Dealing with Envy

The Seriousness of Envy

Did you know that envy was responsible for the very first sin?  Envy may be defined as “a desire to have a quality, possession, or other desirable attribute belonging to someone else.” So it was that Satan, who at that time was called Lucifer, envied what God alone possessed and sought to make himself like God (Isaiah 14:13-14).   It would not be an exaggeration to state that envy brought about the fall of Lucifer, the most exalted creature of God.   

Several significant tragedies in the Bible are attributable to envy and its consequences.  The first recorded murder resulted from the envy that Cain felt for his brother, Abel.  Saul sought to slay David because he was envious of the praises that David received from the people.  Joseph’s brothers sold him into slavery because of envy.  

Envy is common to every human heart, but its effects can be very destructive.  Consider the following scriptures:
For wrath kills a foolish man, and envy slays a simple one.  Job 5:2
A sound heart is life to the body, but envy is rottenness to the bones. Proverbs 14:30
For where envy and self-seeking exist, confusion and every evil thing are there.  James 3:16

The apostle Paul goes so far as to describe a personality characterized by envy as an indicator of an unregenerate soul and as such barring a person from inheriting the kingdom of heaven (Galatians 5:19-26).  In short, envy is indicative of a carnal nature (1 Cor 3:3).  

Clearly, envy is a serious problem.  Every individual needs to be aware of its insidious effects and pervasive nature.  But to deal with envy, we must first know what it is.

Defining Envy

As stated above, envy has to do with an inappropriate longing for or desiring qualities or attributes which another possesses.   In this sense, envy should be distinguished from two other closely related terms: covetousness and jealousy.  

Jealousy is most properly used to describe the feelings one might have toward a potential rival, that is, someone whom we believe is stealing the affections of another toward us.  So then, jealousy deals with the possible loss of someone or something in contrast with envy which desires to gain something that another possesses.   Expressed somewhat differently, envy is when you want what someone else has, but jealousy is when you’re worried that someone is trying to take away what you have.

The distinction between envy and covetousness is subtle.  While envy is the desire to have another’s success or advantages, covetousness is a broader term that generally (but not always) indicates desiring material possessions.  

The important point concerning envy is that it is a desire that is wrong.  Envy is in direct opposition to rejoicing in another’s blessings.  

True love consists of putting the other first.  If we love one another, then we are happy for their successes and we rejoice in their well-being.

The symptoms of envy

Interestingly, although envy is common to the human experience, few individuals are likely to admit that it is a serious problem for them.  Generally the attitude is that others may have a problem in this area, but not me.

There are, however, several attitudes which indicate a problem.  

  1. A feeling that life (or God) hasn’t been fair to us.  We see others who have personality or status or physical attributes that we don’t and we feel that it just isn’t right.
  2. Instead of rejoicing with the blessing or prosperity of others, we are secretly resentful.  
  3. We spend time promoting ourselves or bragging about our accomplishments.
  4. We have an obsession with our personal dress and appearance.
  5. We find ourselves speaking negatively about others.

Sometimes an individual will develop what may be termed the “measuring stick syndrome.”  In this case the person is constantly comparing himself to others.  This is sure to result in a devalued concept of self-worth.   An indicator of this syndrome is the fact that Americans spent an estimated 16 billion dollars on plastic surgery in 2016 in an attempt to “enhance themselves.”

Yet there are major flaws with this manner of thinking:

  • There will always be those who are more talented, more intelligent, more gifted, more physically capable etc. than ourselves.  By the same token, there will always be those who are more disadvantaged than ourselves.  
  • Age and physical deterioration are inevitable despite the efforts of the best cosmetologists.  
  • Of much greater value than outward attributes is the inward character.

As the French author François de La Rochefoucauld once noted, “Our envy always lasts longer than the happiness of those we envy.”  Why should we seek after the fleeting?

Overcoming envy

The key to overcoming envy is to be fully content with how God has individually made each of us.  In this regard it is helpful to remember the words of Paul who was apparently afflicted by an eye disorder which left him with a somewhat grotesque appearance:

Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me (2 Corinithians 12:9).  

