It’s easy to look around and feel discouraged — or proud — when you compare your life to others. We all do it. Even if you say you’re not discouraged or proud, maybe instead it’s a feeling of satisfaction or dissatisfaction. Whatever it is, it’s dangerous.
While it’s one thing to have spiritual heroes (see Hebrews 11), it is also good to remember that we ultimately have one standard. As we enter a new year, many of us have set goals based on how we see our lives as falling short in the past. Some of those may have to do with being more healthy, being better stewards of our finances or times, or living a certain way. Regardless, we have to remind ourselves that there is only one life worth imitating, that of Jesus Christ.
One of my heroes in the faith is John Piper. In this post, he talks about the struggles with trying to measure up to others. In it, he talks about Jesus’ blunt words to Peter from John 21:18-22:
“Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were young, you used to dress yourself and walk wherever you wanted, but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will dress you and carry you where you do not want to go.” (This he said to show by what kind of death he was to glorify God.) And after saying this he said to him, “Follow me.” Peter turned and saw the disciple whom Jesus loved following them, the one who had been reclining at table close to him and had said, “Lord, who is it that is going to betray you?” When Peter saw him, he said to Jesus, “Lord, what about this man?” Jesus said to him, “If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you? You follow me!”
Piper calls those harsh words sweet words for him and for all of us:
…I was refreshed by Jesus’ blunt word to me (and you): “What is that to you? You follow me!” Peter had just heard a very hard word. You will die—painfully. His first thought was comparison. What about John? If I have to suffer, will he have to suffer? If my ministry ends like that, will his end like that? If I don’t get to live a long life of fruitful ministry, will he get to?
That’s the way we sinners are wired. Compare. Compare. Compare. We crave to know how we stack up in comparison to others. There is some kind of high if we can just find someone less effective than we are. Ouch. To this day, I recall the little note posted by my Resident Assistant in Elliot Hall my senior year at Wheaton: “To love is to stop comparing.” What is that to you, Piper? Follow me.
So, let’s all stop comparing and do the work that God has called us to do. Love God. Trust God. Follow God.