It is true that some preach Christ out of envy and rivalry, but others out of goodwill. The latter do so in love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel. The former preach Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely, supposing that they can stir up trouble for me while I am in chains. But what does it matter? The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached. And because of this I rejoice. Phil 1:15-18

You would think that the ministry would be one place where competition would be excluded. No one deserves to be called. No one “gifts” himself. No one can do ministry without a team of partners. No one accomplishes anything for the kingdom unless the Lord does it. [John 15:5] But, it is there. The scenario may look like this: One man has a large church and large buildings and a large budget and is considered successful. His “less successful” peers feel the pressure, so they justify the difference. They may criticize his methods as being less spiritual than theirs. They may undermine his reputation in the community. They may even celebrate when the “successful one” has problems, bringing him down to earth like the rest. They feel vindicated when some of the “successful one’s” sheep stray into their more “godly pens.”

My father was a servant. He really had only one ambition: to serve Jesus by loving his people. He had numerous opportunities to advance his name in the denomination, but turned them down. He was for the underdog and went out of his way to help the struggling minister. Consequently, he was a respected leader in the denomination and sat on several district governing boards. I have had the privilege of having several ministers across the country come up to me and tell me how my dad helped them in times of stress. He was truly a servant of Jesus.

On one board, my dad served with a minister who was rather ambitious. His goal was to make it to our headquarter city and he was not reluctant to confess that goal. But, in his town, he had a thorn that tormented his flesh. The pastor who preceded him had built a large and prestigious church but had to resign because of immorality. Instead of leaving town, the fallen one went across town, took some of the people with him, and started a new church. It also grew and flourished, but the replacement struggled. He made it his goal to out-do his “competitor.” He bad-mouthed his predecessor at every occasion. He made sure that his nemesis was excluded from any fellowship with his former denomination.

The day came when he found the opportunity he was looking for. One of our denomination’s young ministers had spoken at the competitor’s church. That was a “no-no.” This other pastor was out of fellowship so any one who ministered in his church was open to discipline. At a meeting of the executives, the offending pastor was called on the carpet. The “tormented” pastor was determined to get back at his nemesis by taking away the ministerial papers of this young pastor. Sitting in that meeting, my dad finally had enough, and said to the accusing brother, “When are you going to stop this vendetta? When are you going to stop driving people to the other man’s church? When are you going to let this thing go and just do your job?”

That young pastor, who I later worked with, told me that everything got real still. He was asked to leave. Nothing happened. He kept his papers. Dad spoke. Love prevailed. Christ was honored.    

Paul had his competitors, too. They saw his success and didn’t like it. They wanted the crowds to follow them like they did Paul. So, when he ended up in trouble, they seized the moment. They reasoned, if he was an apostle, if he was God’s voice to the ends of the earth, what was he doing in a Roman prison?  They had the same message and so began to preach the Gospel, using Paul’s calamity as their opportunity to expand their influence.

Paul had a wonderful conviction that his life was determined not by his position nor was it restricted by a Roman prison. His life was in the hands of Jesus Christ. He had one passion. To see the name of Jesus honored. If he was in prison, God must have a reason for his being there. God does not waste His time or the time of his servants. Whereever he sends them he goes with them, even if they settle on the far side of the sea, his hand still guides and holds them fast. [Psalm 139:9-10]

So what was Paul’s response at his competitor’s efforts? He rejoiced! Whether these upstarts preached from false motives or sincere, whether they were for him or against him, he rejoiced. Their hearts were wrong but they got the Gospel right. They would have to answer to God for their attitudes. That was not Paul’s business. His business was seeing Jesus honored and the Gospel did that, even when on the tongues of ungodly men.

When I stand before the men and women of the villages of Malawi, I am overwhelmed by the privilege I have of preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ to these precious lives. Just the thought has brought tears to my eyes. It is motivated by the same thoughts that inspired the psalmist to write: “One thing I ask of the Lord; this is what I seek; that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life; to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to seek in him in his temple.” [Psalm 27:4] And, “O God, you are my God. Earnestly I seek you. My soul thirsts for you, my body longs for you in a dry and thirsty land where there is no water. I have seen you in the sanctuary and beheld your power and your beauty. Because your love is better than life my lips will glorify you.” [Psalm 63:1-3]

There is something so beautiful about “tasting” Jesus [Psalm 34:8], so awesome and satisfying, that within is birthed a passion to share our joy with others. I love to show my Malawi friends a picture of my wife. They smile when I make a big deal about how much I love her and how beautiful she is. What am I doing? I am manifesting her glory. Why do I do that? I don’t want to keep her beauty to myself. I want others to join in my joy. It gives me great pleasure to see others rejoicing with me over the beauty of my Barbara.

That is what preaching the Gospel is about. It is spreading the glory. It is rejoicing that more and more people are discovering how beautiful and satisfying and awesome is our Lord and Savior. When that is our passion, it won’t make any difference about what others are saying about us. The important thing is that Jesus is preached, and in that we rejoice. Any ministry that does not have the joy of the Lord as its heart-beat will be weak, worried and whimpy.

How can we increase our joy? First, we pray that our eyes will be opened to see the wonderful things God has revealed about his glory in his Word [Psalm 119:18; Eph. 1:17-18]. Second, we open the scriptures and spend unhurried and quiet time doing the one thing that is needed [Luke 10:42], listening to Jesus speak to us, sharing his secrets with us, revealing his beauty to our hearts. Then, we get up and go and share him, his Gospel and our joy with others. When we share his beauty with others our pleasure is increased. When more and more faces light up at the sight of his infinite perfections, we will be humbled and blessed at the sheer privilege of being his servant. I tell you, there is nothing more satisfying to the soul than serving our Savior.

In heaven there will be no competition, no ambition to make it to headquarters, no attempts to gain a following. Only one thing will matter: worshipping and enjoying the infinite perfections of our Lord and bathing in the eternal pleasures that are for us at his right hand [Psalm 16:11]. I pray that your enjoyment of Jesus may continue to grow as you declare his beauty to others. There is nothing so satisfying and rewarding as seeing Christ preached.