How Should We Respond When Others are More Successful Than Us?

Success

No matter how great you are at something, there is always someone who is greater than you. No matter how successful you are, there is always going to be someone who is more successful than you.

It doesn’t matter who you are, you will have to deal with the success of others at one point or another.

How do we respond when others are more successful than us?

Man’s natural response is jealousy, resentment, and hatred, but that is not how Christians should respond. Rather, we should embrace, love, celebrate, and work alongside other Christians who are more successful.

While it is easy for us to say we should respond differently as Christians, it is hard to put that into practice.

How can respond in a Christian way to the success of others?

First, we must have a heart pierced by the gospel.

To respond in a Christian way requires that we be a person of faith. To be willing to promote and protect another, lending them our approval and prestige, requires a heart changed by the gospel.

Man’s natural response is not to promote another man over himself, nor is it to self-sacrificially love another. Only a heart that has been pierced by the gospel will do these things. Only a gospel changed heart will act in this way because only then can we imitate Jesus.

Jesus sacrificed Himself for the good of others. He esteemed man greater than Himself. Even while we were His enemies, Jesus did the unthinkable. He died on the cross for those who hated Him, for those who mocked Him, for those who did not love Him. He died so that we could have eternal life. All those who profess Him as Lord and Savior, He offers forgiveness.

So we see it takes a heart that has been pierced by the gospel to celebrate the success of others and promote another over ourselves.

The reason it takes a gospel pierced heart is because we can only imitate Jesus after we have been united with Him in His death, burial, and resurrection.

Second, we must be fully committed to God’s kingdom and glory.

Often we believe we have the right to be exalted, so we do all we can to make that happen. We fight and scratch and claw our way to the top and seek to get rid of anyone in our way. When others trump us, jealously ensues. Especially, when our praise is stolen.

Not only does the Bible testify to those actions, but the world reflects it. You only need to observe work politics for a short while to discover this truth.

If you think about it, however, only God has the right to be exalted. He is our Creator, and He alone is the all Powerful God of the universe. So we have to take the focus off of ourselves and put it on God in order to quench jealousy and envy.

We must be fully committed to God’s Kingdom and His glory.

Only then will we be willing to take the lesser position. To exalt another man over us, calling him greater. To surrender the rights we think we have. To push aside the idea of self-promotion, which leads to jealousy, envy, and disunity.

Third, we must realize envy, resentment, and hatred spring from worldly and selfish priorities.

Those that envy, resent, and hate another don’t care about God’s kingdom, nor do they care about God’s glory. All they care about is their kingdom, which is a worldly way of thinking and acting.

Thinking and acting that springs from a selfish heart.

When someone is better than us, accomplishing what we want to accomplish, we shouldn’t hate, resent, or envy them, because these actions spring from worldly and selfish priorities and are contrary to a gospel changed heart.

Fourth, we must fully trust God to provide.

One reason I believe people try to establish themselves over others is because they think that is the only way they are going to get ahead. They believe it is the only way they will get a promotion, or a job, and be able to provide for themselves or their family.

Thinking in that way shows that you don’t trust or depend on God to provide. Instead you are trusting and depending on yourself.

We must, however, fully trust God.

The Lord promises those who seek first His kingdom and His righteousness will have their needs met and need not worry.

Fifth, we must recognize and kill the idols of acceptance, approval, and success.

In order to kill the idols of acceptance, approval, and success, we must realize we already have the greatest approval and acceptance we could ever want – God’s.

If we don’t realize God’s approval and acceptance is all we need, we will be let down. As soon as another who is more successful than us comes along, others will naturally gravitate away from us toward them. The praise they once gave us, will be reserved for them.

You see, worldly success, approval, and acceptance is short lived.

The world’s praise may satisfy us for a season, but it will ultimately let us down. Not until we realize that, will we work to kill these idols.

Questions for Reflection

  1. How do you react when others are more successful than you?
  2. What would you add to my list of five?

Resources

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Post adapted from my most recent sermon. You can listen here.

X-Ray Questions: Evaluating our pursuits

In an effort to help us root the idols out of our lives, I am doing a series entitled X-Ray Questions. You can view the other two posts by clicking here and here. In this post, we will focus on our aims and pursuits.

X-Ray Question

(3) What do you seek, aim for, and pursue? What are your goals and expectations?

This particularly captures that your life is active and moves in a direction. We are purposeful. Human motivation is not passive, as if hardwired needs, instincts, or drives were controlled from outside us by being “unmet,” “frustrated,” or “conditioned.” People are active verbs.

Understand

The things that we seek, aim for, and pursue, as well as the goals and expectations we set for ourselves reveal the true nature of our hearts. As humans, we are not controlled by external conditions or instincts. We are not animals. We have the ability to make decisions. Decisions that reveal the true nature of our heart.

For instance, if our life goal is to acquire a particular job or success in our career, then we will do everything and anything to make it happen. We may neglect our families, compromise our convictions, or defame a co-worker, in order to achieve the level of success we are seeking.

Our desire should be to glorify Christ, not ourselves. In glorifying Christ, we may miss a particular promotion at work, but our families will be better for it because we are able to spend more time teaching them and building them up in the Word of God. Our witness to others about Christ will be greater because our convictions are not compromised. Our relationships with our co-workers will not suffer, resulting in deeper more meaningful relationships that will hopefully allow us to either share the gospel, or build another believer up in the faith.

Repent

We repent by redirecting our pursuits towards Christ. We must value Him and His glory more than our glory. We must see Him as our provider, comforter, and from whom we gain affirmation. We must see His mission, to reach the world with gospel, as more important than our success.

As you reflect on your aims, pursuits, goals, and expectations, remember that climbing the corporate ladder is only one example. You may not struggle with that particular goal or you may be pursuing your career from a godly perspective, but that does not mean you do not struggle with something else. Other idols may include: acceptance, comfort, a new car, a perfect looking spouse, or a finely kept home. Since we cannot cover every idol, my prayer is that you will honestly reflect on your life this week to determine if any of your goals, expectations, or pursuits are taking the place of Christ.

Scripture

Reflect on these Scriptures as you seek to root this idol out of your life: Matt 6:32-33; 2 Tim 2:22

All X-Ray questions taken from David Powlison’s book Seeing with New Eyes.