Imagine you are Tom Slick, an agent for social change. Through your hard work, you become famous. People come from everywhere to hear you and to debate with you. Maybe the notoriety catches you off guard, but you are grateful and want to further your platform. Then, your cause’s biggest hero shows up and endorses you. That person starts to take the limelight. How should you respond?
Do you care more for your cause or for yourself?
In our individualistic society, we don’t want anyone to steal our thunder. If we earn it, we want to keep it. But God’s kingdom doesn’t value an individual’s pride. It’s not about me—my accomplishments or my work. It’s about helping people find healing and wholeness in Jesus.
Consider John the Baptist’s story. He became famous while living in the desert and preaching repentance. We need our sins (wrong thoughts/actions) pointed out so that we can change. People came from far away to hear him and to be baptized. They wanted to be restored to a right relationship with God, finding peace and freedom. John taught a band of disciples, and he bore witness that Jesus is God, a Savior from our sins.
Now a discussion arose between some of John’s disciples and a Jew over purification. And they came to John and said to him, “Rabbi, he (Jesus) who was with you across the Jordan, to whom you bore witness—look, he is baptizing, and all are going to him.” John answered, “A person cannot receive even one thing unless it is given him from heaven. You yourselves bear me witness that I said, ‘I am not the Christ, but I have been sent before him.’ The one who has the bride is the bridegroom. The friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly at the bridegroom’s voice. Therefore this joy of mine is now complete. He must increase, but I must decrease.John 3:25-30 (ESV)
In John’s view, a large social following was not important. We have nothing except what God has given us. So whatever you have, be grateful to God for it. If you are smart or artistic, it is only because He has given you the ability. Use it to help others. Do not spend your life seeking to increase your own domain. Consider what matters in eternity. Live for something larger than yourself. Live in service to God’s eternal kingdom by helping others. Notice that John’s joy was in being Jesus’ friend.
Whenever I am tempted to glory in my giftings, I remind myself of John 3:30, “He must increase, but I must decrease.” Life is not about me. My abilities are puny compared to his. What matters in life is “faith working through love.” (Galations 5:6b, ESV) So we work to glorify the name of Jesus, not our own name, by using what God has given us to care for others.
The greatest among you shall be your servant. Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.Matthew 23:11-12 (ESV)
What is it inside us that wants to be noticed, to be called out for our greatness? Our pride? Pride caused Satan to fall from heaven. Pride caused Adam and Eve to eat from the fruit of the tree and fall from the Garden of Eden. Something deep inside us wants to be God. We want to control our situation because we think we can create happiness. But this never works for long. So we try to manipulate the circumstances again. It’s like a rat running in a wheel. Joy cannot be obtained from our effort; it exists in God, and we find it through a relationship with God.
Adam and Eve enjoyed a relationship with God while walking in the cool of the evening. Have you wondered what they talked about? Wouldn’t it be incredible to talk to God about the science behind the world He made? He could explain anything, and He could fix any problem.
Sin is what broke people’s communion with God. But Jesus made a way to restore it when he came to earth, died, and rose again. See the Faith in God page for how to follow Jesus and have a relationship with Him.
John fixed his attention on eternal things, not the things of this world. In Matthew 11:11a, Jesus said, “among those born of women there has arisen no one greater than John the Baptist.” He was the greatest because he humbled himself and obeyed God. His role was to point people to Jesus, and we should do the same. Having earthly followers does not bring joy and fulfillment. Joy comes from having the approval of the heavenly Father.
Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.John 15:4-5 (ESV)
Despite how smart, beautiful, rich, or outgoing we may be, we can’t accomplish meaningful eternal markers on our own. We must lay these things at the feet of Jesus and admit our need for him. When God breathes his life and spirit into us, earthly things—which are temporal—can’t compare. People’s souls desire eternity. Jesus, the ultimate puzzle piece we need to be whole, satisfies eternal longings.