(Please see the Table of Contents for an introduction to this series)
As many of you know, I was away last Sunday because I was running in the Vancouver Marathon. Although I missed being with you, I certainly enjoyed the experience of running my second marathon.
As the race day approached, one my kids asked me a few times, “Do you think you’ll win?” I tried to explain that for most participants these type of races are not about beating everyone else, but about accomplishing a personal goal. He replied, “So do you think you’ll be top ten?”
In the end, over 1,000 people crossed the finish line ahead of me, but I crossed with a shout of exultation. Why? Because four months ago I set myself a goal, trained very hard to prepare for it, and on Sunday I actually beat it by over a minute. Had the race been about comparing myself to others, I would have had 1,000 reasons to feel bad. But it wasn’t. Instead, I was thrilled with my finish.
Sometimes, in our spiritual journey with Jesus, we fall into a comparison trap. We compare ourselves to the way a person prays, or the kind of work they do, or the spiritual gifts they have, or how happy they seem to be, or… When we do that, we will have 1,000 reasons to feel disappointed. Or, even worse, we think we have reasons to feel proud (Luke 18:11, anyone?).
But that is not the way God works. He does not compare us to others. When we walk with Jesus, although we are a community together, ultimately we live our life for an audience of one (that “one” being God, not you). Each of us has our gifts, abilities, and struggles, and God simply wants you and I to live for him, walk with him, and hold fast to him the best we can, in his strength and grace.
When we appear before God at the end of our days, he will not say, “You did this, but this person over here did more than you, so I’m disappointed.” No. My prayer is that God will say to you and I, “You gave your utmost for my highest. Well, done, good and faithful servant.”