Instead of celebrating David's victory over Goliath with those who sang 'David [has slain] his ten thousands', Saul became jealous. As a result, he opened himself to 'an evil spirit' (1 Samuel 18:10 NIV). There are three lessons here:
1) Those who help you today, may hurt you tomorrow. So what should you do? When Saul threw spears, David refused to throw them back. Instead he forgave, prayed for Saul, and positioned himself to be promoted. It's not easy, but it's a winning strategy. 'You have heard that it was said, "Love your neighbour and hate your enemy." But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven...' (Matthew 5:43-45 NIV).
2) Those who love you today, may loathe you tomorrow. God says, '...I have loved you with an everlasting love...' (Jeremiah 31:3 NIV). All other sources of love are subject to change. You can marry someone who resents you for being what you are, and you end up thinking, 'You chose me because I'm outspoken; now you don't like me because I speak out.' You feel betrayed when people invite you, and then fight you. But God will be faithful to you!
3) While others speak well of you, some will resent you. Notice, David didn't sing, 'Saul killed a thousand, but I killed ten thousand.' You can understand why that would irritate others. But David didn't boast about his success.
Sometimes those who congratulate you can create enemies for you. That's because some folk can't celebrate anyone other than themselves.
Soul food: Ecc 1-4; John 16:1-11; Ps 130; Pr. 28:21-24
A certain level of competitiveness is good. When children enter a spelling contest they study harder and learn more because they're going to compete. They know their academic prowess is about to be challenged and they get ready for it because we like to win. But when your competitiveness makes you feel 'less than', or 'better than' another person, it's gone too far. Paul writes: '...When they measure themselves by themselves and compare themselves with themselves, they are not wise. We, however, will not boast beyond proper limits, but will confine our boasting to the sphere of service God...has assigned to us' 12-13 NIV). To evaluate your success accurately you must first understand your God-given purpose. When you play on a team your position determines your purpose. Attackers and defenders have different skills, but to win, the team needs both. The defender who keeps the opposing team from scoring is just as valuable as the attacker who scores. One may get more applause than the other, but victory belongs to all. When you keep comparing yourself with others you're denied a sense of accomplishment, because you've made the benchmark to be like somebody else. No, they are playing a different position. They have a different purpose and skill set designed to fulfil the role God has given them. God gives you everything you need for the position you play and the purpose you have. What a liberating truth! And God, who gave others the ability to excel at what they do, will do the same for you when you learn to focus on Him, not them.
Soul food: Ecc 5-8; John 16:12-18; Ps 2; Pr. 28:25-28
Unhealthy comparison is a sign of spiritual immaturity. Here's what Paul wrote to the Corinthians: 'Brothers, I could not address you as spiritual but as worldly - mere infants in Christ. I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not yet ready for it. Indeed, you are still not ready. You are still worldly. For since there is jealousy and quarrelling among you, are you not worldly? Are you not acting like mere men? For when one says, "I follow Paul," and another, "I follow Apollos," are you not mere men? What, after all, is Apollos? And what is Paul? Only servants, through whom you came to believe - as the Lord has assigned to each his task. I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow. The man who plants and the man who waters have one purpose, and each will be rewarded according to his own labour' (vv. 1-8 NIV). Understanding your gifts and your God-given purpose frees you from the need to measure yourself by the runner in the next lane, or someone playing a different position on the team. When you understand this, your sense of inadequacy will be healed and you'll be able to enjoy and complement others. You'll also be able to help liberate your children from sibling rivalry and show them that success is not about being like somebody else, but about being the best you can be, and all God made you to be.
Soul food: Ecc 9-12; John 16:19-33; Ps 147:1-11;
No matter how good you are, you'll never be good at being somebody else. Don't fall into the trap of trying to live up to the reputation of another person. The new husband says to his wife, 'My mother makes better fried chicken than this.' The wife retorts, 'Then tell your mother to come over here and cook you some.' Compliment your wife. Don't compare her with somebody else. Unhealthy comparisons hurt relationships! The Psalmist writes about the successful person who 'is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season...' (Psalm 1:3 NIV). A wise fruit grower understands three things about his trees:
1) Apple trees are only capable of producing apples.
2) Apple trees only produce apples in certain seasons.
3) It is a mistake to pick your apples too early.
