Am I More ‘Christian’ Than Her?

Written by Jasmine Koh, Singapore

It happens pretty often. Sometimes, it’s a passing judgment; other times, it’s a passing thought that I am more “Christian” than my peers. I don’t deny that I struggle with my own sins, but I would always think that, at the very least, I am better off than someone whose sins seem more apparent, more horrendous—more sinful.

It’s terrible, isn’t it? I call myself a professing Christian, someone who believes that the Gospel is for everyone—yet I find myself stuck with selfish thoughts like these. Sometimes, I’m appalled at myself.

I once passed judgment on a close friend of mine who skipped church one Sunday. She was involved in several ministries in church—youth, worship, audio system, etc. On the Saturday I bumped into her, she told me she was feeling tired and had decided not to go to the Sunday service. The first thought that came to my mind was: I wouldn’t skip church.

I assumed I was in a position to judge because I was busy volunteering with a Christian youth organization, yet I still attended church faithfully and did my Quiet Time, no matter how tired I was.

It took some years before I began to see the ugliness of my thoughts. One day, when I was chatting with a friend of mine, she asked me, “Do you find that the more you grow in your walk with God, the more you realize how wretched a sinner you are? And how much more precious grace becomes?”

That was when it struck me: I was that wretched sinner. I was in no position to judge anyone else.

It revealed my wrong understanding of the Gospel. I equated one’s godliness with works—be it church involvement or daily devotions. To me, being “more Christian” meant doing all the right things to show that you’re real and serious about your faith.

Over the years, I had been trying to save myself by doing all the things a good Christian should do. I would fail and come humbled before God. Yet, afterwards, I would again try to be a good Christian through my own works, because I still did not understand how we are corrupt to our very core (Romans 3:12).

What my friend had pointed out was the depravity of humans and our desperate need for Christ. This knowledge of our utter sinfulness should drive us to live with a righteousness that is from God and dependent on Him—not with a righteousness that is from and dependent on ourselves. I am made righteous only through Christ (Gal 2:16, Rom 5:1). And it is only by His righteousness can broken vessels like my friend and I be used for His glory.

In God’s sight, everyone is sinful and everyone needs salvation (Romans 3:23-24). Every Christian’s struggle is different, but what is common is that there is no one perfect and we are all equally undeserving of His grace.

Though I was once quick to judge, I now realize that I am just as unworthy of God’s love. I now recognize my own sin too well to pretend that I am “more righteous” than anyone. Instead, when I struggle or when I see others struggling, I try to remember the grace and mercy God has shown us in Christ. My prayer is to constantly acknowledge my desperate need for an eternal hope.

The Day I Stopped Comparing

Written By Hilary Charlet, USA

Who remembers dial-up Internet, a limit on the amount of texts you could send per month, and the handy-dandy flip phone? What about the Gameboy, LeapPad, and board games?

Now it’s the Xbox, Wi-Fi, and live streams for everything. Our generation has seen so many technological advancements, and we’re still young. It’s pretty scary to think about how much technology will continue to change everything, and not always for the better.

And then there’s social media: Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter. My niece has a bunch of other apps too that I’ve never even heard of.

It takes literally seconds to post a status or photo. But it can impact someone else for much longer. How often do we think before we post something? Is it something that will encourage others, or tear someone down? Is it posted out of spite and bitterness, or love and hope, to bring others joy?

Every day, I see engagements, weddings, pregnancy announcements, babies, happy couples, new jobs, vacations and more. I love being able to stay connected with people I’ve met throughout my journey, especially since many of them live all over the US. It makes it easy to keep up to date with their lives.

This is the good side of it. Now, let’s talk about the bad.

 

Down the online rabbit hole

We’ve become harsh with our comments, envious of the lives of others, stuck in a rut of comparing our behind-the-scenes lives to someone else’s highlight reel.

We see people our age getting married and wonder if we’ll ever meet our significant other. We see others going on vacations and take for granted the time that we have with our family and friends on a little weekend road trip, because it isn’t an island resort, so how could we have a fun time?

We become so focused on what others are doing that we forget to be present and appreciative and thankful for the blessings right in front of us. We forget that we’re blessed beyond measure, even if it isn’t in the same ways that our family and friends are.

If you’re reading this right now, you’re alive. We aren’t ever promised tomorrow, so isn’t the gift of another day something we should not take for granted?

