Summary: All of us do it. We compare ourselves to others and by doing so we expose ourselves to one of two things----pride or low self esteem. neither is healthy. Paul teaches us in this passage to keep our eyes on the prize not on other people.
THE PURSUIT OF HAPPINESS
“The Comparison Trap”
One of my heroes in the NT is the apostle Paul. If anyone had the right to brag, it would be him. Think about it...
• Jesus appeared to Paul when he was traveling on the road to Damascus. They had a conversation and then Paul was saved and the entire direction of his life was changed. He met Jesus personally.
• On another occasion, Paul was called up into the third heaven and given a chance as to whether he would go home and be with Jesus or stay and help others who needed him. But the point is Paul actually had a brief glimpse of heaven.
• Then God used him to write one half of the NT.
Now I don’t know what all you might have that you can brag about in your past but I do know that none of us hold a candle to the apostle Paul. This passage is basically a biography, a spiritual biography of Paul’s life. I think it would begin with a statement like this----
I am absolutely satisfied with Jesus but in no way am I satisfied with myself.
For many of us we live a life of comparison. We constantly compare our lives with the lives of others and depending on who the person is, how much the person has and how successful they may seem, once we make the comparison we either feel much better or we feel much worse.
For instance in our area we have a large homeless population. Did you know Pasco County has the second highest population of homeless in all of Florida? Our church attempts to help the homeless. If I compare what I have with what the homeless have I might feel like I have a lot and I am blessed. But if I drive through some of the wealthier communities look at the waterfront properties others have I could begin to think-my house, my lifestyle doesn’t compare to this. And I might begin to think I don’t have that much.
You see, comparisons are a trap. And they are trap that most of us find ourselves in on a regular basis. But here’s the truth you will need to recognize.
1. We cannot find happiness in this life as long as we carry around envy and jealousy.
So the answer is this.. Stop comparing your life to others. Paul was saying several things here.
1. I am not perfect.
2. I have not arrived.
3. I am a work in progress.
So stop making comparisons to other people. Jesus is the standard to measure life by… not other people.
2. We are products of our past but we do not need to be a prisoner of our past. Verses 13-14. You and I cannot change the past but we can change our perspective. Though Paul says that he chose to forget the things that were behind him, by no means did he mean that he chose to forget everything. What Paul chose to do was to learn from his mistakes and move forward. Too many of us choose to focus on the past and whether your past is good or bad, healthy or unhealthy, you need to know-you can’t live there. Some of us have not learned to leave the past behind-instead we have basically set up a tent and said, I think I will just camp out right here. And if you’re one of those I challenge you to pull up stakes, tear down the tent and move forward to the future God has planned for you.
A thunderstorm ripped through southern Kentucky years ago doing great damage to a farm that had been left in the family for over six generations. Lots of memories there. The wind destroyed a pear tree that had been there for about as long as anyone could remember. The oldest living relative said he could remember climbing that tree as a child, picking the fruit and he had eaten fruit from that tree for most of his life. A neighbor came by and said I’m really sorry you lost your pear tree. He said, yeah me too—it was a really important part of my past. I grew up with it. The neighbor asked so what do you plan to do? He said well I plan to pick the fruit that’s left and then burn the rest. And that’s the way to deal with the past. Keep the best and burn the rest.
Paul said this is the one thing I do-forget what lies behind, look forward to what lies ahead. If Satan has any desire for your life I believe it is to hold you as a prisoner of your past. You see that’s all he has. Satan has no future. Revelation tells us that in the end, Satan will be thrown into the fiery pit where he will spend all of eternity. He has no future and he wants to take away yours as well and make us prisoners of our past. The good news is, we have an option. Pick the best and burn the rest.