Paul recognized that success in life is not dependent on an attractive physical appearance but in fact is sometimes in contradistinction to it.  

Practically speaking, contentment consists of understanding that what we have we have received from God.  Furthermore it is important to recognize that everyone, regardless of their advantages, is presented with problems common to us all.  We should never judge one another based on position or station or physical attributes.  There will always be those who have more and there will be those who have less.  

But contentment is in itself not enough.  We must truly love.  First Corinthians 13:4 states, “Love does not envy.”   True love consists of putting the other first.  If we love one another, then we are happy for their successes and we rejoice in their well-being. 

Ultimately, then, envy must be conquered by the power of the Holy Spirit.  It is a process of growing in Christ and, specifically, maturing through conformity to the Word’s transforming power.  First Peter 2:1-2 states:
Therefore, laying aside all malice, all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and all evil speaking, as newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the word that you may grow thereby.

As we come to understand the scope of God’s plans for our lives, envy is left abandoned far behind.  

Jim Haesemeyer – Renew in Knowledge Core Team Member

Jim Haesemeyer is an elder at FreeWay Bible Chapel at Lubbock, Texas. Jim has served on the mission field in Honduras for nearly thirty years.

The Open Door to Serve

Doors speak of opportunities, challenges, and a chance to take the next step. When a door is closed we cannot progress, so we look for other avenues. The Bible speaks of open doors for the believer to walk through, which are an invitation from our Savior to be used for His glory. Are you walking through them?

Open doors come with challenges

“A wide door for effective service has opened to me, and there are many adversaries” (1 Cor. 16:9 NASB).

With the open door, there will come attacks from the adversaries. This is something that must be understood to avoid discouragement. However, this will also provide an opportunity for spiritual growth. When you walk through open doors, the enemy opposes you in many ways, which is a sign of Gods blessing. Our adversaries with their opposition will cause our faith to stretch when we learn that we are powerless. But according to John 15, our Savior said “without Me you can do nothing.”

It’s crucial for us to accept the challenge to serve with complete devotion to the Lord Jesus. However, the believer understands that Satan opposes those who bring glory to God by their obedience.

Jesus opens the doors to service

In Rev. 3:8, Jesus says he knows our deeds: “Behold, I have put before you an open door which no one can shut, because you have a little power, and have not denied My name.”

Christ is the one who puts the open door before us to serve. Believers must realize that we “have little power” and we are empowered by the Holy Spirit to do the work set before us by the Lord Jesus. We don’t approach the work of God thinking we are going to take the bull by the horns. The Lord will quickly shut the door when pride or self-interest try to get through the door.  

Matt. 25:14-30 teaches us that our talents are given by God to serve while the door of opportunity is open. This text explains that some make use of God’s gifts and some do not. Verse 15 says “each according to his own ability,” and later, that God “settled accounts with them (v. 19).”

Everyone will give account to the Lord in the end (1 Cor. 3 & 2 Cor. 5). When the doors open, it is our responsibility to walk through the door. Charles Ryrie says, “two men were given the same reward, indicating that faithfulness in the use of the different abilities given to each of us is what is required.” Likewise, Paul reminds us in 1 Cor. 4:2 that stewards are required to be found trustworthy.

The rewards for being faithful are great. Jesus reminds us in Matt. 25:21 that even if we’re faithful in a few things, God will open more doors and give us more serving opportunities. We will have an abundance of opportunities (v. 29), and we will experience true joy (v. 21 & 23). However, those who aren’t faithful will experience a loss of opportunities to serve in a greater capacity (v. 29).

Christ is the one who puts the open door before us to serve. Believers must realize that we “have little power” and we are empowered by the Holy Spirit to do the work set before us by the Lord Jesus.

The Result of walking through open doors

Joy: As the scriptures say, God gives us joy so that his joy may remain in us (John 15:11), rejoice in the Lord (Phil. 4:4), for the joy set before Him (Heb. 12:2). In doing God’s will there is joy even in the midst of pain and suffering.