If I’m honest, I used to struggle with comparing myself to others. I’ve never really known what I’ve wanted to do with my life. Until I started blogging and writing, I really had no idea, and now that’s all I really want to do, even if people think it’s silly. I was envious of those who’ve known since childhood what they were going to do when they “grew up”.

 

Looking for a purpose

It was two weeks before my college graduation and I still hadn’t found a job, unlike many of my friends. There I was, a little nervous but expectant, because God had been stirring in my heart that He had something planned for me. It was something I would never have expected, and something that’s challenged me but allowed me to grow my faith and trust in Him daily.

You see, I’ve worked six different gigs since graduation. These opportunities have taken me all over the place, on planes and subways and BMWs and Ubers and more. It took me way out of my comfort zone, but led me somewhere new.

The first took me away from home for four months out to the east coast, with a team I’d never met until I arrived for training. We put on events in over 50 different locations, all of which brought fresh faces and new places. After that, I worked other contract positions for the same company, all of which began with me not knowing anyone beforehand. I could choose between two things when I began: be afraid and timid at the idea of being uncomfortable in not knowing anyone or anything about the location I was in, or embracing where God had led me and make the most of it. While everyone else is coming up to their two-year job anniversary, here I am. And I couldn’t be more glad.

If He led me somewhere, then He needed me to be there. If He put a group of people in my life, I needed them, or I would somehow be a part of their story that they needed. I learned everything I could, experiencing every moment as it came, and loving in any way possible.

I didn’t want to waste my time wondering why God wasn’t showing up in certain areas of my life while He was busy showing up big in other areas. Instead, I had to choose to show up where He wanted me, and to be joyful, patient, and expectant in the other areas.

For the first time, I stopped comparing myself, my journey, where I was at and where I was going and every other aspect of who I was with others. Instead, I put my focus on God’s plan for me and being completely present wherever I was.

 

My plan vs God’s plan

But it didn’t mean I stopped having desires and expectations. While in Michigan for a few months last year, I started dating a guy from there whom I was pretty convinced I was going to marry.

God must have laughed at that. He knew that I’d have my heart broken more than once (yes, by the same person) and that it would challenge me to the core. He knew that I’d be stuck comparing myself to someone else for way longer than I care to admit. But He also knew that through that trial, I’d learn to lean on Him more than I ever have.

While I was praying for our relationship to grow, God knew I instead needed my relationship with Him to grow. He knew what was going on behind-the-scenes, while I was clueless. He knew the man I had picked out for myself to marry had instead picked someone else to pursue, sometimes simultaneously, other times after our “break-ups”.

When the truth wound its way out one night, I didn’t know how to feel or what to do. It hurt, a lot. There stirred in me my self-doubt, wondering why I wasn’t good enough to be someone’s first choice, what I did wrong, how I could have been a better girlfriend—the list goes on.

It’s funny how we think we know what we want, when it’s sometimes totally different from what we need. I had wanted a Godly relationship more than anything, but what God showed me is that a relationship with Him was what I needed then and what I need right now—to take my focus off another person, and instead focus on getting my heart and soul back to where it needs to be, back in the center of His embrace. Back to knowing that I am God’s first choice— always and every day.

The day I stopped comparing my life to those around me, I felt the chains break. I felt joyful, hopeful, excited, and free.

 

Your place in God’s plan

Where God has you right now, whether you’re in the valley or on the mountaintop, He is there with you. He wants you to be free of all of the lies and labels society tries to put on you. He doesn’t want you to be addicted to the virtual world when there’s so many in the world right in front of you that need your light and love.

If you’re in a season of waiting, wait expectantly. He has a plan for you, and it’s so good. 

If you’re feeling undeserving and not good enough, stop.

Know with your whole heart that you’re loved, you’re more than good enough and He’s going to use you in ways that you can’t even imagine.

Don’t let social media sucker you into believing that your life is less valuable than another. Don’t let the words and actions of others cause you to question who you are or whose you are. Don’t spend your time wishing your life was like someone else’s.

Marvel at God’s goodness to grant you another day because you’re here for a reason, and that reason isn’t to dwell on what you do not have.

The day you stop comparing is the day you will be free: free to be the one God created you to be. Embrace it and be the hope, the love, the flame that could ignite a fire in the souls of every life you touch.

I Dare You to Fail

Written By Megan Tibbits, USA

I got a call one day. The voice on the other end said something like, “We really like your voice. We want you to be on our TV show.”

