We live in a highly competitive world. We encounter competition in education, sport, business, government, and even family life.
Competition can generally be positive, providing motivation, enthusiasm, and commitment to a task. It is important to understand however, that competition is not all about winning. The reality is that not everyone can be the winner, but when a person in competition contributes their best, they have achieved something great.
Unfortunately, it can sometimes be the case that people who do not win all the time can see themselves, can be seen by others or worse, see themselves, as failures.
1 At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Who, then, is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?”
2 He called a little child, whom he placed among them. 3 And he said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. 4 Therefore, whoever takes a humble place — becoming like this child — is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. 5 And whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me.
1 Timothy 1:12-16
12 I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has given me strength, that he considered me trustworthy, appointing me to his service. 13 Even though I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man, I was shown mercy because I acted in ignorance and unbelief. 14 The grace of our Lord was poured out on me abundantly, along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.
15 Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst. 16 But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his immense patience as an example for those who would believe in him and receive eternal life.
Those people who feel that they are not keeping up with the competition can begin to see themselves as failures. The unemployed person who still can’t get a job, the worker who cannot get a promotion, the farmer struggling through a drought, the student battling to pass exams.
Feelings of failure can be devastating, particularly in the area of faith. When the rules of competition are applied to the Christian faith, there are problems.
Some Christians seem to feel the need to compete against others in order to ‘prove’ that they are ‘good’ Christians. Those who may find it difficult to perform to the high standards, or find the Christian life a constant struggle, can often be left with a feeling of inferiority or utter failure when these demands are placed on them by fellow Christians. Competition such as this can lead some to have serious doubts about their faith, and their worth.
Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners-of whom I am the worst (v 15 NIV) writes Paul. For Christians, worth is not measured in terms of comparisons with other Christians, but in terms of the price paid by Jesus on the cross.
While we were yet sinners, Jesus considered us worth dying for.
Loving Father, thank you for the gifts of competition, faith and forgiveness. Help us to grow in knowledge and love of you and of your great love for us in Jesus, in whose name we pray;
Pastor Brenton Altmann
Director of Identity & Formation