R.T. Kendall: How God Uses Jealousy to Prepare Us


Leah had weak eyes, but Rachel was lovely in form, and beautiful. . . . And he [Jacob] loved Rachel more than Leah. . . . When the Lord saw that Leah was not loved, he opened her womb, but Rachel was barren. . . . When Rachel saw that she was not bearing Jacob any children, she became jealous of her sister. So she said to Jacob, “Give me children, or I’ll die!” —Genesis 29:17, 30–31; 30:1

God moves in a mysterious way His wonders to perform. —William Cowper

Their jealousy, our preparation. That is the underlying theme for this article. In a word: see another person's jealousy of you as God’s way to get your attention and prepare you for what lies ahead. Their jealousy is a way of refining and increasing God’s anointing on you.

I have wanted a greater anointing on my life and ministry more than anything. Sometimes I think I want it too much.

I am not sure whether it is a spiritual or natural desire. All I know is, I would do anything for an increased anointing of the Holy Spirit on me.

And yet I have learned one thing about this in the last thirty years or more. God’s way of increasing and refining my anointing has not been the way I had hoped He would do it. I wanted it to come from prayer—my prayer life and from others laying hands on me. And perhaps it has. I am sure this has had some benefits. But all I know is, the chief phenomenon that has been pervasive in my life over these years has been the way I have been driven to my knees to seek God’s face and to practice what I preach, especially regarding total forgiveness.

I wish I could tell you that I have been persecuted by the world. I wish I could give reports that, as a result of our Pilot Light ministry (going to the streets of Westminster and around Victoria in London), I had been threatened by non-Christians, the police, and the government. No. And yet the Pilot Light ministry had brought persecution—from Christians! What we had to do at Westminster Chapel irked so many people. You will ask: Were some of those people jealous of us? Yes. Those were not bad people; they believed they were governed by a godly jealousy. They thought they were losing their beloved Westminster Chapel and I was taking it away from them. They feared they were losing the chapel they always knew and loved. They didn’t like it that we had altered traditions (singing contemporary hymns and giving an altar call) and brought in ways to do things that they hoped would fail—but they didn’t fail. What is more, their criticisms shaped me as a person, and the result has been more insight into the Word of God than I have ever known.

Jealousy can be a very useful motivation. Jealousy is often used of God to prepare us for our future as much as anything in the world. He gets our attention by His own jealousy. He uses “their” jealousy—friends, relatives, and enemies; He uses my jealousy. Their jealousy of me can drive me to my knees—to bring me closer to God. Funnily enough, my jealousy of them can also drive me to my knees—to bring me closer to God. When William Cowper wrote the magnifi cent and profound hymn, “God Moves in a Mysterious Way,” I don’t know if he had jealousy in mind. But believe me, jealousy can be a powerful force to advance the kingdom of God—whether in increasing the numbers of His people, preparing sovereign vessels for service, or bringing together events that led His Son to the cross.

As I said above, Paul hoped that the Gentiles’ turning to Jesus Christ would make Jews jealous and want salvation through Christ too (Rom. 11:11–14).

The point is, God uses jealousy for His own purposes. The sons of Jesse being jealous of their little brother David was part of David’s preparation. It helped get him ready for what was coming down the road.

Jealousy is what eventually made Joseph prime minister of Egypt. And the jealousy between Leah and Rachel was no small force in making Jacob the father of twelve sons. God was behind it all. His kingdom was at stake. He used jealousy to ensure that things happened according to His sovereign will.

Leah and Rachel were sisters, but Jacob was married to both of them. It was not Jacob’s choice; he was tricked by Laban, who had promised Jacob his daughter Rachel—but at the last minute gave him Leah.

R.T. Kendall has been the pastor of Westminster Chapel in London for the last 25 years. He now lives in Key Largo, Fla. He is a well-known speaker and the author of Jealousy: The Sin No One Talks About, from which this article was excerpted.

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