I couldn’t believe it. I was just a small town girl from Michigan, who had gone to Los Angeles for a visit. I didn’t intend to pursue a career in music but over time, I felt God put the dream on my heart, and I ended up making the city my new home.

When a friend told me about a new show that was accepting auditions, I made a home video of me singing “Royals” by Lorde and “All of Me” by John Legend in my closet and uploaded it to YouTube. I didn’t expect anything would come of it—but I got the call.

Over the next couple months, I made it through rounds of auditions, and eventually to the live show where, each week, I had to prepare a song to perform live in front of approximately 10 million home viewers. They would then vote “yes” or “no” to decide if I should move on in the competition or not. If the majority voted “yes”, a giant screen shielding me from the celebrity judges would rise and I would move on to the next round. If the majority voted “no”, the screen would stay in place and my journey would end.

 

 

I made it through two weeks of live show and my confidence grew. I saw myself making it all the way to the finale show and maybe even taking home the title of “winner”. However, God’s plan took me in a different direction. My third week of competition didn’t play out as I had intended. As I neared the end of the song, the wall was still down. And not only did the wall stay in place, I saw the percentage of people who voted “yes”. Thirty-one percent of the viewers thought I was good enough, talented enough, and worthy enough to click the “yes” button on their phone—which meant sixty-nine percent did not. So I was out of the competition. Almost as soon as my dream began, it ended.

I didn’t sleep well for weeks after that. My whole town in Michigan and all my friends in Los Angeles had rooted for me, but I had let them down. I thought I had disappointed everyone. I was filled with regret, and my mind was in turmoil with thoughts of everything that I had done wrong. I thought I picked the wrong song and that I didn’t sing well. I thought about how, if anyone were to look up my name, the first thing they’d find is the video of my failure. I thought my shot of going anywhere with my music was over.

These thoughts filled my head for months until I heard an amazing lady from the Salvation Army named Danielle Strickland talk about how people so often try to be like Hercules. We tend to want to be a “never-let-them-see-us-bleed” type of person, working ridiculously hard to keep up a reputation that makes us look amazing, strong, undefeated, and perfect.

I had always secretly wanted to be perfect, to be seen in a way that no one could ever find something bad to talk about, or something to be disappointed in. I’d always wanted to be someone that succeeded at everything I tried, someone that never let anyone down, including myself.

But then, I remembered Jesus. He bled in front of everyone. His reputation as King of Kings and Savior of the World was shattered on a cross for everyone to see. He willingly and publicly “failed” in a way that would make history. And that became one of the most important parts of His story. Without that part, the rest wouldn’t matter. It’s through the moments that look like “failure” that God redeems and transforms us into something extraordinarily beautiful.

My failure made me die to myself that day. I died to needing to be perfect, because now millions of people knew that I wasn’t. I died to having to succeed at everything I did, because there were videos proving that I didn’t. I died to trying to have a reputation and a name for myself, because now to some people, my name was simply “the girl that got kicked off that show”.

And you know what? I’m so glad I failed. Because sometimes, trying to maintain a “reputation” of being great is where we miss what we are purposed to do. Failing helped me see that my identity is not found in what I’ve done, or what I’ve accomplished, but in the fact that I am a treasured daughter of God.

The Bible says over and over that God exalts those who humble themselves (James 4:10, 1 Peter 5:6). When my need for “Megan to be awesome” is out of the way, He can use me so much more effectively by His power at work through me. I’m not perfect, and failure is part of my story, and a necessary part of where I’m going. We don’t need to take the failure out of our story. We don’t need to appear perfect, because we’re never going to be. In fact, Jesus says in 2 Corinthians 12:9, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”

Two years later, as I write this, I see that happening. I’ve begun traveling around to schools and talking with students about courage, identity, and following their dreams. I’m also a worship leader at my church in LA; I sing and share at conferences and churches and schools and events. I’m still making YouTube videos. I have been given opportunities to lead people into worship as well as tell the stories of what Jesus has done in my life through the songs that I write and the platform God has given me through music.

 

 

My blip of disappointment has allowed God to grow my character into something that He can use more powerfully than before, to grow me into someone that sees the beauty of imperfection. It has taught me some really important things about humility, and how as I die to my need to be perfect, I become more fully alive in the perfection of Jesus. And I believe that the way God shaped me through this experience has enabled me to walk even more fully and mightily into the purpose He created me for.

