Comparison can be detrimental to a Christian’s productivity in kingdom life. I could probably list for you a plethora of other ministers who are more qualified, effectively communicative, and positively influential than I am, who could write this blog post a hundred times better than me. Compared to those guys, I am lacking – to be gracious toward myself. But God has not called them to this blog. He has called me. If I were to focus on them or the defining qualities that in my own perception elevate them to a higher value than me, I could quickly become discouraged… and that discouragement would most likely reduce me into a deficit of productivity.
In the church, Christians are not immune to this sort of thinking. Even within the divinely appointed arena of spiritual giftedness, some members of the body are often reluctant to serve the church because in comparison to someone else who shares their giftedness, they see themselves as inferior in some way. Surely God could use ________ (insert holier saint’s name here) more effectively to this purpose than He could me. Surely God knows that ________ is more equipped, more experienced, and more spiritually sound than I. What about him/her???
Peter found himself in this predicament. After eating breakfast with the other disciples and Jesus in John 21, and after he was gently restored by his Lord, Peter and Jesus went for a walk. One-on-one time. Jesus had a charge for Peter… great plans in store. John, the author of this gospel, was curious, so he followed the two and was eavesdropping on their conversation. Peter, forgiven and restored, but still slightly apprehensive concerning his ability to be used of God for kingdom purposes, turned and caught John following them (John 21:20-22). John – “the disciple Jesus loved.”
John didn’t deny Jesus three times on the night of His crucifixion. John stood by Jesus’ side at the trial and the crucifixion. John comforted Jesus’ mother during the horrific display of Christ’s final hours. John was so devoted. So equipped. His track record was impeccable. His influence was great. His loyalty was unquestioned. With one glance, I honestly believe that all of these thoughts and more rushed through Peter’s anxious mind. John was by far a better candidate for the establishment and oversight of the New Testament church. Surely Jesus would have rathered John carry out this critical task than Peter. But there was just one problem with Peter’s reasoning… Jesus didn’t call John to this task. He called Peter.
When Peter saw John following, and as he questioned his own legitimacy for the task at hand, he asked Jesus, “Lord, what about him?” … “What about John?” Jesus’ answer is one that should resonate in the heart of every Christian for the rest of time. Alluding to Peter’s specific call and Peter’s Personal Responsibility, Jesus replied to Peter’s inquiry…
“If I want him to remain until I come, what is that to you? As for you, follow Me.” (John 21:22)
Wow – could Jesus have been more clear? I don’t think so. He said, “Peter, my plans for John are of no consequence to you. My call on you is for you. Nothing else matters.”
There are some great things happening for the kingdom of God in our country, and around the world. If we look over our shoulder and gaze upon the giftedness and potentiality of others, we might question the legitimacy of our own call. But God has not called you to someone else’s work, Christian friend. And guess what… He has not called them to your work either. We should never allow spiritual comparison to deter us from the purpose for which God has called us.
In the church, also, God has “placed the parts, each one of them, in the body just as He wanted,” (1 Cor. 12:18). “There are different gifts, but the same Spirit. There are different ministries, but the same Lord. And there are different activities, but the same God is active in everyone and everything. A manifestation of the Spirit has been given to each person to produce what is beneficial,” (1 Cor. 12:4-7). Church member, God has given you a specific role in the building up of His church and in the serving and expansion of His kingdom. He said to you, “Follow Me.” There is no one – NO ONE – who can do the task that God has appointed for you more effectively than you can. It is your calling. No one else’s. Follow Him.
I can’t tell you how much studying John 21 has challenged and encouraged me over the past month. This last lesson is one that I plan on continually reminding myself… Not to follow Christ with my eyes over my shoulder – but instead, to look straight ahead, focusing on the calling He has placed on my life, and not allowing anything (including my own personal shortcomings, or the perception that others may be more qualified) to deter me from walking with Jesus every step of the way. I know the task for which God has appointed me because He has clearly communicated it. It has nothing to do with my personal qualifications, but it has everything to do with His perfect calling. My calling is not more significant than anyone else’s. But it is my own.
To what has God called you, Christian friend?
Are you looking straight ahead, or is your gaze fixed on what’s behind you?
Grace and Peace,