Comparison is the Thief of Joy

 

We live in a world that makes it nearly impossible not to compare ourselves with others. Sometimes we even compare our life as a Christian to others. However, we must fight this urge and recognize two essential facts.

First, receiving forgiveness for our sin and asking Christ to come into our life is like a seed being planted in our heart. Any seed planted must first take root before it grows and blossoms.

Do you remember in school when you planted a seed in a clear plastic cup? If the seed was planted close enough to the edge, you would see the roots would grow downward first; then a few days later a plant would appear above the dirt!

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The only difference between you and the other Christians that you compare yourself with, is that they have had more time to spread their roots down deep. They have been “rooted” and built up in Him and established in faith for a longer period of time.

When we took the first step of faith to trust Christ with our life that was like the seed being planted. From this point it is up to you and God to nourish the seed and let the roots grow deep.

Your faith is nourished by rooting your new relationship with Christ. This means getting to know God better through reading and obeying His Word in the Bible. As with any relationship, time together helps you to appreciate God’s character and will lead to a greater love for Him.

Second, God doesn’t compare one Christian to another. So you shouldn’t either! As Christians, we never get to a point where we have arrived and are totally mature. Our love and appreciation for God can always grow deeper as He shows us new areas in our life to trust Him with.

When you do your very best, you feel good about the results, and there is no need to compare yourself with others. People make comparisons for many reasons. Some point out others’ flaws in order to feel better about themselves. Others simply want reassurance that they are doing well. When you are tempted to compare, look at Jesus Christ. His example will inspire you to do our very best, and His loving acceptance will comfort you when you fall short of your goals.

Enjoy all of the stages of our faith by taking in all of the spiritual nourishment you can handle. Remember that the stronger and deeper your roots grow below the surface, the more beautiful and fruitful you will be as a Christian.

 

Love Always,

Ash

No Gray Zone

Jonathan McReynolds

“No Gray”

[Chorus:]

And if it’s God that I’m after

I just can’t serve two masters

And before something happens

I gotta turn it all around

Because I know I can’t just have my cake and eat it too

Cause it’s real easy to stay on the fence and still do you

And it’d be cool if we could love the Lord and still go do our thing

But see it doesn’t work like that

You gotta to be white or black

[Chorus]

No it don’t work like that

You gotta be white or black

No gray No shades of gray

Don’t work like that

No gray

 

 

 

I know that most, if not all, Christians can relate to Jonathan McReynold’s song “No Gray”. The song accurately describes the struggle we Christians have with living our lives how God has instructed us to and the way the world thinks we should. A lot of people classify themselves as Christians but then pick and choose which of God’s laws they want to follow and live by. This way of life, which I like to refer to as the Gray Zone, often leads to sin and then eventually the absence of a relationship with God.

When I was younger, I remember making a list of all the things that I wanted to accomplish by a certain age. Most were innocent and harmless like getting a cellphone at 13, going to my first supervised coed party at 15, getting my driver’s license at 16, and attending college at 18. But then there was the secret list that I made for the things that I knew didn’t please God, but I wanted to do them anyway. For instance, sneaking into clubs, underage drinking, and hanging out with the wrong people in the wrong places.

To be completely honest, I did not enjoy any of the activities on my secret list as much as I thought I would. I knew right from wrong, but the world glorified these activities and as a Christian, I felt like I was missing out. While I was out fulfilling the things on my secret list, my relationship with God went left. I had forgotten about Him. I thought that I could love God and still to all of the things that I wanted to do. “God would want me to have a little fun,” is what I would tell myself. I was dead wrong! The more we focus on the world’s pleasures, the easier it becomes to forget God’s care, love, dependability, guidance, and most of all, God himself.

It wasn’t until a few years ago that I realized that I was living in the Gray Zone. The problem was that I was following God with my words and not with my heart and actions. God wants our life to back up our spiritual claims and promises. He wants us to be true believers. God wants us to separate ourselves completely from ALL sin and tempting situations. All sin hurts us and others, and ultimately it offends God because sin in any form is a rebellion against His way of living.

