14 Aug How To Look At My Competitive Nature?
We are all in a race. At every stage of our lives, there is a race we run. From the moment we enter school life, we will naturally be in a race for grades, for athletic skills, or other strengths in interest groups. When we step into the working world, we will naturally have some form of comparison or competition with people of the same level as as. These are inevitable stuff. And recently, I have been watching some badminton matches and for you, it could be soccer match, NBA or other forms of competition. We enjoy watching things like that because of the thrill as two sides compete for one prize. But let us think about it, should believers be involved in competition? Some may say, competition is not good because it separates people by how good they perform and those who do well will grow in ego and arrogance, while those who lose will get into self-pity and despair. So competition is a breeding ground for comparison, jealousy, bitterness and self centeredness. Just all things that are bad for our spiritual health.
But if we look at it from another angle, if we do not join in any form of “competition” in life, could it also be a form of escapism? Or perhaps, we are so afraid of losing, failing, feeling lousy, that we would rather not take part in any kind of life’s race? If that is the case, could that cause us to become more and more disconnected and lack drive or progression over time? So here, we have 2 school of thoughts.
Now, let us look at it from a spiritual point of view. We have to know what competition and comparison is defined as from God’s words, as this is probably a struggle for many of us. In Philippians 2:3 it says, “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.” And Philippians 3:14 says, “ I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”
In this first verse, Paul tells us not to do anything out of selfish ambition or conceit. The truth is, when people get into the competitions in life, the motive is mostly for self glorification and to boast about one’s strengths or to get the attention of others. Their pride is placed on how they are doing better than others on certain areas. Therefore, this kind of competition is obviously not running on the right track because it stems from self-centeredness.
Then in the next verse, Paul gives us a different illustration. He uses an analogy of an athlete in a race to talk about his strive to receive the prize from Christ. He has a goal that he knows is beneficial to him. And in 1 Corinthians 15:10, Paul says, “For I am the least of the apostles, unworthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me.” Here, Paul gives us a very clear discernment of the right intention in running a race or being in life’s competition. If one is being competitive for selfish reasons, the success or process is all pointing back to them as the center of all things. Thus, in success, they attribute it to their own works and in failures, they also attribute it to their own lack and sink into self pity. But in Paul’s race, he says that he works harder than the others. But it does not bear any self pride or arrogance. In fact, he sees himself lower than others due to his sins before him. However, he continues to run ahead and compete in the race God calls him into because his goal is to receive the prize from the Lord. What kind of prize is this? The eternal crowns, the faith, the experiences and lessons learnt through setbacks, to strengthen his reliance on God and his perseverance as a child of God. These all prizes given by God when a believer is driven by the right heart to compete. The benefits of these are all in and from Christ alone.
Thus, if we are unwilling to receive some challenges in our lives, or we avoid the “race” that God has set for us, we will not be able to receive the blessings of the prize prepared for us. Now brothers and sisters, when one is following closely to Christ, has prayed through and found the right convictions to enter certain challenges, then that is the right competition to be in. Sometimes, I myself tend to steer away from challenges or tasks that I feel someone else might do better, in fear that I might get too competitive or too despaired if I do not perform as well. Be it in sharing God’s word with others or leading my youth group. But to be honest, when I still do it anyway, it is because I want to benefit from it. But not just any benefits, but the prize that comes from pleasing God, knowing what I do is delightful in His eyes and growing in my own faith. So even when something great comes out of it and I get compliments, I know it is by God’s hands, not mine. And when something does not go the intended way, I know that it is committed to the Lord and allowed by Him. So I do not fluctuate between pride and self blame so easily like I used to.
So brothers and sisters, believers can be competitive. But the intention and goal, we have to be clear. Definitely not for selfish motives and purposes but to do it according to God’s will and to receive only from Him, glorifying Him. God bless.