What is something another leader has that you want? For me, as a leader, it’s easy to find myself wanting that silly little “verified” check next to my name—especially when two guys I mentored have it! Seriously, even though I know God calls me His masterpiece—calls me His—I’m tempted gto believe my abilities are only validated through social media verification. It’s a good desire that has gone rogue and manifested itself as envy, and if we’re being honest with each other, I’m not alone.
Why? Because as He Reads Truth writer Nate Shurden points out that our position in life is correlated to our performance. “You won’t get to second grade if you don’t pass first grade. You won’t get a raise at work if you don’t meet quotas.” Or in my case: get a check and get credibility.
However, even without that check would you find my writing more credible if I told you that I was at least a best-selling author. Because I am. Kinda. Years ago I self-published a book and priced it at $7.99. I felt after two years of hard work and multiple edits that was a fair price. Apparently the Internet disagreed. So I lowered the digital price to ninety-nine cents—the lowest Amazon allowed. Nothing. I noticed that every 90 days I could run a 5-day promotion where the digital copy is listed online at no cost. With nothing to lose, I gave it a shot and immediately the downloads commenced. During one of these promotion weeks something happened—I still don’t know what—but thousands of copies were downloaded which launched my book into the Top 100 Free Books of all free books on Amazon. It was exhilarating to watch my book climb the charts on the Bestseller list until I realized I now had definitive data revealing that thousands of people felt my book wasn’t worth a buck. Thanks Internet. My response: instead of trying to improve my own writing, I became further envious of real bestselling authors—deflated I turned to Netflix.
Then God showed up in ways only He can. I noticed people were underlining the same chunks of the text and even sharing some of the text through their social media. I was forced to remember the old parable of the man and the starfish. The one about the old man walking along the beach tossing starfish back into the ocean that were beached during high tide. A young jogger stops, gazing at the thousands still washed ashore, questions the old man’s ability to make any significant difference. To which the old man leaned down, gently picked up a single starfish, placed it into the water and said, “I made a difference to that one.”
What God reminded me of, as a pastor to students, whether it’s consoling students with ties to the Parkland shooting, a life-threatening illness, a loss of a friend to suicide, students with suicidal thoughts, or even the students who want you to hop on their shoulders in the pool for a game of chicken, not once in the way I’m called to love—to make a difference—would a check by my name matter. And whatever it is that you think you must have to make a difference, whatever it is that you’re envious of another leader, God reveals to us we don’t need it to be used by Him. Here are 3 things He’s shown me recently:
1. I am to identify what I’ve been given.
Paul, a man who went from persecuting Christians to becoming a follower of Christ himself, wrote a message to the Corinthians reminding them that God gives each of us “different kind of spiritual gifts,” all from the same God for a specific purpose “so we can help each other” (1 Corinthians 12:4-7). He later compares us to a body saying, “our bodies have many parts, and God has put each part just where He wants it. How strange a body would be if it had only one part!” (1 Corinthians 12:18-19).
We can limit envy by following Paul’s advice to the Romans in that “If your gift is serving others, serve them well. If you are a teacher, teach well. If your gift is to encourage others, be encouraging. If it is giving, give generously. If God has given you leadership ability, take the responsibility seriously. And if you have a gift for showing kindness to others, do it gladly” (Romans 12:7-8).
Identify what God has given you and do it gladly without envy.
2. I am to accept what I’ve been given.
For me, envy happens when I compare what I’ve been given to what others have to offer. Without even realizing it, I’m devaluing and being ungrateful for what I’ve been given. In that state of mind, can I really expect God to bless and use me?
Matthew, a close follower of Christ, recorded when Jesus shared a parable about three different individuals who were given varied amounts of money to invest. Their returns weren’t compared against each other. Actually, each was only held accountable to what they have been given.
Accept you’ve been given a different story (no less important or better one) to live and the longer you compare your story to the script of others, you’ll miss your own curtain call.
3. I am to use all that I’ve been given.
Jesus once praised a poor widow at the Temple who, after giving what was required of her, still gave her remaining two coins as a freewill offering. That’s right, when she could have kept both coins, or given just one, she gave both knowing God would do immeasurably more than she could do on her own.
Use all that you’ve been given, the giftings you identified and accepted, not half—all—by trusting God to do His part, laying down the envy that tempts you to try and do the work yourself.
Once we’ve identified what we’ve been given, accepted it as good, and given it completely to God for His purposes, we’ll be able to stop the envy that keeps us from reaching our potential and recognize the joy in the unique way we’ve been called to place a star fish back in the ocean: whether we have a check next to our name or not.