He must increase, but I must decrease

Among all the characters in the Bible, one man stood as a remarkable example of humility. That man was John the Baptist. John the Baptist lived his life having one purpose in mind–to prepare the coming of Christ–and his life was a full service for that purpose. He seems to be singly concerned with that purpose, without any cares for other things, till death. Here is one who knew his identity, and strived to live up to that identity. He knew himself as he was known by God–this is true humility. He didn’t consider his life as his own.

One scene in the life of John the Baptist from which we can see the greatness of his heart is recorded in John 3:22-36. There we read that the disciples of John came to him and said, “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.” And then came this reply from John, which I find most grand and sweet: “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.”

To have such a heart that opens wide is truly something rare these days. To rejoice with those who rejoice is something that we find hard to do. Why is this so? John gave the key to rejoicing with those who rejoice in acknowledging that everything we have comes from God. “A person cannot receive even one thing…,” not even one! All that we have we receive, and all that we receive is given by God. All is grace. And if all is grace, why act as if we deserve a thing? John the Baptist knew this. His mission was to prepare the coming of the Christ, and he could say with joy that his mission was now complete. The fact that “all are going to [Jesus]” did not disappoint him; instead, the more went to Jesus, the more was his joy made complete.

Drawing a modern-day analogy, can we imagine a situation where there are two pastors shepherding two different congregations, and suddenly all the people from one church move to the other one? Can we imagine one fine Sunday morning that as one of the pastors is going to preach he finds nobody sitting on the pew? Can we imagine how he would feel after learning that all the people from his congregation have moved to the other church? If that pastor is you, how would you feel?

Oh how far I am from having the heart of John! To rejoice with those who rejoice, to understand that everything I have is given by God. What a humility! What a spirit of hiddenness!


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