Blocking Sunlight: When We Increase Instead of Decrease
One refrain has been running through my heart and mind consistently over the past few weeks: "He must increase, but I must decrease." This targeted message has lodged itself deep in my heart.
The phrase repeats itself with a steady rhythm, and the intensity of it is overwhelming at times.
"HE must increase, but I must DECREASE."
"He MUST increase, but I MUST decrease."
"He must INCREASE, but I must DECREASE . . . DECREASE . . . Decrease . . . decrease."
An Uncomfortable Idea
Decrease: to diminish or lessen in extent, quantity, strength, or power.
I'm all about Jesus increasing . . . or am I?
I want Jesus to be exalted. I desire for all to see and know His power, His beauty, to wonder at His glorious nature. But if that is true, why do I get a tad uncomfortable when I think about me losing or "decreasing" in some way?
Does the idea of decreasing bother you at all? Getting smaller, lesser, weaker, diminishing . . . decreasing?
It just sounds a bit painful, doesn't it?
It sounds like it will involve loss, and I've suffered some painful losses this year—not sure I'm real excited to wade into more of that. Decreasing might also involve the grinding aspect of grace called sanctification. It's always a good thing, but often a painful grinding process, as my extremely rough edges are worn away by His gracious refining work.
I've been meditating on this one verse for a few weeks now, and I know it wasn't my idea to adopt this as my spiritual focus for 2015. Knowing me, I would've chosen a more comforting passage, something warm and fuzzy. Nope, He has definitely confirmed that this is all His idea for me to adopt this as my spiritual focus this year.
Look at it with me in several versions:
"He must increase, but I must decrease" (John 3:30 NASB).
"He must become greater and greater, and I must become less and less" (NLT).
"He must become more important, but I must become less important" (ISV).
A Joyful Decline
When John the Baptist handed off this explosive news to his followers, they were struggling with the idea of losing their platform of influence and crowd strength. But John delivered this invitation to experience declining popularity with joy. He wasn't depressed or anxious; he was joyful to start his decline.
John understood the valuable lessons of decrease.
I'm wondering how (or if) this principle of "decreasing" is different than embracing humility. Being willing to fade into the background, to become smaller, less, weaker, to diminish in visibility, strength or power, would require humility.
So is the process of actually "decreasing" the result of embracing humility? Or does "decreasing" cultivate humility? Or is "decreasing" just one specific form of walking in humility?
The willingness to "decrease" and the characteristic of humility obviously go hand-in-hand and perhaps feed one off the other.
Reflecting His Light
But this willingness to decrease isn't "growing small" for the sake of disappearing from view but for the sake of allowing something greater to come into view. What keeps coming to mind is the picture of blocking sunlight, in the same way the moon comes into view in the solar eclipse and prevents sight of the sun.
The moon is actually much smaller than the sun, but when it comes between those of us here on earth and our sight of the sun (which is 400 times greater than the moon in size), it can block out our view of that brilliant ball of fire!
As the moon is an object created to reflect the light of the sun, I was created to reflect God's image, to glorify Him, to exalt Him . . . but I can stand in the way of that. I can block sunlight.
The Other Half
As painful as it is to think about decreasing . . . I get really excited when I think about the other half of the verse—exalting.
When I decrease in power . . . His power is exalted in my life:
And He has said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness." Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me (2 Cor. 12:9).
When I grow smaller . . . His greatness is exalted:
When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers,
The moon and the stars, which You have ordained;
What is man that You take thought of him,
And the son of man that You care for him? (Ps. 8:3–4).
"Yours, O LORD, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the victory and the majesty, indeed everything that is in the heavens and the earth; Yours is the dominion, O LORD, and You exalt Yourself as head over all" (1 Chron. 29:11).
When less of me is seen . . . more of Him is evident:
Then the LORD said, "Behold, there is a place by Me, and you shall stand there on the rock; and it will come about, while My glory is passing by, that I will put you in the cleft of the rock and cover you with My hand until I have passed by" (Ex. 33:21–22).
When less of me is heard . . . His voice grows stronger in my life:
Then the LORD said to Job,
"Will the faultfinder contend with the Almighty?
Let him who reproves God answer it."
Then Job answered the LORD and said,
"Behold, I am insignificant; what can I reply to You?
I lay my hand on my mouth." . . .
Then Job answered the LORD and said,
"I know that You can do all things,
And that no purpose of Yours can be thwarted.
'Who is this that hides counsel without knowledge?'
Therefore I have declared that which I did not understand,
Things too wonderful for me, which I did not know."
'Hear, now, and I will speak; I will ask You, and You instruct me' (Job 40:1–4; 42:1–4).
When my influence wanes . . . His influence grows effectual:
"As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up; so that whoever believes will in Him have eternal life" (John 3:14–15).
When I am brought low . . . He is exalted:
I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me (Gal. 2:20).
Join me this year in exalting Christ?
This is my spiritual focus for the year:
"He must increase, but I must decrease" (John 3:30).
Written by: Kimberly Wagner
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