Have you ever watched God work powerfully through someone else, and instead of being happy for that person, you felt frustrated? You wished it could have been you. As those feelings rushed over you, you probably tried to explain to yourself why such things could never happen to you. You may have blamed it on your appearance or intelligence or sinful past or bad decisions made when you were younger. The result was that you convinced yourself to lower your expectations. God would never work that powerfully through someone like you.
If you have thought such thoughts, you may have noticed that another emotion came along with them: anger
at the person God was blessing, but also, if you are able to admit it, at God Himself. It all seems so unfair. It appears that God must be just like everybody else, He has His favorites, and youre not one of them. As the emotions surge, you wish you could punish somebody, but you cant punish God. Yes, you can withdraw from Him and claim to be an atheist, but that doesnt heal the wound of feeling like a failure. So you turn your anger on the person. In whatever way you can you try to hurt them. Now, lets watch this spiritual jealousy in action.
A literal translation (Ac 13:40-51)
Verses 40, 41: Therefore, beware (look!) so that the thing having been spoken by the prophets might not come upon you: Behold, you who arrogantly look down on My words of warning, be amazed and completely removed (from the land). I Myself am working a work in your days, a work which you would not believe, even if someone carefully described it to you in detail. Verse 42: And as they (Paul and Barnabas) were going out (of the synagogue), people were asking that during the intervening week before the next Sabbath, these words would be spoken to them. Verse 43: And after the assembly broke up, many of the Jews and worshipping proselytes (apparently non-Jews who worshipped Israels God) followed Paul and Barnabas who, in speaking to them, persuaded them to continue (trusting) in the grace of God. Verse 44, 45: And on the coming Sabbath almost all the city was assembled to hear the word of God. But seeing the crowds, the Jews (synagogue leaders) were filled with jealousy and contradicted the things being spoken by Paul, blaspheming. Verse 46: And speaking boldly (with Spirit-empowered eloquence and passion), Paul and Barnabas said, It was necessary that the word of God be spoken to you first, (however) since you push it away from yourselves, and (thereby) judge yourselves not worthy of eternal life, we turn to the nations (Gentiles). Verse 47: For this reason, the Lord has commanded us, I have placed you as a light to the nations, you are to be (messengers) for salvation to the end of the earth. Verse 48: And hearing this, the nations (Gentiles) rejoiced and glorified the word of the Lord and they believed, those who had been drawn toward eternal life. Verses 49, 50: And the word of the Lord was carried throughout all the countryside, but the Jews (synagogue leaders) stirred up alarm among the well-respected women and chief men of the city, and they raised up a persecution (hunt) against Paul and Barnabas, and expelled them, taking them out to the borders of their jurisdiction and demanding they leave. Verse 51: But they, shaking the dust off their feet on them, came to Iconium.
Luke says when the synagogue leaders saw the crowds, they were filled with jealousy. They argued against what Paul was teaching, but they werent really motivated by a concern that what was being presented was Biblically inaccurate. Their real motive was raw jealousy as they watched these two strangers who had just arrived in town. So many of the people from their own synagogue were deeply moved by the message. There was a widespread level of spiritual interest that they hadnt seen in a long time, if ever. And they must have felt afraid, fearing that their influence over the people was being stripped away. So they fought against everything Paul and Barnabas had to say, which left them fighting against God, even to the point of blaspheming their Messiah.
Its so easy for humans to blur the line between Gods success and our own. We can fall into the trap of thinking that whatever is good for us is good for God, and that anyone who competes with us is an enemy of God. Jesus used two parables to explain why there was such spiritual jealousy toward Him:
The Wicked Vinegrowers (Mt 21:33-46). They had become jealous of God. They wanted the peoples love and loyalty focused on them (Jn 11:47, 48).
The Wedding Feast (Mt 22:1-14). Their love of God had been replaced by love for the things of the world (Lk 14:18-20), and they grew violently angry at anyone who tried to draw them back to God.
By contrast, listen to the heart of John the Baptist when he hears that people are leaving him and turning to Jesus:
Jn 3:26-30 He must increase, but I must decrease.
Believing the Truth
Spiritual jealousy is a symptom. It means we believe a lie: That God has favorites, that He wants to bless some but not others, that there are a few He uses powerfully while everyone else is left to live dull, ordinary lives. We envy what God does in others because weve lost sight of His plan for each one of us. The truth is, He has prepared good works for each of us to walk in:
For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them. (Eph 2:10)
We have been fearfully and wonderfully made in our mothers womb to be able to do what God has planned for us to do (Ps 139:13-16). God has a unique plan for each of us and He has designed us uniquely to do what He has called us to do. He has designed us for success
great success (Jn 15:5
he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit
). The Truth is:
1) God doesnt have favorites, but He does have boundaries on what He will and wont bless. To be blessed I must come into alignment with His will.
2) He does have different assignments for different people. No two people are alike (1Co 12:4-6, 14-18).
3) Each human being is uniquely designed to accomplish specific things for God.
for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good will (Php 2:13).
4) Since we are all different, with different assignments, it is pointless to try to compare ourselves to others.
5) The only question that faces me is: Am I doing what God has called me to do, using the gifts He has given me, and persevering long enough to bear all the fruit He has planned for me to bear.
If we realized and believed these truths we would not feel spiritual jealousy. We would be delighted to see someone else doing what God has called them to do. What sets me free to rejoice when God blesses you, is the confidence that God wants to bless me too. Hes a big God with plenty of power to go around. Its not either/or; its both/and. Look at the confidence in the heart of Jesus:
Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into His hands, and that He had come forth from God and was going back to God, got up from supper, and laid aside His garments, and taking a towel, He girded Himself (Jn 13:3, 4).
Calling and gifting
When you and I are using the gifting God has given us to do what God has called us to do, we are very effective; people are saved, healed and set free.
Gifting: My gifting is something I discover when I step out and begin to serve God. There are abilities, temperament, and passions that are woven into me that naturally express themselves when I begin to work within the Body of Christ. There will be certain things I do that God blesses when I do them, and other areas where I find it is much harder for me and I am less fruitful.
Calling: My calling is something I hear the Lord speak to me, one way or another. I become convinced He is asking me to do a particular work for Him, and it is always focused on a certain group of people. He lets me feel His love and concern for them, and then asks me to care for them on His behalf. So I find myself doing difficult things in difficult places, at inconvenient times, longer than I thought I could because I believe it pleases Him, because I regularly feel Him come to help me, and I see the good things He is doing in others.
Functioning in my gifting and calling does not mean that what I am doing is easy, it just means I will make a significant difference in peoples lives. My obedience in doing what God has asked me to do is one of the ways I pick up my cross daily, and follow Him, its one of the ways I tell Him I love Him
over and over and over again.
And when Im serving like this, Im fulfilled. I have no need to be spiritually jealous of you
in fact, Im delighted to see that youre also doing what youre gifted and called to do.
1) Have you ever been spiritually jealous of another person? What sort of damage did that do to you personally?
2) Can you identify some of the gifts God has given you? Where do you see them expressed?
3) Have you heard God call you to a ministry? If so, please share.