John 3:30 (the message)
This is the assigned time for him to move into the center, while I slip off to the sidelines.
These were words spoken by John the Baptist in reference to Jesus. John had been preaching a simple message to the people of Israel: repent and get ready for God’s arrival. He was drawing large crowds and many were responding to his message of repentance and being baptized as an outward show of the their change of heart and life. In time, as Jesus came upon the scene, John the Baptist openly declared that he himself was not the Messiah but the one sent to get things ready. Eventually, John’s followers became jealous and distressed that Jesus was drawing a larger crowd than John. Part of John’s response was the verse above…he clearly recognized when the moment came for Jesus to move into the center and John was more than willing to “slip off to the sidelines.” I believe John had a sense of the greatness ahead and he clearly knew that God’s plans would not truly be accomplished but through Jesus. Lives change when eyes are opened to see Jesus must be at the center because He is in fact the heart of all creation.
Have we had our “assigned moment?” Have we experienced that moment in our lives when we clearly knew God was speaking to our hearts and telling us it was time to let Jesus move into the center? I’d bet anything you have and if not perhaps this is one of those moments. For me, as I read this verse today, I ask myself: What gets to be the center of attention in my life? What areas do we attempt to spotlight in our lives…Appearance? Could it be parenting skills or perhaps the various ways we give our time in volunteering? Could it be our career? Could it be the house we live in or even the career our spouse has? Could it be how well we manage money or how stylishly our home is decorated? How about the “good Christian” badge we like to wear?
I’ll be the first to say I am guilty, but I know God is working on me because I can recognize it now. There was a time I wasn’t even aware of how I worked to draw attention to what I felt were my stronger attributes as a person. Now upon being a little more real with myself and God about it, I see that making myself the center of attention in any way is really just a show of my spiritual weakness. Whoa…
Let me give you an example of someone that strikes me as a person all about making Jesus the center of attention in his life. I have the pleasure of serving alongside a family in our church, both the husband and wife. What I have seen is that as changes come and expectations for our ministry team are laid out by our leadership he embraces them full on. Even this past week I was completely amazed to see that as a change in leadership structure took place He rolled along without a blink, accepting and encouraging the changes without a spec of hesitation. And I so clearly know why…because he doesn’t make it about him. He’s all about making Jesus the center of attention. He is a true leader and example of a servant’s heart…he doesn’t seem to measure out roles or titles or expectations through the filter of attention or credit.
I have been on quite the learning curve this past year and even this morning find myself with such a long way to go (I guess that is life!) When we recognize our “assigned moment” and surrender to Jesus becoming the center of attention in our lives great things begin to happen. However, this is not a one-time deal! See, it can be so ridiculously easy to absorb some of the focus and stand in the spotlight for just a few minutes…it can feel so good to our flesh. But when we do that…when we make our looks, our material possessions, our achievements or even our giving our banner the power in our lives weakens. Jesus is the source. He is all that is good and kind and lovely and life-changing. I heard this little phrase years ago and it has stuck with me: Life is like a magnifying glass; whatever you look at gets bigger. The truth of that little statement rings loud and true for me. The question is what do I want on display in my life as the center of attention? The deeper question is why and what is it that I need? See, if I still need to prove myself or I live in low self-worth then I will keep propping myself up…adjusting the stage lights to benefit my “best side.” But once I have my “assigned moment” and realize that just like every human being, I am a paradox of strengths and weaknesses, of victory and defeat, of the best and the worst of myself…I realize that all the greatness of God in my life…the power to live in the freedom to be my God-designed self, will only come as I step onto the sidelines and let Jesus shine.
John the Baptist was great. He was chosen to prepare the way for the Messiah. John was the forerunner to the coming of the King! But you know what I think? God chose John because he didn’t need to wear any badges or banners or titles. John wasn’t interested in crowd approval or touting his own numbers in the “baptism count.” That sounds kind of simplistic but really it is very hard for us. We want to be ‘better’ than the next person. We think we need to prove ourselves and draw attention to our strengths and deflect from our weaknesses. How freeing would it be to just stop caring about where we fall on the scale? Imagine what life would be like if we didn’t work to prove ourselves every day! Proving ourselves to others, to God and even to the standard we have created for ourselves in our own minds is tiring work. Personally, I get sick of it! The most freeing and fulfilling times of my life are the ones where I am content to just be me as I get to know Jesus.
Do I want God to move through my life and do something great through me? I sure do! But I love this example of John today. It seems to me the greatest purposes are carried out in a life that is quite unconcerned with its greatness. I guess I can strive to showcase my strengths and live with those results or I can give way to Jesus becoming the center of attention in my life and be amazed and speechless at what He produces.
Jesus, please help me as I go through this day, in every moment, to recognize the choice before me. Please work in me, my heart and motives, that I could be utterly satisfied in obscurity…mixed up in the flow of Your presence as you flow through me. I don’t need or want it to be about me. I know what a short-change that is for my children, my husband those that you bring into my life. I am more than aware of how much I need you to be front and center. Still, even so I can’t do a thing but trust You to show me the way, Holy Spirit teach and remind me…You are the One who is great and strong and loving. In the name of Jesus.