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About this series
Doing Less, Loving More
Most of us live very complex lives that move too fast, deliver too little, and demand too much. We often succumb to the push and pull of all the demands. We lack time for God, relationships, or ourselves. We know we need to change our pattern of life, but we either put it off or just don't know how to get started. In the end, there's a key question we need to ask and answer: What do we want to be known for? It is possible to break free from the high speed, high pressure, high demand, guilt-producing disease of our lives. The answer is counter-intuitive and it's found in 1 Corinthians 13. Discover what is needed to enjoy Spiritual Simplicity in today's fast paced lifestyles.More from this series
You want to become more loving in real time? Here’s the issue: comparison always leads to carnality.
The moment you ever compare yourself with another person, it always produces carnality. Because the moment you compare, there’s only two directions to go. You start comparing and you go, Hmm, I think that person’s up here and I’m here. That’s a lot nicer car. They have more visible gifts. I’m single and they’re married and I wish I was married.
Or it goes the other way. You know what? That person’s not very important. That’s an old dumpy thing. I wonder why they act like that.
And so, here’s what I want you to see. We are going to go to war on the issue of comparison. Arrogance compares downward and produces pride, boasting, rudeness, and independence. All of which this passage say is unloving.
Now, I’m going to suggest that we all struggle with both envy and arrogance but we tend to habitually fall into one camp more than the other. My personal camp is arrogance. I’ve struggled with arrogance all my life. Part of it is your personality, part of it is your giftedness, part of it is your family of origin.
I mean, can you imagine having a dad – when I was three years old, before I walked out of the house, there was this easel and he was teaching me to read and then he was teaching me to spell long words so he could impress his friends.
I’d go to the swimming pool that he managed in the summer and he was a teacher and a coach. And, “Chip, tell them. Intercontinental ballistic missile.” A three-year-old! Trrrrrr, boom!
And then he would say, “Chip,” this is true, I mean, “this country’s going to need a good president someday.” Can you imagine this? “And I think,” and so, the good side, you talk about a kid that grew up with confidence. But you talk about a guy that had a warped, arrogant view that God has been cutting through for years.
So, we all will lean one way or another. Often people that have had difficult pasts feel like they never quite measure up, struggle with envy. Why did God make her so pretty? Why did he get that job? You know, I’m tired of batting eighth in the lineup. That guy’s a jerk, and he bats third and he plays shortstop, and now he just went IPO in his company. That is so sickening. Right?
Well, let me give you a remedy, a very specific love step to attack comparison if you compare upwardly. It says: the envious must believe that God is good and has sovereignly and wisely given them what is best for them and best to fulfill His purpose. You might circle that in your notes.
Notice it doesn’t say: the envious must try harder not to envy. Trying harder not to envy doesn’t work, you’ve got to think differently. God is good. He’s in control. You are who you are, you’re where you’re at, and He wants to work in your life, and He’s for you, and He’s good. And every person in every season, everything doesn’t look great, He cares for you and who He made you is what matters, and embracing that.
I have really, honestly not had much struggle with envy in my life because of my warped arrogance.
There’s a particular friend of mine in another state – he’s a teaching pastor, he’s written books, we’re friends. We’ve had breakfasts and coffee, and we’re a very similar age – and in about a six or eight week period – to make the long story short, everywhere I went, his books are here. Or I look at a conference and he’s speaking here. And then a couple friends, “Oh, I’ve got to tell you, this is the most helpful thing ever and ever.”
And normally, it was like, “Great! Man, he’s my friend, the kingdom’s growing.” And then even my son was telling me, “Dad, I’ve got to tell you. I just, this guy. This is the best thing in the whole world.” And a little something inside went…
“Son, are you aware I kind of do some of the same stuff? I mean, I’m your dad.” You know? And then it’s like it hit me, hit me, hit me. And then I walked into a bookstore and his books are faced forward like in a Barnes and Noble or someplace.
And my normal reaction would be, Oh great! Man, someone solid, this is really super. Instead – this is so embarrassing – so instead it was like, I wonder how my books are doing? Okay, Christian Living, let’s see. H, H, H, H, H, I…J. Must be sold out. No, not there. Don’t even carry it.
And I remember, then I read something. And, I mean, this guy has really helped me, he’s a friend. I love him. But I felt less than. My less than was followed by, kind of didn’t want to be around that. And I felt resentful. And it was like, oh, this is so ugly. And so, I did very specific steps that God led me to, that I want to give you that will help you with your person.
