Courage is something we all want. When we see people with courage, they inspire us. We watch movies, read books and love the characters who had courage and made a difference. I think one of the greatest myths about courage is, people with courage don’t face fear. Or somehow, courage for them was easy. The truth is, people with courage experience the same fear everyone feels, they just live like they can trust God.
Think about the great stories in scripture. Peter experienced fear but got out of the boat anyway. Gideon experienced fear but lead his people anyway. Moses experienced fear and did what God asked anyway. Shadrack, Mehack and Abednego all faced certain death and refused to bow down to the idol anyway. Mary’s life was interrupted and told she was chosen to give birth to Jesus. She did it gracefully.
What makes these stories great is the reality that each person faced fear. That’s why we are in a series about what it means to rise up and stand firm. King David wrote this.
7 Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God. 8 They are brought to their knees and fall, but we rise up and stand firm. NIV Psalms 20:7-8
In the first part of this series, we talked about what comes at us and steals our courage. We are in the second part of this series and we are looking at the heart work we need to get courage.
Real quickly, this is an overview of that last few weeks.
Do you remember we talked about why we keep secrets? We keep secrets because we are afraid that if people knew who we really were, they might change their opinion of us. We hide from God. We hide from others. We call this guilt. The heart work needed to get rid of guilt is to be honest with God and others.
Sam talked about how we want what we want so much, we pursue it and in our pursuit of it, it can gobble up our margin, our time, and our energy. We call that greed. And greed isn’t just about money. Greed is anything in our lives, other than God, that we pursue and steals our margin, our time, leaving us tired. Sam said it’s a scheme of our enemy to take us prisoner. The heart work needed to get rid of greed is give.
We then asked, “Are you angry?” For some people, they are angry and it comes out in a loud way. For others, they are angry and it comes out quietly. We said, if you are angry, it never ends well. We explained, the reason you are angry is because someone somewhere hurt you and you must forgive them. Why forgive? Because Jesus taught, there are spiritual implications for how you deal with hurt in your heart. The heart work needed to get rid of hurt and anger is to forgive.
Before we move on, I want to point out how people can fail to do the heart work needed. How? We over spiritualize these issues. If you are walking with guilt, greed or anger, people might think, I need to pray about these issues. And when I pray about them, God will come into my life and take them away. Maybe. God can do that, but what is more common, with God’s help, we make a choice. We must surrender our will to God. That means, I choose to be honest. I choose to give. I choose to forgive.
When people over spiritualize issues of the heart, it can be a way to appear spiritual, they say, ‘I’m praying about it,’ and at the same time make no decisions to change. We don’t get honest. We don’t give. We don’t forgive. Those issues continue to wrestle with guilt, greed and anger. To get courage, to walk in freedom, to fight the spiritual battle in your heart, we must surrender. We make changes. Please don’t over spiritualize the issues of the heart and use it as an excuse not to make changes.
Today we talk about one more issue in our heart. Actually, we will read scripture later and scripture tells us, this one issue is the doorway into every other kind of evil. Sounds intense – right?
What is jealousy? Jealousy says, ‘I don’t like who I am, so to feel better about myself, I begin to compare myself with others.’ When we do this, it opens up a door to a lot of pain in our lives.
That’s why scripture says:
A peaceful heart leads to a healthy body; jealousy is like cancer in the bones. NLT Proverbs 14:30
If you are experiencing jealousy, it’s a red flag. A warning that something is wrong inside your heart. Your heart is not at peace. It means you don’t like who you are. And like cancer in the bones, it will leave you feeling insecure.
Have you ever experienced being jealous? We all have.
Have you noticed, when you are jealous, what you do? We don’t like ourselves. We struggle to see our value. We feel less. We stop being able to see what we are good at, even if people around us praise us or encourage us. We feel insecure.
Because we feel insecure and want to feel better about ourselves, we begin to compare ourselves with others. When we do that, we take our eyes off of who God created us to be. We can’t see our strengths.
When we compare ourselves to others, sometimes we compare our weaknesses with their strengths. We put ourselves in an impossible scenario. We compare ourselves with someone who is faster, prettier, smarter, richer, leaving us feel even worse.
Doesn’t this sound like an awful way to live?
1 What is causing the quarrels and fights among you? Don’t they come from the evil desires at war within you? 2 You want what you don’t have, so you scheme and kill to get it. You are jealous of what others have, but you can’t get it, so you fight and wage war to take it away from them. Yet you don’t have what you want because you don’t ask God for it. 3 And even when you ask, you don’t get it because your motives are all wrong – you want only what will give you pleasure. NLT James 4:1-3
And in our worst moments of jealousy, to feel better about ourselves, we will put others down, hurt others to get what we want. When jealous, we are fighting a war inside our own heart. We want what we don’t have so we are comfortable fighting to get it. Think about it for a second. Where do most of the arguments in your life come from?
Please hear me, jealousy will ruin you. It’s a red flag. A warning that something is wrong inside our hearts. What’s wrong? We don’t like who we are and to feel better about ourselves, we begin to compare ourselves with other people. We begin to take our focus off of who God created us to be and put that focus on others.
