03 Sep 2017
John 3:22-36 Dealing With Unhealthy Competition Pastor Chee Keen 03 September 2017 What is unhealthy competition? It is the kind of competition that begins with comparison and leads to jealousy, envy, strife and rivalry. It affects your contentment and confidence in God as well as your love towards others. John 3:22-36 records for us how such a situation developed with John the Baptist in relation to Jesus’ ministry. More importantly, this passage showed us how John the Baptist dealt with it successfully in a spiritual manner. This is highly instructive for all of us today in dealing with this common problem of life. Come and learn from Scripture how to deal with the unhealthy competition in your own life today!
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For those who do not know me, I am Chee Kin, the pastor of the Chinese congregation. (大家早上好, 我们今天要进入约翰福音 means ‘good morning everyone, we're going to preach the gospel of John today'.) Some of you may be thinking I'm in the wrong service. I was actually asked to talk to you all in Chinese. I heard that pastor Jason has been showing you video clips in Chinese. I thought, “wow that's great and also, we can converse in Chinese.” And I thought, “maybe to introduce my subject for the day I can use a Chinese phrase as a simple test of how you are progressing in your Chinese and so one day you may feel confident enough to pop down to level 2 and join us in our Chinese service.” Alright, here's a phrase I'd like to test your Chinese knowledge on. Do you know what this says, what does it mean? Can you follow through,人比人气死人 [ren2 bi1 ren2, qi4 si3 ren2] You guys all passed with flying colours. Let's continue now in Chinese. Alright! I'm sure you are familiar with this phrase. You know, if I can give a try English transliteration, may not be perfect, may not be grammatical. For those of you who really do not know Chinese, it means ‘man compare with men, and it makes man furious.' I choose furious because it is more than just angry. You are really mad! Alright, you're really upset, you're really angry and it comes from comparison in life and this is such a common issue in our lives. Something that may be done to us since we were a child, we begin to do for ourselves with our peers, that it becomes second nature to us. It almost doesn't take much effort for your eyes to glance a certain direction, your thoughts to flow in a certain way in which you immediately put two and two together to decide how well you compare with others. And in Singapore， we compare almost anything and everything, although we don't say it because not very nice right? But in our hearts, we are often guilty.
Now, one of the ways we often compare is where we live. Wow, you stay in a HDB. Oh, you mean it's a five room, oh executive, oh that's very big! You know all the pleasantries kicks in. Chinese New Year or Christmas we meet up with old friends, exchange address and wow, you live in Bukit Timah! Wow, district.., that's a very, very up class district. So well to do！ You have been so blessed and so we go on and on, whether you stay in a HDB, in a condo, in a private estate， which area in Singapore and then we begin, if we are not careful, to measure our own value and worth based on these things. And if we lose out in the comparison, sometimes we feel so sad and so discouraged. I worked so hard, I tried my best and yet I don't quite make it in life.
You know, we also compare our cars, don't we? Oh, let's go out together. You parked the car. Suddenly your neighbour pops up and wah what happened to him aah? Last year it was a, don't know what Japanese brand, don't want to mention in case a lot of people get offended, ok, don't know what Japanese brand. Wah now this European class. What happened to him aah? Immediately the whole evening conversation what happened? 人比人气死人, man compare with men makes one furious. And you know what, we often don't stop at assessing our value in life, our significance and our existence.
We, as Christians, can even use this kind of comparison to assess our favour with God and that's pretty current, isn't it? That if you are blessed, if your faith is strong, many more blessings will come. And so, as a result we can end up, through our comparison, with a distorted view of God. I think that is even sadder because once you have a wrong view of God it makes it very hard for you to progress because every time people talk about blessing you look at yourself and you say I'm not blessed. Why? Because so and so have it better, so and so have it nicer, I am just a simple miserable Christian. What a sad way to live our lives!
But we forget we do not really think so much about it but we still do it. And you know what, we don't do it only for ourselves, we do for our children as well, don't we? PSLE results, results are coming out, results come out. You mean you study so hard you only go 270 ah? You know, by the way, 270 is very high already, any school can go in, almost any school, almost any school. Your neighbour never got tuition 275 for the five huh, waste all my money on you. Send you for tuition for what? You know, we, we compare all the time because it is never good enough, isn't it? Your child is never clever enough. He has not worked hard enough because he has not made you proud. He's not the shining star. Even if he is the best in the school, not best in Singapore. Still not good enough. You know we, we would just don't stop. It is not like, oh, I thank God, my child did well, you know you can go to a good school. No, you are just not good enough because he didn't do better than someone else. And our children imbibe all these values from us. Whether you know it or not because that's what you think, like sponges from young, they soak it all up because we are always 人比人, what happened, 气死人.
It makes one mad and the person who is often driven mad includes our children. So, they grow up they also compare. So, what they compare, I not, I don't know exactly what, but at least one thing I know what teenagers compare because I tap in to their grapevine. They compare their schools. Not which uniform look nicer okay, that one is very basic, but which school got brand. So, when you are in a branded school, cool. Then you see which other branded school can fight with you. Wah, that one very proud one. That one, all rich men's kids. So, we try to compare all these and then all the neighbourhood schools, again don't mention names otherwise very angry, oh, I'm just from a neighbourhood school. You know, the whole sense of self-esteem, value worth is totally linked to what brand you have in your life and when your brand is not as good as the other brand...Actually before quite branded, you know, quite happy. Oh, thank God so much my kid can go into this school, it's a good school. But the moment a better brand comes up, wah, paiseh [means embarrassed] already, embarrassed already, miserable already because somebody did better and this goes on and on and on in our lives. So, this is a common problem we all face in our lives and we think that it should stop maybe in secular life.