It is easy for us to grow careless about obeying God, to live our way instead of His. But if one way were just as good as another, God would not command us to live His way. He always has good reasons for His commands, and we always place ourselves in danger when we consciously or carelessly disobey them.

Have you been forgetting God lately? Has something or someone been pushing God out of your life? Are you in the Gray Zone? It could be as simple as television, a friendship, sports, a boyfriend or girlfriend, music, food, fun. Any of these can become idols. If they do, they must be removed from the center of your life. The first step is recognizing that something or someone has drawn your heart away from God. Then you must confess the problem to God and turn it over to Him (1 John 1:9). It is also important that you find someone to hold you accountable. You need someone to encourage you, ask the tough questions, and to pray for you. This could be a friend your own age who has a real desire to grow spiritually. It could be a Christian adult who you like and respect or anyone who is genuinely concerned for you. Ask God to send you such a person. It will help keep you from falling into the Gray Zone and provide you with close, lifelong friends.

Love Always,

Ash

 

 

Notes:

  • Christians are called to be holy (1 Peter 1:15). Like the Israelites, we are to remain spiritually separate from the world’s wickedness, even though we rub shoulders with unbelievers every day. It is no easy task to be holy in an unholy world, but God doesn’t ask you to accomplish this on your own. Through the death of his Son, He will present you holy and blameless before Him (Colossians 1:22).
  • King David gave his son Solomon principles to guide him through life (1 Chronicles 28:9-10). These same ideas are ones that any Christian can learn and follow.

 

  • Principles to Live By:
  • Get to know God personally.
  • Learn God’s commands and discover what He wants you to do.
  • Worship God with a clean heart.
  • Serve God with a willing mind.
  • Be faithful.
  • Don’t become discouraged.

 

 

Scriptures on Life-Style:

  • Jeremiah 18:18. Life-style is determined by your beliefs.
  • 1 Corinthians 6:20. Live to give glory to God.
  • Philippians 1:12-14. Living for Christ.
  • 1 Timothy 6:18-19. Your life and your earthly and heavenly future.
  • 1 Peter 4:10. Have a serving life-style.

Never Compromise Your Faith For The Wrong Popularity

1 Timothy 4:12 (NKJV)

12Let no one despise your youth, but be an example to the believers in word, in conduct, in love, in spirit, in faith, in purity.”

 

When people think of idolatry, the first thing that comes to mind are the people of the Old Testament and their worshiping of idols made from wood and stone. We wonder how they could deceive themselves with these objects. Idolatry is making anything more important than God, and our lives are full of that temptation, even today. Some examples of today’s idols are money, looks, success, reputation, security, and even popularity. These idols promise everything you want but nothing you need.

In today’s society, people are popular only if they have the right looks, the right clothes, a certain amount of money, have so many followers and likes, date a certain person, or drive a certain car. The lines are pretty clearly drawn. Lots of people are on the other side of every one of those lines, including me.

Growing up in school this really bothered me. All I craved was popularity. I tried to fit in with these cliques, but I ended up losing myself somewhere along the way. There was a time where I didn’t even recognize myself anymore. Literally. My attitude was horrible and insincere towards others and I only cared about myself and my new so called friends. Nothing about me was Christ-like.  I just wanted everyone to like me.

My perspective changed when I realized that it didn’t really matter whether the kids in my school thought that I was cool; what mattered was what God thought of me. If I wanted Him to think that I was great, I had to forget about fitting in and just focus on pleasing Him. I still wasn’t considered one of the “popular” people, but that didn’t bother me anymore. I was getting to know God, and because of that, I knew that I was popular with The One whose opinion really mattered.

“Never compromise your faith to fit in. Don’t conform to the ways of the world or condone sin. Renew. Transform. Share faith. Be an example.”

