Read: 2 Corinthians 3:1-6
Today’s Scripture: “Not that we are competent in ourselves to claim anything for ourselves, but our competence comes from God” (2 Corinthians 3:5, NIV)
As I watched the speaker, another kid’s ministry leader, masterfully retell a section of Scripture in vivid detail to a captive audience, I couldn’t help but feel inferior. How could shy, trips-over-all-her-words me ever measure up? The kids I ministered to surely got the short end of the stick in this deal. Why would they want me when they could have her?
I might as well throw in the towel now, I thought.
That little comparison, as you might expect, did me no favors. It didn’t make me more extroverted, or a better speaker, or a more confident leader. It only exposed the feelings of inferiority I held in my heart. Instead of making me stronger, it kept me from improving.
Making comparisons is a dangerous game.
There will always be someone who is a stronger leader, a more masterful storyteller, a more attentive minister. Someone wiser, more knowledgeable, better looking, more eloquent, more popular. By all outward appearances, you’ll never measure up. And when you try to measure yourself against their standard, you’ll only sink deeper into despair.
So, how do we keep from playing the comparison game?
In the backdrop to 2 Corinthians, Paul’s authority is being questioned. False teachers that he dubbed “super-apostles” (2 Cor. 11:5, 12:11) had invaded the church. Outwardly, they seemed better than Paul — great speakers who commended themselves and easily entwined the Corinthians in their webs of deceit (11:4-6, 12-15).
Paul, on the other hand, was not a trained speaker (11:6). People were saying of him that though he wrote forcefully in his letters, he was, in person, unimpressive in stature and speech (10:10). How could “unimpressive” Paul possibly hold a candle to these “super-apostles”?
Despite all this, Paul did not consider himself as inferior to the boastful “super-apostles” (11:5, 12:11). And he wasn’t going to play their game of boasting about all his accomplishments. Instead, he boasted about his weaknesses because those weaknesses were evidence of the power of God at work in him (12:8-10).
Paul’s ministry wasn’t powerful because he was a great speaker. What was the secret to his success, then? We find it summed up in 1 Corinthians 2:4-5: “My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith might not rest on human wisdom, but on God’s power.“
When ministering to the Corinthians, Paul did three things. He:
1. Spoke the truth of the gospel
2. Ministered through God’s power, not his own
3. Loved the people and sought to build them up (2 Cor. 10:8, 11:11)
You can’t win the comparison game. If you feel untrained, unequipped, or unknowledgeable, that doesn’t mean that you’re inferior. It means that as you rely on God’s power working through you, God will be all the more glorified when He uses your weaknesses to point to His strength. It’s a good thing that you’re not naturally “the best” at what you do — it’s all the more opportunity for God to show His power.
Instead of comparing yourself to others, focus on these three things: speaking the truth of the gospel, ministering through God’s power, and loving the people you reach. And remember, your competence doesn’t come from your abilities, your status, or your popularity. It comes from God alone. Trust Him to work where you’re weak.
Today’s thoughts: Have you been playing the comparison game? Take a moment to ask God to search your heart in this area. How might remembering that your competence comes from God, not yourself, benefit you in your ministry to others? Where might you be ministering in your own strength? How might you instead minister through God’s power?