2 Corinthians 10:12, 17-18 (NIV)
12 We do not dare to classify or compare ourselves with some who commend themselves. When they measure themselves by themselves and compare themselves with themselves, they are not wise.
17But,"Let the one who boasts boast in the Lord."[b]
18For it is not the one who commends himself who is approved, but the one whom the Lord commends.
I know, when you read the Header, you wouldn`t think of this scripture as a first hand verses that would come to your mind, yet this is something that God showed me today. When I read these scriptures in 2 Corinthians, I realized that one of the reasons doubts creeps in and limits God`s work is when we compare the outcome with our own desires or expect our works to be known.
I`ll explain that in details.
When I do something for God, I shouldn`t expect to get rewarded because it would mean that I boast about my works rather than staying humble, and this is something that prevents God from blessing me. If I vow to live for the Lord and desire to do everything for His glory, than there should be no room for boasting or even a hint of self-praise, yet this is something that each one of us struggles with- it`s called pride. The poisonous word, the poisonous actions that defile us in God`s presence and separate us from Him and His blessings.
This is exactly what destroyed the first humans on our planet- Adam and Eve wanted to be like God. The doubts started to creep in their minds when Satan (the snake in the Garden of Eden) showed up to Eve and promised that the day she eats of the forbidden fruit, she would become like God, and her head started to spin because she started to doubt God`s word. Pride took over, and she gave in to the lust of her flesh.
What a vivid depiction Paul brought up in Galatians 5 our nature to boast and to self-promote causes destroying each other. It all stems from unbelief; our unbelief from going unnoticed. In our hearts, we tend to ask God: "did you see what I did? Did you see how I sacrificed myself to promote Your word? Did You see what I did to start the reconciliation? Did You see, God, what I sacrificed only, so my husband could start going to my church again?" The list is endless because our flesh is weak and always desires things that are nonspiritual, and so they battle day and night.
15 If you bite and devour each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other. 16So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. 17 For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever[c] you want. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law (Galatians 5:15-18 NIV)
Self-promotion and comparison tends to destroy the other person because we tend to go to the extent of degrading and humiliating the other party only to look better ourselves. It all stems from unbelief, distrust in the Lord, and pride. Lack of faith undermines the work of the Spirit in our hearts.
One of the doubts that started to creep into my mind yesterday was competitors for my prospect business that I`m working on starting in a near future. I started to compare what my services would offer compare to the well established businesses in the area where the business would be; it`s called measuring success factors. You have to go through your competitors to define what they offer, and separate what are my success factors that would outdo their services to make my business marketable and profitable. Sounds easy enough to do since there seems to be endless amount of creativity and opportunities in the area where I`m working on starting my business, but there is always that lack of confidence when you start comparing yourself against the others.
This is another factor that prevents us from receiving God`s blessings- measuring ourselves against the others promotes doubt, helplessness, and lack of faith; this is not what God has in store for His children. The number one thing God commends us to do is to surrender to Him and to His will. The second important thing we, as believers, have to do is stop comparing ourselves to the others, and the latter is only possible when we die to ourselves (a.k.a. to the desires of our flesh).
This is why Jesus brought up this parable of the laborers in Matthew 20: 1-16 (NIV):
"For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire workers for his vineyard. 2 He agreed to pay them a denarius[a] for the day and sent them into his vineyard. 3 "About nine in the morning he went out and saw others standing in the marketplace doing nothing. 4 He told them, 'You also go and work in my vineyard, and I will pay you whatever is right.' 5 So they went. "He went out again about noon and about three in the afternoon and did the same thing. 6 About five in the afternoon he went out and found still others standing around. He asked them, 'Why have you been standing here all day long doing nothing?'7"'Because no one has hired us,' they answered. "He said to them, 'You also go and work in my vineyard.' 8 "When evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, 'Call the workers and pay them their wages, beginning with the last ones hired and going on to the first.' 9 "The workers who were hired about five in the afternoon came and each received a denarius. 10 So when those came who were hired first, they expected to receive more. But each one of them also received a denarius. 11 When they received it, they began to grumble against the landowner. 12 'These who were hired last worked only one hour,' they said, 'and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the work and the heat of the day.' 13"But he answered one of them, 'I am not being unfair to you, friend. Didn't you agree to work for a denarius? 14 Take your pay and go. I want to give the one who was hired last the same as I gave you. 15 Don't I have the right to do what I want with my own money? Or are you envious because I am generous?' 16 "So the last will be first, and the first will be last."
It amazes me how true it is of us, as humans, to tend to compare ourselves against the others and always think that the grass is greener on the other side. If we see that someone gets a better wage or a feedback, we tend to complaint to God for all the work we do that goes unnoticed, and God replies in return by saying: "Wait My son/My daughter, I am not finished with you yet, I`m giving you heart like Mine". We all have the same wage from God that we agreed to work for: His grace and mercy, Jesus shed blood on the cross for you and me, so we could have eternal life. Yet, somewhere along the way, while we labor for God, we forget the cost that`s paid to us- His love for us, and we start complaining if we see someone getting a bit more love than us, a bit more mercy than us, a bit more grace than us, and God replies to us by saying: "I am not being unfair to you, friend. Didn't you agree to work for a denarius? 14 Take your pay and go. I want to give the one who was hired last the same as I gave you (verses 13-14).