Church should be holy, right? Spiritual, godly, loving. But sad to say, this creeps in into our church as well, all the churches and people now compare churches, church size. One of the favourite things, your church how big hah and all brace themselves for the answer. If your number higher than theirs, aiyoh, so sorry I asked. Right? Because now I feel bad because I don't win. If your number's smaller than mine, aiyah actually my church also not very big lah, about two thousand more only. Still compare because you think that your value your worth, your success, your prosperity is all based on these things. And so, we are comparing churches, comparing ministries, within the church we also complete and compare, which ministry better, which one has more results, etc. Now, when all this is happening those who win get a temporary morale boost. I say temporary only until the next competition kicks in, right? But those who lose they feel so miserable about their lives. They feel like such a failure that they continue to have a low self-esteem, low sense of significance, low sense of value, totally unlike what the Bible tells us.
So, we come into church we sing lovely song, we listen to good preaching. But you know what, the way we feel about our lives are just so different because at the end of the day there's something deep down inside that is not quite right. Now it's not only a matter of emotional or mental setback. For some of us we don't realize this. When we compare and compete and we begin to base our life's motivation on it. Soon we take our lives, our eyes off the Lord Jesus Christ and His will for our lives and we begin to set our goals based on what others are doing. And this society is so competitive that, honestly, even if those things you saw just now don't affect you, you say, “well I'm beyond all that,” our society will set up new models, new competitions for you in which you are back in the race and you may be running a race that is not appointed by God for you. And so 气死人 not only 气死人, man compare with men not only makes man furious.
Here is another dimension we want to consider today that 气死人, 远离神. What does it mean? It means that when you compare men with men not only does it make you furious, get you emotionally, mentally disturbed and angry and upset, it even causes you to depart from God because you're no longer pursuing God's call upon your lives. You are pursuing the goals that others have set for you because they say, “you're not as good, you're not as good and we struggle with all that.”
Today, I want to come to a passage of Scripture that deals with this common problem in life, which I hope will set you free, free from unhealthy competition. What do I mean by unhealthy competition? Now I'm not saying that all competition is bad, so don't get me wrong. Like yesterday we had a great time at family day. We play lots of games and you know I love the game, if you have been there with us, called the ping-pong soccer, whereby you use the straw and you blow the ping-pong ball all the way into the goal posts. And I love that game. I tell you why - because my group won. Right, so I'm very happy. I'm not saying that there's anything wrong with competition. I'm not saying that anything being happy with winning, don't have to feel miserable. But you see, just because we won the game, we didn't attach, I hope, our value in life, our significance, our relationship with God, all on that game. So, there are competitions for fun, there are competitions that will allow us to, you know, just do better because we learn from one another objectively.
But I'm talking about unhealthy competition in our lives. These are the competition that leads you to jealousy, that leads you to envy, that leads you to rivalries, strife and conflict with others, that leads you to question God's Will for your life and makes you angry with everyone including yourself that you are not doing better than others. That is what I want to deal with today, unhealthy competition and if we are not careful, we will be sucked into it, we will be drawn into it and before long we will depart from the Lord. You see, our society is so competitive that even if you are not competing now, you will have great temptation to do so later.
And even if you have been guarding your heart and keeping yourself from this kind of competition, ah never mind, never mind, I just want to be chill, I want to be cool, I want to be relaxed, someone else may not be chill, cool or relaxed. They will do the comparison for you - maybe your parents, maybe our children, maybe your colleagues, maybe your concerned party. They will say, “how come you like that?” You see over there...immediately it starts. Interestingly in Scripture, when I come to John chapter 3, if you know the passage and if you have your Bibles kindly turn with me to the passage, you will see that John chapter 3 deals with the great truth of being born again, spiritual regeneration we call it.
It talks about Nicodemus and how he came to look for Jesus and Jesus dealt with him according to his spiritual needs. Those are the highlights of John chapter 3. Everybody talks about that - you must be born again. And then there's that great verse that they say is the theme verse of the Bible, John 3:16 for God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son and we all love that verse because it talks about God's love and His salvation for us. So, as I was studying through the chapter I came to this passage and I thought, well, this seems to be like anti-climax already so let's just rush through it and blow-by. But to my own surprise, this passage brought great reminder to the health my own soul and I hope that today this passage will also help you to deal with unhealthy competition.
John Chapter 3 verse 22 to 24 "After this Jesus and his disciples went into the Judean countryside, and he remained there with them and was baptizing. John also was baptizing at Aenon near Salim, because water was plentiful there, and people were coming and being baptized (for John had not yet been put in prison)."
As the New Testament era unfolded 2000 years ago, there were two prominent figures that emerged, leading the movement. The first was John the Baptist who called men to repentance and the second who came after John the Baptist was Jesus, who told everyone to also to repent because the kingdom of God is at hand. Now, 2000 years later, nobody in their right mind who is a Christian, will compare himself with Jesus Christ. I mean you must be really, really crazy. In fact, somebody just asked me, you know I love Christian names, what do you think if I name my boy Jesus. I looked at him, I said, I think he will be under tremendous stress for the rest of his life. Could you imagine...Jesus come here, right. So you get the picture. Nobody in his right mind will compare with Jesus today. But 2000 years earlier they didn't know that He is the Messiah, for sure, although He is. He hasn't been declared the Son of God through His resurrection from the grave yet. The Gospel hasn't been preached to all the parts of the world in the Roman Empire at that point. He was just like another itinerant preacher in the countryside and so as these two prominent figures continued their ministry, a situation developed between them.