Purpose: The concept of walking through open doors implies work, effort, intense prayer, and sacrifice. However, consider how Paul said we are God’s workmanship, “created in Christ Jesus for good works (Eph. 2:10).” I like the way the New Living Translation says it: “We are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.” We will find purpose in life by being engaged in the work God has for us.

Has God opened a door to serve? Then don’t quit, and expect opposition, struggles, and adversaries. Be faithful to walk through the open door and God will reward you with more.  And don’t forget that the joy that accompanies service is unrivaled.

Ray Gonzalez – Guest Contributor

Ray Gonzalez was commended in 1993 by the Spanish assembly in Houston, Texas. He is married to Laura and they have three children, and grandchildren. He is an itinerant speaker, disciples young believers and serves as an elder in Westlake Bible Fellowship, Westlake, Ohio.

In His Time

It is natural to imitate the successful. The ones who seem to have the least amount of difficulties; the ones with the sunshine always on their smile. Logically, this successful group should have been the believers in Jesus Christ. With God Almighty as their Heavenly Father, life for them would be a breeze! Evangelism would be easier and spiritual discipline a cakewalk. For the many for whom the daily chores of life throttle the desire of living eternally, this group would have been the right one to join.

However, believers attract sufferings.

In fact, our Lord had said in this world you will have sufferings. It is in the definitive, though the spell checker on my computer would like to lessen the intensity by auto suggesting ‘would’ for ‘will’.

Therefore, suffering is not just a possibility but a certainty; and a certainty that is in fact a necessity.  

Five years of severe Fibromyalgia with endless injections and medications seemed like forty. With broken health, missed opportunities and shattered dreams, my life seemed to have ground to a halt.

Sign me up for suffering for a purpose, or training for a goal. For example, like training to run the marathon. However, with an unclear purpose and an unseen end, I viewed suffering as an annoyance and a deterrence to faithful Christian living. And then I came across this story of Israel’s redemption and read it with greater relevance.

…suffering is not just a possibility but a certainty; and a certainty that is in fact a necessity.  

Israel reeling under the terror of the Pharaoh, prompted Moses to believe that he was the best redeemer, circumstance and opportunity could provide. Having pre-empted God’s way and timing, God graciously puts Moses through the ‘Sinai Institute of Learning and Development’. This was to empty him of his Egyptian Arrogance. Here he learns patience and meekness, in tending to a self-willed and ‘easily-will-go-astray’ flock, much like the people of Israel years later.

During those forty years, the people of Israel would continue to plead and cry, under the relentless torture in Egypt. A generation goes by, before Moses has a makeover and is ready to God’s perfection as the ‘Redeemer of His People’.

God’s time moves, it seems, too slowly for man’s convenience.

During those grooming years, Israel would have discussed endlessly the aborted redemption, as they tossed in their beds trying to catch a few winks before the dawn awakens to another round of abuse. How damaging it would have been for their feeble untested faith, as they lived clutching the stories passed on from generations, of the wonder working God of their fathers–Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. When Moses finally reappears on the scene, it is not before the furnace is heated seven times as it were, before Israel is born a free nation.

Their troubles do not end there, however, the most amazing verse in the book of Exodus is found in chapter 12 and verse 41, “… even the self-same day it came to pass, that all the hosts of the LORD went out from the land of Egypt” (KJV).

God doesn’t miss His time-table even by a millisecond.

Luke 22:14 says, “And when the hour was come he sat down, …”.

The song that we sing so often, “In His time, He makes all things beautiful, in His time,” takes on a new meaning when we realize that God’s pudding requires that exact amount of heat and time to bake to perfection.

The truth of the matter is that for God who has promised to deliver His people, He can do so in a twinkling of an eye [1 Cor. 15:52]. Yet, He allows the heat to mold and to perfect, though oft times we never appreciate, nor fully comprehend.

So, as we wait for that moment, when the corruptible will take on incorruption, we know that this imperfection will take on perfection. That’s God’s goal and plan for us in Christ Jesus.

And in His will, it is this that takes time and heat.