Jesus was so loving that He said: "I am not being unfair to you, friend"- God calls us His friends, and we spit in His face in return. We complain like the Israelites did din the desert: we want more food, we want more water, we want more treasure, we want more possessions, we want a better house, we want to be noticed at the church, we want, we want, we want……….
Stop already you and me!
Shouldn`t we rather boast about God`s work in our lives instead of seeking comparing our reward with someone else? Guess what, my reward is the same as yours- eternal life with God if only I finish my race to the end and will follow the Lord. I`ve proven to be unreliable in that, how about you? I`ve been a backslider so many times, that I would be a really happy camper if I would finish my race to the end and inherit my Father`s Kingdom.
You would think why I would bring all this up. It`s simple- I wanted to share my weakness, so God`s strength could make up for that. He knows my heart, He knows that I hunger to fulfill His will, but I am weak; my flesh is weak and desires what`s contrary to the Spirit.
I met with my husband a week ago for our marital counseling with our pastor (neutral church that I`ve been telling you about), and our meeting ended up with my husband crying because he felt insulted and didn`t want to take that in anymore. Mind you, that wasn`t tears of brokenness, that was tears of pride, yet I`ve never seen him crying before, so I broke myself. I went after him and asked that we talk. We went to my car and sat there while I apologized for saying harsh things to him. In return he told me he didn`t know what to do to reconcile. I could tell him a list of things that he could do to make up for what he`s done to me or what would get me to tick to turn to him once again, but I held my tongue, and instead I asked him if he wanted to have lunch with me.
So we went to have lunch, and I chose to be gracious thinking that we both have the same pay- God`s grace and love for each one of us that Jesus bled on the cross, so instead of boasting about myself and what I did, I chose to let God have the room and all attention. As me and my husband spoke, I`ve noticed something different about him- his face was changed; for a short period of time that rigidness and harshness was gone, and he was willing to negotiate and discuss our pending litigation and personal issues. We came to 3 major agreements, and I was faced with a bomb to the end - the 4-Th uncompromising issue that my husband asked me about: "How about my friends, I already made a decision that I would never give them up for you, and if you don`t want to live with that, than we will go our separate ways". What do you do when someone tells you straight in the face that his friends mean more than you, more than your marriage, more than your family? The reason why my husband`s friends have been such a huge issues was because of their inappropriate behavior (I would omit the details only to say that it would be enough to get arrested for such behavior), their influence on my husband with drunkenness, their endless humiliation of me, and them being unbelievers (most of them being married yet degrading their wives, going to the strip joints, having porn issues, etc.); the list goes on and on.
As I instantly refused to budge on that issue of his friends, we drove back to the church where I left my car. As we were on the way there, I had a choice to make: whether to die to myself and to serve the Lord or whether to give in to my own demands; I got an idea. I turned to my husband, and I asked him whether he would be willing to start going to the church with me (Calvary) and participate in all their services, ministries, etc. in return for him keeping some of his questionable friends. There was a moment of silence that followed by his agreement to do what I proposed as a compromise. I put my stakes in God`s word when I told myself that if my husband started going to the church where the truth of the Word is taught, it would produce the change and repentance because God is faithful to finish what He started.
Than the doubts started to creep in: would my sacrifice go unnoticed, would my husband not pay at all for what he`s done to me and to our family, would it all turn for the better now and there would be no punishment or consequences for him? Jesus in return turns to me and replies: "MY friend, didn`t you agree to have the same pay as he did?" My husband deserves the same grace and mercy as I do regardless of what he`s done.
After last Sunday I and my husband met up twice: once for coffee and once for dinner (we had our fifth wedding anniversary on Saturday), and during neither one of the meetings, I heard my husband thanking me for taking this first step once again. I had to bow lower, so it could enable him to start the reconciliation. As I rebel on some days and question God about my husband`s "payment", God reminds me that I was spared from penance, and so he deserves that too. I know that God is faithful to work with my husband`s heart because only God knows what`s in his heart, but I still face the court in June because I didn`t finalize closing the case yet, although this is something that we`ve discussed as one of the 3 agreement components.
These scriptures are another reminder for me to boast about the Lord rather than about my works, to thank Jesus for the pay that I get, which should be sufficient enough for me and remember that everyone else doesn`t deserves the pay that we get: God`s love for us manifested through Jesus` sacrifice on the cross.
I urge you today to reconsider if you boast about your works or feel bitter about going unnoticed because God sees it all, and He will reward those who trust in Him to the end. You agreed to the same pay as I did- to get His love, mercy, and grace, so we wouldn`t die but have eternal life, and we should live like that.
I know that God is doing the impossible miracle in my marriage although we don`t deserve that, so I will boast about that- about God`s work to do the impossible. I urge you to do the same. Don`t leave room for pride, self-doubt, and lack of faith because that`s what you gonna get when you compare yourself to the works of another or lack thereof. God seeks each heart, and He is faithful to wrap us in His arms to overflow His love to those of us who give it all. Don`t hold anything back, but give it all, and the next time you have doubts creeping in, please know that you have the power to stop them. You have God`s word to combat them with, and for that you have to dwell in His word as much as you can.