getting overwhelmed with the the question ‘how can I have that kind of fruit.’ I began to get concerned that maybe I’m not cut out for this and insecurity crept in. In the middle of it I had a conversation with a friend of mine here that said ‘I think you’re going to have a successful church…but even if you fail, you’re still a son of God.’
Having an eternal perspective of being a son of God puts comparison in its proper place.
Identity Comes Full Circle
Even then, say the victories of others go very deep. What comparison is to be made then. The answer is none! Comparison of any kind is still a poison. I may even have a crappy life right now and a marriage that is struggling. Still a son. I may have just gotten handed a pink slip when the guy next to me got promoted. Still a son. I may pastor 50 people for the rest of my life, heck, my church may even fail. Still a son, and that reality is so much more imperative than the success of my ministry. If I grow a church to 10,000 while my identity takes a back seat then I’ve failed.
Stop comparing your life to someone else when all you’re ever really called to do is to live out of the reality of being a child of God. I believe in the power of the tongue. Not because it makes sense, but because the Bible believes in it. Speaking positive confessions, repeating scripture over my life..well, at face value it sounds kind of stupid. But when you couple these things with faith and believe they have power through that faith, it can begin to shape you in a deep deep place. I want to share with you a ‘declaration’ that the kids at Bethel Church in Redding, CA make every week. As cheesy as it may sound (cuz let’s be honest, stuff like this sounds cheesy when you start adulting) declare this over yourself. In fact, do it for a week and see if your identity hasn’t shifted and the comparison game has been won.
“I am powerful, and what I believe changes the world! So today I declare:
God is in a good mood.
He loves me all the time.
Nothing can separate me from His love.
Jesus’ blood paid for everything.
I will tell nations of what He has done.
I am important.
How He made me is amazing.
I was designed for worship.
My mouth establishes praise to silence the enemy.
Everywhere I go becomes a perfect health zone.
Nothing is impossible!”