And the Scripture tells us, John chapter 3 verse 25 to 26 "Now a discussion arose between some of John's disciples and a Jew over purification (always start with some theological, ethical issues they want to discuss). And then they came to John (these are disciples of John, his followers, his, you know people who love him, supported him, believe in his message) and he said to John the Baptist: Rabbi, he who was with you, across the Jordan, to whom you bore witness, (referring to Jesus), - look, he is baptizing, and all are going to him."
The stage is now set. What are the disciples of John saying? They said, “John, Rabbi, look we're losing out. The crowds are leaving us. More are going to Jesus. Are you going to do something about this?” There's a competition here. Look, we if we don't do something we are going to lose out. What are we going to do? And you know John himself wasn't comparing, he wasn't competing, but his disciples did. There seems to be an element of unhappiness, of murmuring that hey, you have a good ministry, this man also has a good ministry. But why should more go to him? You started first. There are always reasons for why you think you should be first. The way John the Baptist responded to this issue, teaches us how to deal with unhealthy competition and the way he dealt with it was extremely spiritual.
So, I want to share you this truth that you should take home with you today. Dealing with unhealthy competition in a spiritual manner will keep you focus on pursuing God's greater eternal goal. In other words, if we don't succeed in dealing with unhealthy competition, it's always going to trip us up as we try to serve God and live for Him. It's as simple as that. John the Baptist is determined and focused to live for God alone and so he had to deal with the problem his disciples presented. Question. How then did John deal with it? Let's look at his, look at his answer to his own disciples. He said in a very spiritual manner these words, okay, that revealed he is to submit like his disciples are also to submit, to God's sovereignty.
So, I want you to see in this passage that dealing with unhealthy competition in a spiritual manner:
1. Requires submission to God's sovereignty
The Scripture tells us in John chapter 3 verse 27 that John answered his disciples and said, "A person cannot receive even one thing unless it is given him from heaven." What is John saying? John is saying there is nothing in my life, in my ministry, in everything that you see me do, that God didn't give to me. If everything in my life is given to me by God, why should I compete with someone else as if I can grab and gain base on my own strength? Now what is he saying? He is having a very high view of God's sovereignty in his life. He is saying that God is totally in control. There is nothing in my life that didn't come from Him and do you know that this is consistent with the rest of Scripture.
Look with me at John chapter 19 verse 10 to 11 where Jesus was standing on trial before Pontius Pilate. Pontius Pilate historically is known to be a scheming, plotting man who bribed and fought and killed his way to his position of power until he became the governor of Judea, whereby he held all this control over this area, this land. And when he sat in authority to try Jesus for His supposed crimes, he wanted to prove Jesus to be innocent. So, he wants him to tell him what he has to say and so he said to Jesus these words, "You will not speak to me? Do you not know that I have authority to release and the authority to crucify you?” In a human perspective, what Pontius Pilate said is totally correct but you see, Jesus was not looking at His trial purely from a human perspective. He saw it from God's perspective and this is the perspective we need to have.
This is the way we need to see our lives if we are going to deal with unhealthy competition. He said, "You will have no authority over me at all" you wouldn't even be sitting up there, you wouldn't be trying me, you wouldn't be speaking to me these words "unless it had been given you from above." He's saying that you may think Pontius Pilate that you striven all your life, you competed, you fought and you gained but Jesus said I want you to know that God gave it to you. And so, Jesus held on to a high view of God's sovereignty even at the trial for His crucifixion. And this is not only with our Lord Jesus.
We read of the apostle Paul writing to the church at Corinth in 1st Corinthians chapter 4:7. And if you know your Bibles, if you read through the book, the book of Corinth, the book of first Corinthians, you will realize that, that church is not a very spiritual church. They love to compare and compete and they want to win all the time. And so, it got so bad you read on in chapter 10 or 11 that they even compare and oppressed the poor by the food they bring to church to eat. It is called a love feast in those days. Because they brought great delicious food and they refused to share with the poor and along the way to get to flaunt their wealth because look I got this huge drumstick, I got this nice piece of meat and what do you have, nothing well, you... what to do.
And so, it became very terrible and Paul the apostle wrote, said you have food, eat it at home. So, since those days we no longer have a love feast before the holy Communion. He said when we come to the holy communion we need to come in a bond of love and acceptance in Jesus. So, the Corinthian Christians were comparing everything. They want to compare who led them - is it Apollos, is it Paul, is it Peter? They want to compare leaders. They want to compare spiritual gifts as well - who get the better one. That's why Paul wrote and said, do all speak in tongues, do all have the gift of prophecy, do all have the gift of healing? He says: stop comparing. Why, why don't compare, why don't compete in the church? He says, because there is nothing that you have that you did not receive. That is a high view of God's sovereignty. He says, "What do you have that you did not receive? If then you received it, why do you boast as if you did not receive it?" Now that is a totally different look at life, isn't? A totally different look at life and this is the perspective that John the Baptist held on to when his disciples came and challenged him into an unhealthy competition. So, what do we learn here? We'll see the chicken sandwich later. This clicker tends to jump the gun for me.
Alright so can we come back to focus, let's get serious first. A high view of God's sovereignty as the Giver of all gifts is the correct spiritual perspective that leads to personal victory in dealing with unhealthy competition.
