Jimmy Evans - How to Overcome Comparison
Comparison is something that we're given to as human beings. It's just simply something that all of us do, but the kind of comparison I'm talking about this morning is the type of comparison that the devil uses to implant within us thoughts about God and ourselves and others that are negative and to cause us to do things that keep us from being the people that God wants us to be, and I'm saying it's very, very common. We're gonna read the story in John 21 now. Jesus has died and been resurrected, and this is the third time after Jesus' resurrection that he has appeared to his disciples. He's about to ascend into heaven.
So just remember as we're reading this, he's already died, he's already been resurrected, he's about to ascend into heaven. John 21, verse 15. "When they had eaten breakfast", Jesus and the disciples. Let's stop right here and say this is John's Gospel, and the way that John refers to himself in his Gospel is "The disciple whom Jesus loved". So he's saying as soon as Jesus said that to Peter, Peter turned around and pointed at John. He "Saw the disciple whom Jesus loved following, who had also leaned on his breast at the supper", that's the last supper... There were 12 disciples, but Jesus' favorite disciples were Peter, James, and John. He had always called them out among the 12, and they were kind of his best buddies. Even in the Garden of Gethsemane before he died, he called Peter, James, and John. But the 2 most popular were Peter and John, and they were rivals.
Now listen. You know, John referred to himself as "The disciple whom Jesus loved". You know that's got to get annoying after a while. I mean, come on. You know, you walk into the church here, and you say, "What's your name"? And you say, "Well, I'm the church member who pastor Jimmy loves". You know, that's gonna get old real quick. And they're at the last supper, and they're all sitting around, having dinner, and John is leaning on Jesus' breast. That's got, you know. The other guys have gotta look down the table and say, "You know, give it up, John. I mean, come on. You know, that's just ridiculous. Go find your mommy". You know?
So Peter and John kind of have a competition thing going on, and John's just real warm and fuzzy, the disciple whom Jesus loved, laying on his breast, and all this stuff. So they're kind of rivals anyway. So listen to how sick this is. Listen to how this is sick. So Jesus says, "Peter, you're gonna die a bad death". Peter turns around, immediately finds John, and says to Jesus, "What about him"?
And here's what he's not wanting to hear. "Oh, tell me that John's gonna be ok. Tell me that even if I die a bad death, tell me John is gonna, you know, have a good life". That's not what he's wanting to hear. What he's wanting to hear is, "Oh, yeah, he's gonna die a bad death, too. I mean, you're gonna die on the cross. He's gonna get hacked together, hacked apart by a chain saw. Great. I'm good". You know? "As long as everybody else dies as bad as I die, I'm great with that".
Again there is a type of comparison that's inspirational or educational. I'm not talking about that. I'm talking about this sick kind of a comparison that we only feel good about ourselves when we're equal to or better than others. But if we're not as good as other people, in our own estimation in any category, we become insecure, miserable, competitive, gossipy, bitter, all those kinds of things. This is the competition among 2 preeminent apostles that is indicative of our human condition. We compare. So let me talk for just a minute about the curse of comparison. You say, "Well, well, what's so bad about comparison when we compare ourselves"?
Let me just go through these as quickly as I can.
Number one, it either produces pride or inferiority. When you compare yourself with other people, generally speaking, you're either gonna get prideful because you feel better than they are or insecure, and I think comparison is one of the number one reasons for insecurity. I remember seeing a statistic, and it was many years ago, about fashion models. Over 90% of fashion models have very low self-esteem, and you would think of any group of people alive, that beautiful women who make their living as a fashion model would probably have the greatest self-esteem of any person, but the reason they have such low self-esteem is because they're constantly put in an environment of comparison with other women. And when you sit and compare yourself all the time, it's just gonna beat you down.
Number 2, it keeps me focused on myself and others rather than focusing on God. When I'm comparing myself, I don't have my eyes on God, and that's why Jesus said to Peter, "You follow me. Get your eyes off of John". When I'm constantly comparing, I'm not following Jesus. I'm not even focused on Jesus. I'm vigilant, and one of the things that comparison does is it keeps us constantly vigilant in how we compare to everybody else. It's a vigilant spirit.
