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Tuesday, March 9, 2021

He must increase; I must decrease [John 4:30]

From the very beginning, John the Baptist recognized who Jesus was; even when John’s own followers were leaving to follow Jesus, his response, “He must increase; I must decrease,” showed the clarity of his understanding of his unique role with the Messiah. Yet, not long before his own death, suffering in prison, he sends some of his remaining followers to Jesus just to make sure; John’s idea of what Messiah was going to do didn’t seem to match with what he was hearing about Jesus. Most likely, he never envisioned imprisonment as part of is life and how his ministry would transition. Jesus reassured John that prophetic scripture was being fulfilled. 

We, too, all called to decrease and see that Christ increase; John’s mission was to prepare for Messiah, our is to proclaim Him. If John the Baptist can get confused in his destined mission, so can we. I’m sure there are more, but here are five of the “red flags” to help us avoid failing in our role to “decrease.”

1. Focusing on making a name for myself.

As someone once said, if we focus on deepening our relationship with God, He will take care of the breadth of our ministry.  It is easy to get lost in putting ourselves in positions for recognition, so much so that even the preparation and study for what we do is to further our position, not deepen the relationship of obedience.  We study, we practice, we prepare so we can offer the best offering of service to the King of kings and Lord of lords, not be in pursuit of the next best position. God makes the decision and timing in our journey; it is His choice whether or not what we do expands to a broader audience.

2. When I am unable to receive the truth that contradicts my desire.

The rejection of wisdom from those outside “my circle” could reveal an unwillingness to admit that someone else's opinion might be a better option. When my desire, my opinion, or my perspective, becomes more important than searching out the truth, the opinion of others just becomes noise and we have failed to decrease.  Sometimes we even look down on opinions from those that “aren’t as prepared as we are,” so their opinion really doesn’t matter. In ignoring even the evaluating of that advise, we may be passing up an idea that would transform what God is doing in our lives. Remember that God’s Word is always our final authority and source of truth.

3. Not accepting my limits.

Contrary to the popular belief “that we can do anything we really set our mind to,” the truth is we all have limits.  In accepting our limits, we seek out God’s will for our lives rather than some dream that is beyond the limits of our 

reality. As I age, I am reminded regularly that I cannot do what I could do 10 or 15 years before. The aging process is only one of many that are a natural part of “decreasing.”  Even learning how to deal with death is a part of our decreasing. In death, we finally get to see His greatness and glory. We can do all that God has called us to, because He will equip those He calls to do what He commands. 

4. When circumstances or plans don’t go as I had expected. 

John the Baptist was living in that reality: he was in jail though obedient, and what he was hearing about Jesus didn’t match his expectations. God’s plan for his life did not make his expectations. When we are more driven by our expectations than we are the truth of God’s Word, then we are setting ourselves up to get side-tracked from God’s plan of decreasing.

5. Decreasing is not self-criticism or demeaning. 

We are all made in the image of God, and all share the same fallen nature. Our worth does not come from what we might be able to accomplish, from fame, popularity, etc., but from what Christ has done in our lives. Continual beating ourselves up does not help us “decrease” nor is a part of His increasing. When we continually beat up on ourselves, we are actually doing the opposite of what we think we are doing because the focus centers around “us.”  Living a life of grateful obedience in humility and joy brings honor and glory to God.

 He must increase; I must decrease! 

Paul had faced incredible hardships and persecutions, as he shares in 2 Corinthians 1:8 “We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers and sisters, about the troubles we experienced in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired of life itself.” While he was transparent about his difficulties, later in 12:9-10, he underscores the importance of refocusing our perceptions:  9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 10 That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.  

Rather than viewing our weaknesses and "decreasing" as something negative, Paul helps us realize God's truth that can help us as we continue in our journey here.

He must increase; I must decrease!