“So the church throughout all Judea and Galilee and Samaria enjoyed peace, being built up; and going on in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, it continued to increase.” (Acts 9:31)
Satan knows our competitive nature all too well. Whether you search for the perfect soulmate, work for that next promotion, or enjoy a golf game, competition is all around us. Satan uses our competitive nature to pit nations against one another, churches against one another, as well as Christian brothers and sisters. It is Satan’s goal to tear down or weaken the body of Christ.
That does not mean a competitive spirit comes from the devil. It becomes an issue when a competitive spirit mixes with envy, bitterness, and pride. At that point, Satan’s influence is already at work in a person’s heart. Such ambition will, more often than not, draw one away from God and towards the world. In Scripture, we see the emergence of pride in the disciples of John the Baptist when they learn that more people were going to Jesus for baptism instead of John.
“A man can receive nothing unless it has been given to him from heaven. You yourselves are my witnesses that I said, ‘I am not the Christ, but I have been sent ahead of Him.’ He who has the bride is the bridegroom; but the friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly because of the bridegroom’s voice. So this joy of mine has been made full. He must increase, but I must decrease.”John 3:27-30
In his reply, John first established that God is the sole source for everything we have and will ever receive. He uses the analogy of a bride and groom and the groom’s friend to describe his relationship with Jesus. Moreover, John makes the point that the ministry of Jesus must increase and that his must decrease. John knew that he must yield to God’s perfect lamb, the One destined to take away the sins of the world.
William E. Hull (1970) best explains John’s response to the his disciples’ bent egos. He wrote:
“The graciousness of John’s spirit in dealing with the wounded pride of his devotees sprang from a clear understanding of the nature of grace. Thus John could rejoice both that a little band had gathered about himself and that a much larger number had turned to Jesus, for every believer is a divine gift over which to celebrate rather than a human trophy over which to boast.”1
Simply put, John knew He was not in competition with Jesus; instead, they were on the same team. He knew that his mission had been complete and that he did what God called him to do. Now it was time or him to become less of an influence and for Jesus to become a more significant influence. He reminds his followers of that fact: “I am not the Christ, but I have been sent before Him” (John 3:28).
The principal of “He must increase; I must decrease” must be the mindset of each disciple of Christ. In so doing, Satan’s weapons become inert and ineffective as the church aligns with God’s will. When God’s people give Him the glory, the need for competition is no more. We are all victors in Christ Jesus who overcame the world, who died on the cross for the sins of all people, and He conquered the grave. Best of all, He lives today at the right hand of our heavenly Father in heaven.
“But what does it mean that I must decrease?” you might ask, which is a practical question. In a broad sense, it means to yield our worldly desires in favor of seeking first the kingdom of heaven. When talking to His disciples about the concerns of the temporal needs, Jesus said, “Your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you” (John 6:32-33).
When we seek first the kingdom of God in our hearts and through our Persistence in Prayer, our desires begin to align with the will of God. When we are obedient to His will, He provides for our needs to walk the path He lays out before us. “But I have dreams and aspirations in life. What about that?” you ask. The Bible never tells us not to dream or set goals for ourselves. What the Bible does say is to consult with God first because unlike us, He can see into tomorrow and beyond.
For example, He knows the person Jennifer is dating is not the right man for her because the man she has yet to meet is her perfect soul mate in ways she cannot imagine. The same goes for that new job or promotion, that new house or car and all of which God already knows the things we need, and yes, He knows the things that we want too. He desires to be the center of our life and part of the conversation. Why? Because He loves us and knows what is best for us as we navigate the treacherous waters of this fallen world.
The problem with people, however, is impatience. We want it here and now with instant gratification. But sometimes God answers with a no or a wait, and there are times when He says yes. We are usually happy when God answers yes, not so much when the answer is no or wait. That is when we can sometimes try to take matters into our own hands, which, in some way, shape, or form, will lead to disaster because our focus is no longer on God.
To decrease is to focus on Jesus, not ourselves, so that He may increase while we decrease. As we focus on God, we can be sure His focus is on us, and with God looking out for our best interest always, nothing can stand in our way. Therefore, take time to talk to God, seek first His kingdom, and decrease self-importance to increase spiritual growth and draw closer to the Lord.
1. Hull, W. E. (1970). John. Clifton J. Allen (Ed.). The Broadman Bible Commentary (p 247). Broadman Press, Nashville, Tennessee.