Thursday, May 3, 2012

competition & Christianity

Quite a while back I wrote a post on competition and Christianity. A handful of you may have read it, but I’d like to “recycle” it today. It’s something I find consistently relevant to my life and something I’d love to share again. I’m using the base of what I wrote originally and updating it to reflect the new thoughts in my heart in the days between. Read the full post after the jump…
We all want to be noticed, to be good enough, to be loved. We want to succeed in life and we are afraid of the consequences if we don't. Even the most laid back of us generally have some desire to be accepted that motivates us on an “upward climb” as we pursue that acceptance. As I reflect on what makes me like this, I want to say it’s just a natural desire to make something of myself and to leave the world a better place. However, I find that often my true motivation is pride.

The music industry is a competitive place. I have heard endless stories of "fallen stars", of people being cheated or lied to or forgotten. Sadly, even those in ministry don't seem to be immune to these behaviors. In my four years of being a full-time musician I've come into contact with many people who are wounded, jaded and pessimistic. And really, I don't blame them. Because here's what I've noticed: It takes an embarrassingly small amount of criticism to put me on the defense, and even the smallest insecurity can spark a blazing fire of fear. I recognize these attitudes and behaviors in others because it is my sin, my pride that I see reflected there.

Yet, if there is one thing God is teaching me, it's that there is room for everyone in God's kingdom. Instead of feeling threatened by the success of others, I’m learning to be happy for them—proud of them, even. What is done for the glory of God is success, no matter who does it. In fact, in Philippians 1:15-18 Paul writes that even if the gospel itself is being preached out of selfish ambition we shouldn’t be concerned because “the important thing is that in every way...Christ is being preached”. God does not have a limited amount of blessing in store that we are competing for. He is faithful to use all who are willing (and sometimes even the unwilling!) to bring glory to himself. I find so much relief in that, so much comfort. I am called to bring glory to my Savior under every circumstance, and that is what I will find joy in doing. I choose to find happiness in Christ and not in my success in the eyes of men. And while I still strive to do the best I can for His name's sake, I no longer bear the burden of competition.

I have been so fortunate to work with people who are all on the same team. They are united not because they want to get ahead, but because they love God and they love His people. Bad things do happen, and good people get run over sometimes, but there are also great people doing great work together because their bond lies first in Christ and then in mutual interests. Nobody is perfect 100% of the time, but I will be the first to say that I am often in need of a motivation check. I can so easily fall into the trap of doing things for approval or to boost my own self-esteem rather than to serve and glorify God.

Do you find that to be true in your life? How do you combat the negative and replace it with the positive? I know there’s a lot further we could go when it comes to how this relates to our everyday lives and our worth in God’s eyes as he views us through the lens of salvation, rather than what we ourselves can or can’t accomplish. I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!

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  1. What you speak of is a very interesting conundrum among those of us who create and being EXTREMELY competitive myself, I can relate wholeheartedly. I believe that being competitive is a human trait present in all of in varying degrees that God designed for a specific plan and purpose. To me the word "competition" is synonymous with "compare" As I guitar player, I want to improve, to grow in knowledge and talent. One cannot improve without a HIGHER standard to compare or "compete" with. Its a life long endeavour to successfully balance competition, pride and ego. When I was younger, the praise and adoration was a confirmation of skill, a reward for hard work and practice, a boost of confidence to feed insecurity. This lack of immaturity is what pollutes the nature of competition. As I matured, though I am still fiercly competitive, I use it as a driving force to succeed to MY highest level, not necessarily to the level of my competitor. You learn quickly that God has gifted us all in different ways and to different degrees and you may never achieve a desired level of success or skill simply because you do not have the innate capacity to do so by design. I see the talent now and I am awestruck and amazed and praise God for such gifts, though yes, I do envy at times, but then I reminded of all the people that wish they could play an instrument at all and to them, I am their idea of success, their "rock star" if you will. If I might think of Steve Vai as the ultimate goal as a guitar player, I would think of Jesus as the ultimate goal of how to live my life. Not only do I work at that goal through prayer and God graceful hands at work continuously molding me, but as Proverbs 27:17 says "As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another." Competition is be design, but like words. It can build up or it can destroy. That choice is in the heart of the competitor =)

    1. Some great thoughts! It's so important that we always do our best for the honor and glory of Jesus Christ and let that affect our sense of "competition"!

  2. This is why we are so proud to call you "friend". I think that's totally self-explanatory.
    Steve Fox

    1. Thanks Steve, we are proud to call you and Victoria friends as well :)