Have you ever felt jealous of the accomplishments of someone else? Maybe the new guy at work is doing really well and starting to gain the attention of some of your bosses; or the freshman on your team is beginning to make a play at your starting position; or the transfer student is really starting to excel in class and gaining the attention of your teachers. These are feelings that all of us have, but let’s put it in a more “churched” context: what if the church down the street just got a new pastor and God is beginning to bless their ministry by saving more people and growing them more than He is growing your church? It is sinful human nature to be insecure about the successes of others; the good news is that the Gospel covers those feelings of insecurity.
Without the saving power of the gospel, all of us would be like the disciples of John, who felt threatened by the success that Jesus was beginning to have. After seeing that more people were going to Jesus to be baptized than to John, they approached John in fear. “Rabbi, he who was with you across the Jordan, to whom you bore witness—look, he is baptizing, and all are going to him.” (v. 25) We can all relate to their concerns. They were worried that their place of power was being threatened. They were focusing on themselves. But John is a man who is a great example to us on what it looks like to walk in the power of the Spirit and to have a proper understanding of who he is in light of who God is.
Instead of agreeing with his disciples that they should concoct a way to get the people back that had left them for Jesus, he wisely pastors his disciples to see that this is what their purpose is in the first place.
“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.” (v. 27-30)
- All success is ultimately a gift from God; an act of grace. They did not gain a following in their own power but because the grace of God.
- His purpose is to make much of Jesus, not himself.
Sinfully, we are like the disciples of John: so focused on ourselves that we are threatened by the successes of others. But because of the gospel, we can be like John the Baptist, confident of who he is and what his purpose is, because he has a razor sharp focus on God. It is when we focus on God more than ourselves that we have freedom to realize that any accomplishment we have received is not from us but from God, and that our purpose is not to build our kingdom but God’s Kingdom.
- Right now, do you consider yourself to be more like the disciples or John the Baptist when responding to the accomplishments of others?
- What is it in your heart that is keeping you there?
Let the gospel encourage all of us to find freedom not in ourselves, but in God alone.
By: Graham Withers