So have hope, my friends. Because when you fail, it’s okay. Let it be a part of your story. Let God grow your character and mold you into who you are meant to be. Let Him lead you further into the purpose He has for you. In fact, I dare you to fail. And I can’t wait to see who you become.

 

This article was originally published on the writer’s blog here. This version has been edited by YMI.

Stop Being Perfect, Start Being Holy

Written by Janel Breitenstein, USA

I remember a time back in high school, running hard after God. I thought if I could have one thing in the world, it was holiness. Maybe it sounds to you like it did to me: Intently focused on God. Uber-spiritual, even.

But looking back, I actually think what I wanted was to be perfect.

I am some form of a perfectionist. WordPress says I revised my last blogpost no less than 13 times. I am often obsessive, in fact, in my attempts to please people. (One of my friends laughs because when she arrives at my house, I always run to place a hand towel in the bathroom—all because she asked me for it on one occasion.)

This year, about two decades after my high school quest, I finally realized this: The only reason I wanted to be a perfectionist was that I detested my own failure. But I didn’t hate sin and weakness in me because it grieved God; I hated it because I thought I was better than that. It was a chip in my façade, a chink in my armor. I didn’t hate sin because I loved God; I hated sin because I loved myself. I loved my own achievement, my own goodness, my own . . . righteousness.

Maybe you’re wondering: Is there anything wrong with wanting to be perfect? Doesn’t God say to “be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect”? Shouldn’t we have zero tolerance for our weakness and sin?

But you see, my craving to be unchained from weakness was cleverly cloaked in the right lingo of “holiness.” And the god of my quest was myself. Insecurity oozed around my failures. It leaked out when I didn’t meet my ideal. My husband pointed out that pride and insecurity are actually the same sin. Both place my sense of value—or lack thereof—in my ability to achieve my goals on my own.

When I don’t meet my ideals, I feel inferior and insecure. When I’m meeting my standards? I’m on top of the world . . . and likely feeling a bit superior. Neither pride nor insecurity is based on God’s acceptance of me or His value of me, apart from what I bring to the table.

But now, I have started to see holiness less as being free of wrong and weakness. I no longer believe that it strictly lies in the perfection of my outward behavior. After all, my heart’s kind of a rotting onion: the further I peel into knowledge of myself and God, the more underlying junk of my own is flayed open.

American Pastor and author J.D. Greear writes: “There are only two kinds of religions: those that teach you to obey in order to be accepted; and those that teach that you obey because you are accepted. In every story . . . from the Bible . . . God confronts attempts at self-salvation.”

Jesus earned my verdict. He says I’m accepted. I’m cleared. American pastor and theologian Timothy Keller writes that in Christianity, “the verdict leads to performance. The performance does not lead to the verdict.” When I accept Jesus’ verdict of “innocent” for me, God says to me what He did for Jesus: “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.”

Rather than motivated by fear—of failure, weakness, not being accepted—holiness is now motivated by faith that I am unconditionally, overwhelmingly loved, accepted, and thankfully not in control. It means I’m no longer trying to save myself. Instead, I’m allowing God to save me. My holiness flows from acceptance rather than insecurity.

Rather than strict control of my outward performance, holiness now feels like an act of worship, a jealousy for my life to be only His. True holiness, I think, has God as its source and object; perfectionism has myself as its source and object. You could say my behavior now emerges (yes, through self-discipline) from a genuine love for God, rather than a feverish clawing for His acceptance.

This means that when I really bite it bad—snapping at my husband, say, like I did the other night—I don’t have to be devastated because I acted like a “bad wife”, or because I behaved in a way inconsistent with my good character. If my mouth speaks out of the overflow of my heart (Matthew 12:34), I need to acknowledge that this is who I am: a sinner. I can confess to my husband without trying to blame-shift or deny or justify my tacky talk. I can ask his forgiveness. And I can lay my head on the pillow knowing that God’s changing me from the inside out. But my worth can remain super-glued to Jesus’ verdict for me in God’s courtroom.

Honestly, His performance is a lot more reliable than mine. My ability to achieve seems to melt away in the presence of that kind of perfection. Ultimately, I’m less and less focused on me and my rather sketchy (hand-towel-deprived) performance.

Holiness is, in fact, an utter reliance on performance—on perfection. Just not mine.