Tuesday, May 7, 2013

More Can Actually Be Less

We Should Become Less?
“Pastor, we have lost two more members to that church down the road”, exclaimed a member of the deacon board!  With a very concerned look on his face he continued; “pretty soon we will have nobody around here.  What are we going to do?”
This dialogue may not be an infrequent occurrence in many churches. Interestingly, there is parallel incident that the Bible chronicles in the ministry of John the Baptist. 
 “And they came to John and said to him, Rabbi, He who was with you beyond the Jordan, to whom you have testified, behold, He is baptizing and all are coming to Him” (John 3:26 NASB).

Comparisons were running through the minds of John’s devotees.  Jesus was out-baptizing them.  His followers had concerned looks on their faces.  There is a strong implication here that John’s disciples may have been thinking, John, what are we going to do?  They are stealing our thunder.  His disciples were acting as if John had invented baptism and as if he had, according to the commentator Matthew Henry “a patent on the invention.” 
John stared into the faces of his followers and knew God had given him a teachable moment.  His demeanor seemed to indicate he did not quite share their concern.
John answered and said, “A man can receive nothing unless it has been given him from heaven. 28 You yourselves are my witnesses that I said, ‘I am not the Christ,’ but, ‘I have been sent ahead of Him.’ 29 He who has the bride is the bridegroom; but the friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly because of the bridegroom’s voice. So this joy of mine has been made full. 30 He must increase, but I must decrease.
(John 3:27-30 NASB)
So This Joy of Mine Has Been Made Full.
            Some of John’s followers must have been shocked.  Others may have been a little angry as they had great hopes for the growth of their movement.  John was not upset, but even seemed to be pleased. He was happy to be diminished? What was it about the character of this man that brought this seemingly strange response?  Was it that he had learned what pleased the heart of his heavenly Father; it was not all about him.  He purposed to put God’s plans ahead of his and discovered that he had to become less so Jesus could become more.   He placed more value on the one he served not the service itself.  What displeased his followers, brought joy to him (So this joy of mine has been made full, v 29). 
            What tries our character and quenches our joy?  When God by his sovereign will decides to bless others and not us.    Most of us, if we are honest, can relate  more to his disciples’ reaction than to John’s response.  In my spiritual dealings with others, when I came up holding the short end of the stick, my joy plummeted like a barometer in the midst of a tropical storm. My service for Him took on a pretty joyless ring.  Why?  It was still all about me.  How do we react when God blesses and grows the church down the road while our growth seems to be stymied?  Can we get excited about their increase, especially when they hold to a different theology than ours?  Does God not want to bless and multiply your church?  Of course He does; but never in competition with or at the expense of others in the Body of Christ. 
            In our labors for God we can utilize the ways of the world.  We can scratch and claw, compete and work one-upmanship.  It is possible even to gain a measure of success with these tactics, but all our victories may end up woefully devoid of joy.  My dear brothers and sisters, you can go for more at any cost, but don’t be surprised if you find out that more can actually be less.  We can do great exploits in the name of Christ.  Construct huge edifices to carry out His work, but without the joy of the Lord in our hearts we have built nothing enduring.  As missionary C.T. Studd once said; “Only one life ‘twill soon be past, only what’s done for Christ will last”.