Saturday, March 22, 2014

A Little Friendly Competition, or Not?

friends

When Competition Isn’t Friendly

I have been thinking about the subject of friendships and what they look like from a biblical perspective.

When I look back over the past fifty years of my life, I remember many friendships with fondness and wonder what happened to those that I have lost track of. Some of those memories bring a smile to my lips and an ache to my heart, because I miss them. Others, bring pain because they were hurtful and maybe even ended on a bad note. With each one of those friendships, came teaching moments that developed discernment, provided wisdom, and changed me in significant ways. All of them are valuable, even the ones that hurt the most, because God used them in my life to help me seek Him more and to show me the offensiveness of my own sinful ways. He used them to shine light in the dark places of my heart and to help me dredge them up, seek forgiveness and healing and ultimately to be set free from the guilt that some of my actions and words brought on. He also used them to show me that I am valuable to Him and that He is the only One I can trust to define who I really am. He used them to show me His unconditional love and that even though I mess up and I have the ability to hurt others, He loves me and is ready to forgive me when I own my actions and choices.

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Some of those relationships were toxic and it took a lot of time, prayer, wise counsel and searching of the scriptures, to untangle the confusing web they had woven in my mind and heart. Trying to figure out what was mine to own and what wasn’t was difficult, but eventually God faithfully made it all clear. As a result, I saw an ugly thread woven through each relationship that was toxic. It is the thread of competition and jealousy. My “friends” sewed their seeds of competition into my heart and mind with accusations, unkind words, withholding of kindness and flinging of past mistakes, or failures. The end result looked like the back side of a poorly done cross stitch. It created a mess that broke my heart and caused confusion. I sincerely didn’t know where I really was wrong and what was mine to own. Now I know that the rotten mess was created by a competition.

In James it says:

“What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this that your passions are at war within you? James 4:1

Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you. James 4:10

Do not speak evil against one another, brothers. The one who speaks against a brother or judges his brother, speaks evil against the law and judges the law. But if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge. There is only one lawgiver and judge, he who is able to save and to destroy. But who are you to judge your neighbor?” James 4:11-12

Competition is born out of insecurity and jealousy. It is a killer. It destroys friendships that could be beautiful and valuable. Instead of appreciating the gifts in others, competition seeks to destroy and stifle those gifts. Fear is often behind it. The fear of your friend shining while nobody notices you and what you have to offer.

A healthy dose of competition can be a good thing. Too much competition can be unhealthy.

God designed us for relationships. We all have a need to be loved and to make an impact on the world around us. God not only created us for relationship, but he designed us to sharpen each other and encourage each other in those relationships. He also gifted each of us with talent and abilities. The rub comes when close friends are equipped with the same gifts.

friend, garden

In our humanity, we can easily forget that just because someone else possesses the same interest and talents, God can use us both and He can use us more effectively when we submit those talents to Him and when we uplift and encourage each other, rather than compete against each other. For example, I have several interests that some of my friends possess. Obviously one of those is writing.  I have friends who love to write as well. Although we may write about the same subjects, the way my friend writes about it with her unique personality and personal experience, is going to look different than the way I might approach the same subject. Both may say essentially the same thing, yet our writing style communicates it from a different angle and may appeal to a different audience. Instead of competing against each other, we need to encourage each other and build each other up. If I am feeling threatened by the talent of my friend, then I have a sin issue in my heart that I need to deal with. Any talent that I possess, is not my own, but a gift from God intended to be used for His glory, so there is no place for jealousy or competition.

“Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.”  Philippians 2:3, 4

“Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men” Colossians 3:23

“And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” Colossians 3:17

“Not that we dare to classify or compare ourselves with some of those who are commending themselves. But when they measure themselves by one another and compare themselves with one another, they are without understanding.” II Corinthians 10:12

“But far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.” Galations 6:14

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Proverbs 17:17
A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.

We discover the best of friendships with brothers and sisters who know and accept our weaknesses and imperfections. And we need to ask ourselves if we are accepting of the same in our friends.

This touches on another important aspect to relationships. Instead of judging each other harshly and picking each other apart, or being suspicious of another’s motives, we need to judge our own hearts. What is my motive?  How am I showing love to others? Am I encouraging my friends, or am I threatened by them? Am I loving them biblically? Am I willing to recommend my friend’s talent to others, even if we possess the same talent? OR am I threatened by my friend and judging her motives, secretly not wanting others to enjoy her and notice the talents she has? Seriously, this happens. It’s sad. It’s wrong and it shouldn’t be happening. We are commanded to love one another and jealousy and competitiveness have no place in our lives biblically.

Proverbs 18:24
A man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.

