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.