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When the Winner is Actually the Loser

Have you ever played the game called “Compare”? Here’s how it’s played. You live in a decent home, but it’s nothing like John’s. You drive an okay car, but you wish you had one like Susan. You’re pretty happy with your job, but if you had a job like Martha, then you’d really be content.  

There’s only one rule to the game: Always compare yourself to “more” and never to “less.” Preachers play this game by comparing their church to the one with more members. Business leaders play by comparing their income level to a friend with more money. Moms play by comparing themselves to other moms who seem to have more motherly skills or more ability to keep the house clean, cook delicious meals, and help with the kids’ homework—all at the same time.

The winner of the game is the one who wastes the most time and energy on wishing life was better, resulting in exhaustion, discontentment, and discouragement. The winner of the game actually turns out to be the loser in life.

I find myself playing this game every time I listen to someone else preach, and I say, “Wow, I wish I could preach like that.” Or I read someone’s book, and I think, I could never write like that—so profound and inspirational. I play the game well. I never compare the size of the church I serve to a smaller one down the road. I never compare my writing skill to someone who has never written a word in his life. My problem—and maybe this is yours as well—is that I find myself winning at the game and losing at life.

Heed the words of this wise counsel from John Calvin. In order to protect ourselves from our anxieties, misguided cravings, and misplaced comparisons, we need to accept that we all have our “own kind of living assigned to [us] by the Lord as a sort of sentry post, so that [we] may not heedlessly wander about throughout life” (Institutes of the Christian Religion, 2.3.10).

Sometimes it’s hard not to look at someone else’s life and wish it were yours. It’s difficult to find contentment in “our kind of living assigned by the Lord.” Faithfulness to your calling leads to contentment in your living. We all need these “sentry posts” to help us stay anchored—not chained—to living in our boat and not wishing we were in someone else’s.

Your current calling may not be your final destination. It may be that God is leading you to a new assignment. Contentment is not complacency; it is finding peace in your circumstances while always seeking the God who makes all things new.

Stop comparing and start completing. Make it your aim to complete your assignment and not worry about the assignments of others. Grow where you’re planted. For God’s purposes, He has you where you are for now. Since He gave you your assignment, then your work must matter to Him. That means you have “mattering work” to do right where you are. Stop being restless and naively imagining that if you had someone else’s assignment, you would be happier or more significant. Your work matters to God, so fulfill your work as unto the Lord and stop playing the “Compare” game. If you win the game, you lose at life.

“I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content” (Philippians 4:11b).

Posted by Rick Grover, Lead Pastor with

Beware of Spirituality without Theology

I tend to throw around the word “spirituality” a lot these days. Maybe that’s because it seems to be so popular, so common, so “in.” “Let’s find our spirituality. What is your pursuit of spirituality? Spirituality is far more important than religion.” Etcetera.

I was even working on a sermon this morning where I was focusing on developing our spirituality. We are to grow spiritually. We are spiritual beings. We are to be a part of a spiritual community. Yes, yes, and yes.

But what does that mean?

Are you growing spiritually? Do you think about your spirituality? Or is spirituality for you too nebulous or ethereal?

What I have found over the years is that there are “thinkers” and “feelers,” and those Myers-Briggs classifications are not just for personality types. They also become fairly accurate descriptions of different approaches to the Christian faith.

Thinkers are theologians, academicians, and apologists. Feelers are worshipers, charismatics, and experience-seekers. Thinkers use their minds. Feelers use their hearts. Thinkers are into rational faith. Feelers are into spirituality. Or so we’ve been made to believe.

This dichotomy is not only false; it’s dangerous. Theologians who have no spirituality become arid deserts of benign rational thought. Worshipers who have no theology (good theology, that is) become experience junkies with a surface spirituality.

If you are someone who likes to study the Bible and listen to “deep” sermons, but you are not developing a contemplative life, you will become a Pharisee. If you are someone who could listen to Elevation Worship, Jesus Culture, or Hillsong all day, but you never crack open the Sacred Book, you will become a feel-good fan of the latest pop Christianity rather than a follower of Jesus.

Andrew Louth, emeritus professor of patristic and Byzantine studies in the Department of Theology and Religion of Durham University (how’s that for a mouth full?), once wrote,

Spirituality is necessary to theology to keep it in its proper vocation. . . . Theology is necessary to spirituality to keep it to its proper vocation. `He who prays is a theologian; a theologian is one who prays,’ to quote Evagrius. The danger of a non- or un-theological spirituality is, I think, that it will tend to become a mere cult of devotion, or devotedness, not to anything in particular but just in itself (“Theology and Spirituality,” Origen Society, 1974).

A healthy spirituality includes a Christ-centered theology. A healthy theology includes a Christ-centered spirituality. I challenge you to search your heart and your mind to see if both are working in tandem to cultivate “Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Colossians 1:27).

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