When Peter saw him, he asked, “Lord, what about him?” Jesus answered, “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? You must follow me.” John 21:21-22 NIV
Years ago I was invited to a meeting with a couple of Christian leaders in our city with the purpose of exploring a cooperative ministry effort. I knew each of the men and was familiar with the intensity and dedication with which each led their well established and successful ministries. As I was making the thirty minute drive across town on the freeway I decided to take the time to pray for the meeting. Almost immediately I heard these words, whispered by the Holy Spirit “Stay in your lane!” At that moment traffic was fairly heavy on the four lane stretch of road that I was on and my first impulse was to warily check the lanes on either side of me.
Assured that everything was alright, I figured I would stay in the lane in which I was driving until I needed to exit and turned my attention to what the Lord really intended with the words “stay in your lane.” I knew it was a word of wisdom for me as it related to the meeting. The lane I was being warned to stay in was my lane and focus of ministry. God was reminding me of the importance of fixing my heart clearly on His calling and purpose for my life, and not being drawn or forced out of that lane into the lane of another. Having this quickened in my spirit brought a sense of peace with the realization that there was sure to be pressure in the meeting to change ministry lanes.
When I arrived and the meeting got underway it was readily evident that the two men already had an agreed upon agenda. They had a cooperative plan for a worthy ministry goal which they wanted me to merge into, but which clearly was in a lane beyond the purview of the ministry I represented. To have submitted to their plan would draw me out of the lane of ministry to which God had called me and forced me to function outside of my gifts and abilities. Because of the “stay in your lane” word, I had no trouble politely declining their offer while blessing them in the unique lane of ministry to which God had obviously called them.
There is an inherent danger in taking our eyes off the lane or path God has us on by comparing or compromising our life and ministry with another. God has given each of us unique gifts and grace that are matched to unique tasks and callings. Jesus’ rebuke of Peter, in reference to his comparing himself to John, is a great illustration of this point (John 21:21-22). When He says “What is that to you? You must follow me” He is in essence saying “forget the other person’s lane – just stay in your lane!”
It is akin to the realization young David had to as he prepared to fight Goliath. When King Saul attempted to dress David in his armor, it not only did not fit him, it would have hindered him and likely caused his defeat (1 Samuel 17:38-39). Being drawn into functioning like someone else is always a trap. It inevitably diminishes what we are best at while forcing us into areas we are not good at.
Peter’s temptation to compare himself to John is the same temptation we all face. It can lead to compromises we will eventually regret. This is why Paul writes “We do not dare to classify or compare ourselves with some who commend themselves. When they measure themselves by themselves and compare themselves with themselves, they are not wise” (2 Corinthians 10:12 NIV). Simply put, the comparison game is just not wise!
Do you know the lane God has called you to abide in as you serve Him with the unique gifts and abilities He has given you? Are you staying in your lane while finding joy and fruitfulness? Or, are you struggling outside your assigned lane in a lane God never called or equipped you to function? If you feel frustrated, oppressed, compromised, or trapped in what you are doing to serve God, you just might be in the wrong lane.
If you do sense you are in the wrong lane, maybe Paul’s question to the Galatians applies to you. “You were running a good race. Who cut in on you to keep you from obeying the truth” (Galatians 5:7 NIV)? In other words, who or what forced you out of your lane? Have you been deceived through comparing yourself to someone else into trying to do something you are not equipped or called to do?
Give heed then to Jesus’ words to Peter who was more focused on John than Jesus – “What is that to you? You must follow me.”
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