This is the position that John the Baptist took, this is the position that Jesus took at His trial before His crucifixion, this is the position Paul took in dealing with the competing, comparing, rivalling church at Corinth. What is that view? A high view of what? Of God's sovereignty. That means that whatever I have I did not gain with my own strength. Now, I did put in the effort, I did put my thought into it, I did have this opportunity but everything, including the strength to work, came from God. So, since that is true, why do I compare? I need to have this perspective because when I begin to come back to this, it allows me to have personal victory over unhealthy competition.
Okay, I hope to let this settle in for a little while more and then now we'll start with the chicken sandwich. Okay, how did I come across a chicken sandwich and why am I showing this to you? This is a famous fast food chain in America, began in Atlanta, it's called Chick-fil-A. Last year when I had the opportunity to go to Atlanta to undergo some discipleship training at the church of Perimeter that is led by Pastor Randy Pope, the Christian who took care of us told us that Chick-fil-A has a very special place in the Christian's heart. Now, I do know that generally food have a special place in Christians' hearts. Right? I mean we would just love to fellowship around food, coffee and what not and it's just great. But why Chick-fil-A? Is it because it's very tasty? Is it because everybody in Atlanta like to eat chicken in America or what not? No, the reason why Chick-fil-A is so close and special to a Christian's heart is because this entire company was founded and run on Christian principles. And so, when they visit the restaurant, when they buy from them, they feel that this is championing the values and truth of the Bible that they believe in, in the business circles in America. Wow, that is quite something. So, what are these Christian principles we're talking about? Well, the values are actually expressed in their corporate statement. This is Chick-fil-A's corporate purpose, it is "To glorify God by being a faithful steward of all that is entrusted to us and to have a positive influence on all who come into contact with Chick-fil-A."
Now this is quite amazing. Why? Because I think I can understand sometimes what goes through in your mind when you are listening to a message. When the preacher talks about or the pastor talks about Jesus or John the Baptist they seem to be so far away. That okay it is good for them because they must be spiritual. If somebody comes on stage and give a Christian testimony of God's sovereignty in his life and how He has blessed his life, well so okay with that because that seems to be his life, right? And you know it works for that individual because maybe he's just fortunate, God blessed him. But when we talk about a company competing in the business environment and yet having a high view of God's sovereignty...In other words, the founder, along with everyone who run this business don't see it as their own. All the resources they see it as something they have received from God and so they consider themselves merely as stewards. Who is the man behind such a philosophy in business? Who is the man who led the company to make such a statement in the fast food business circle up to this day in the United States?
The man is by the name of Truett Cathy and Truett Cathy, has done many things in his business that have sent a message to the community in Atlanta and across United States till this day. One of the things that he is most well-known for is that Chick-fil-A closes business on Sunday and he has done this since 1946 till today. And this is his reason. He said that people appreciate Christians being consistent with their faith and so if we believe that we are to remember the Lord's day and to keep it holy then why are we not doing so? Why are we not, why are we not freeing our staff to go and worship God if they want to, spend time with their families if they like? In other words, they, he doesn't feel compelled since 1946 to this day (he has just recently passed away), to compete in the business world with everyone else even though everybody knows food industry best business Sunday because everybody rest, goes out to play and they have nice food. And he says that's not a problem with us. I want to be consistent. I'm not here to compete and compare and to win this business race. That's what he is saying. I'm here to be a faithful steward of all that is entrusted to us. And when he passed away a few years ago they did some statistical studies on his business and somebody commented and said numbers don't lie because to date even though they close business on Sunday, their annual sales averages about 5 billion a year and they have, up till in 2014, about 1800 stores chain stores across United States. And they are thriving, doing well, one of the best known, well run privately-owned business in the United States. You know it's amazing.
It's amazing that a man who is in business in the world, but he sees himself as not of the world because he doesn't feel the need to do better than McDonald's, Burger King, KFC, Pizza Hut and what not because that's not his goal in life. In other words, Truett Cathy, he is free, he is free to do what God wants him to do because he disengaged himself from unhealthy competition. It doesn't mean he doesn't compete because he still sells some of the best burgers. Consumer reports say that this is one of the beloved, most loved American chicken sandwich and it's doing well as a business. But this is what he says, Truett Cathy, before he passed away. It's amazing. It's amazing that we only operate for six days and God gave us enough profit and revenue to close on the seventh day. Do you realize that even in his interviews, in his response to people who challenge him asked about his view, he is still reflecting a high of God's sovereignty? Everything he has in business he believes is from God. And this is what John is saying.
Here is what John is saying to his disciples. He said why are comparing me with Jesus? Why are you making me compete with the Messiah? He said a person cannot receive even one thing. Now on the screen when we're seated there listening, we can all nod in agreement or we can actually retract and cringe with some apprehension. What do I mean? When you read a statement like this and you're thinking about it, not even one thing? Not even one thing? What if God doesn't give me what I want? What if the nice and good things all went to my neighbour, to my sisters, my brothers, my colleagues, you know, everyone around me and I'm this poor miserable soul? In other words, we can talk about God's sovereignty and rejoice in it and say it is great wonderful truth until it applies to my own life. I said, “wait a minute God, you...don't make a mistake hor. Don't forget what I really want okay? Don't give me the last bit. Don't, don't have too big a sense of humour when it comes to me okay? Don't make me a joke among my friends, right?” You know we, we are, we are happy to talk about this truth abstractly but we are concerned when it becomes personal.
