What's the most stressful game? Answer: the comparison game.
We all face the temptation to compare ourselves to others, and it never truly works out in our favor. We may compare our rise through the ranks of work to the speed of someone else's advancement. We may envy others' lives that we see on social media and are ungrateful for the good in our own lives. We may think of marriages that look wonderful and compare ours to theirs, leading us to feelings of inadequacy or jealousy. We are even tempted to compare ourselves to someone else's spiritual status, which never leads anywhere good (remember Cain & Abel).
Now, here's why this is the most stressful game: everyone who plays it, loses. Either, we end up sacrificing God-given peace because we're focused how we have achieved less, have been given less, or are worth less than someone else... Or, on the other side of the coin, we end up with feelings of supremacy over others, which is pride. When we look to the Bible, neither of those is okay.
So what's the solution? Stop playing the game.
Instead of comparing yourself to others, compare yourself to God's way. Do you do his will? Do you believe what he says? Do you pursue his kingdom and his righteousness? If you do, then all that you need will be added to you (Matt. 6:33). And that's not some kind of game. It's just a blessed life.
- Dan Lankford, minister
You are finite. You don’t have perfected skills in all areas. You will never have unlimited time. There is always at least some limit to the available money. Your energy is finite—everyone has to rest at some point. And you presence is limited—you can only be in one place at a time.
That makes the math pretty simple: If there is only one you and one me, then neither of us can be everywhere, doing everything all the time. And that’s true even when we want to do some of the good works that God created for us to do. The reality is undeniable: you can’t do everything. You and I are not God.
So is it possible to live life peacefully while knowing that you can’t be all-knowing, all-being, and all-doing—even in the areas where you feel that you should be doing something? Yes. But we have to make some tough choices. We have to prioritize things that are truly important and then let go of the less-important things.
And this is where the tough choices have to be made. Most of us intrinsically know what’s most important to us: our faith in Jesus, our families, and our own well-being. It’s easy to give something a higher priority; it’s harder to be at peace while letting go of the things that should be lower priorities. But that’s what must happen. Jesus said, “seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” (Matt. 6:33)
And when we do that, we can be assured that it will work. And you can have peace of mind when you make choices based on godly priorities… that he is working things out as he knows best. “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good” (Rom. 8:28)
- Dan Lankford, minister
Why do you do the right thing? On the occasions when you go out of your way to help someone, or when you consciously choose to resist temptation do what God commands, or when you give a gift… What’s your reason? Do you seek a reward? Do you want to be repaid? Do you hope for notoriety? Are you trying to increase your influence and hold sway over others for some later purposes?
Or do you ever just do the right thing because it’s the right thing?
For Christians, it’s obvious that this is the best tack for all of us to take. Jesus often condemned those who do spiritual things just for the praise, reward, or payment that it might bring them. He said of some of those people that while they may receive glory from men, that’s the only reward they will get—they won’t be rewarded by God in Heaven (Mt. 6:1). In another place, he reminded us that our attitude should be that of a diligent servant who works hard for his master, expecting no praise in return. “So you also, when you have done all that you were commanded, say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done what was our duty.’” (Lk. 17:10)
The church throughout history has been made up of plenty of people who have, in fact, done great acts of service for others without expecting to be noticed or praised. We know the names of some, but just by virtue of their thinking and acting this way, there must be thousands more of whom history has no memory. And yet, the world is a better place because of their godliness. Thank God for that kind of heart.
Do the right thing for the sake of the right thing, even if you do it in secret. “And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.” (Mt. 6:4, 6:6, 6:18)
- Dan Lankford, minister
Do you ever find yourself in an argument with your spouse, a coworker, or a fellow church member and realize that you’re arguing with a person from long ago instead of the person sitting in front of you? I do this sometimes, and it’s a habit that I’m trying to break. When someone starts to sound like another person that I’ve disagreed with in the past, I reflexively start treating them like the other person—not fully listening, but rather just assuming I know what they’ll say. That inevitably results in us both talking past each other and neither of us talking to each other.
Maybe you’ve experienced something similar. Do you think there is something we could all do to improve our communication skills and overcome these tendencies?
The answer comes in the form of one word, two Bible verses, and one piece of advice that’s become a bit cliche, but still goes a long way if we’re willing to put it to work.
The one word: listen. Listen intently and patiently and selflessly. Listen to the person’s words without judging any underlying motives. Listen with empathy; treat the other person as a person, not just a side to an argument. Listen for a way to reach agreement; not just for a way to “win.”
The first Bible verse: Proverbs 18:2. “A fool takes no pleasure in under-standing, but only in expressing his opinion.”
The second Bible verse: James 1:19. “Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger…”
And the cliche piece of advice that still really goes a long way: “Seek first to understand; then to be understood.”
- Dan Lankford, minister (*personal note: this is an especially good reminder for me as a father who needs to listen more to his kids, which is why it was posted on Father's Day, 2019*)
The title “Everybody else is” is a statement too often heard from an immature child while trying to convince their parents to allow him or her to do what everybody else is doing, sounds familiar? Well sadly this attitude or line of thinking has led to the insurmountable number of religious denominations in the world as well as the reasoning some immature Christians use to justify crossing the boundaries God has set forth in his word.
We rationalize, “Everyone else is” going to that once in a life time party where we know sin may lurk.” “Everyone else is” wearing revealing or immodest clothing, justification, it’s the latest fashion. “Everyone else is” lying just a little bit on their taxes, justification, Uncle Sam won’t miss it. God told His people long ago, “You shall not follow a crowd to do evil” (Exodus 23:2). When everyone else was bowing down to the golden image king Nebuchadnezzar built and erected, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego refused to do so. The result was they were cast into the fiery furnace, but the Lord was with them (Daniel 3).
We must very careful not to allow ourselves to be conformed to what everyone else in this wicked world is doing (Romans 12:1-2). God doesn’t want us to be different just for the sake of being different. We are to be different because we belong to a holy God whose ways are different than that of this world. My mom used to ask, “What if everyone else jumped off a bridge?” The fact of the matter is the path to destruction is paved with what “everybody else is”, doing. Only the righteous will find eternal life in heaven and everyone else is destined to eternal punishment (John 5:29).
- Kristopher Sanders, minister
Many have noted that if you follow the money, you’ll find out what’s most important to a person or an organization. That’s definitely an over-simplification, but it still has something valuable for us to think about. Namely, what value does your money have to you? How do you use it? How do you manage it? Or do you let it manage you?
The Lord intends for us to be grateful for what he gives us. The book of Ecclesiastes tells us that it is proper for us to enjoy God’s good gifts. And when the apostle Paul gave instructions for rich Christians, he told them not to set their hope on their riches, “but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy.” (1 Tim. 3:17) The Lord intends for us to gratefully enjoy riches when he gives them.
But we must never depend more on our blessings than on the one who gives them. This is why, as Christians, we are to be wise with our money. As in all other aspects of life, we are to be self-controlled; always making deliberate choices, willingly denying some things for ourselves so we can instead serve God and others.
Our financial goals are to be able to provide for our own families (1 Tim. 5:8), to be able to give to others (Eph. 4:28), and to aid in sharing the gospel with the world (Phil. 4:10-19). Money is never an end in itself, but God intends it to be a tool in the hands of his people who would use it for his glory and for others’ good. That takes diligent attention, self-control, and a long view of living life God’s way. But in the end, it brings peace & contentment, and it gives glory to God.
- Dan Lankford, minister