The Triumphant Decline

Have you ever worked really hard on some idea only to have someone else come along and take credit for it, even indirectly? What emotions did you feel?

The human need to be significant and important, at very least for recognition is universal. Ego is a tough wrestling opponent. Yet, as we’ll read in this week’s text, John the Baptist was able to find joy and peace by putting his own ego last and Jesus first.

This Sunday we’ll be reading John 3:22-36 as we continue our exploration of the fourth gospel.

John’s gospel is the only account that indicates that Jesus and John had a time when their ministries overlapped. Jesus began with John the Baptist’s endorsement, and now, we find that he is present when the first hint of controversy arises. His disciples are jealous at the rising popularity of Jesus and his message. John was very popular, probably more popular than Jesus at this beginning stage…he had all the trappings of what passes for successful ministry. Yet it was his joy to step aside for the elevation of Christ.

What reason does he give for that in v27?

Does that help you in any struggles you may have in embracing an intentional humility?

v30 is a powerful statement. It sets the tone for the entire church movement. We haven’t always been very successful in remembering who it is that everything orbits around. How do you think it can bring you joy, like it did for John the Baptist, to allow the reality of Jesus to increase in your life? What would be decreasing in your life as this takes place?

In yet another way, the kingdom of God moves counter to the world’s assumptions, we we find ourselves flourishing through this triumphant decline.

Hope to see you on Sunday!

2 comments

  1. Many years ago I worked in the accounting department for a utility company. There were two offices one in Ocala, Fl and one here. We did all the number crunching here and I was tasked to find some missing moneys from both locations via bank statements and calls to various bank branches. As it turned out there was some in house theft at both locations. More than 30,000 in the Ocala branch. It took quite a bit of digging and research and it was an awesome experience solving the mystery of the missing monies. My boss chose to have someone else go to Ocala and explain what had happened and how it was pulled off. I remember feeling a little slighted but because my boss knew I had done what he asked, I was fine with someone else getting the limelight. If my co-worker had gone to the boss and taken credit for figuring the problem out, I would have probably been mad and resentful, been faced with a greater opportunity to trust God. Verse 27 puts things into perspective and surely helps us to see these real life situations differently. Simply put, it says, no one gets anything, promotion, position or otherwise unless it is approved by God in the first place. (Even if they lied, cheated or otherwise, if they weren’t supposed to be there or succeed God would not have allowed it) This could take the stress out of our situations, if we will allow this truth to penetrate our hearts. No matter what, God knows the truth, He knows our hearts and the hearts of those involved and He is in control. If we live long enough, we will all face some sort of unfair situations or circumstances. God allows these to build our character and challenge us to trust Him when things seem askew. Verse 30, He must increase and I must decrease, equates to us getting out of the way, becoming invisible in these situations, in our lives in general, so that He is all others see. It means letting go of our preconceived notions, our expectations and even our identities, and instead, allowing Him and to shine through as we journey through this mysterious life. It means being stoked with what the world might view as disappointing, knowing that we are flowing with a greater good. So, I suppose the question is, is it enough for us to participate in His story in any role He chooses for us? Can we, through humility, find our deepest satisfaction in being allowed to share in revealing the mysteries of His kingdom, to His world, in His way? Sounds like an awesome privilege to me!!!

  2. I find this passage even more astounding after reading Luke 1:13-19. John the Baptist was a “miracle baby” whose birth and life’s mission was foretold by none other than the angel Gabriel. His father was a priest who served in the Holy of Holies, and he was filled with the Holy Spirit while he was in his mother’s womb. Not even Paul had a résumé like that!

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