Counting Sprinkles

Recently my wife brought home a new saying to our family…
“Don’t let your ice cream melt while you are counting someone else’s sprinkles.”
As we tried to parent two little girls through the Christmas season, it is not hard to believe that we have used this saying A LOT!!!!
This little saying speaks of envy, which is wanting what someone else has.  All too often we hear about what is going on in someone else’s life and we begin to wish we had what they had.  This is also accompanied with a growing  bitterness towards our current situation.
We hear about someone else getting a promotion or a raise, and we get angry because our own career does not feel as fruitful.  We see beautiful pictures of happy families during the holidays, and we wonder why our own kids are so difficult and our own lives are so complicated.  We even hear about how God is doing wonderful things in the church just down the street and we begin to wonder if maybe our own spiritual well-being would be better if we visited them.
Recently, I had the chance to sit down with some close friends and talk about life.  These gentlemen were involved in churches and ministries of which I was particularly envious.  Based on our previous conversations, their churches seemed to be in the midst of revival.  They were excited about what God was doing and their churches were enjoying a wonderful harvest.  As my church has struggled in recent months, I often wondered what it would be like if I was serving where they are.
However this week our meetings were much different.  In the short time that we were together they related stories of struggle and conflict.  They were still excited to be serving and the Lord is still working in their respective ministries, but the “church on the mountaintop” image I had in my head was shattered.  I had wrongly assumed that just because good things were happening that they did not have struggles.  In my own life and ministry, I had become so focused on the negative that I had failed to see all the wonderful things God was doing. Envy had robbed me of the joy of serving the Lord where I was.
I had sinned and I was wrong.  I am also willing to bet that I am not alone.  So how can we recognize envy as it starts to creep into our hearts and deal with it?  Here are some things to look out for:
  1. We are focused on other people’s successes, but we do not rejoice.

When Paul was imprisoned, there were many who took up his charge and were telling others about Jesus.  Paul knew that some did it to honor Paul’s mission, while others did it to compete with him.  Paul’s response to both was this, “What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed; and in this I rejoice.” (Phil 1:18) He did not care what their reasons were; only that people were receiving Christ.  He rejoiced in what he was hearing!!! Do you hear how God is blessing other people, but don’t rejoice with them?  Does it make you just work harder?  Do you begin to ask God why He isn’t doing the same for you?  These types of response mean that we are responding in envy instead of contentment.  The Christian should rejoice that God is moving and pray that he continue to work in the lives of everyone!

  1. We make excuses for why we are not serving; things are not “ideal”

Something I always say is that everyone has an excuse and they are all good.  I say this, not because all excuses are actually good, but because everyone is convinced that their excuse is a good one. One such excuse is that we cannot further the Kingdom of God because “we do not have what other churches have”.  We think that if we had more people, better people, better music, or a better facility, then we could really have an impact for Christ.  We claim that our situation is not “ideal” for ministry and so we do not do ministry. The problem is that there will always be an excuse.  There will always be a reason to not share the Gospel or serve the Kingdom.  We have to embrace the reality that we do not live in an ideal world and get serving anyway.  Our excuses are not leading anyone to Christ.  Put them away and do what you can!!!

  1. We think that other people do not have problems.

This is the one that got me. All too often we talk to people on the phone, see what they post of social media, and we think that they live these care-free lives where nothing bad ever happens.  We begin to think that all of our problems are unique to us and no one could possibly understand what we are going through.  These thoughts lead us to bury our problems and pretend like they are not there.  We will wallow in our own self-pity and ultimately destroy ourselves.

This is a lie straight from Satan!!!  You are not alone!!!  The Bible clear says, “No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man.” (1 Corinthians 10:13a) This statement should remind us that we are all going through life in the same fallen world, dealing with the same problems.  You are not perfect, I am not perfect, and we don’t have to pretend that we are.  If you begin to think that someone has the perfect situation somewhere else, rest assured that they are dealing with their own set of hardships.  Trust that God is working in your life just like He is working in theirs. Ultimately, God is calling us to trust Him, trust His provision, and be content.  Yes, your life may not look like your neighbors, but God never intended it to do so.  Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding.(Proverbs 3:5) And enjoy some ice cream along the way!