It is easy to get caught up in what others are doing. We see their successes and failures and we compare them with our own. We don’t just do this at the individual level, but at the church, denomination, and even country level. To fall into this trap, for it is a trap, is ungodly. Let me explain with an example.
In John 3, we find that John’s disciples were discussing with another Jew about purification (starting in verse 25). However, when the disciples of John come to see him, they begin the discussion about Jesus’ ministry, almost if asking two things: (1) why are you still doing this and (2) aren’t you concerned that His ministry is going to overshadow yours? John’s response is beautiful. He basically says this:
- I’m doing what I’m called to do. I’m not going to worry about anything else.
- My ministry is to point people to Him. That’s what I’m going to do. Understanding that, my ministry will continue to diminish as His continues to grow.
- To see His ministry grow completes my joy.
This is especially evident in the following two verses:
The one who has the bride is the bridegroom. The friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly at the bridegroom’s voice. Therefore this joy of mine is now complete. He must increase, but I must decrease.” – John 3:29-30, ESV
John was the last of the Old Testament prophets. He knew his role: he was to point to the coming Christ, who was now on the scene. In this sense John is very much the friend of the bridegroom. People who responded in repentance and chose to follow after Jesus were the bride. Jesus, of course, was and is the bridegroom. John had heard from the bridegroom what his role was supposed to be: he was to call people to repentance, to make straight the way to Christ. In short, he was to prepare people to receive the message from Jesus.
Now that Jesus was on the scene, John could hear His voice, His ministry, finally in motion. Hearing the voice of Jesus, John was fulfilled. John’s joy was complete. John’s joy wasn’t based in the numbers for his ministry. John’s joy wasn’t rooted in how he compared to others, especially not Jesus Himself. John still had a job to do, to point people to Jesus, and He was going to do that job. As Jesus grew in preminence among those who believed, John’s disciples would grow fewer and fewer. John’s influence and prestige would grow less as Jesus’s own grew. That didn’t have a negative impact on John’s joy. That’s because John’s joy was rooted in Christ glorified, not in anything John.
If we take a similar approach, it really doesn’t matter what others are doing or what they accomplish compared to ourselves. We might have a small ministry. We might even be part of a ministry that is closing up. Others around us might be seeing growing numbers, more “fame,” and to the world’s eyes: more success. That’s not the point. That was never the point. The point of our ministry, of our service, is to glorify Jesus. It doesn’t matter how big or how small a calling He directs us to participate in. What matters is He directs us, we respond, and He is glorified. So don’t worry about what others are doing. Just follow your calling, seek Christ glorified, and watch as your own joy increases.