uncomfortable prayer of increase/decrease

Sometimes there are prayers for increase in scripture like Jabez’s. But don’t forget others which may be harder, but far more rewarding.

For some reason, this past Sunday, I began to think about John the Baptist’s desire that “he must increase, but I must decrease.” Perhaps I thought that because my “assistant pastor” (I preached two weeks in a row) had left for a brief vacation/NASCAR race and I was the main L.I.C. : Lad In Charge.

The music team prayed this wonderfully Christ-centered truth. I mean does it get more Christ-centered than that? Then I prayed this before I preached. And I believe it ‘worked.’

I felt excited to deliver a message which promoted a God-centered gospel as opposed to a “diet”/me-centered gospel that orients the gospel around my personal comfort and plans as opposed to compassion for others. A diet gospel will always leave us angry, but a God-centered gospel will replace that anger with compassion. That was my main point.

When preaching and expounding narratives like Jonah, especially when I re-tell the stories in an anachronistic vernacular, like “Jonah channeled his inner McGuiver or Bear Gryllis and constructed a make-shift stand,” it can be hard to transition from exposition-illustration-application. Instead my illustrations came by way of analogy rather than stories of what the truth would look like if believed and applied.

As a result, it felt choppy, and I even forgot one of my sub-points which I used alliteration to help others memorize: non-Christians are still Created in His image and Clueless (needing the Spirit to change our nature and give us a “clue.”) so God still shows them Compassion.

Yet I was the one who felt clueless! So at the end, I definitely felt like I “decreased.” And so that bummed me out a bit.

However someone came up to me afterward and said, “You were preaching right to me” and then I heard of a teenager who basically repeated some of the illustrations and the truth they were illustrating. They had gotten the message. It seemed God had answered my prayer, both parts of it! I had not “performed” my craft as well as I had liked (so I had decreased), but at least to some, Jesus had increased.

Remember that when you pray this prayer, you “decreasing” might mean you don’t look so good (in front of friends, co-workers, families, neighbors), but in the end, Jesus just may look a whole lot better to others as a result of this prayer. Don’t forget the goal in preaching, teaching, child-rearing, working, playing: that He and His Kingdom might increase while we and our might decrease.

4 thoughts on “uncomfortable prayer of increase/decrease

  1. Good post Geoff. I remember once when teaching an adult class, I had an exceptionally bad day, at least in my estimation. I was unorganized, couldn't get my points across clearly, was very tongue-tied, etc. At the end, I apologized to the class for not having brought my "A Game". A lady stayed afterward to share how the lesson had helped her, even through my weaknesses. Then she added, "You don't always have to bring your 'A Game', because God always brings His.". It was very good and humbling advice that I desperately needed to hear. Thanks again for the post and your willingness to share.Jeremy

  2. Jeremy,Hey brother! What great advice this lady said, "You don't have to bring your A-Game because God always brings His."Wow. What wisdom and well worded! I'm going to have to use that quote and cite an anonymous lass. Teachers can bless "students" but "students" have such amazing wisdom for teachers as well. Good stuff man.

  3. Geoff, just got around to reading this. So true. I remember one day preaching and the sermon was so horrible, that I thought to myself, "Bummer. I know what God's going to do. He's going to have people say how much they like this, and it's HORRIBLE." Which is, of course, exactly what happened. Something about his power being made perfect in weakness… 😉

  4. Randy,Thanks for sharing brother. There's always something mysterious going on while the word is preached, even when we don't perform the craft as well as we'd like.

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