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Each person should judge his own actions and not compare himself with others. Then he can be proud for what he himself has done. Galatians 6:4 (NCV)

One of the most dangerous games we play is the comparison game. Watch a couple children at play. It’s not long before they compare toys, the clothes they are wearing, how tall they are, hair color and a variety of other things. As we get older the rules change somewhat, but the game is the same. We measure ourselves by the yardstick of other people.

Those in struggling marriages look at their friends spouse and say, ‘If only my spouse was like him/her.’

We look at someone else’s child and say, ‘If only my son/daughter would be like so and so’.

We do it at church. ‘I wish I could pray like she does; preach like he does; sing like they do.’

Pastors do it when they measure success rates by the number of people in the pews, the number of baptisms, or by flaunting the number of salvations like a WW1 pilot, stamping the icon on their pulpit.

Writers do it when we measure our success by the books we have published, the blog readers we have or the accolades we get. (Yeah, I know. That one hurts.)

One of the many problems with the comparison game is that it works in reverse as well. When life goes wrong for you, when the relationships fail, the finances fall short, the decisions you make put you in the ‘one of those’ category, comparisons hurt.

It was the comparison game the brought the woman to the well that hot day to meet Jesus. Self-respecting women went to get water in the morning. She went at noon when there was less chance of meeting people, less chance of being looked down on, less chance of the comparison game.

There is subtleness to the comparison game. Well-meaning Sunday School teachers and preachers speak against pride in such a way that we might think we should never be proud of our accomplishments. Never feel good about the work we do or the talents we have lest the ugly serpent ‘pride’ shows up.

Galatians is the book of grace. The book of freedom in Christ. Paul tells us Each person should judge his own actions and not compare himself with others. Then he can be proud for what he himself has done. Galatians 6:4 (NCV)” The message is really two-fold. On the one hand I will never look at my talents and abilities and make you feel inferior. God made you the way he did. I’ll accept that.

On the other hand, I too am a child of God. I have different gifts talents and abilities. Life has taken me down a different road than it’s take you. That doesn’t make me less loved of God. That doesn’t make me less of his child. I will not allow your opinion of me to alter, in any way, my opinion of myself (in Christ) or my opinion of you.

PRAYER: Lord thank you for making me, me. I have bruises and blemishes. I fail (sometimes miserably) and sometimes I need an attitude adjustment. Still, you love me and for that I am eternally grateful. Keep me from comparing myself to others. Protect me from those intent on comparing themselves to me. Amen.

Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Romans 12:11

The Apostle Paul admonishes us to keep up the energy level in our lives. If you have ever been around a new Christian you have an idea of what he is talking about. Someone who has just accepted Christ into their lives seem to manage to include Him in every conversation. They are excited about the new life they have found and have a peace that nothing can shatter.

Then, gradually, that fervor fades. Sometimes old habits start to show up. Old life style issues raise their ugly heads, and soon it’s hard to tell the difference between them and the rest of the world. Paul tells us to keep that fervor. Keep that excitement. Constantly remind yourself of what Jesus did on the cross for you.

That’s easy to say, but sometimes reality deals us some ugly blows. Perhaps the biggest thing that can be a ‘zeal zapper’ is our own failure to conquer bad habits or addictions in our lives. “Jesus heals. Jesus forgives. So why can’t I stop smoking, swearing, looking at porn, etc. etc.” We keep adding ‘things’ to our list to try to do better but nothing works. With each failure on our part the enemy reminds us that we aren’t worthy. He’ll tell us we aren’t really Christians. He’ll remind us that God is displeased with us. (By the way, that’s a lie. God is never displeased with us. He may be displeased with our actions but NEVER us.)

Another Zeal Zapper is the comparison game. We look at how others in our groups, churches, etc. have ‘mastered the Christian walk.’ Some of them even (not so grace-fully) tell us how we too can be just like them. We fill our lives with all sorts of activities to try to be better and only end up wanting to give up all together or suffering emotional, physical and spiritual fatigue. We lose heart when we realize we simply can not be like them. (Did I mention that God never tells us to be like other people? He tells us to follow Him and He is NOT a cookie-stamper God).

Zeal Zapper number three is disappointment with other people. Sometimes our expectations of others falls short when we put too much faith in them. Sometimes our expectations are shattered beyond recognition by the way we are treated by  Zeal Zapping, Grace killing Christians who feel it is their duty to make sure you follow their ten easy steps to spirituality. There was only one person perfect enough for us to emulate. Stop trying to live up to the standards you place on yourself or others place on you. Allow your relationship with Jesus Christ to form your identity. Then, press on along the journey of life knowing that whether you walk confidently or stumble, Jesus is at your side guiding you all the way.

Zeal Zapper number four is disappointment with God. Your Heavenly Father loves you dearly. Sometimes He doesn’t do things the way we expect or want. Sometimes God’s ways are just plain confusing! But His ways are the best ways. Trust means that we give God permission to place whatever He chooses in our way in order to make us more reliant on Him.

Don’t let the Zeal Zappers take away the joy you have in Christ. Failure will come. Disappointment will happen. But He is always there wanting to encourage and energize you for whatever life places in your way.

PRAYER: Father God. I’m tired. I’m tired of trying to live by other peoples standards. I’m tired of trying to measure up to what I think you want instead of growing in relationship. I’m tired of being judged by others who seem to think they know all the answers to the easy spiritual life. I ask that you would forgive me for trying human things to accomplish divine results. Empower me with Your Spirit to live grace-fully for you. In Jesus name, Amen.

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