Love Always,

Ash

 

 

NOTES:

  • Don’t allow popularity to twist your perception of your own importance. It’s easy to be humble when you’re not on center stage, but how will you react to praise and honor?
  • Often those who try the hardest to become popular never make it. But the praise of people is not that important. Don’t spend your time devising ways to please others so you will be accepted in the public eye. Instead, strive to do what is right and both God and people will respect your faith.
  • Those who are concerned about building a name for themselves risk losing the very recognition they crave. We should be concerned for righteousness, honesty, and excellence, and leave the fame up to God.
  • Those seeking the wrong type of popularity are more concerned with criticism than encouragement, with their own appearance than helping people, with outward respectability than practical help. God is concerned for all people. The Christian life is not a popularity contest! We need to follow Jesus’ example and share the Good News with the poor, lonely, and outcast-not just the good, talented, and popular.

 

SCRIPTURES:

  • Obeying God may not make you popular. Read Matthew 3:7-10, Mark 6:27, and Luke 3:19-20.
  • Never be so popular that you are ashamed of Christ. Read Matthew 10:32-33.
  • Be more popular with Christ than with people. Read Luke 14:25-27.
  • Jesus was not popular. Read John 17:14-17.
  • Believers must stay away from some popular activities. Read 1 John 2:15-17.

 

I was ashamed…

Psalm 25:1-7 (NKJV)

1 To You, O Lord, I lift up my soul. 2 O my God, I trust in You; Let me not be ashamed; Let not my enemies triumph over me. 3 Indeed, let no one who waits on You be ashamed; Let those be ashamed who deal treacherously without cause. 4 Show me Your ways, O Lord; Teach me Your paths. 5 Let me in Your truth and teach me, for You are the God of my salvation; On You I wait all the day. 6 Remember, O Lord, Your tender mercies and Your loving kindness, For they are from of old. 7 Do not remember the sins of my youth, nor my transgressions; According to Your mercy remember me, for Your goodness’ sake, O Lord; Therefore He teaches sinners in the way.

 

When I made the decision to begin a relationship with God, I did not tell many people. I wanted them to continue to like me. I thought that if they knew that I was serious about being a Christian, that they would think that I was better than them. I know it sounds crazy now but that was just how I felt. I was so worried about losing friends and maybe even some family members, that I kept my Christianity a secret.

I WAS ASHAMED!

It was like I was living a double life. I had a mental list of things that I could and could not say and do around certain people. I did not want to offend anyone or make them uncomfortable. I do not know what it was, but I was afraid to let everyone see the true me. I was having a hard time finding peace with the situation.

One day I asked, “What does God expect from me?” I was lead to read Deuteronomy 10:12-13. In these verses Moses gives a summary that is simple in form and easy to remember: (1) Fear God (have reverence for Him). (2) Walk in all His ways. (3) Love Him. (4) Serve Him with all your heart and soul. (5) Keep His commandments. If I could get myself to concentrate on His real requirements; to respect, follow, love, serve, and obey Him; then I would find peace.

I also struggled with the fear of people finding out that I was a Christian, and them making fun of me. I desperately wanted to be bold enough to not care what others thought. Then I was reminded that in Isaiah 51:7, Isaiah encouraged those who served God to discern right from wrong and to follow God’s laws. He also gave them hope when they faced people’s ridicules or insults because of their faith.

We do not need to fear when people tease us for our faith because God is with us and truth will prevail. If people make fun of you or dislike you because you believe in God, remember that they are not against you personally, but against God. He will deal with them; you should concentrate on loving and obeying Him.

When we are ashamed of being a Christian, we are opposing God’s way of living. We may live a basically good life and yet miss doing what is most important. A lifetime of doing well is not enough if we make the crucial mistake of not following God with all our heart. A true follower of God puts Him first in all areas of life. Wholehearted reverence means appreciating God and honoring Him in all areas of life. We need to show our loyalty to Him in every part of our life, not just going to church. If we reverence God with our whole heart, then our work, relationships, use of money, and desires will be in keeping with His will.

When you are tempted to be ashamed, remember what the Good News is all about. If you focus on God and what He is doing in the world rather than your own inadequacy, your embarrassment will soon disappear!

Love Always,

Ash