7 Questions to know if you wrestle jealousy in your heart. Why 7 questions? Because jealousy can be hard to see in ourselves but we can’t hide it from others. It shows up in how we live, so people around us see it and experience it, but we may struggle to see it.
Ready? Let’s jump into it.
A jealous person says to themselves, ‘I will only be happy if I compare myself with you and win.’ A jealous person feels great as long as they are more successful, more popular, and smarter, and prettier, and faster, etc. than others.
Question #1: In life, do you feel do you feel better when you compare and win?
A jealous person is quick to see what is wrong with others and point out their faults. Why? To put others down makes a jealous person feel better about themselves. And seeing other people’s faults is the easiest and fastest way to do that.
Question #2: When you meet someone or enter a business/church/school function, do you feel better seeing what is wrong because it proves to yourself, they aren’t that great?
A jealous person is reluctant to help others, encourage them and build them up. In a world of comparing, a jealous person won’t do much to help others because they view encouraging them as giving others an advantage. For example, in kid’s sports, why compliment a child who is better than your child?
Question #3: In life, do you celebrate others, and deeply mean it, when good things happen to them even if it means they appear to be getting ahead of you?
A jealous person can feel threatened around more talented, popular, beautiful, richer, smarter, etc. people. They see other’s positives as a negative or as a threat to themselves.
Question #4: Does it make you feel less when you are around people you consider more talented, popular, beautiful, richer, smarter, etc.?
A jealous person enjoys when others fail. The failure of others proves to the jealous person they are better. When people we don’t like, businesses we don’t like, churches we don’t like, marriage we don’t like, fail, a jealous person can privately feel validated.
Question #5: Think of someone you don’t really like, if they failed today and it became public, would you be secretly happy with their failure?
A jealous person, in general, is negative. Just negative. Negative about work, church, school, everything. They quickly see what is wrong with others, assume the worst about others, and tend to be very sarcastic.
Question #6: What would those who live with you say about you? Are you mostly negative and sarcastic?
Lastly, a jealous person isn’t happy with God. God has disappointed them because it seems like God has allowed others to live easy lives. It’s hard to understand how others seem to get a pass while we are stuck walking through hard times.
Question #7: What are your feelings toward God when you are struggling and others seem to have it easier than you?
Let me ask you, do you wrestle with feelings of jealousy?
14 If you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. 15 This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. 16 For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice. ESV James 3:14-16
Scripture tells us, jealousy is the doorway into every other kind of evil.
Think about it. The moment we don’t like who we are, it’s the doorway to every other kind of evil. Think about the damage jealousy can bring into our lives. We only feel better when we compare our lives to others and feel like we are winning. We see and focus on what is wrong with others. Can’t celebrate or encourage people around us. We are negative and sarcastic. We secretly hope others fail. And with God, we are frustrated with Him. And in our worst moment, jealousy leads us to fight. It really does lead to all kinds of evil.
You don’t want to walk through the door of jealousy; it doesn’t lead anywhere you want to go.
What do we do if we see jealousy is coming out of us? Ready. No bible verse needed. Celebrate. The person you are jealous of, celebrate them – and mean it. The kid who starts in front of your kid in the sports team, celebrate them and let your kid see you do it. The person at work who got the job you wanted, celebrate them. The couple who got the house, celebrate them. The neighbor who got a new car. The person you secretly wish would fail, celebrate them. Text. Write a letter. Say it with your words. And do it over and over and over until jealousy is broken.
And as I say celebrate them, isn’t there something inside you that says, ‘Never.’ You know what that is? It’s jealousy. When you celebrate and encourage others, it will be in complete conflict with jealousy. It will rub you the wrong way. It’s a battle. Every time you celebrate, you take a bite out of jealousy. Jealousy dies a little. And whatever you do, don’t over spiritualize this. That means don’t pray about it without making the choice to celebrate and encourage.
Here is a simple rule of thumb for behavior: Ask yourself what you want people to do for you; then grab the initiative and do it for them! MSG Luke 6:31
If you see jealousy coming out, celebrate and encourage.
One of the issues that bounced around in my heart when I was younger was jealousy. When we started MRC, I never saw this in myself. But those closest to me did. How? I quickly saw what was wrong with other churches. I was negative about other churches or church people. When someone failed, I secretly was okay with it.
What did I do about it? At first nothing. I didn’t want to admit it. But I clearly remember feeling like God was pushing me to be involved with other pastors in this area. Over time, God began to break my heart. I began to see how much I needed their friendship. For the last several years we have worked together, prayed together and supported each other. Lots of prayer and lots of tears. Now, I have a couple good friends.
Today I would do anything to support them. In fact, last fall I walked them through the Emotional Healthy Leader book. This winter, I walked them through the Emotional Healthy Spirituality book. Why? I wanted to take the best books that changed my life to help them in any way. I pray for their churches to be filled with God.
A jealous person couldn’t do this with a pure heart. But that is exactly what I had to do to keep taking bites out of the jealousy in my life.
Are you jealous? Here is what you do, you celebrate. Here is why. When you celebrate others, you are able to celebrate what God has done for them while at the same time, you can still focus on who God created you to be.