He Must Increase


I don’t know about you, but I feel so much pressure to make a name for myself, be all that I can be, and to maximize my potential. I feel like we’re all in a race to promote and protect ourselves, to achieve self-actualization the fastest. I’m so tired of focusing on me, me, me.

That’s why today I’m asking myself, would you invest your life to promote someone else?

Instead of maximizing your own potential, you’d maximize theirs.

Instead of working hard to advance your own agenda, you’d promote their message, desires, and life’s calling.

Instead of building your own audience, pursuing your own happiness, earning your own reward, and leaving your own legacy, you’d be all about theirs, theirs, theirs, theirs.

How would that feel?

Would you feel the loss of your own potential? Would you hate to waste of all your hopes and dreams?

In these days of “you do you” and “maximize your potential,” most people would call this complete foolishness, but John the Baptist called it “complete joy.”

Consider this scene from John 3: 22-30:

“After this Jesus and his disciples went into the Judean countryside, and he remained there with them and was baptizing.  John also was baptizing at Aenon near Salim, because water was plentiful there, and people were coming and being baptized (for John had not yet been put in prison).

Now a discussion arose between some of John’s disciples and a Jew over purification. And they came to John and said to him, “Rabbi, he who was with you across the Jordan, to whom you bore witness—look, he is baptizing, and all are going to him.” John answered, “A person cannot receive even one thing unless it is given him from heaven.  You yourselves bear me witness, that I said, ‘I am not the Christ, but I have been sent before him.’  The one who has the bride is the bridegroom. The friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly at the bridegroom’s voice. Therefore this joy of mine is now complete.  He must increase, but I must decrease.”

John’s followers question his sudden plummet in the public eye. They aren’t crazy about the man who is suddenly baptizing more people than their fearless leader. But John sees things differently. To him, the day that Jesus whisks away his followers, steals his audience, and outshines him, is a great day. He really, truly, calls it “complete joy.” In a culture no different than ours— one motivated by power, popularity, success, and self-aggrandizement— John relishes the day when he relinquishes power, loses popularity, and starts his journey downward. John’s greatest desire is that Jesus would establish power, gain popularity, and be lifted high.

John has been waiting for this moment. He has never pursued his own success, significance, or maximized potential. In fact, his entire sense of significance—his motivation for loving other people, his work, and his life legacy—have always been entirely all about making more of Jesus. From the time John was in the womb, he has been living for Jesus, leaping for joy when he came near his neonatal Messiah. By the time Jesus shows up in Judea, John has given everything to obey God’s calling on his life: he left home and became a Nazarite, lived in the desert, ate strange foods, wore uncomfortable clothes, and preached an unconventional message about repentance. He has been working diligently—preaching and baptizing all over the countryside. He has worked hard to establish a solid reputation and gather faithful followers.

Then, at the height of his success, he loses it all.

That’s precisely when he utters the beloved words about Jesus, “He must increase, but I must decrease.”

Instead of scrambling to regain his audience, instead of questioning his significance or throwing in the towel, John rejoices. When people flock to Jesus instead of him, John said, “This is what I’ve been waiting for. This is complete joy.”

I want to be like John. I want my life’s purpose to be all about Jesus. I’m tired of doing my own thing, seeking my own happiness, indulging my desires, building my wealth, impressing people, proving my value, and promoting myself.

Jesus saves us from self-love, He forgives us of selfishness, and He calls us to live for something far, far greater than self-actualization. We can follow in John’s footsteps and live entirely for more of Jesus so that everything we do is in an effort to promote God’s will, magnify His name, and expand His Kingdom. But here’s the thing: it’s going to take everything we’ve got. We’ll have to rely on the Holy Spirit and God’s Word to completely refocus our priorities and passions. We’ll have to recognize that this type of refocus will permeate all of life—how we see ourselves, how we respond to others, how we build relationships, how we live day by day.

Just think of the complete joy that will be ours when Jesus is our everything!

About the Author:

Laura Booz

Laura loves to share practical applications of the Bible as she encourages women in their walk with Jesus. She received a B.S. in Biology and B.A. in English Literature from the University of Richmond, an M.A. in English Literature from Penn State University, and a Certificate in Women’s Ministry from Westminster Theological Seminary. Laura serves as the Coordinator of Women’s Ministry at Oakwood Presbyterian Church in State College, PA. She lives with her husband and 5 (going on 6) children on a beautiful farmette in Pennsylvania where they raise some chickens, host campfire parties, read lots of books, and cheer for the Nittany Lions. Connect with Laura at www.LauraBooz.com.