Number 3, and this is the big one. On some level, it keeps me mistrustful of God and offended at him. When I'm always, for example, Peter turns to John, and he says, "What about this man here"? And Jesus says to Peter, "If I want him to live until I come again, what is that to you"? When you go and you begin to compare yourself with other people, what about people who are richer than we are? What about people that are better-looking than we are? What about people that are smarter than we are? What about people that are just happier than we are? They have a better marriage. They just, everything's better.
Listen. If you're not careful, what happens is not only does it create a barrier between you and that person and how you think about that person and relate to that person, if you're not careful, there's a seed of mistrust and offense that comes with God. In other words, "God, do you love them more? Do you love John more than you love me? Why would you have me martyred and you would let John live forever"? And this is the kernel of mistrust that the devil uses to separate us from God, and let me make this comment now, and if you don't hear anything else I say in this message, listen to what I'm about to say.
Something will never be right in our relationship with God until we thank him for who we are, what we are, and where we are. It'll never be right. Until I'm thankful from the bottom of my heart, saying, "God, thank you for who you made me to be". Because that is the basis of almost all comparison is "I do not accept myself in God. I'm wanting to be someone else, because for the way that I measure it in human terms, I think maybe if I look different or had more money or something like that, that I would be more acceptable, because I don't accept who I am in God". And if we're not careful now, it will create a barrier between us and God, because we'll think he loves other people more, and he doesn't. We're all his favorites.
Number 4, it causes me to be resentful and rejecting of others who have what I want. And let me say some of the people that we resent the most, the only thing they did wrong is have what we want. There was a couple in this church. This was many years ago, and they were struggling financially, and I counseled them. Um, the husband didn't work. He was lazy, frankly. And the wife was a good woman. Uh, she had to take the burden of the finances on herself, and they struggled. They struggled a lot financially, and I felt really sorry for 'em, and she just did her best, and he didn't, but they were in a life group here in the church, and the life group they chose to join was a couple who was well off financially and a very wonderful couple, but this couple was well off financially.
Well, in the course of them being in this life group, this couple that had the life group in their home sold their home and built a new home and moved. Now, when they built this new home and moved, this couple that was struggling financially just went crazy. I mean, they just lost it. They left the church. They were extremely offended at this couple who built the new home, and they came to me. Before they left the church, they came to me, and I was talking to her, I remember, in that conversation. And she said, "I just can't believe that they would take, you know, they've got all this money, and they could give this money to the church, and they shouldn't be building this new house", and blah-blah-blah-blah, like that, and, you know, she was kind of ranting and raving, and I kind of let her, you know, vent it out.
And I just said, "I am so sorry for your financial struggles. I know that you're struggling financially, but let's just be honest. The only thing they've done wrong is they have what you want. You know good and well you wish that you had the same affluence they do. You know good and well that you want a home like they do". Let me tell you something, ladies and gentlemen. As Christian people, if we can't celebrate with people who are doing well, there's something wrong with us, not them. And these people couldn't celebrate. And that's what comparison does.
Number 5, I try to be something I'm not in order to measure up and feel good about myself. The surest way to fail is to try to change an unchangeable, and the unchangeable is you're you, and you can only be you. You can't be something else. If I feel like I have to be a doctor or a lawyer or a millionaire or a superstar to measure up, in other words, God created me to be me. The only thing I can succeed at is being me, and I want to be the best me that I can be.
Peter had to be Peter, and John had to be John, and Matthew had to be Matthew, and they all had to be themselves. And God loves all of us the same, but he loves all of us in different ways. He loves all of us according to the unique plan he has for our lives, and if we're not careful, what comparison does is I abort God's plan for my life trying to be something that I'm not so that I will measure up in the sight of people. Let me talk for just a minute about just some considerations concerning comparisons, and I'm gonna go through these just as quickly as I can. But listen.
These are just considerations as we're comparing ourselves to other people.
Number one, no one gets the whole package. You've got a part of the package. I've got a part of the package. Don't ever believe that anyone has the whole package. If you want to be somebody else, understand according to the Bible we're a body. Some of us are eyes, ears, kneecaps, toenails, whatever we think we are, that we're all a part of the body. We all have a part of the package, and we're all missing a part of the package.
