As the young woman watched the heartbreaking scene in front of her, she silently said to God, “It would be worth my whole life if I could just reach one of these old men for You, Lord.”
At the peak of her youthful potential, when she had her whole life ahead of her, this young woman was ready to leave it all behind just to lead one hopeless old man to Jesus Christ. Such a self-sacrificing attitude might at first seem foolish to our logical minds. If we could speak to her, some of us might say, “You are such a bright and beautiful young lady; don’t throw away your life for the sake of one old man! Surely there are better ways, bigger ways, for you to make an impact in God’s kingdom!”
But God doesn’t measure success the way we do. Mary of Bethany poured out her most priceless possession upon the feet of Jesus without applause, recognition, or fanfare, and some thought it was a waste. Yet Jesus said, in essence, “what she has done for me is a picture of the gospel itself” (see Mark 14:3–9).
Getting Out of the Way
At the peak of John the Baptist’s ministry, Jesus also started baptizing, and people suddenly began coming more to Jesus than to John. John’s followers seemed disturbed by this trend and pointed it out to John (John 3:26). And yet John knew his sacred commission was to make Jesus, not himself, known to the world. He told his followers, “He must increase, but I must decrease” (3:30).
What an amazing attitude! John’s primary concern was getting out of the way so that Jesus could be seen. John knew that if he tried to take center stage, Jesus wouldn’t receive the glory He deserved.
The same is true in our own lives. When we try to be seen and applauded, Jesus fades into the background and people look at us, not Him. But when we focus on getting out of the way and pointing others to Him, He receives the glory He deserves.
Two Critical Questions
A commitment to humility doesn’t mean we can never cultivate the unique talents and strengths that He’s given us. It’s certainly possible to use our gifts and personalities to glorify God. (In fact, that’s why He gave them to us in the first place!) But first, we must ask some critical questions:
- Am I doing this for His glory or for people to applaud me?
- When people see this part of my life, are they drawn closer to Jesus or are they merely impressed with me?
If we’re more concerned with what others think of us than what they think of Jesus, then we have not learned how to be a faithful “friend of the bridegroom” as John the Baptist was.
Jesus said, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me” (Matt 16:24).
The word “deny” here means “to forget one’s self and lose sight of one’s own interests.”
What an incredibly different message from the “take what you deserve” notion that our culture promotes! Jesus says that in order to truly follow Him, we must lay down all pursuits of self-glory and seek His glory alone.
A Different Posture
Instead of striving to be noticed and appreciated, we are to take an entirely different posture into every area of our life, one of humility and self-denial. Imagine the freedom of being totally unconcerned whether people appreciated your unique talents, personality, or acts of service. Imagine if your only concern was making Jesus known, even if no one ever remembered your name.
How much more of Jesus would people see in our lives if we adopted the attitude, “I must decrease, but He must increase”?
When we choose humility, we are choosing the very attitude of Christ (Phil. 2:5). There is no better way for the beauty of heaven to come cascading through our lives than for us to get out of the way so He can be clearly seen.
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