The Competition


Today’s readings (click below to open in new tab/window):
Psalms 42; 146, 1 Samuel 19:1-18 (19-24), Acts 12:1-17, Mark 2:1-12

We are a competitive species. In business, politics, love, art, sports, entertainment – you name it! – we  love to rank and rate ourselves. Whether we want to have the number one sales in our region, achieve first chair in the cello section, or win the Super Bowl, our competition helps us thrive by showing us what is possible and inspiring us to do better.

Of course competition has its uglier side. When winning becomes more important than succeeding, we can be lured into underhanded tactics and unhealthy obsessions. If our self worth depends on being the best, it will be impossible to maintain. We can’t experience our present joy if on the way up all we see is someone in front of us, or if we once we get to the top we obsess over the person gaining on us.

Saul had what we might call an extremely unhealthy sense of competition. David’s great successes in winning both military victories and the hearts of the king’s family settled in the darker corners of Saul’s heart. The king began to see David less as an ally and more as a threat. His plots against David launched a vicious cycle as each backfired and the boy grew even more beloved. David’s achievements all brought glory and love to the house of Saul, but Saul only saw an opponent.

They say to be nice to people we meet on the way up, because we’ll meet them again on the way down. As Saul spiraled out of control and pursued David to kill him, he ran into a group of prophets and involuntarily began to prophesy with them. This recollects an almost identical incident when he was first called to be king. The earlier encounter raised his stature, and the later thwarted his purpose.

Competition is only half a coin. The other side is cooperation. Whatever we do, we do it not for our own glory but for God’s. Ultimately we are all on the same team, running the same race. If we win, it’s time to go back and help others cross the line.

Additional Reading:
Read more about Psalm 42 in God Will Wait and Deep Calls to Deep.
For additional readings from today’s passage from Mark, see Raise the Roof and Forgiveness First.
For more thoughts on today’s passage from Acts, see Timing is Everything.

Comfort: God wants you to be the best you, not the best everything.

Challenge: Make a list of things you wish you were better at. Meditate on whether being better at them also helps you serve God better.

Prayer: I will praise the LORD as long as I live; I will sing praises to my God all my life long (Psalm 146:2)

Discussion: Do you think of yourself as competitive? Why or why not?

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