Number one, I faced the desire, my jealously. See, I called it all kinds of other things, but I kept having this uneasiness. It really helped to say: I’m envious. I’m jealous.
The second thing is I didn’t try and squash the desire. So, what do I want to say? God, I never want You to use my books? God, I never want You to use my life? No! I redirect it and said, God I really want You to use my life, but I want to be Your man, Your spot, used at whatever level to promote ministry and kingdom. Not compared to anything or anyone else. And so I repent of that. But I long for You to use my life.
Third is, I meditated on God’s goodness. See, at the end of the day it was like, when you start comparing, it’s like, Well, if God was really good, He would have given me a mate by now. If God was really good, He would have, kind of, healed my body like he did this other person’s body. If God was really good, He would have…
When we compare, we begin to believe the lie that God isn’t good. The very first sin in the Bible, Eve was deceived because she believed God was holding out. Eve. I mean, you understand what this will do for you? And she believed that God was holding out, that He wasn’t good. And so, you meditate on that.
The fourth specific thing you need to do to overcome envy is choose gratitude and give thanks. So I began to thank God for, and I began to thank God for this guy. Thank God for his books. Thank God, my lands, my son is listening and reading this person. And it’s helping him and encouraging him. Thank you, Lord!
And then I began to thank God. And then I willfully decided, I just made a little thing, I said, You know something? I’m not going to compare, so I just have a new little rule. I’m not going to go into bookstores and see where I’m not or where I am or care either way. And I just decided, You know what? That little practice just sets me up for doing and having bad comparative thoughts.
You can be jealous or you can be grateful but those two won’t live in the same heart. You start thanking God for this person. Thanking God for His blessing. Thank Him for what He’s done. And then start thanking Him for what He has done, either you will envy what others have or you’ll thank God for what you do have. And you start doing that, I will tell you what, the envy will dissipate.
And then finally, connect with that person, if it’s appropriate, and serve them. Now, this person lives in a whole other state – so I just, I remember as an application, I’ve been praying for him. “Hey,” his name, “I just want to let you know, everywhere I’ve turned around in the last three or four weeks, God is using you in amazing ways. Thank you for your impact in my life and I just want to encourage you, keep pressing ahead and hang in there. Chip.”
You know, a few hours later, “Thanks, Chip.” And you know what? I was free. And now, we’re both, we’re in the kingdom of God boat and we’re both rowing together toward what God wants. Aren’t we going the same direction? And so I want to rejoice in that.
For the arrogant, you must admit our need and choose to be vulnerable in order to receive the goodness of God in their daily experience. Arrogant people don’t have people close to them. They keep getting separated, separated – more and more independent. And everyone sees them as powerful.
In fact, I worked with one group of guys recently. And I said, “Do you know why most of you don’t have any close friendships?” And they all happened to be in a room and they all owned their own business.
I said, “Because you can either fire them or disinherit them. And that’s why you get very little truth in your life. Because they’re intimidated by you.” And do you know what they don’t understand? They don’t understand how lonely it is to be, quote, as influential and affluent as you are. They don’t understand the issues in your marriage that other people don’t understand. They don’t understand that when you start having a relationship, in the back of your mind, you’re always wondering, Is this person trying to get into my wallet, my portfolio, or my rolodex?
And so you become an untrusting person, you become more and more independent. You will gravitate toward this very dangerous place of not being accountable. And then you’ll start using people because, pretty soon, affirmation is all you get. You don’t get a lot of real love. And so, you have to make more and more impact, and do and do more, and earn and earn more. And then so you use people to get things done and that’s called manipulation. And your soul dries up when that occurs.
Arrogant people need to choose to be vulnerable, so you need a safe place to do that, in order to receive the goodness of God in their daily life. And I will tell you that there’s three or four things you can do that will give you some real help here.
One is, remember that everything you have is from God. In chapter 4 of this book, Paul says, “What do you have that you haven’t received?” The brains you have, the opportunity you have, the family that you have, the money that you have, the gifts that you have, the talent that you have – they’re from God. “Every good and perfect gift is from above, from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow.” You don’t own anything. You are not the blowfish. You’re just a fish.
And God can fill you up and I’ll tell you what, He can take you down. And you just need to understand, it’s a stewardship. God, I’m not sure why You gave me this position, I don’t know why You gave me these gifts, I don’t know why You’ve given me this family, I don’t know why You’ve allowed me to be single and free. I don’t know why You’ve given me this money, I don’t know why people look to me. But what I know is, it’s a sacred stewardship.
Second thing. Remember your roots. Remember your roots. You’ve got to remember where you came from. I remember Kaufman, Texas. Thirty-five people.
