Our insecurities arise when we begin to question why our lives don't look like others, "How am I supposed to serve as much as she does?"; "Why is she able to speak at Women's Bible Studies?"; "Why does everyone keep complimenting her on how hospitable she is?" When we compare ourselves, our circumstances, and our giftings of others, we rob ourselves of the opportunity to enjoy what God has given us. Comparison is the thief of joy, and it's also the thief of celebrating others.When we are too busy comparing ourselves to someone else's gifts and circumstances, we leave no room to praise the Gifter of those gifts or to point them out and cherish them in others. As much as we want to be celebrated for our own giftings, we can't forget that they were given to us by God, to reflect Him, and to bring glory and praise to Him. When we celebrate the gifts of others, we are celebrating God.
The flip side of comparing ourselves to others looks like thanking God for giving each of us different seasons so that we can serve the church in different capacities. It looks like praising God for equipping women to know God's Word deeply and giving them the ability to teach it well. It looks like giving glory and honor to God for creating women who are really wonderful at being hospitable and learning from them! To get rid of comparison, we must first pray, asking God to renew our hearts, then we must replace it with celebration–celebration of our creative and unrivaled God, who is the only one capable of creating each of us individually, uniquely, and masterfully. Only God possesses every good and perfect gift, yet He has graciously parceled Himself out among us so that we may have the privilege of displaying Him to the world.
What is more contrary to our culture, and what is more glorifying to God: Seeking ways to criticize and compare ourselves to others or growing in a deliberate desire to celebrate others? I love the way Paul exemplifies this for us in the introduction of this letter to the churches of Philippi, "I thank my God every time I remember you. In every prayer for all of you, I always pray with joy, because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that He who began a good work in you will continue to perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus." Philippians 1:3-6
Paul is quick to praise God for saving and equipping them to partner alongside him in the gospel. It is only by God's gracious saving power that we are alive in Christ. It is only by His generous Fatherly love that we are able to enjoy His gifts. Therefore, we are led to worship no one else but the Giver. Celebrating others ultimately looks like celebrating God.
Paul gives two practical ways we can celebrate others in this short passage:
- Praying for each other.
Paul prays with praise and joy! The more we pray for others, the more we can witness God's active hand in their lives. We can thank God for His saving work in the life of a friend, neighbor, family member, or church member. This is no ordinary thing! God has taken dry bones and breathed life into them, and there is nothing worth more celebration for that! As Paul prays for these churches, I imagine his requests have changed over time, and he sees God's continued saving work in the lives of His churches. Maybe Paul has seen men and women knowing and growing in God's word, devoting time to prayer, seeking out opportunities to evangelize, hosting strangers in their homes, teaching the Bible to others, and so on. He doesn't compare each of their gifts. Instead, he praises God with joy for this work and their partnership in the gospel.
- Encouraging one another.
Paul prays for these saints, and then he encourages them. Affirming the work of Christ in others is powerful. Do not underestimate an encouraging word! We've all had our moments of doubt and discouragement, and Proverbs 16:24 describes perfectly the healing work of encouragement, "Gracious words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones." Paul's aim is to build up the church and to cheer on his fellow brothers and sisters as they strive toward the finish line: Be confident! Look at God's work in your life! Keep pressing; He will finish His work.
Consider this: Would people characterize you as someone who criticizes or someone who celebrates others? If you have trouble answering this on your own, ask a spouse or a trusted friend. Reflect on ways you can pray for and encourage those God has placed into your life for partnership in His good work. Let's partner alongside one another, as saints, in eradicating critical comparison of others and replacing it with thoughtful consideration of ways to celebrate God's gifts and work in the lives of others.