You know there's a man in the Bible, his name is David. Eventually he became the king over Israel. Obviously, when he became king over Israel nobody would say that God didn't bless him because he had power, he had wealth he had everything going in life for him. And we said, “wonderful, what a great man!” But do you know that King David wasn't born with a silver spoon in his mouth? Do you know that when he was a shepherd boy and the elderly prophet Samuel came to his home to anoint the next king of Israel, the father of David, Jesse, he brought all his brothers out for Samuel to view and God said nope, not this one, nope, not this one, nope, not this one, nope, not this one?
And just imagine this, the old prophet Samuel has to look at Jesse in the eye and say: do you have any more sons? You know what that means? Can you imagine going to Chinese New Year to give ang pow and you had to look at the parents and say, you got any more sons for these ang pows or not hah? Nobody do that right? Keep lah. Wow, I mean got to ask the father you got any more. What is happening here? The father doesn't think David is of any worth and value. Imagine having a father who thinks that of you. You will be thinking, I come from a... not broken home but a miserable home. Why? Because my father thinks nothing of me all. All my brothers went to see the prophet Samuel and he forgot that I even exist. I don't even have a name tag when I come for the family event. Yesterday, my son, you know because the registration my younger son doesn't have a registration, not on the list, no-name tag, look at me, daddy I don't even exist. You know, so quick to be miserable. I said, “you are standing right in front of me existing very well.” But that's how we think, don't we, aren't isn't it. We often are so ready to pity ourselves, be miserable with our life and David has every reason do so. His father doesn't even think he exists and then later he had some success in killing the giant Goliath and they say: hurray the hero is now born, he's emerging, but before we know it, his boss wants to kill him.
Could you imagine going to office every day and your boss take a spear and throw at you. I mean what kind of boss is that? That's what Saul did. He got so jealous of David, so fearful of him, that twice, the Bible said, that twice means no mistake, one time maybe, sorry I didn't mean to throw at you, it was...there was a mosquito beside you. But it is not that. Second time also throw, that means I really want to kill him. So, at the end of the day David got to run for his dear life, live in caves, he has to run to the Philistines in his own opinion and try to live among the enemies to escape from Saul. Like that is the next king of Israel? Who want to be king? But yet this is what David said, David said in Psalm 16 verse 5 to 6, "The Lord is my chosen portion and my cup; you hold my lot. The lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; indeed, I have a beautiful inheritance." You know what Paul, what David the king is saying? Whether he wrote it of his earlier years in life or later years in life, he saying what, what God has chosen for me is the best.
Yes, it may mean that I don't come from the best home, it may mean that I may not have the best job for a long time, it may mean that my boss wants to try to kill me and I got to run for my dear life. But at the end of the day, what I have found out is that what God gives me is the best. In fact, he says I don't want anything that God didn't want to give me, because that's probably very suspicious and dangerous. That is a high view of God's sovereignty and with that high view of God's sovereignty, if you are willing to trust in Him then you can say like John the Baptist said. He told his disciples he said, "You yourselves bear me witness, that I said, ‘I am not the Christ, but I have been sent before him.'"
You know, before John the Baptist came on the scene many have claimed to be the Messiah. By the way, when you claim to be the Messiah means you're the hero of the Jews. So, a lot of people like that kind of title and popularity and prestige. So many people claimed to be the Messiah. After Jesus, many more claimed to be the Messiah because again that's a ticket to fame and popularity and to win movement. But you know what John said? John the Baptist said, you know I may be at the height of my popularity now, even King Herod wants to listen to me preach, many are coming out to see me in the wilderness to hear me preach God's Word but I don't want the Messiah's job because that's not what God gave me. He said I'm happy, I'm happy to be who I am. Why? Because a man cannot receive even one thing unless it is given to him from heaven. That is a high view of God's sovereignty. How does it work out in your life? It means simply this my friends. It means you can start living your own life rather than somebody else's life. Isn't that a good thing? It means that your children can start being themselves rather than become someone they are not. They don't have to sing as well as your neighbour's kid, they don't have to know how to swim, play the piano at grade 8, climb the tree, go up Mount Everest come down, swim across the Red Sea to be somebody. They don't have to do all these things just because somebody else did it.
But you know what, that's our trend isn't it? We want our children to do everything, not because they enjoy it, but because we want it. Why? Because we are trying to live somebody else's life. So, I like you to think about this. The decision to submit to all that God in His sovereignty gives, will bring release and freedom from unhealthy competition. It's as simple as that. That is what John the Baptist is teaching us today. Two thousand years later his words are still relevant because our hearts are still comparing and competing, and easily slides into envy, jealousy and rivalry. Now remember we're not talking about healthy competition, I'm talking about unhealthy competition. Those things that makes you angry with God and makes you angry with others because you feel that somebody has cheated you in life, somebody is somehow doing better even he work less, somebody has better opportunities and you have none and you feel so unhappy because you are just miserable, trying to live somebody else's life. My friends, God has a life for us, each one of us. He has a will, He has a purpose, He has a path. David say your lines have fallen for me in beautiful places. I will have some trials I will have some struggles, but at the end of the day all will be well and David trusted in it and it turned out well. John the Baptist trusted in it and he was freed from this unhealthy competition and he continued faithfully in his role to announce the coming of the Messiah. But how about you? Are you free? So, a submission to God's sovereignty shouldn't bring fear and apprehension but it should bring a sense of security and confidence, freedom and release to seek God's Will.
