When you’re a performer, the applause and reaction of an audience is something that you measure to gauge the success of your presentation. This is not a narcissistic thing, it’s natural to want to please the people for which you’ve worked hard to entertain or engage. It’s a phenomenon mimicked in many areas of life, the want or need to please others, to be liked or valued and gain recognition for the work we have done. A child looks for praise from their parents, an employee from a boss, a leader from their followers and vice versa.
I’m fascinated by John the Baptist. Seemingly an outcast in society, yet clearly influential with active disciples and a flourishing ministry. A man sent to prepare the way for another, to honour another above himself. A man content when his disciples left him to follow Jesus, in fact, that was what he aimed for. He didn’t seek the praise of others but rather pointed them to the One Who is to be praised. A man so in tune with God that He recognised the Son standing in front of Him when many other supposedly religious leaders didn’t. When confronted with the migration of his disciples to Jesus, he selflessly said, “He must become greater; I must become less.” (John 3 v 30). It’s so easy to read the scriptures and forget the weight of what’s being said. I think we’d probably all like to think that we would have the same response as John in this instance. But I wonder what would happen if all of our followers, various platforms, ministries, careers or accolades that we’d worked so hard to build were suddenly redirected elsewhere, would we truly be ok with that? If we faded into the background and never received another word of encouragement, thanks, or acknowledgement for our hard work, would we still be content? If we could never insta story our achievements or show the world our accomplishments would they still be worthwhile?
There are many speeches and social media accounts that tell wonderful tales of how Jesus is first in our lives and everything done or gained is all because of Him. Yet I wonder, when we get to heaven, what He will actually put His name to and what will have “us” written all over it.
In The Message version of John 1 v 6 – 8, it states John the Baptist’s sole purpose for walking this earth,
“There once was a man, his name John, sent by God to point out the way to the Life-Light. He came to show everyone where to look, who to believe in. John was not himself the Light; he was there to show the way to the Light.”
I’m challenged to ponder if I’m content learning to play “second fiddle” (Romans 12 v 10 The Message). Does the life I lead really point fully to Jesus or the gifts He’s given me? Are they two different things? Surely if I’m winning, He’s winning? If I’m successful, He’s successful. I think maybe there’s a fine line between me looking good and Him looking good. I definitely believe He wants us to prosper and bring glory to His name as we live surrendered to Him and allow His abundant provision of grace and healing, mercy and love to overwhelm our lives. But I wonder how often we ask for His guidance, His direction, His Presence before we work hard. I wonder how often we see His miracles amongst our hard work and sacrifice. I wonder what bears His name and what bears ours in the mix of this chaos called life. At each juncture which signposts lead to Him and which me?
The beauty of saying yes to Jesus is that, despite ourselves, there’s always an opportunity to grow. He didn’t come to condemn the world but to save it (John 3 v 17), and so we have chance upon chance to re-align our focus and vision and reposition ourselves correctly in Him. He definitely wants us to be more, to do more and to have more but there’s a greater purpose to all of it. God is a good Father and He delights in lavishing us with His goodness, just because He loves us. However, when we truly experience the beauty of His grace and the wonder of His miracles we naturally become aware of our position in Him, but not in a way that forces us to submit but rather to gladly humble ourselves.
The praises of one another are fleeting, and whilst I believe in encouragement as a Godly gift to one another, everything we do should all be to His glory. If I am competent by my own means through hard work, training and sacrifice, this is a good thing, yet there is still more to do to allow Him to bring heaven to earth, as He taught us to pray.
Another who gave His life to point to the goodness of God the Father, is Jesus. It’s the great mystery, He Himself is God and yet gave up His rights as God to become a man that He may show us the heart of the Father. How we could live and walk with Him and point others to His goodness. A life given for humanity.
Will my life point to a good Father? Will it show His glory and not my own as I learn to continually walk in His Presence and see His miracles unfold before me to be shown to a world desperately in need of some supernatural intervention? I hope so.
Help me, help us, God, to chase only one thing, You.
“I saw the sun begin to dim
And felt that winter wind
A man learns who is there for him
When the glitter fades and the walls won’t hold
‘Cause from then, rubble
Can only be what’s true
If all was lost
Is more I gain
‘Cause it led me back
From now on
These eyes will not be blinded by the lights
From now on
What’s waited till tomorrow starts tonight
Let this promise in me start
Like an anthem in my heart
From now on
From now on
I drank champagne with kings and queens
The politicians praised my name
But those are someone else’s dreams
The pitfalls of the man I became
For years and years
I chased their cheers
The crazy speed of always needing more
But when I stop
And see you here
I remember who all this was for”
Songwriters: Justin Paul / Benj Pasek For “The Greatest Showman”
From Now On lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC, Kobalt Music Publishing Ltd., Fox Music, Inc