John 3:22-36: God gives the growth.
“22 After this, Jesus and his disciples went out into the Judean countryside, where he spent some time with them, and baptised. 23 Now John also was baptising at Aenon near Salim, because there was plenty of water, and people were coming and being baptised. 24 (This was before John was put in prison.) 25 An argument developed between some of John’s disciples and a certain Jew over the matter of ceremonial washing. 26 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 baptising, and everyone is going to him.’27 To this John replied, ‘A person can receive only what is given them from heaven. 28 You yourselves can testify that I said, “I am not the Messiah but am sent ahead of him.” 29 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. 30 He must become greater; I must become less.’[a]31 The one who comes from above is above all; the one who is from the earth belongs to the earth, and speaks as one from the earth. The one who comes from heaven is above all. 32 He testifies to what he has seen and heard, but no one accepts his testimony. 33 Whoever has accepted it has certified that God is truthful. 34 For the one whom God has sent speaks the words of God, for God[b]gives the Spirit without limit. 35 The Father loves the Son and has placed everything in his hands. 36 Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on them.” NIV
Never forget the principle enunciated clearly in (27) – a man can have only what is given him from heaven. God gives the growth, so why do we act like He doesn’t? Why do we place so much store by people who seem to be experts at producing growth and telling ‘how it’s done!’?
We need to remember this especially when other churches and leaders SEEM to succeed more than we do. How we handle the success of others is a real test of character. Dallas Willard makes the point that one practical out working of the doctrine of the Trinity will mean that pray for other church leaders and root for them. We will want their success.
John’s disciples seemed to complain about the growth of Jesus’ ‘church’, but John himself was delighted with the news. He recognised the total superiority of Jesus to himself (31-36). He realised that more and more he would have to retreat into the shadows, whereas Jesus’ place was in the spotlight (30). He likened his role to that of the ‘best man’ at a wedding (28, 29).The best man needs to be efficient (and John was very good at what he did), but he must not steal the show. He cannot court the limelight. He wants to see the bride and the groom come together. It would be terrible if he were to run off with the bride. John was watching the ‘bride’ run to her Beloved, and nothing could give him more pleasure. This was what he lived for. The bride and Groom were coming to centre-stage, and he would be able to slip out through the back door.
‘What a blessing it would be if we could enshrine in our hearts this immortal maxim: ”A man can receive nothing except it be given him from heaven!” What we have is God’s gift; let us hold it reverently. What another person has is God’s gift to him; we have no right to find fault with his dealings with another of his servants. Our orbits are distinct; all we have to do is shine our brightest where he has placed us, confident that he knows best.’ F.B. Meyer: ‘Devotional Commentary’, p.459.
Prayer: Help me Lord to see your glory in the gifts you share with others. Let me feel neither jealous or discouraged. Let me be content to be the best version of me that I can be. It will be because of you, and to you be all the glory.