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Competitor or Companion?

“When we only share our successes, we’re in danger of becoming competitors; when we share our struggles, we’re on the path to becoming true brothers and friends.”

I heard these words in a sermon preached by my mentor, Alan Ahlgrim, this past Sunday.  How true they are.  Do you find yourself surrounded by competitors or companions?  Do your conversations tend to center around how smart your kids are, how your daughter is excelling in gymnastics, how your son is so gifted in math, how your spouse is taking you on a vacation to Europe? 

 When you dig deep into your soul, are you sharing these successes, because you feel something lacking, and you believe you have something to prove? 

 Been there, done that.  Sometimes I still do.

 More times than not, when I’m at a pastors’ conference, the conversations quickly turn to “nickels and noses.”  How many people attend your church and how big is the budget?  As though these metrics define our self-worth.  And then we pastors wonder why our churches compete with one another rather than compliment one another. 

 We have much to learn.

 Henri Nouwen expressed his own feelings of self-doubt when he compared himself to others.  He wrote, “What do you do when you can’t get away from measuring yourself against others, always feeling that they are the real people while you are a nobody or even less than that?” (The Genesee Diary, 91).

 Feelings of insecurity and inferiority lead to self-loathing, which is just as harmful to the soul as self-lauding.  Whether these feelings stem from parental rejection in childhood, growing up as the “ugly duckling,” being wounded by a close friend or spouse, or having a teacher or coach tell you that you’re never going to amount to anything, we tend to absorb this toxicity.  It begins to define us emotionally, even though intellectually we may know better. 

 Whoever said, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me,” was living in denial. 

 To overcome our insecurities, we “man up” with bravado, whether it’s a mom making sure everyone knows how great her kids are, a business leader who wants his successes to shine, or a pastor who wants people to affirm his amazing leadership and communication ability. 

 And we still feel empty inside.  We find ourselves surrounded by “friends” who are competitors more than companions, and our soul is left wanting. 

 What’s the answer?  Like most deep challenges in life, there are no easy answers, but there are answers, starting with seeing ourselves the way God does, as His sons and daughters (Romans 8:14).

 And we don’t go it alone.  We share our struggles as companions and not our successes as competitors.  This doesn’t mean we don’t share our joys and accomplishments, but we do so because we are companions, and not because we’re trying to prove our self-worth as competitors.

Posted by Rick Grover, Lead Pastor with

From One Fool to Another

I’m writing this on April Fools’ Day, the day kids (and, yes, sometimes adults) pull pranks on each other and yell out, “April Fool!” I’ve been pranked many a time in my day, and I’ve done my fair share of pranking others as well.

One of the best pranks I’ve heard recently came from my assistant, Sandy, who told me that a friend of hers received a prank lottery ticket. It looked authentic enough and she matched the right numbers for a $5,000 prize. Sandy’s friend was so excited that she jumped up and down screaming, “I won! I won!” Even when her family told her it was a prank, she didn’t believe them and kept screaming with excitement.

The story gets better. One of the pranksters videoed the reaction and sent it into America’s Funniest Videos, and it was actually selected as a finalist for an upcoming episode to be aired this coming weekend. Since Sandy’s friend signed a non-disclosure agreement regarding the outcome of the show, let’s just say, the woman had the last laugh winning an all-expense paid trip to Los Angeles for the entire family and receiving one of the top 3 monetary prizes. Not a bad prank.

I used to be bothered by being on the receiving end of an April Fools’ Day joke. I mean, be real, who likes to be called a fool in April or any other month for that matter? I wanted to be perceived as wise, intelligent, confident, self-assured. My identity was wrapped up in the high opinions of others and being called a fool was moving the opinion needle in the opposite direction.

The older I get, though, the more I accept that I’m almost never the smartest person in the room, or the most gifted, or the most attractive, or the most _______ (you fill in the blank). And when I say, “Almost never,” I really mean, “If I’m alone in a room with my dog, Conner, then I might be the smartest person in the room. Maybe.”

You get the point.

The reason I’m not bothered much anymore if someone calls me a fool (or worse) is because I’m finally getting it through my thick skull that my identity is not defined by someone’s opinion of me. My identity is defined by the One who created me, and He calls me His child. “See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are” (1 John 3:1).

You can act foolish, look foolish, or say something foolish, and people might think you’re a fool. But your actions, looks, and speech don’t determine your identity. Yes, they can reveal your heart: “For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. . . . . You will recognize them by their fruits” (Matthew 12:34; 7:16 ESV). But your name—what you are called—originates with the One who gave you life. He who made you names you.

Like the Apostle Paul, you may be called a “fool for Christ’s sake” (1 Corinthians 4:10, ESV), or you may just be called an April Fool, but either way, from one fool to another, give thanks that God’s foolishness is wiser than the wisdom of men (1 Corinthians 1:25). No foolin’.

Posted by Rick Grover, Lead Pastor with

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