One of the real problems with social media is how easy it is to compare our lives with others. Doesn’t it seem like you always have a friend on fb who is on vacation? That means every day we see pictures of the exotic locations other people are travelling to,
and the adventurous things they get to do
and the delicious food they get to eat.
I always ask myself, how come they get to do all that while on my last vacation I spent a couple days cutting the grass and reading a book from the library. Social media often leads us to ask: Why is everyone else’s life so much better than mine?
Their weddings are more exciting,
their pets are cuter,
their diets are working,
their families are going well
and their jobs are fun
and my life just pales in comparison.
It’s great to be happy for others and it’s nice to share in what others are doing and I know that we are all genuinely happy for our fb friends, but studies have shown that we would be happier if we would stop comparing ourselves to what we see on social media. It’s true. I see amazing recipes that people post and I imagine everyone eating these fantastic dinners with their families
as I sit down to reheated pizza.
|Left over pizza after I picked off all the mushrooms and olives.|
Comparing ourselves to others is dangerous because we begin to think that we deserve the same things our friends have and that it’s not fair that their lives are so much better than ours.
Comparing our lives to others can also lead us to become discontent in our faith because we begin to think God must love others more than He loves me, after all, they get to do all those amazing things. It’s hard to trust that God loves me and is willing to help me when all I see is that the lives of everyone else are so much better. As we continue our Life Is series this week we are going to talk about how life is not found in comparing ourselves to others or even getting what we think we deserve or have earned but how real life and true contentment is found when we trust God. Life is to trust God.
For us to be able to trust God we have to understand how God works because God’s ways are not our ways. Much of our understanding of how life should work is based on fairness and equality. People should get what they deserve, what they have earned and what they have worked for. This sense of fairness seems right to us and is heard a lot in the culture around us, but fairness and equality are not the guiding principles of God’s kingdom. Fairness and equality are not God’s ways and in time we will see that this is a very good thing for us, but first let’s see what the guiding principle of God’s kingdom are by looking at a story Jesus told. Matthew 20:1-16.
There are times I read this story and want to shout, this isn’t fair. The people who only worked for an hour or less got the same pay as those who worked all day. It just isn’t right. This story makes me think of when I worked in Rocky Mountain National Park. My direct supervisor was a man who told all of us that his goal was to do as little work as possible and each day he accomplish just that, he would walk around and do nothing but then yell at us if we took too long a break. He was doing no work and getting paid more than I was. It wasn’t right or fair and there were times it really got to me.
Now, if God’s kingdom was based on what we earned or what we deserved, then this story would look very different, but Jesus is telling us that God’s kingdom isn’t based on what’s fair in the eyes of the world and it’s not based on what we have earned or what we deserve. While fairness and equality might be principles we use to guide our nation’s policies and legal system, this is not how God establishes His kingdom and this is good for us because when it comes to God, what we deserve is death.
In Romans 6:23 it says, the wages of sin is death. In a system where we simply get what we deserve, we would get death. In a system governed by fairness, we would end up separated from God because of our thoughts, words and actions. The good we want to do, we don’t do. Those things we know aren’t good for us and separate us from God and others are those things we keep on doing, so if we really got what we deserved or earned, we would end up separated from God. The consequence of our sin is separation from God and that is what Paul means when he says the wages of sin is death. But we don’t get what we deserve, we get what God gives us and what God gives us is life. That is the rest of Romans 6:23, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Life is found when we are willing to trust God to give us what we don’t deserve and what we didn’t earn. In fact, in this parable of Jesus, we are the ones who go out at the end of the day and end up with a full day’s ages. Many times we think of ourselves as the workers who went out early in the day because we see ourselves as the hardworking, faithful followers of Jesus, but the truth is that we aren’t those early workers, we are the ones who were invited to go out at the end of the day and got the blessing they didn’t deserve. In Jesus story, the people of Israel were the laborers who made the contract with God to go out and work all day and it was the gentiles and sinners and outcast who were invited into the fields at the end of the day. The whole point of the story is that the last are first and in Jesus day the last were those on the outside.