Viji Roberts – Guest Contributor

Viji Roberts, is an elder and a full-time worker at New Life Bible Chapel, Mississauga, where he fellowships with his wife, Joyce and son, Daniel. He is involved in various ministries including Biblical Eldership Resources, MSC Canada, FBH International and Voice of the Martyrs Canada.

Enduring Suffering and Hardship

In 1989, I suffered a sudden and complete loss of hearing.  Prior to this moment I had, of course, envisioned certain plans for my life.  But God stepped in and changed my life.  In fact, He did so with such suddenness that it was as if He had hit me with a stun gun.  

God sometimes surprises us in unexpected or unforeseen ways.   God’s purpose in doing so may be to bring about our surrender to His will.  In my own case, as a result of the dramatic change in the course of my life I consecrated my life to Him and have since been strengthened in my desire to lead a consistent Christian life knowing that He has a perfect will and plan for me.

It is through times of suffering and hardship and through patiently enduring difficulties, that God teaches us priceless lessons in life.

In a sense, life may be compared to a lawn chair, liable to buckle and collapse without forewarning.  But physical limitations need not limit the spirit.  Struck down does not mean destroyed.  It gets dark when a train enters a tunnel but that is no reason to throw away your ticket and jump off.  Instead you sit still and trust the engineer (Corrie Ten Boom).  In the same manner, I decided to press ahead in my life in spite of the odds against me.  It is important to remember to not lose heart even when circumstances seem to be at their worst.  

Never waste time by standing in line to complain.  Instead, recognize that God often prepares people through an extended period of waiting to shape their character and give them a greater depth of knowledge in the Scripture.  Joseph was a man who could have been very bitter.  He had been the object of his brothers’ hostility as well as suffered numerous other injustices.  But Joseph did not yield to complaining because he saw God’s hand in his circumstances.  Even Joseph’s years in prison were a time of training for his eventual rule over the nation.  God overruled the evil intent of Josephs’ brothers for his good (Genesis 50:20).

A pertinent thought was found scratched into the brick wall of a prison cell in the Tower of London.  It read, “It is not adversity that kills, but the impatience with which we bear the adversity.” Face the reality and recognize that because God has allowed this trial to come into my life, He must have some good purpose in it.   Perhaps, for the moment, I don’t know what that purpose is, but one day it will be known to me.  In the meantime, it develops strong Christian character in my life.

It is through times of suffering and hardship and through patiently enduring difficulties, that God teaches us priceless lessons in life.  At the end of the course, one may say, “It is good for me that I have been afflicted; that I might learn thy statutes” (Psalm 119:71, KJV).  Nathaniel Hawthorne, the novelist, has stated, “Happiness in life is like a butterfly, which when pursued is always beyond our grasp. But if you sit down quietly, it may alight upon you.”  God is always available and has the best plan for us. This does not mean that we will be spared from pain, suffering, and hardship. But it does mean that God will see us through to a glorious end.

There will be many ups and down in our Christian life.  One day may find us delighting in a mountaintop experience while the next finds us sloughing through the valley of tears.  Nevertheless when we pass that valley of difficulty, in the midst of sorrow, we may transform tragedies into triumphs and use the misfortune as a stepping stone to reach even greater heights.  We call it a “Fortune of Misfortune”.  The American poet James Russell Lowell said, “Mishaps are knives that either serve or cut us as we grasp by the blade or by the handle.”

The trials which God permits to arise in our lives are designed to bring out the best in us.  Never be despondent or discouraged.  No problem is too great for our Lord to solve.  As the pilgrimage progresses, instead of growing weaker we go from strength to strength.  The old man will perish but the inner man is being renewed day by day (2 Corinthians 4:16).

The Christian life is a long journey.  Do not wait for great strength before starting out because immobility will weaken you further.  Do not wait for perfect vision before venturing forth but rather walk towards the light.  God will first empty us before the refilling takes place.

The Bible records accounts of how a servant of the Lord would enjoy a mountaintop experience but then the Lord would allow that same man to suffer a thorn in the flesh.  God blessed Jacob but afterwards he was left with a limp which remained with him for the rest of his life.  Spiritual victory and triumph often come through physical frailty and spiritual strength through physical weakness.

