3 July 2007

When others are more successful than me...

Recently I read the local papers and saw someone that I knew well got promoted. He was 2 years my junior. For him everything seems to be progressing fine, career, houses, family, and ministry. My bosses were also younger than me and am advancing, while my life seemed to be in a rut. Unmoving and stagnant like the dregs in left over coffee.

What do we do when we are caught up in envy and self-pity?

My QT today on John the Baptist reminds me that this is not a new phenomenon. 2 thousand over years ago, he faced it when he saw a young man, Jesus, overtaking him in popularity. John's comment?

"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.

John accurately noted that he is only the friend of the bridegroom, the best man probably in our modern day context. What made John stands out is his ability to 'rejoice greatly' at the bridegroom's voice. John has great joy and wants the bridegroom to increase and himself to decrease. What struck my heart was the phrase, 'but I must decrease' (italics mine). John ensured that he must decrease, and that He must increase.

Was it hard for John to do so? I am sure it was. They were born within months of each other, and their parents knew each other. Comparisons were bound to be rampant. And yet in John's mind, he knew that Jesus must increase and he decrease.

I am not John the Baptist. When I see others around me succeeding while I floundered, I get depressed and envious. While I would not go out and harm them or intentionally sabotage them, I did not rejoice in their success either. I find it difficult to 'rejoice greatly' over their success.

What helped John to do so? I think he was very clear on his purposes in life - to prepare the way for the Master. John knew that he was not the Messiah. He was just the voice that cried out to prepare the way.

What about me? Am I perhaps doing or eyeing things that are not meant for me? But does that mean that we do not aim for better things or be ambitious?

Here I am reminded about the red and blue bar principle. The red bar are things that stands out. The glamour. The fast track Hollywood glitz. The blue bar are the background things. The unimpressive, the obscure, simple lifestyles. When Jesus was on earth, He was a blue bar person, living in obscurity for 30 years. He never go for the limelight. And yet He achieved so much more than any fast-tracked yuppie.

Am I going for the limelight - red bar? Can I be contented and rested in God to go for the blue bar things in life? Here the latter option involves much more faith to trust that God still has something better for us, in the midst of seemingly nothing-ness.

Sometimes, being ambitious is a good camouflage for being carnal in wanting or lusting after positions or fame.

I saw my Uncle P recently in a cousin's wedding. Here was one whom I despised in my younger days as one without ambition. He was just working for my dad as a furniture shop worker for the large part of his life. Today, he was still working in the furniture line for another boss. He had three children, all grown up now, with the youngest just graduated from NTU. He is the typical blue bar person. A quiet non-achiever in the eyes of the world. But here was a cheerful man, having done his part to bring up his family. He was still strong at 61 and working and contributing to the society. A decent good citizen and one who will finish well.

I need to constantly remind not to envy others. Sigh... it is a real struggle. But rather, place my trust in God who is my heavenly Father. Remember, He knows, that I have such needs, and He will take care of them for me. Be at peace. Cease to strive for such things that gets me no where.

Praise God.


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