Did you know there is a very common word that is used in our culture that you cannot find in the Bible? It is the word competition. Jesus never talked about it, but He did talk about the opposite of that word.
What is the greatest catalyst that allows the unsaved to make a decision for Jesus Christ? It isn’t prayer, though this is important. It isn’t good deeds, though deeds indicate a fruitful relationship with God. It isn’t good behavior, though Christ commands us to be obedient as sons.
The greatest power God’s children have over darkness is unity. Jesus talked a great deal about His oneness with the Father and the importance of unity in the body of Christ. It is the most difficult command Jesus gave to the church because it wars against the most evil aspect of our sin nature—independence.
The walls of division and competition among His body are a stench in God’s nostrils. He sees the competition and the pride of ownership and weeps for the lost who cannot come to Him because they cannot see Him in His body. When His body is one, the unbelieving see that Jesus was sent by God. It is like a supernatural key that unlocks heaven for the heathen soul. The key is in the hand of Christ’s church.
When there is unity, there is power. Scripture tells us five will chase 100, but 100 will chase 10,000 (Lev. 26:8). There is a dynamic multiplication factor in unity of numbers. We are a hundred times more effective when we are a unified group. Imagine what God could do with a unified church.
Jesus prayed that we all might be one, as the Father and He are one: "That all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in You. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me" (John 17:21, NIV). He wanted the same love God has for Jesus to be in each of us. When this love is in us, we are drawn to each other with a common mission. The walls fall down. The independent spirit is broken. Competition is destroyed. Satan’s accusations are thwarted. Our love for each other is manifest to the world around us. Lost souls begin to seek this love that is so foreign to them.
A story is told about F.B. Meyer, the great Bible teacher and pastor who lived a century ago. He was pastoring a church and began to notice that attendance was suffering. This continued until he finally asked some members of his congregation one Sunday morning why they thought attendance was down.
A member volunteered, “It is because of this new church down the road. The young preacher has everyone talking, and many are going to hear him speak.”
His name was Charles Spurgeon. Meyer, rather than seeking to discourage this, exhorted the entire congregation to join him and go participate in seeing this “move of God” as he described it to his congregation.
“If this be happening, then God must be at work,” he said.
Meyer, even though he was an accomplished preacher and teacher, recognized where God was at work and joined Him in it.
Can you imagine hearing a story like that in our spiritual climate today? Competition has penetrated the church so much that many churches and Christian organizations approach ministry like a sports event. They view their mission as a business that seeks to gain market share among Christians—donors, members, influence—all under the name of God. I am sure God looks down at us and asks, “Whatever happened to John 17:23?” Sometimes we must remind our fellow servants that we are all on the same team. We should be seeking to impact the kingdom of God, not concerning ourselves with our own market share.
“Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God's grace in various forms" (1 Pet. 4:10).
There is a kingdom principle I find few really understand. The principle is this: When you focus on serving others, your need is often met through God’s supernatural law of serving, sowing and reaping.
I’ve seen this happen so many times. The law of sowing and reaping comes into play in this kingdom principle: “Sow righteousness for yourselves, reap the fruit of unfailing love” (Hos 10:12). “Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work” (2 Cor 9:6-8).
God’s Pre-ordained Provision
Yes, that is right. You cannot out-give God. He knows where you were going to live. He knows when you were going to come on the earth. “Lord, you alone are my portion and my cup; you have made my lot secure. The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; surely I have a delightful inheritance” (Ps. 16:5-6). “From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands” (Acts 17:26).
God already knows your works: “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do” (Eph. 2:10).
Whenever God calls me to serve another person with my time and resources, I notice how He measures resources back to me from unrelated sources. Sometimes it comes through an unexpected donation to our ministry or a speaking engagement or a new opportunity. It is uncanny how this happens consistently when I serve others. We are never to view people or organizations as competition. Faith says I do not have to manipulate outcomes.
We don’t serve others to get. However, when you do serve others, there is a kingdom principle that works on your behalf as fruit of your service.
An Audience of One
Eric Liddell taught us about competition as an Olympic runner. I will never forget the scene in the Chariots of Fire movie when he told his religious sister, “When I run, I feel His pleasure!” He never really thought about his competition because he only needed to worry about his performance before God. However, his competitor was obsessed with him. He had to beat him. But he didn’t.
I love to play golf. When I play in a golf tournament, I am not playing the other player. I am playing the golf course. If there is any competition, it is that I am fighting my own self-doubt and challenge to swing the golf club correctly. Outcomes take care of themselves. In the Christian life, that is translated as obedience.
For the Christian, we are simply called to obedience and faithfulness. We are to leave outcomes to God. Do those two things, and you will always have provision. Even the Israelites had to learn this lesson when they were fighting in the Promised Land. God told them, “So I gave you a land on which you did not toil and cities you did not build; and you live in them and eat from vineyards and olive groves that you did not plant” (Josh. 24:13). What was God saying? He was saying, “It ain’t your problem!” God was saying, “Do what I say and you will always have provision.” Sometimes you will receive less than you think you deserve; sometimes you will receive more than you deserve—because it is all rooted in obedience.
The minute you start worrying about other people, other ministries or other churches, you begin to fall to the temptation of trying to control outcomes. That is sin. That is a failure to trust God, and it is pride and an affront to God. Satan’s strategy is to destroy the effectiveness of Christianity by creating disunity and competition among His body.
The psalmist wrote, “Behold, how good and pleasant it is when God's people live together in unity!” (Ps. 133:1).
Have you contributed to an independent spirit within His body? God calls Christians to a higher kingdom economy that has no competition. He instructs us to serve others: “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others” (Phil. 2:3-4).
Are you seeking to help break down walls of competition among Christians, churches, parachurch groups, denominations and ethnic groups? Do you want to break the competitive spirit in you or your organization? Do something for someone else in which you get no direct benefit. That will begin to break that competitive independent spirit.
Until we walk in the spirit of unity, we will hinder those for whom God has reserved a place in heaven. Pray for His church to be unified.
Os Hillman is president of Marketplace Leaders and author of Change Agent and TGIF: Today God Is First, a free email daily devotional.