God’s unhurried purpose is to strengthen and mature us through pressure.  “Thou hast enlarged me when I was in distress” (Psalm 4:1).  The Bible does not always give specific answers to the innumerable problems that arise in our life.  God’s Word does, however, provide general principles applicable to problems as they arise day by day.  It is for this reason that wisdom is needed.  Spiritual wisdom is the practical application of our Lord’s teaching to everyday situations.  

Do not wait for great strength before starting out because immobility will weaken you further.  Do not wait for perfect vision before venturing forth but rather walk towards the light.

In my own life, I at first found myself trying to hide my weakness and problem from others.  At length, I was forced to acknowledge it.  Finally, I came to grips with my changed life and was able to embrace it as a positive blessing in my life.   

Sometimes problems in life are removed when we have learned our lessons from them. As soon as the refiner sees his reflection in the metal, he turns off the heat.  “For He hath torn, and He will heal us, He hath smitten, and He will bind us up” (Hosea 6:1).   

At times, the trial in life may actually be a chastening act of love from the Lord so that we return to Him.  The Bible says, “I wound and I heal” (Deuteronomy 32:39).  Many of us fail to consider this possible aspect of God’s intervention in our lives.

A period of apprenticeship is necessary to become a good steward of God.  Trials bring about the compassion and the faithfulness to be a skilled minister of God.  Importantly, perseverance and steadfastness are developed as well.

Often our helplessness is an opportunity for the Lord to help us. God will not allow us to be tested beyond what we are able.  God has promised a way of escape. But the Lord is not in a hurry.  God does everything beautiful in His time (Ecclesiastes 3:11).  “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God” (Romans 8:28).  Therefore, be brave in distress and valiant in affliction and endure all difficulties for the sake of the elect and we shall also reign with Him.

C. M. John – Renew In Knowledge Core Team Member

C. M. John is an evangelist and elder at Kundara Brethren Assembly in Kerala, India. He is the author of several Christian books. 

Living with Joy in a Broken World

It is the season for Christmas carols. Perhaps one of the most well-known and familiar is Joy to the World. Written by Isaac Watts, the hymn is based on Psalm 98 with excerpts from Genesis 3:17-18.

Joy to the World, the Lord is come!
Let earth receive her King;
Let every heart prepare Him room,
And heaven and nature sing.

Yet what many may not recognize is this popular hymn celebrates Christ’s second coming as much as His first. It looks forward to the time when Jesus will reign the whole earth. The third stanza stands out from the rest.

No more let sins and sorrows grow.
Nor thorns infest the ground;
He comes to make his blessings flow
Far as the curse is found

We live in a broken world where the curse of sin reaches to every corner and heart of this world. One only has to read the newspapers or watch the news or look into his own home to see the effects the curse brought into this world by the fall of man. The perfect world created by God the Father was broken by the sin of Adam and now all of creation groans under the bondage of sin. (Ro. 8)

Christ entered this broken world in order to free mankind from the burden of sin and death. For all who believe, there is freedom and hope and the promise that this earth is not permanent. There is a day coming when the perfect garden will be restored and all who know Christ as Savior will live with Him in the new heaven and new earth. (Rev. 21-22)

Yet how are believers to live in the in between? How are believing Christians who know these truths and sing these beautiful Christmas carols to live in the midst of brokenness and pain? Holidays are supposed to be filled with love and full of joy. Yet for those hurting and grieving, holidays can be times filled with pain and sadness.

Where does the person turn when life is hard? Living between the two advents of Christ, knowing He has come and He will come, how does one live with joy in the midst of sorrow? Many books have been written, many songs composed, many sermons preached addressing the pain of the holidays. The intention of this article is to set forth some principles that may be helpful in living with joy in a broken world and with a broken heart.

