“Wrath is cruel, and anger is an overwhelming flood, But who is able to endure and stand before [the sin of] jealousy?” –Proverbs 27:4 (AMP)
Do you struggle with jealousy in your life? Read on to find out what Jesus told one of His disciples and how you can overcome it.
Here’s the story:
In John 21, Jesus appeared in disguise to some of His disciples for the third time after His resurrection from the dead. He appeared on a beach, early one morning after Simon (also known as Peter) and a few others were out in a boat fishing one night. He asked them if they had caught any fish and they said no. So, He told them to lower their net on the right side of the boat and they would catch some. They caught so many fish that they could not haul the net back into the boat.
Then, one of them (the disciple that Jesus loved) recalled seeing a miracle like that before and told the others that it was Jesus. When Peter heard that, he put on his fishing coat (having been naked before), jumped into the water and swam to shore. The other disciples rowed the boat back to shore hauling the net full of fish that was still hanging over the right side. When they got there, they saw Jesus already had a fire going with fish roasting on it and bread. He invited them to come and eat and told them to bring some of the fish they caught.
After they ate, Jesus started walking and talking with Peter and asked him if he loved Him. Peter said, “Yes Lord, You know I love You”, to which Jesus replied, “Feed my lambs”. Jesus asked Peter a second time, and when Peter gave the same reply, Jesus said “Feed my sheep”. Jesus repeated the question a third time, and by this time, Peter became sad and upset, saying, “Lord, you know everything; You know I love you”. And Jesus told him again to “Feed My Sheep”. Just like Peter denied Jesus three times on the night of His arrest, Jesus questioned Peter three times to make sure he understood that He was counting on him.
Jesus had forgiven Peter and gave him a position of leadership, a responsibility to build and care for the church. He was entrusting Peter with His people and He wanted to make sure that Peter would not abandon them, just as he had abandoned Jesus after His arrest. Then, Jesus proceeded to tell Peter that, when he was young, he could take care of himself and go wherever he pleased, but that when he got old, he would be helpless and need someone to take him around. He told Peter that he would not be able to control where he went; people would lead him around in his old age, taking him where he did not want to go. And Jesus told Peter to “Follow Me”. He said those things to him to explain what kind of death Peter would glorify God by.
Well, Peter was not too happy with this news. I believe he was hurt and even angry to hear those words from Jesus, and then his feelings turned to jealousy when he looked back and saw Jesus’ “favorite” disciple following behind them. So, he asked Jesus, “What is he going to do?”, meaning “What about him? How is he going to die?” “You’re telling me how I’m going to suffer and die. Why aren’t you telling him?” Jesus replied to Peter and said, “If I choose to let him live until I return, what’s it to you? You follow me”! (See John 21:1-22 for the whole story.)
Here’s my analysis:
I imagine that Peter was really embarrassed at this point, having been told by Jesus to basically mind his own business and follow Him. Jesus had already made him the leader when He said, “Upon this rock, I will build my church”—(Matthew 16:18). Now, Jesus commissioned him to take care of His flock after He was gone from the earth; but Peter felt that he was being treated unfairly, compared to the disciple that everyone knew Jesus loved.
Don’t we feel and act like that, sometimes, in the body of Christ? We know that we are called to follow Jesus; we know that He has chosen us for a specific assignment. Some of us are in leadership positions, entrusted with a great responsibility to care for and help others. Yet, we often compare ourselves to our fellow brothers and sisters; we can sometimes wonder if Jesus loves us as much as he loves another person, or if we are being treated fairly in the family of God. We ask questions like, “Why me?” “Why is God allowing me to go through this hardship, while so and so over there seems to be having it easy?” “Is God punishing me for something I did?” “Why, I am working so hard, while that other person is just chillin’?” Remember Martha and Mary and how Martha felt about Mary being allowed to just sit around (listening to Jesus) while she did all the work?
This behavior is commonly seen in families, especially when there are multiple children competing for the love and attention of their parents. Often, there is a favorite child, or the youngest in the family seems to get the best of everything. Some of the children, like the other disciples, may not express their feelings openly; but they may act out their jealousy by their attitudes and treatment towards the perceived favorite. Remember Joseph and his brothers in the Old Testament and how they treated him because they were jealous of the love and attention he got from their father, Jacob? Peter, however, was the brave one; he was the outspoken and impetuous one who had the guts to speak up and voice his concern over the special treatment the “beloved” disciple was getting from Jesus. And he was put in his place by the Master.
Let’s face it, we know that life is not fair, and we know that, as long as we perceive that a brother or sister has it better than us, we can and do experience feelings of jealousy. Even though, we know that God loves all His children, we can think that we are not that special. But, be encouraged and trust that God loves you just as much as the next person; believe that His thoughts towards you and His plans for you are for good and not for evil (Jerimiah 29:11); and hold on to your faith until you receive your reward. Don’t worry about what God is doing in someone else’s life or how close they seem to Him. What He does for them is none of your business. Their story is not your story; but it should encourage you to know that God is just and gives to everyone as He sees fit.
So, my advice for you is to handle any jealous feelings you may be experiencing by releasing them to God. Be honest with God about your feelings, ask Him to forgive you and help you to overcome them. You should also thank God for what He has done, is doing, and will do in your own life. Decide to be positive and celebrate the person or persons you are jealous of. Yes, you heard me right. Rejoice when others rejoice; congratulate their successes and be happy for them. Pray for them and ask God to bless them. I know it is not easy, but when you make a conscious effort to do that, guess what? God rewards you. I’ve seen it happen and I know it to be true. Also, the “Golden Rule” is to “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” (Matthew 7:12) And when it is your turn, you will want others to rejoice with you.
In the final analysis, everyone’s situation, life and needs are different; therefore, God may give them a blessing according to what they need and according to His good pleasure. (Philippians 2:13) And He will do the same for you, if you follow Him. Your blessing may not look exactly like someone else’s, but it is your blessing, nonetheless. What God has for you is for you. So, instead of comparing yourself to others, focus your energy on following God, doing what He has called you to do, and you too will feel the power of His presence and approval. Then, He will have nothing less to say to you than “Well done, my good and faithful servant…” (Matthew 25:21)
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