Every day, I’m surrounded by a bunch of really gifted people. Engineers, designers, musicians, leaders, creatives of all types, encouragers, administrators – staff and volunteers, all really good at what they do! These people produce great results, and those results often attract compliments and encouragement (which is good, by the way!). We talk often as a team about our responsibility to point others to Christ; to put Jesus on display and bring Him honor. But regardless of where you find yourself serving the Lord, I think we often set that as our focus but assume that our good work – our gifts and abilities – are needed and important, and should be recognized as such.
The book of John captures an incredible conversation between John the Baptist and his disciples, talking about Jesus and the start of His ministry. Remember that John the Baptist had seen many people coming out to him to be baptized. I’d say it’s fair to assume that John was identified with the function of baptism (the name kind of stuck). Even Jesus had gone to John and was baptized by him (Mark 1:9-11, Matt 3:13-17, Luke 3:21-22). But John also knew his place in God’s story, so much so that when Jesus showed up to be baptized by Him, John told Jesus that it should be the other way around – that John should be baptized by Jesus! And now, in this passage below, Jesus and His disciples were baptizing people themselves as they started their ministry. Look at this conversation between John’s disciples and him:
“They came to John and said to him, “Rabbi, that man who was with you on the other side of the Jordan—the one you testified about—look, he is baptizing, and everyone is going to him.” To this John replied, “A person can receive only what is given them from heaven. You yourselves can testify that I said, ‘I am not the Messiah but am sent ahead of him.’ The bride belongs to the bridegroom. The friend who attends the bridegroom waits and listens for him, and is full of joy when he hears the bridegroom’s voice. That joy is mine, and it is now complete. He must become greater; I must become less.” – John 3:26-30
This is an incredible passage! I think we need to learn from John in these areas:
1. This really isn’t about us
John says in verse 28,”You yourselves can testify that I said, ‘I am not the Messiah but am sent ahead of him.” John reminded his disciples that his role was to point to Jesus. And we must remember the same thing, not only that our function should get people excited about Jesus, but that our every action should not gain us credit, but steer people toward Jesus. We may draw people in, but it’s to Christ, not to us.
2. Other people may want to make it about us
John’s disciples seem to be troubled that all these people are going to Jesus. In verse 26 they say, “look, he is baptizing, and everyone is going to him.” If I could read between the lines, they seem frustrated that everyone is going to him and not to John. These guys became John’s cheerleaders – they wanted to rally around him when the crowds were shifting their attention away from John and onto Jesus.
People around you will want to encourage you in what you’re doing. They may recognize an ability, or get excited for what is being accomplished. Encouragement is good, but there’s danger in us accepting this sometimes. If we buy into the lie that we deserve to “get credit” or we feel threatened when someone else (or how about Jesus!) gets the attention and we’re overlooked, we’ve forgotten who we are. We are not the messiah! Jesus is, and we can’t accept the cheerleader feedback sometimes if it leads to a puffed up view of ourselves.
3. For Him to be greater, I must become less
This can’t be a share-the-spotlight kind of deal where Jesus is primarily greater, but we get the perks of glory as well. No, for Christ to be greater, we must choose to become less. This is primarily a heart issue. Note what John says in verse 29: “The bride belongs to the bridegroom. The friend who attends the bridegroom waits and listens for him, and is full of joy when he hears the bridegroom’s voice. That joy is mine, and it is now complete.” The bride belongs to the bridegroom! That joy is mine! John not only is willing to become less, but is joyful about Jesus’ arrival on the scene and His taking the spotlight. We must believe the same in our heart. Do you want the recognition, or are you ok with fading into the background while people marvel at what JESUS has done, or do you secretly want more people to know your name or get excited for what you can do?