2. Requires humility to seek God's glory
Now in dealing with unhealthy competition in a spiritual manner it requires not only submission to God's sovereignty, it also requires humility to seek God's glory, humility to seek God's glory. Listen to what John the Baptist continue to teach his own disciples. He went on and he said this, "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." (John 3:29) If we use our modern thinking to understand this passage, we will be thinking at a Christian wedding, the best man stands beside the bridegroom and then when he sings maybe for his bride, or he says something, or thank you...his friend there wah he's overjoyed. Now that is not the picture at all because we need to understand the Jewish wedding ceremony.
In the Jewish wedding ceremony, the friend of the bridegroom has a very important and unique role. He is like the master of ceremony who brings everything together, he is the coordinator, he makes sure the whole ceremony runs well so that the wedding could be celebrated with great joy. By the end of the whole day, he has one very special task to perform and this is what John the Baptist is referring to. His task was to stand at the door of the bridal chamber, to guard it, so that no false lover, no thief, no bad characters will enter the bridal chamber. He is to wait until the bridegroom finally arrives.
So, could you imagine, as the evening falls, and the night you know deepens, he's just standing there waiting, waiting in anticipation, making sure that nobody else intrudes upon the bridal chamber and finally he hears the voice of the bridegroom, hears him singing or talking or calling out to his bride and his heart leaps with joy because he says, “now my task is done.” and the moment he hears the voice, he rejoices greatly. That is what John the Baptist is saying. He's saying my job according to God's appointment is to stand at the door and wait for the coming of the Messiah. Because I now hear his voice I rejoice. He's also saying to his disciples, you know what, you guys are really crazy. You know what you are telling me to do is to ask me, who should be standing guard, to go inside the bridal chamber and become the bridegroom. He said I'm not going to do that. I am not going to do that because that's not my job. Could you imagine the, the, the best man upstaging the bridegroom at the wedding and said I married you instead. What kind of wedding is that? It's ridiculous!
John the Baptist said you guys are ridiculous. I'm not going to do that, that's not my job, it's not my role, I'm the forerunner and I'm going to do what I need to do. You know, to do that he has to be so humble because he has to accept that this is God's appointment for him in this great celebration and then his sight has to be set on the joy that is greater beyond himself. That's why when Jesus begin to critic the character and the ministry of John the Baptist, these are his words, He said...Now John the Baptist said therefore my joy is now complete and Jesus said that there has not risen among you born of women no one greater than John the Baptist. This is in Matthew chapter 11 verse 11.
You know most people take joy in their own success and accomplishment, most people take joy and pleasure in their own achievements, right? Just imagine if you have cooked a nice dish, I'm not making any criticism here right, any nice dish cooked for the first time probably it looks great, taste great, what do we do? We take out a camera, we take a picture and what's the next step, you have Facebook or Instagram or one of those social media, you put it up and when people go like, like, like, your heart gets filled with joy. Right? Happens to you, happens to me, but I don't cook. What am I trying to say here? Every one of our achievements we share and others rejoice with us we are happy, we are happy, that's normal. But look at the character of John the Baptist. He is not the bridegroom, he is not in the centre of it all, but he humbly chooses to rejoice. He said therefore this joy of mine is now complete. No wonder Jesus said that this is a great man because in God's Kingdom it takes humility to be great.
And this reminds me of another man in the Bible in the Old Testament. His name is Moses. Moses is one of the greatest characters and leaders in the history of Israel and he is uniquely chosen by God to perform many miracles, he had many spiritual gifts, including that of prophesying. But one day, the Bible tells us that his subordinate, a man a young man by the name of Joshua, he came to him and he was very agitated very angry, this young man Joshua, who later became a leader in Israel as well, he said, "Eldad and Medad are prophesying in the camp.” And Joshua the son of Nun, the assistant of Moses from his youth, said, "My Lord Moses, stop them." (Num 11:27-28) What is he saying?
He's saying, you know what Moses, I'm a follower of God and I believe God has chosen you, so, only you are supposed to prophesy. Please don't let them compete with you. Stop them. Now watch and listen to how Moses responded. Moses said to Joshua, "Are you jealous for my sake?" Immediately he put the finger on the problem, he hit the nail on the head. He said, "Would that all the Lord's people were prophets, and that the Lord would put His Spirit on them." (Num 11:29) He saying you know you look at me with all this experience behind me, you would think that I take great pleasure in being this man of great stature, the lone speaker, spokesman from God, the only one who can meet God face to face, bring down the 10 Commandments, that I take joy in all this achievement and accomplishment in the nation of Israel. But Moses is saying this, no, I don't. I take greater joy and pleasure in seeing the glory of God among all his people and so if this other man can prophesy, I wish not only them but even more people can start serving God and doing so successfully. It takes great character and humility to rejoice in the success of others because those success means that God can be glorified beyond ourselves and it's no wonder in Numbers chapter 12 verse 3 the Bible tells us that the man Moses was very meek, more than all people who are on the face of the earth.