Number 2, the greater a person's influence, the less their impact, and the more your impact, the less your influence. Let me say a mother has more impact than a teacher, but a teacher has more influence than a mother on more children. You say, "Well, you know, I just don't have that big of a circle of influence. I only have maybe influence over 5 or 10 people". Understand I have influence over millions of people this week. I mean, I will influence many, many thousands of people, if not millions of people around the world, you know, through television and different means, but I don't have a lot of impact. I touch a lot of people, but I don't touch 'em as profoundly as life group leaders, as our pastors, as mothers and fathers.
And see, sometimes we want more influence. We compare ourselves with people who have a big microphone or a big platform or they have a lot of influence, but understand the more influence you get, the less impact you have. People who have a smaller group of people that God has given them have the greatest amount of impact of any human being. Do not give up impact for influence when God has called you to impact.
Number 3, God gives the most profound giftings in people and places we least expect, and this is absolutely true. 1 Corinthians 12:23. And let me just tell you very briefly what this means. What it means is, is that God comes out into the congregation of people. See, we have this dog and pony show, this worldly thing that we have going on in the church, that we think that the greatest gifts are always on the platform.
Ladies and gentlemen, the greatest gifts are sitting out there, looking at me. God comes... God doesn't want us to have this hierarchy in this stupid dog and pony show that goes on just like the world has. What God wants is for the whole body to minister to the whole body, and he comes out in the body to people that we would never dream would be so profoundly gifted, and he comes out, and he gives profound giftings to all of us so that we honor each other and that there's not this hierarchy and the schism that exists in the body. I'm just saying when you look at another person and you're wanting to be another person, understand you are significant in the body, and don't ever believe that you're not. God doesn't do things the way the world does things. Thank God.
Number 4, many times, we're all feeling insecure at the same time and coveting different things about each other. You have 4 or 5 people standing in a group, and one's saying, "I wish I had their body. I wish I had their hair, wish I had their complexion. Wish I had her husband, their wife, their job", whatever. You know, sometimes we're all comparing and envying at the same time, but here's the big one that I want you to see. Everyone has pain. Everyone has pain. Many times, it's very private, but don't you ever think that people don't have pain.
See, what we do is we one-dimensionalize and objectify people. We come into a sphere, and we size people up in a very worldly, one-dimensional way, and we see how they look, we see what they drive, we see where they live, we see how much money they have in their position, and we one-dimensionalize it and objectify people, but what we don't see is the human element behind them. Everybody's got pain, and you can't have what they have unless you take the pain that comes with it. Jesus had pain. Peter had pain. And let me say for just a minute, it's kind of a tossup, really.
You say, well, which would you rather be, Peter or John? Listen to me. So Jesus turns to Peter and said, "You're gonna die a bad death". Peter turns to John and said, "What about that man"? Ok? Well, let me ask you a question. So the implication would be that John didn't have pain. John's gonna live forever, John didn't have pain. Well, was that the case? Well, here's the truth. John died an exile on the island of Patmos. All the other disciples had been martyred. He outlived all of his friends, and he was a political exile without family, without all the other comforts of life on the island of Patmos. You ask yourself a question. Would you rather die in action as a martyr, or would you rather die alone of old age on an island as a political exile?
The pain of loneliness and the pain of martyrdom might be pretty close, actually, but they both had pain. If you ever think there's a person without pain, if you ever think, you know, sometimes it's easy to open a magazine or look on a television program or see a person down the street, and it's easy to look at that person and to idealize that person and to think they don't have pain. Everybody's got pain. Write it down. Doesn't matter how much money you have. Doesn't matter how much power you have. Doesn't matter who your daddy is. Everybody's got pain. Everybody's got pain.
Let me talk about how to overcome comparison real quickly.
Number one, thank God for who he's made me to be and accept myself. That's number one. The rejection of who I am in God is the number one reason that we compare. "I just don't think I'm special. I just don't think that I measure up. I just don't think that I'm anybody special". Can I just tell you something? You're unique in God. God made you in your mother's womb. You're fearfully and wonderfully made. And the devil is gonna beat you up for the rest of your life until you can wake up in the morning and say, "God, thank you for who you made me to be. Thank you". And I'm saying when the devil is on top of you and when you're feeling insecure and low self-esteem and all of those things, you praise God. You praise him and say, "God, thank you for who you've made me to be". Don't you let him beat you down like that. You're special in the Lord.