When the daughter of a well-known preacher was introduced on a Christian television network, she received invitations from several churches to come and speak. But her father said, 'No, leave her alone. I won't allow the system to eat her up and begin to compare her unfavourably with her father or mother or somebody else she can never be. I want her to be herself.' What great counsel and insight! Paul writes, '...That we...might be for the praise of his glory' (Ephesians 1:12 NIV).
When you understand who you are and what God created you to be - being yourself brings glory to God! You can say, 'Lord, I'm thankful for who You made me; I've finished complaining or wishing I could be somebody else.'
Soul food: Gen 1-3; John 17:1-12; Ps 147:12-20; Pr. 29:6-10
Paul writes, 'Godliness with contentment is great gain.' This word 'gain' doesn't mean increase, but profit. There's a difference. Profit is what you have left when the transaction is over. Paul meant that when everything is said and done, you must feel good about being yourself. You must be able to say, 'I would rather be a great sergeant than a poor general.' Only when you've followed well, can you lead well. If you're praying for a certain position or promotion, check your motives. Sometimes what we call faith is really just ambition, because we haven't come to the place where we're comfortable with the role God has given us. King Saul's undoing was his ego. Many of us have a wrong concept of what being 'blessed' looks like. We have seen God's blessing in someone else's life, so we think that to be like them is to be blessed. And no matter what God gives us, we are never happy because we're not like them. We are asking God for something but we don't know what it is, what it looks like, or when we have it. And if you don't know you have it, you won't know when you lose it. When you keep comparing yourself to somebody else you make that person an idol in your life. Tear that idol down! Ask God for a dream of your own. Stand on your own two feet. Be who God created you to be. Even though God has more in store for you, praise Him for what He's given you right now.
Soul food: Gen 4-6; John 17:13-26; Ps 148:1-6; Pr. 29:11-15
Paul didn't measure his progress by the pace of the runner in the lane next to him. He said, in essence, 'I'm running according to the drumbeat I hear on the inside. I will encourage you, but I will never compete with you. My goal is to recognise and maximise what God has put within me. I'm not chasing you, I'm chasing me.' When the crowd started singing, 'Saul has killed his thousands but David has killed his tens of thousands', Saul couldn't handle it and he lashed out at David. There will always be somebody who has more education than you, preaches better than you, or makes more money than you. So shake it off and be yourself! The Bible says, 'He who walks with wise men will be wise...' (Proverbs 13:20 NKJV). Your future success is predicated on your ability and willingness to walk in the company of greatness and be inspired by it rather than frustrated by it. Saul's competitiveness ultimately destroyed him, and it will destroy you too. Faced with his successor, David, Saul tried to kill him. Faced with his successor, Timothy, Paul did all he could to build him up. Listen to Paul, 'Therefore I remind you to stir up the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands' (2 Timothy 1:6 NKJV). Does Paul sound jealous? No. Do you know why? He tells us, 'I have fought a good fight; I have finished my course...' (2 Timothy 4:7 KJV). The only course you can run and win is the course God has given you!
Soul food: Gen 7-9; John 18:1-11; Ps 148:7-14; Pr. 29:16-21
Paul writes, 'No eye has seen, no ear has heard...no human mind has conceived the things God has prepared for those who love him' (v.9 NIV). You say, 'But that's all in the future!' No; read on: 'But God has revealed [it] to us by his Spirit.' Others may inspire and instruct you, but you must go to God in order to find out what He's called you to be and then align yourself with it. God told the prophet Habakkuk, '...Write the vision and make it plain...that he may run who reads it' (Habakkuk 2:2 NKJV). It's okay to be inspired by somebody else's vision, but you must receive your own vision from God. Only when you do that, can you live to the fullest. God wants you to run according to what He has shown you. Stop taking your cues from people. Some of us are forty, or fifty, or sixty years old and we're still not happy with what we are. We're frustrated and frantic because we've never found that feeling of contentment. The problem is we've made it our goal to become something God never meant us to be. You must go to God, like a house to a builder, and say, 'Lord, what building materials have You put within me? How much weight can I bear? What is my purpose? Who should I be? Show me Your plan at every age and every stage.' You are the question, God is the answer. And as long as you know who is who, you'll always make progress in the journey of life.
Soul food: Matt 14:22-33; 1 Kings 3:4-28