Two great men, John the Baptist complimented by Jesus and another great man Moses complimented by the Scriptures in the book of Numbers and they are both humble men and through their humility they dealt with unhealthy competition. So why did I bring up Moses and this incident with John the Baptist? Because I want you to see that seeking the glory of God humbly, when we have the same attitude in mind, it will enable us to find joy in the Will of God instead of happiness in the success of competing with others. So, here's a question friends - where do you find your joy? Whenever you do well in exams? Whenever you do well in your job, get a promotion, get a raise? I'm not saying that those things are wrong, but you see, if you are not careful, it's so insidious that when somebody else do better immediately your mood drops, your spirit is negative and somewhere deep down inside, you are angry. Why? Because we are not careful to seek the glory of God humbly. So, let's be careful with how we deal with success in our lives, how we respond to the success in other people's life, because if we do it correctly in a spiritual manner, then we will have this spirit that John the Baptist articulated. He said, "He must increase, but I must decrease." (John 3:30). He's already winning, John the Baptist, why aren't you doing something about it to win this competition, to win this race? John says no I'm not going to win because the point is not me winning, the point is God winning. He, God, Jesus, He must be lifted up, I must decrease.
And this is the attitude of great men of God throughout the ages. Look at this man by the name of William Carey. He is the one who brought the Gospel to India. He was known as the father of modern missions but on his death bed these are his words. He said, “when I have passed away, speak less of William Carey, speak more of the Great Saviour that William Carey has.” You know, we often times turn it around. We speak more of William Carey but we do not focus on what God has done through this man.
Here is another by the name of FB Meyer. I think for in his case it is even more instructive. You see, when FB Meyer was a young man in the City of London there was another famous preacher by the name of Charles Haddon Spurgeon. Some of you may be familiar with him. And although FB Meyer has certain gifts and abilities, but he can't compare with someone like Spurgeon because he known as the prince of preachers, his gifts are far greater and men are attracted to him. So, every Sunday morning he would stand at the front porch and he would see carriages after carriages go to the Metropolitan Tabernacle where Spurgeon is preaching. And he had to deal with this as a young man in his life, to deal with this competition to keep it from becoming unhealthy. But you would think, well, if he had succeeded then he would no longer be tested. We know he succeeded because God continued to use him in other circles.
But even as an older man when he was no longer in the prime of his life there was another preacher whom God raised up by the name of G Campbell Morgan. And G Campbell Morgan has again a great expository gift and people flocked to listen to him. So, at the beginning of his ministry, towards the end of his ministry he looked at his own half empty church. People not coming as much, attendance not as high and he was so disturbed on the inside he did not know how to deal with it at the beginning there was a struggle and he went to his own bedroom and he knelt before God and he prayed and he prayed and he prayed and he prayed. And finally, when he emerged, he said these words. He said, “my, what a great crowd has gone to see Campbell Morgan, what a man, may God bless him.” You see this is what we need to do when God is blessing someone else's life - we need to be humble to seek God's glory so that we can rejoice over the success of others, we can see when God's Kingdom advances we are pleased because we are not only finding happiness in competition with others.
Another man by the name of J Hudson Taylor, when he was eventually very successful in his China Inland Mission as a missionary to China, he was one day in his later years invited to speak at the church in Melbourne, Australia. And the Masters of ceremony who introduced him begin to heap praises after praises on him that was extravagant and the word 'great' keep appearing over and over again. And when Hudson Taylor finally mounted the pulpit and begin to address the people, the first word he said was 'I am a little servant of a Great Master'. You see, John the Baptist would have shouted praise the Lord, He must increase, I must decrease. This is how we are to deal with unhealthy competition, my friends. This goes deep down inside our hearts. What do we really believe in? Do we submit to God's sovereignty? Are we humble to seek God's glory? Do we rejoice when others succeed because we see God glorified?
Now most messages would end here simply because when we can deal with our own happiness and peace we think the job is done. But you have your Bibles turn with me to John chapter 3 and I want you to notice that the verses didn't end there. There is another passage behind and so as I was studying through the Gospel of John in chapter 3, I am wondering why there this you must be born again passage, this John 3:16 passage, there is this competition and John the Baptist with Jesus Christ passage and then there is another passage at the end. What is the connection? What is the context? There must be a link somewhere. It must be connected, in some manner somehow because John chapter 3 is really about the Gospel, about salvation, and it ends that way. So, allow me to read it to you.
3. Will keep you focused on pursuing God's greater eternal goal
The Bible tells us that we need to deal with unhealthy competition in a spiritual manner because it keeps me focused on pursuing God's greater eternal goal and this is spelled out in the final passage. Look at what it says, John chapter 3 verse 31 says, "He who comes from above is above all." You know, when John and his disciples were discussing this issue, it seems to be so logical, so reasonable and everything else. But looking back now, nobody would want to compare himself with Jesus because who are you? Jesus comes from above. But that is what it does doesn't it? When we're in the midst of envy, in the grip of jealousy, in the thick of competition, we lose our perspective of what is eternal, of what is the greater goal because we are actually just saying what about me? what about mine? what about I? And John is taking a step back and said, you know what, I'm not going to increase, He's going to increase. John the apostle took a look at it and said, you know what, that is the right perspective because Jesus is above all, let's keep our perspective right.
And then he goes on to say, "He bears witness to what He has seen and heard (talking about Jesus), yet no one receives His testimony." (John 3:32-33) So we are looking at a spiritual battle for the souls of men in the light of the Gospel. There are people who know what Jesus has said, heard what Jesus said and, and, and they're rejecting it. They are choosing darkness rather than light and while all this is happening, we are fighting among ourselves, wondering why my children not as clever, why my career not as good and we think that this is the whole world and forget that there is a larger spiritual battle, a greater eternal goal. So, John the apostle when he wrote the Gospel is reminding us that there is something larger at stake. "For He whom God has sent (Jesus) utters the words of God, for He gives the Spirit without measure. The Father loves the Son and has given all things into His hands." (John 3:34-35)
Now this is something that is not a matter of preference because Jesus has all authority. This is the consequence in the light of the Gospel. The consequence is this - "Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him." (John 3:36) So when you look at the entire passage in context you see in this case of unhealthy competition and then John the apostle concludes with this passage and tells us, you know what, if we don't deal with it right, we are going to lose God's greater eternal purposes and goals. We are going to miss on what it means to be preaching the Gospel. You say, wow that sounds so big and so far, away.
