It only took a quick glance at Instagram for my heart to sink. An acquaintance had launched a new ministry, a needed and beautiful ministry. And in record time, it grew beyond everyone’s expectations. She was thriving, serving, and Jesus was changing lives in the process. But rather than a heart of celebration, I felt a twinge of defeat. After all, I have a new book releasing in less than two months — how in the world would I get similar results?
I’d like to think I’m beyond the comparison game, that I’ve grown up enough not to waste time counting toys and comparing successes. But a few moments on social media forced me to face the truth:
I still have some work to do.
It’s hard to admit it, but some days it doesn’t take much — the story of another’s wildly successful ministry, the image of a friend’s beautifully perfect family — for me to start cataloguing my achievements (or lack there of). Without realizing it, I stack them up against those of friends and strangers alike, and somehow I always end up with a bitter case of lack.
In the book of John sits a story of John the Baptist. From birth, John was set apart for a special purpose, a divine purpose. His parents knew at his conception that God had placed His hand on John’s life, calling him to be the forerunner to the Messiah, to live a life removed and set apart as he prepared God’s people for the promised Christ.
John had an important job, an admirable job. And one that came with outward signs of success. People flocked to hear him preach and have him baptize. He was making a difference, and everyone knew it.
But then Jesus showed up. And in the blink of an eye, John’s previously vibrant ministry dwindled. Whereas thousands of people once followed him, now those same crowds started following the new guy on the block, the one named Jesus, who not only promised salvation and the kingdom of God but also healed and rescued and saved with a touch.
This worried John’s disciples, who feared their livelihood and place of prominence would evaporate if they didn’t figure out a way to do a better job marketing their wares.
They came to John and said to him,
“Rabbi, that man who was with you on the other side
of the Jordan—the one you testified about—look,
he is baptizing, and everyone is going to him.”
John 3:26 (NIV)
In other words, they stacked up their achievements against those of the next guy, and admiration turned south toward disappointment and defeat.
To this John replied, “A person can receive only what is given them from heaven.
You yourselves can testify that I said, ‘I am not the Messiah but am sent ahead of him.’
The bride belongs to the bridegroom. The friend who attends the bridegroom waits and
listens for him, and is full of joy when he hears the bridegroom’s voice.
That joy is mine, and it is now complete.
He must become greater; I must become less.
John 3:27-30 (NIV)
John’s response is a good one, filled with a grounded sense of purpose and freedom from fear. He knew his ministry, his work, his family, his followers weren’t the point.
Jesus was the point, and as long as people turned toward Jesus, it didn’t matter who was doing the work.
That’s the beauty of becoming less — seeing Jesus shine is our sweetest success.
What would it look like if you and I determined to find our joy in the Bridegroom’s voice, regardless of who was sharing it? What if someone else’s life and work didn’t make us less satisfied with our own? And what if, in all things, we were able to say, “Joy is mine. Jesus must become greater; I must become less”?
The point is Jesus. The point is always Jesus. And when you and I remember this — regardless of how our achievements stack up — we’ll be far too busy marveling at His work to take stock of someone else’s.
What if someone else’s life and work didn’t make us less satisfied with our own? -@MicheleCushatt: Click To Tweet