This proverb communicates that a true Christian friend is trustworthy, which is crucial part of a treasured friendship and yet it sheds light on a second, even more important truth as well. We should only expect to share complete trust with a few loyal friends. Trusting too easily can lead to ruin, so be careful about putting your confidence in a mere acquaintance. Proverbs 4:23 says “Guard your heart above all else, for it is the source of life.” Over time our true Christian friends will prove their trustworthiness by sticking closer than a brother or sister.

Os Hillman, wrote an article entitled “Competition: A Word Not Found in the Bible.”

In that article he says:

“The walls of division and competition among His Body are a stench in God's nostrils. He sees the competition and the pride of ownership and weeps for the lost that cannot come to Him because they cannot see Him in His Body. When His Body is one, the unbelieving see that Jesus was sent by God. It is like a supernatural key that unlocks Heaven for the heathen soul. The key is in the hand of Christ's Church.

When there is unity, there is power. Scripture tells us five will chase 100, but 100 will chase 10,000 (see Lev. 26:8). There is a dynamic multiplication factor in unity of numbers. We are a hundred times more effective when we are a unified group. Imagine what God could do with a unified Church.”

He goes on to say: “A story is told about F.B. Meyer, the great Bible teacher and pastor who lived a century ago. He was pastoring a church and began to notice that attendance was suffering. This continued until he finally asked some members of his congregation one Sunday morning why they thought attendance was down.

A member volunteered, "It is because of this new church down the road. The young preacher has everyone talking and many are going to hear him speak."
His name was Charles Spurgeon. Meyer, rather than seeking to discourage this, exhorted the entire congregation to join him and go participate in seeing this "move of God" as he described it to his congregation.

"If this be happening, then God must be at work."

Meyer, even though he was an accomplished preacher and teacher, recognized where God was at work and joined Him in it.”

You can see the rest of the article here: http://www.christianpost.com/news/competition-a-word-not-found-in-the-bible-102747/

If the following behaviors are occurring in your relationships or if you are guilty of these actions, they are warning signs of toxicity brought on by sinful actions. We are commanded to love. In relationships with the following problems, communication seems impossible. If you have tried to communicate with the right motive in your heart and it has not helped the situation, it’s time to move on. You can’t change your friend, but God can. You can love through prayer, but remove yourself from the situation and guard your heart until true repentance takes place. Only then can restoration and growth occur.

  1. Accusations made in anger and/or harshness, rather than biblically in love and gentleness with the desire to bring growth and repentance.

  2. Unhealthy competition that stifles you and snuffs out opportunity to use your gifts and talents to bless others.

  3. Harsh, defensive response to attempts at healthy conversations.

  4. Unwillingness to admit or own wrongdoing when confronted in love and gentleness.

  5. Easily point out problems with you, but do not own their own hurtful actions and behaviors.

  6. Dishonesty and manipulation.

  7. Bringing up the past to hurt or accuse…ie: reminding them of past experiences that are painful, or mistakes or sins they have shared.


It’s important to examine your own heart and stay plugged into Jesus. Let Him heal your heart and reveal any areas you may need to repent of. Own those and be set free through admitting them, asking God’s forgiveness and your friend’s. The rest is up to the other party and is between them and God until they are ready to repent and make things right with you.

In her article “Should I Offer Forgiveness Without Repentance?” Allison Stevens writes this:

“Unconditional forgiveness is canceling a debt to all those who intentionally offend us, whether or not they own up to what they have done. Offering forgiveness without repentance, however, does not follow the biblical model of forgiveness (Luke 17:3,4).

The Bible says that we are to forgive as God forgave us (Ephesians 4:32, Colossians 3:13). God forgives us when we repent (Mark 1:15, Luke 13:3,5, Acts 3:19). He does not grant forgiveness to those of us who are stiff-necked and refuse to repent. We must recognize our sin and repent to receive and enjoy God’s merciful forgiveness. God requires repentance and so must we.”

For the rest of her article click on this link: http://questions.org/attq/should-i-offer-forgiveness-without-repentance/

“But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” James 4:6

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“Greater love has no one than this that someone lay down his life for his friends.”

Don’t let pride destroy your friendships. If you are guilty of a competitive, unloving spirit, admit it, repent of it, ask God to help you be aware and to guard against it and to help you notice when you are tempted in this area.

If we are reading God’s Word daily, soaking it in, absorbing it and renewing our minds with the truths of it, and asking God to renew our minds, He will be faithful.

I leave you with the Love Chapter found in I Corinthians 13

“If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful;it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away. 11 When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. 12 For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.” I Corinthians 13

13 So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.”

I Corinthians 13

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