But think about it with me. As our church advances, as our ministry grows, what are we going to do? Are we going to be happy with the opportunities, the gifts, the abilities God has given us and serve in those areas? Or are we going to constantly compare with the other ministries? Hey they got more people leh. Hey they like that leh. And then after a while we get so discouraged and angry, I don't want to serve any more. Right? And when you do that what happen? The wrath of God remains on those who know not Christ. Something just got lost along the way.
Worse still, people who come to visit the church says wah, this church no different from the world - outside fight, down here also fight. Outside they fight over who get promoted, down here they fight over whose ministry bigger, got more people. Right? You see how it all ties in with the Gospel? And you know, we, we talk about care groups and know join a care group, connect with a care group. On the surface wow, great, helps me to grow. But you start joining a care group, first week still very nice hi, second week oh, yah, third week (I'm not criticizing anyone alright, I'm just imagining). After one or two months, you sit down there suddenly you hear wah you never use any moisturizer, facial treatment, skin still so good aah. I spend a fortune on SK2 still like that. Wah God not fair ..... you don't meet, never mind you know, you meet ah, very sad. Then meet another boy never tuition ah, do so well ah. I tuition until I almost ‘pok kai' already no money already cannot even pass ah. Why like that? Why my why, why God like that? Wah every time you go to care group, right, you don't want that person to share because once he shared blessing only, you very ‘pek chek', that means you very sad. My child like that.
Alright? So ya you can talk about love of God, you can talk about I love one another but the moment you hear someone else having a greater success than you, the Gospel is out of sight, the battle is out of sight, it doesn't matter if souls are dying, going to hell because I'm not happy with my life. So, to what is John the apostle saying? Can, can, can we stop being so miserable about our own lives? Can we stop pitying ourselves? Can we stop basing our self-esteem, our values, our significance, on what we have and what we do? Can we trust in God's sovereignty? Can we humbly seek God's glory? Then you'll find when you meet in care groups, serve in ministry, when you hear about how your neighbours are doing better, you say well good for him but the lines that God has given has fallen to me in pleasant places. It is not that I'm going to be lazy or passive alright, don't get me wrong.
I'm not giving you some excuse for us not to work hard and do our best but I'm just saying that, don't try to live somebody else's life, start living your own, the one that God has appointed for you. And you can only do so and advance the Gospel if you and I learn to deal with competition that's unhealthy in a spiritual manner. I hope and I pray that if you are dealing and struggling with this right now you take this to heart. But if you're not dealing and struggling with this right now, great but be careful because someone else will compare with you very soon. In fact, it may be on the already, next train coming, alright? Somebody say wah you like that ah immediately you get shoot through the roof, very angry, 气死人right? Because I'm so happy until somebody said something then I'm not happy anymore. Deal with it spiritually, submit to God's sovereignty, humbly seek His glory so that you can remain focused on pursuing God's greater eternal goal.
Let us pray. Our Father in heaven we thank You so much for Your Word. Lord, you know that we are so foolish while we think ourselves so clever because our thoughts run on earthly lines and we are consumed with the material and we think that humans set the goals for our existence but we forget that we are the creation of God. And so, we are foolish when we do not recognise the heavenly calling, when we do not align our lives with Your sovereign Will and humbly submit ourselves to pursue Your purposes.
So, I pray this morning that You would search our hearts, try our thoughts, see there be any crooked ways in us and help us to walk in the way everlasting. Help us to rejoice to hear the voice of the bridegroom. Help us to let Jesus increase. I'd like to invite all of you to continue to bow our heads in prayer and seek the Lord for your own life. What I've shared with you is very insidious, meaning it's not obvious at the beginning. In fact, we probably have a lot of reasons and excuses say no, no, no this is not happening to me I'm better that, that and all that. But you know your own heart and I just want to give you a moment to let God deal with your heart. Some of you may be smarting from a comparison placed on you when you were young and you haven't even recovered from it till now.
Some of you may be in the midst of a very intense rivalry and it is wrecking your life, splitting your family because, you didn't even think about it, but you have set your goals in life based on how others are doing. And God wants you to trust Him with the life, He wants to give you so come back to Him. It takes humility, it takes submission. But Jesus is not calling us to do what He didn't do Himself. He Himself humbled Himself, took the form of a man, humbled Himself further and became a servant and went to the cross to die for our sins. He submitted to God's sovereign will for His life even though it led to His crucifixion so that He can see the joy and glory of multitudes redeemed from sin. And that is at the heart of our Gospel. I pray that you will come back to the heart of our Lord Jesus. Even as now I invite the deacons and ushers to come forward to serve the Lord's supper, I hope that we'll continue to meditate upon our Lord Jesus. Our Father in heaven, we thank You for Jesus. We thank You for His body broken for us, His blood shed for us. The significance and meaning of what He did on the cross may You continue to unfold to our eyes and inform our hearts that we may know the length, breadth and height of the love of God that is in Christ Jesus so that as we come back into the place of communion with our Lord Jesus we may find the meaning of our existence, of our life, in the light of who You are and what You have done for us. For we pray and ask all this in Jesus' Name. Amen.
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