And I have a friend – this is a third one. Hang out with some people that know your roots. That, no matter what is ever written about you or what people say about you, no matter how many zeros get at the end of your name or how many letters. There’s some people who know you and, you know what? They are totally unimpressed.
I played golf two weeks ago with a guy that I spent eighteen, twenty years with as friends and ministry and he just, he has the gift of bluntness and I so love him for it. And I mean, it’s just, he loves – here’s the other thing. He loves me for me. Because he loved me when we were in ministry together with, well, he came on when we were surging. We were up to sixty people, or a hundred, you know? And he just loves me.
I have another friend who’s on our board that I’ve known for twenty-eight years and he’ll bring up the past. And I know what he’s doing and I so love him for it. You know what he’s saying? “Hey, Chip, remember when you and I were painting your bathroom in that very first church? Remember the house with all the cracks in the foundation? And, remember when you did that silly, stupid thing?” “Yeah.” “Remember when you…?”
You know what he’s doing? He’s saying, “I love you, but I’ll tell you what, it’s God. You’re just a steward. You’re just a piece of flesh. And He’s filled you with opportunity and some gift and you’ll stand before Him on it. I just want to remind you.”
And see, the thing about envy and arrogance, remember? They’re just the hit man. The core is comparison. That’s what we we’ve got to eliminate. I’m giving you specific ways for you to say: I either lean toward arrogance or lean toward envy and how do I address it? And I want to encourage you here, that fourth is, admit your needs and invite people into your life if you’re arrogant. Admit your needs.
I didn’t want to do this. In fact, I came to last night’s service and I didn’t have this. And as we were singing one of the songs just the Spirit of God whispered, You need to share this.
I like to say this is from ten or twenty years ago when I used to be an arrogant jerk. But it’s from August of this year when I acted like an arrogant jerk.
A verse came to my mind at the end of a day. I’d traveled, and I had the privilege of having dinner with my older sister that I rarely see. It says, “The heart is more deceitful than all else and is desperately wicked. Who can understand it?”
That verse came to my mind from Jeremiah. And then this is what I wrote in my journal. “As I finished up my day of travel yesterday and enjoyed a rare evening with my sister, Jeanie, I realized how true that verse is above. They were all little things throughout the day or so I thought. And one by one, the Holy Spirit brought them to mind as I walked back to the hotel.
“I remember ignoring the man in the wheelchair going through security, caring more about my place in line than demonstrating servanthood or concern. I even secretly thought, He doesn’t need that chair, he’s just doing this to dish everybody.” Yeah, I’m sure you’ve never had those thoughts.
“Second, being so consumed with my work on the plane, I ignored the man next to me named Michael. Then, when he asked, ‘What do you do?’ I postured something about being an author and returning to the local church as a pastor. But fundamentally, I was just seeking to please men. I didn’t want to be viewed as just a pastor. I wanted to be important and significant, because of my miles I got bumped up to first class and I wanted to impress.”
God brought Galatians 1:10 and Luke 16:15 to mind as I recalled those events.
“Later that night, I had dinner with my sister and realized that I took away one of the few opportunities my sister could have to be my big sister and take care of me, and give to me and be blessed – and I insisted I had to pay for the dinner. Pride in its many insidious forms is so ugly. All of this insensitivity, self-focus, self-absorption. All the while, while I was writing a new introduction for the book, The Genius of Generosity. How ironic and sad. Father, where would I be apart from Your great mercy and steadfast, loyal love and forgiveness? Thank You for applying the work of your Son Jesus to my sin and forgiving and cleansing me last night after I became aware of it. Help me today to please You not people. Help me today to be a man whose life and motives are highly esteemed in Your eyes, not seeking to be highly esteemed in the eyes of men. Help me today to love people and not impress them. Help me today to not compare myself with anyone in any way, or judge or evaluate others based on their outward appearance, wealth, position, or perceived value to me or our ministry. Help me from any and all false humility or posturing that communicates that I’m more than I am. Finally, Lord, help me today to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with You.”
Now, that’s ugly. But it was in comparing myself with others that – my arrogance. And therefore, I was unloving to my sister. I was unloving to a man who God may have wanted to hear the gospel. I was unloving, because in my comparison, I compared downward and me and mine, and what I had to do was here, instead of considering others more important than myself.
Where are you on the journey? What if this week you said, God, I am going to attack the hit man of either arrogance or envy? I want to maximize my love so I can minimize the urgent and the demanding that is masquerading and causing my life to be so complex.