When we were children we played kick ball, football, kick the can, and all manner of games that we strove to win. Some of us were better at it than others, but the spirit of competition was always there. Competition is defined as a “rivalry for supremacy, a contest for some prize, honor or advantage.” (Dictionary.com) It can also be seen as a struggle between individuals to be deemed better than the other. I have always had a competitive nature in me, ever since I was a little girl, running around the backyard with my friends playing tag football. My desire to win was great and I never liked to lose. However, this competitive nature has spilled over into my spiritual life, and it has caused issues in my walk with my fellow sisters and brothers in the Lord.
All of us have a competitive nature within us, some of us are able to tame that nature more than others, but we all have it, and it is something I believe the Lord wants us to let go of. Paul saw a competitive nature in the church at Corinth, and warned them of it. The whole of chapter 12 has an underlying tone of reproof for their competitive spirit. Which is not the spirit the Lord wants us operating in, His Holy Spirit seeks unity, and competition brings division.
“There are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. There are diversities of ministries, but the same Lord. And there are diversities of activities, but it is the same God who works all in all. But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to each one for the profit of all….But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually as He wills.” 1 Corinthians 12:4-7, 11
We each have been given different gifts of the Spirit. Some of us have a gift of wisdom, some of us have the gift of administration and others the gift of tongues; no matter our gifts, and there is not one that is greater than the other. I see many of us, including myself, falling into the trap of competition when it comes to ministries and gifts working inside the church. The gifts we have been given are given to us by God, and it is only through the Holy Spirit that these gifts are used.
We see sisters and brothers in our church being used by God, and we begin to envy them, we begin to look upon them and try to find something wrong with them, because their gift seems better than yours. Perhaps they lead a ministry and you do not understand why you can’t do the same? You have the same gifts; you have the same desires, so why can’t you have the same ministry? Because, as Paul tells us later in the chapter, “if the whole body were an eye, where would the hearing be?” (vs.17) You may have similar gifts, but God decides how and when they will be used.
I think sometimes, we try to push our gifts into certain ministries, areas that we think they are needed instead of waiting on God to place you in the body where your gift is needed. We end up stepping on toes, saying things that hurt others, and sometimes, we cause division among our sisters and brothers. My gifts are no greater than yours, and yours no greater than mine. We have all been given spiritual gifts, to be used when God chooses, not when we choose.
Whether a person has a specific gift or not is not for us to decide. It is the Holy Spirit who decides by His Sovereign Grace who gets what gift. When we start to judge our brothers and sisters gifts, and start to envy what God is doing in their lives, we have fallen into the sin of competition. If the Lord gives you a gift, then praise Him for it. Do not desire to be something God does not want you to be. You cannot squeeze your square peg gift into a round hole ministry, no matter how hard you try. We were not all called to be pastors and preachers, leaders and speakers, some were, some weren’t. Not everyone is called to serve in the Children’s Ministry, not everyone is called to sing on the worship team. Each one of us has been given a specific gift to be used when the Lord chooses. But instead of waiting for Him to use our gifts, we try to push them onto others and compete for the honor we think we deserve.
Our selfish hearts will lead us into competing against our brothers and sisters if we do not check ourselves. I have been guilty of this spirit of competition and I have felt the effects of it from others. It is not for us to walk in competition, but we are to walk in unity and peace towards one another. If a sister is exalted within the church for some gift or gifts, then praise God and the power of His working in her. When we look at the gifts of others, there should be one thing and one thing only happening- praise and glory to God. But instead of praising God for His work in the hearts of His children, we become envious and are lifted up in pride toward one another. Oh, my sisters, this ought not to be so.
Paul goes on to tell us in Chapter 12 that we are not all the same, and we will never be. God gives the gifts to each one of us as individual to meet the needs of our church body. We do not all have the same needs, therefore, we will not all have the same gifts. But then, Paul reminds us that there is a more excellent way. Chapter 13 goes on to tell us the way of love. Love does not boast, and it does not envy. When we find ourselves desiring a spiritual gift, let us examine our hearts and follow the way of love given to us in Chapter 13. To desire anything above the power of God working in us and through us is selfish competition, and it should not be so within our churches.
So maybe the Lord uses you in ways He does not use others, praise God for that! I know without a doubt that I could never be on the worship team because I can’t carry a tune. But, I can be the humble vessel God chooses to use somewhere else. It is not up to us to decide who has the better gifts, or what gifts I think I deserve, that is for the Lord to determine, and we should praise His working in and through all our sisters. To God be the glory, not to us, but to Him and Him alone.
Wherever you are at within your church body, humble yourself and let the Lord use you right where you are. “But earnestly desire the best gifts. And yet, I show you a more excellent way.” (1 Cor. 12:31) Let us not envy one another’s gifts or what the Lord is doing with those gifts, but let us come together in unity and the bond of peace and praise God that He would even consider us enough to want to use us. Let the spirit of competition be far from us, and let Him be glorified, for it is the Spirit who works all these things, distributing to each one individually as He wills. (1 Cor. 12:11) Amen, and Amen.