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May Christ Increase

The last years of High School are usually when we start to think about our future. We wonder what we would like to be when we grow up and we start dreaming of a successful future. As I grew up, my teachers and close family members wanted me to study something that was lucrative. They had the idea that success was money and recognition. However, my parents had taught me with their own lives that there was nothing better than to serve the Lord with our lives. I saw in them a success that was full of joy and contentment because they were serving the Lord and doing his will. In the eyes of the world, my parents probably would not qualify as successful people… but in the eyes of the Lord, they were and are faithful servants.

It is no secret that our flesh craves recognition. When we do something right, we want people to know. We want others to see our accomplishments and success and congratulate us for it and unfortunately the world of ministry is not exempt from this craving. Sometimes we pursue titles, education, big churches, followers, or just the approval from our leaders because we want to hear from men “Well done, good and faithful servant.” Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with being placed by the Lord at a big church or having a greater audience to influence. The problem is when we take the glory for ourselves rather than giving it to God and when we seek the approval of men rather than God’s approval.

A heart for the Lord does not pursue self-gain and recognition in ministry… A heart for the Lord gives all the glory to God and seeks to fulfill His will even when it means living a life of “failure” in the eyes of the world.

John 3:22-30 says, 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 the Baptist had been baptizing and preparing the way for Jesus to come, but once Jesus started his ministry, John knew that his calling was close to completion. John was teaching his disciples that his purpose was to make way for the Christ, not to make a name for himself. His disciples were worried that his ministry was in some way decreasing, but John was joyful to see Jesus’s ministry grow and increase… that was the way it was supposed to be. In the same way, as Christians we are living the lives God gave us to give him glory and to exalt him above ourselves so it is He who increases and not us. But… what does it mean to let Christ increase in our lives?

1. To let Christ increase in our lives means that we give glory to God for what He allows us to do.

In many occasions we can find ourselves in the shoes of the disciples. We start to worry when we see others grow in their ministry or jobs and we have not accomplish much. Also, we can find ourselves on the other end glorifying ourselves for the work we do and the success we have. However, when we do these things we are focusing on our personal gain and what the world thinks success looks like. We forget that everything we do in life is supposed to bring glory to God. We forget that our lives are not our own but the Lord’s. He created us with a special purpose that serves his kingdom and brings glory and honor to his name… not ours.

In Acts 14:1-18 we see this principle taking place in the lives of Paul and Barnabas. They had come to a place called Lystra and they healed a person that could not walk since he was born. The people from the town were in awe and wanted to offer sacrifices to them because they saw them as gods, but Paul and Barnabas tore their garments and rushed out into the crowd, crying out, “Men, why are you doing these things? We also are men, of like nature with you, and we bring you good news, that you should turn from these vain things to a living God, who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and all that is in them. In past generations he allowed all the nations to walk in their own ways. Yet he did not leave himself without witness, for he did good by giving you rains from heaven and fruitful seasons, satisfying your hearts with food and gladness.” Paul and Barnabas could have taken the praise of men from what they did in that place, but instead, they recognize that the glory was for God for He was the one working through them.

The psalmist says in Psalm 115, “not to us, O Lord, not to us, but to your name give glory, for the sake of your steadfast love and your faithfulness!” Our lives are a testimony of God’s love and faithfulness. We are who we are because the Lord created us and formed us. Therefore, we cannot boast in our accomplishments because they all come from the Lord. The Lord is the one who sustains us, the one who makes the earth produce its fruit. The Lord is the one who fights our battles and gives us strength and victory. The Lord is the one who graciously saved us from our sin and paid a debt we could not pay. Finally, it is through God’s power that we are able to fight our flesh and serve his kingdom. So, how could not give the glory to God instead of boasting in ourselves?

2. To let Christ increase in our lives means that our hearts are joyful and complete when we serve him and obey his will even if the world sees us as a failure.

This was true for John the Baptist. Although the disciples were worrying that John’s ministry was being forgotten or not as popular, John knew that he had accomplished the plan that God had for him, and that alone gave him joy. He knew his purpose was to make the way for Christ and make his name known. John was obedient to God’s calling and was blessed by it. In the same way, when we live God’s plan for our lives, God fills our hearts with complete joy and purpose even if we are not successful in the eyes of others.

In Philippians 4:10-13 we see an example of this principle in the life of Paul. While he was imprisoned, we wrote to the church in Philippi, “I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at length you have revived your concern for me. You were indeed concerned for me, but you had no opportunity. Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” The famous “I can do all things in Christ” comes from a man in prison who had learned to be content in any situation the Lord brought his way because he knew God was his strength. He knew he was doing God’s will, and he was joyfully willing to be imprisoned and even die for this cause. In the eyes of the world, a life full of persecution and need might seem like a failure, but in God’s eyes, it is a life of joyful obedience which was to be rewarded.

One day on my way home after church I was talking to the person driving me back about my career and education. I was studying voice performance and working as a worship leader. During our conversation, the church member told me that I chose a career that would never make good money to live well off and that I would have to depend on others or a salary… and he was mostly right! I knew that by deciding to serve the Lord with my life, I would probably live a frugal life or that I probably would never have the amount of money that makes people feel secure. However, I knew FOR SURE that I was going to have a life filled with joy, contentment, and purpose. I knew the Lord was going to provide for all my needs and bless my life. So, how could I not prefer a life of joy and contentment in God’s will over a life of empty worldly success?

Have you chosen to live a life that gives glory to God?

This is a question that invites us to evaluate what our hearts are pursuing… Are we boasting in our accomplishments or giving the glory to God? Are we longing for recognition of man or for God’s approval? Are we willing to go through hardships to fulfill God’s plan for our lives even when it might seem like a failure in the world’s eyes?

I hope you can take some time to think on these questions and trust and fulfill what the Lord has for your life.

I want to leave you today with a cover of the song by CityAlight, “Yet Not I, But Through Christ in Me.” In this song, we are recognizing that it is only because of Christ that we are able to live with confidence and joy. We are giving all the glory to him, the perfector and sustainer of our faith.

Yet Not I, But Through Christ in Me

What gift of grace is Jesus my redeemer

There is no more for heaven now to give

He is my joy, my righteousness, and freedom

My steadfast love, my deep and boundless peace

To this I hold, my hope is only Jesus

For my life is wholly bound to His

Oh how strange and divine, I can sing, "All is mine"

Yet not I, but through Christ in me

The night is dark but I am not forsaken

For by my side, the Savior He will stay

I labor on in weakness and rejoicing

For in my need, His power is displayed

To this I hold, my Shepherd will defend me

Through the deepest valley He will lead

Oh the night has been won, and I shall overcome

Yet not I, but through Christ in me

No fate I dread, I know I am forgiven

The future sure, the price it has been paid

For Jesus bled and suffered for my pardon

And He was raised to overthrow the grave

To this I hold, my sin has been defeated

Jesus now and ever is my plea

Oh the chains are released, I can sing, "I am free"

Yet not I, but through Christ in me

With every breath I long to follow Jesus

For He has said that He will bring me home

And day by day I know He will renew me

Until I stand with joy before the throne

To this I hold, my hope is only Jesus

All the glory evermore to Him

When the race is complete, still my lips shall repeat

Yet not I, but through Christ in me.

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About Me

Hey there! I'm Lina Cole. 

I am a writer, songwriter, and singer. I have served as a worship leader, bible teacher, and writer and editor for different ministries and churches. 

I have a Bachelors of Music in Voice Performance, and I am currently working on my Master of Divinity in Worship Leadership at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.

My prayer is that the Lord uses my writings and songs to bring His Word to people who need it and are blessed by it.

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