Number 2, trust God with my needs, desires, and to make me into the person I want to become. Trust God. I don't want to have to pull people down the rest of my life to get myself up. In fact, let me just tell you how great God is. We can all get everything that God wants us to have and all be ok. My daddy's gonna take care of me, and I hope he blesses you at the same time. But if I don't trust God to meet my needs, you say, "Well, God, I want to be blessed. I want to be favored. I want to have opportunity. You know, I want to be accepted in the right circles of people or whatever".
Trust God for those things. But if you don't trust God for those things, you're gonna take matters into your own hands, and you're gonna start being competitive and jealous and envious and covetous and things like that, and you're not gonna have good relationships. God can get you where he wants you to go. Now listen to me. The way that we should be, when Jesus turned to Peter and said, "Peter, this is the way you're going to die", what Peter should have said is, "I accept it". But he didn't accept it. He compared it, and he would not accept who God made him to be unless he could be equal or greater than everybody else around him. We're all equal in God, but we're all different in God, and we have to put our eyes on God and take 'em off of people.
Number 3, and this is a huge one. Trust God with other people and stop interfering with his work in their lives. And this is one of the worst things that comparison does is we're always manipulating. We're always gossiping. We're always tearing people down. Someone gets a new car, we start talking bad about 'em. Someone gets a promotion, we start talking bad about 'em. We're manipulating behind the scenes in our group of friends to make sure no one gets an advantage over us, and if they do, we start hacking away at the ladder they're standing on. God, I give you other people. I just pray that you'd bless other people.
Let me say this now. I mean, this is my second thing if you don't hear anything else, listen to what I'm about to say. If you don't let God be God in other people's lives, he won't be God for you. If you don't let God bless other people the way he wants to bless them, he won't bless you the way you want him to bless you. And so we have to let God be God. The definition of covetousness means wanting what other people have without a regard for their boundaries. It's literally a boundary violation. We believe that we have the right to trespass into other people's lives and to take God's place, and we have to back away and say, "God, you're God".
And here's number 4. Bless others and their advantages and be a giver and an encourager. When a person around you, the Bible says when one person rejoices, we ought to all rejoice, and when one person suffers, we ought to all suffer. And if you find other people being, you know, blessed and you can't rejoice in their blessing, remember, there's something wrong. That's a fault. And we all do it. Now I'm just saying it's something that we all have to deal with.
I love the story of Peter and John, because they're human beings just like us. Sometimes we, uh, read stories in the Bible, and we think maybe that, uh, some of the characters in the Bible, especially the apostles and people like that, maybe they were not like us and didn't have the same emotions that we have. But when Peter was told by Jesus the kind of death he was gonna die, you know, the first thing he says is, "What about John? You know, t-tell me something bad's gonna happen to John". And Jesus said, you know, "If he lives until I come again, what is that to you"?
And the whole point there is God doesn't want us comparing ourselves to other people, because we can't be anybody else. We can only be ourselves. You can't, the surest way to fail is to try to change an unchangeable, and the unchangeable is you're unique. You can only be you. You can only be successful at being you. And, yeah, we can be inspired from, you know, good examples of how other people live their lives or their marriage or their family or the way they manage money or maybe the way that they work or something like that. But even though we can be encouraged by other people's good example, we can't be them. We can only be ourselves. You're unique. You're a masterpiece. There's never been another one like you. There never will be another one like you.
And so something will never be right between God and us until we get to the place of saying, "Thank you, God, for who I am. Thank you". I'm not gonna live my life comparing myself to everybody else, because it just wears you out, gets so incredibly discouraging. There's always someone stronger. There's always somebody bigger. There's always somebody richer. There's always somebody better-looking. There's always someone more talented, always.
Always, until you simply wake up one morning and say, "You know something? I'm just gonna be the best me I can be, and I'm gonna be happy with that, and even though I don't have everything that everybody else has, you know, they don't have everything else I have either, and I've got some very unique things that God put in me, and I'm gonna live my life focusing on what I have, not on what I don't have, and I'm gonna focus on being me rather than trying to control everybody else's life so that they don't have any advantages over me".
And that's why Peter made the response he made about John. There was some rivalry there. There was some competition there. It's a horrible way to live your life, and I'm saying you can be free from this comparison, a spirit of comparison, to live your life the way God intended, but it begins as you thank God for who you are and you accept who you are and you live your life being the best you you can be. I hope that's encouraging to you today. Thank you for joining me for "The Overcoming Life". I'll see you next time.