We are those on the outside, we are God’s people not by bloodline or birth but by the blood of Jesus Christ which covers us and forgives us and brings us into the family of God through grace. If we can trust God to give us what He wants us to have in life, then we will experience a deeper joy and appreciation for life.
It is easy to trust God when things are going well, but to trust God when things are falling apart and life is difficult is a challenge, but it is possible if we will remember two things. The first thing to remember is that God is the same yesterday, today and forever. God never changes which means that God’s love for us never changes. Do you remember why God created us? He created us because He loves us and that love doesn’t change. It doesn’t change by what we do or don’t do. It doesn’t change if we are faithful or faithless and it doesn’t change with the circumstances of our lives. God’s love is constant, eternal and strong which means that no matter what we are going through, we can trust God. God is for us and with us and loves us always. Paul says there is nothing that can separate us from the love of God – Romans 8:35, 37-39.
So remembering that we are loved by God helps us trust God even when things aren’t going well. The second thing that can help us trust God through difficult times is remembering: God is always with us. One of the great myths about following Jesus is that once we accept Jesus into our hearts and lives that everything should go well and we should have any problems. When we love God and follow Jesus the best we can we begin to think that we deserve to have all our problems and suffering taken away, but that was never promised to the followers of Jesus and it was not what his disciples experienced. The truth is that we will continue to go through struggles and experience tragedy and loss and circumstances that seem insurmountable and we are going to cry out to God that it’s just not fair, but through it all we can trust God to help us if we will remember that God and his grace, love and power is with us through these storms.
The disciples faced a huge storm one day out on the Sea of Galilee. The storm was so fierce that hardened fishermen who lived through countless storms before now feared for their lives and through this storm Jesus was in the boat with them. He was asleep, but Jesus was with them. What this story tells us is that following Jesus and asking God into our lives doesn’t mean all the storms will go away, it just means that Jesus is with us through the storm. We may not understand what God is doing or why God doesn’t seem to be doing anything, but we can trust that God is with us through the strom.
There are real storms that we face in life. It can be financial, it can be the breakup of a marriage or the falling apart of a family. The storm can be a job loss, an illness that doesn’t seem fair or the death of a loved one that comes too soon. We all go through storms and we need to remember that these storms are NOT a sign that God has abandoned us. Storms are not a sign of God’s anger with us or his failure to help us. Like the disciples, storms come up and what we need to do is trust God to be with us and God will help us through.
The disciples finally woke Jesus up and he simply told the wind and the waves to be still. The power the disciples needed was right there, God was never going to let them to drown; they just needed to trust Jesus. God isn’t going to let us drown either; we just need to trust Jesus to be with us and to help us. Judah Smith says
We might be drenched but we are not drowned.
We might be soaked but we are not sunk.
We might be wet but we are not washed up.
We might be dismayed and discouraged but we are not going down. Paul said it this way: 2 Corinthians 4:8-9.
God is on our side, no matter what, which means that we can trust God even when things seem unfair and life is hard. Life is to trust God and to trust that God is with us and that God will give us what is right in God’s eyes. Life is found when we stop comparing ourselves to others, when we stop thinking about what we deserve or looking for what we have earned and start trusting in God’s grace which gives us more than we deserve and more than we could ever earn. Life is found when we trust that God loves us and that God is with us yesterday, today and forever.
Life Is to trust God.
1. Where do you do the most comparisons with others? (Appearances, Finances, Family…) Do you tend to see the blessings you have or the problems you face?
2. What things do you think you deserve to have in life or have earned from God? What is it we truly deserve from God? (See Romans 6:23)
3. What are the 3 biggest challenges you face today?
Are you taking these situations to God in prayer or are you blaming God for them? Can you identify where God might be with you in these storms?
4. What are the 3 biggest blessings you have in life today? Have you thanked God for them? How can these blessings help you work through the challenges you face?
5. We can trust God because His love for us is unconditional and unending. Read Romans 8:28 each day to remind you of this love. I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth nor anything else in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
6. Is there is a storm you face today that seems to have you completely down and out? Use 2 Corinthians 4:8-9 to give you hope. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed, perplexed but not in despair, persecuted but not abandoned, struck down but not destroyed.