Principle #1 is Finding Joy. This world promises happiness. The constitution of the United States declares the pursuit of happiness to be one of three unalienable rights given to all human beings by their Creator. This pursuit of happiness is supposedly protected by the government. Yet one does not need to live long in order to recognize how fleeting happiness is. One can be happy with one’s job only to be unhappy a month later. One can be happy with one’s spouse, only to be unhappy a year later. One can be happy with one’s home, or car or diet and then unhappy all within a day. Happiness is elusive because it is a feeling.

Joy, however, is more than a feeling. Joy is a state of mind and for the believer joy is found in the person of Jesus Christ. ‘Joy to the World’ as Isaac Watts wrote has come because Jesus Christ has been born. Believers can know joy in the midst of heartbreaking circumstances. Joy is found in knowing and trusting in Jesus Christ as Savior.

Choosing joy means to be purposeful and deliberate. It is not hoping the day will be good or that nothing will trigger a painful memory of the one who has gone. It is taking captive thoughts that are negative and spirally downward.

The loss of a child is perhaps the most painful of losses. To bury a child is to go against the natural events of a life. People marry, have children, grow old and their children take care of them in their old age. Eventually, the children bury their parents. That is the logical sequence of events. The death of a child reverses that order. For parents who have planned their child’s funeral and burial there is a sense that everything has gone awry.

Our family is living in the midst of such loss. Two years ago our 21-year-old son was hit by a drunk driver while crossing a street in College Station, Texas. Sustaining severe brain trauma, our family made the heartbreaking decision to take him off life support and let him go on to his forever home.

Yet in the midst of searing pain and loss, knowing Jesus brings comfort and even joy. There is the promise that this world is not home. There is a promise that Christ has overcome death and so too will believers. There is joy in knowing the suffering is not forever yet glory and heaven are. This leads to the second principle.

Principle #2 is Choosing Joy. One can know these truths yet life is still hard. The holidays bring to surface the pain that for the most part can be contained. There is a person for whom one wants to buy Christmas presents and plan meals for and that person is gone. There is the devastation of looking at a stocking that will not be filled. There is the heartache that things are not as they should be.

So how does one live knowing joy and yet still grieving? It is a choice. Just as one deliberately chooses what to wear or where to drive, those grieving must deliberately choose joy. It is choosing to believe the promises of God’s Word. It is intentionally memorizing Scriptures filled with promises of joy. Jesus told his disciples as they grieved his impending departure ‘Now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice and no one will take away your joy’ John 16:22 (NIV).

Choosing joy means to be purposeful and deliberate. It is not hoping the day will be good or that nothing will trigger a painful memory of the one who has gone. It is taking captive thoughts that are negative and spirally downward. It is choosing to look past the pain of this world to the promises of the next. It is an eternal perspective that allows one to live with joy even with a broken heart. It is reading God’s Word and holding onto the truths found there. This is helped by the last principle.

Principle #3 is Spreading Joy. It is living out the advice of Proverbs 3:27. ‘Do not withhold good from those who deserve it, when it is in your power to act’. Simple acts of kindness and mercy shown during the holiday season will brighten the lives of others and bring joy to the one spreading it.

Take the time to buy presents for those not on the regular Christmas list. Spread joy by being a ‘Secret Santa’ to a family who may also be hurting. Giving the ‘Twelve Days of Christmas’ to someone anonymously is another way to spread joy. There is a sweet joy in giving to someone else for the pleasure of giving expecting nothing in return. It is the purest form of giving. Writing notes of encouragement to others who have faced loss can also brighten the day for the receiver as well as the giver. Spreading joy can be contagious. It has the concept of paying something positive forward. When the person receiving the gifts or notes is moved to do so for another, the idea of contagious joy has caught on.

One can know joy. One can intentionally choose joy and one can spread joy. The holidays can be embraced even through tears. Whatever pain and suffering this broken world presents, the apostle Paul reminded believers they would not be worth comparing to the glory that will be revealed in us. (Ro. 8) When believers suffer great loss and pain yet keep their eyes on Christ and choose joy, God is glorified.

Kimberly Kennedy – Guest Contributor

Kimberly and her husband have four children, one of whom is already in his forever home. She teaches God’s Word through BSF International.