Have you ever felt the tension of preparing for a job interview- wanting to give a vivid and specific explanation of why you’d be awesome for the job, yet not wanting to brag too much? Desperately waving your resume around and shout, “Hire me! I’m awesome!” but at the same time, wanting to give God all the glory? So you give a smile and a “that was all God” response that leaves an awkward taste in your mouth?
The world has cultivated a tension that comes with trying to live a life of both purpose and humility.
We’re told that we can’t have both… that to live a life of purpose, you’ve got to be a go-getter, constantly selling yourself and raving about all that you have to offer. We’re told that a meek or humble individual will always have their dreams snatched up by the loud and proud individual.
So we turn to other humans for affirmation. And without the proper assurance, we find ourselves unfulfilled and in despair.
Why else would someone post a video of his latest random act of kindness? For affirmation and attention.
Why do we broadcast our latest accomplishments all over Instagram? To be affirmed and cheered for.
Before we know it, we’ve got the affirmation of purpose that we needed, but humility has been thrown out the window.
I’m not innocent here…words of affirmation (from The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman) is my number one way of feeling loved, and while that isn’t a bad thing, I’ve definitely teetered the line of receiving love and seeking attention.
But I KNOW that there is a better way.
John the Baptist- or as I like to call him, JB- models how to live a life of both humility and purpose. He shows us that it can be done.
JB was chosen by God to prepare the way for Jesus. He was meant to preach the good news of the coming Messiah, and encourage anyone who would listen to repent of their sins and be baptized.
John’s ministry was thriving. People would travel far from the city into the dessert to see John, hear him preach, and to be baptized by him. He spoke the word of God with conviction, passion, and urgency, and as a result, many people believed that he might actually be the messiah.
But John didn’t take the bait of worldly affirmation.
Listen to what he said…in Mark 1:7 “After me comes the one more powerful than I, the straps of whose sandals I am not worthy to steep down and untie.”
In that time period, untying and carrying sandals would have been the job of the lowest servant. John was saying, “in comparison to the coming Messiah, I am the lowest of lows- not even fit for the job of a servant.”
In doing so, John was living his life like a neon sign, pointing straight to the glory of Christ- not himself. With every blink of the sign, he sent the message, “Don’t look at me. I can’t save you. I’m not the one you’ve been waiting for! But He is coming!”
John prepared the way and proclaimed the way. But John did not pretend to BE the way.
I think this small picture of JB’s ministry is so rich in wisdom and guidance for us today.
JB’s ministry shows us two things.
- A PURPOSEFUL LIFE BEGINS WITH HUMILITY (AKA A RIGHT UNDERSTANDING OF GOD AND MAN)
The world tells us that in order to live a life full of purpose, we’ve got to build ourselves up. Broadcast our best qualities to the world. Stand tall and confident.
But when we find confidence in ourselves rather than in God…we open the door for insecurity and competition to enter in. We start to view ourselves as earners and deservers, rather than recipients of grace.
But John knew where he stood. He knew that despite his good work and devotion to God’s mission, he was still a sinful man in need of a savior. He preached truth with boldness, yet openly and honestly acknowledged his low stature compared to the coming King- unworthy to untie His sandals.
This was a man who was regularly teaching about repentance (or acknowledging, apologizing, and turning away from sin).
When we are regularly practicing the act of repentance in our lives, we are acknowledging two things
- God is holy. I am not.
- I need a savior. Jesus is my Lord.
This mindset puts us in our proper place. We no longer feel that we deserve praise, attention, or trophies just for participating (thanks childhood athletics). We realize what it then means to boast in Christ, rather than ourselves, because He is the savior that we so desperately need.
The words of the hymn Come Thou Fount express this mindset so eloquently:
“O to grace how great a debtor daily I’m constrained to be.”
I am in debt to you, God. You owe me noting. I offer you my life.
Jesus later came to have John baptize Him.
John, being the humble guy that he was, said, “I need to be baptized by you, and you come to me?” (Matthew 3:14)
John was essentially saying, “But Jesus…you are Jesus! You are the Son of God, the long awaited Messiah…and I am a poor wilderness man. I am sinful and you are not. YOU should be baptizing ME!”
JB understood that he did not deserve anything from God, except His judgment and redemptive cleansing. The great purpose JB had in his life came from understanding God’s holiness and his own unrighteousness.
- AFFIRMATION FROM GOD IS MORE PRECIOUS THAN APPROVAL OF MAN
We often believe that we need others to approve our purpose. I recently read a quote by Steven Furtick that said, “He who lives by the approval of others will die by the absence of the same” and I couldn’t agree more. Relying on the approval of others often leads to the death of our purpose, not the fulfillment of it.
If JB had soaked up all the affirmation and attention he was getting from the people like a sponge, his message would have likely derailed from preparing the way, to pretending to be the way. And we all know that Jesus is the only way to salvation (John 14:6).
The praise of man could have led to JB’s destruction. But John didn’t let the sweet aroma of worldly affirmation distract him.
John had followers. But He didn’t keep a clenched fist on them. In fact, in John 1:35, we see that JB pointed out Jesus to some of his followers, “Look, the Lamb of God!”
In that moment, his followers left his side and began following Jesus instead.
John didn’t consider this a loss though, because he wasn’t interested in advancing his own kingdom. His purpose was to advance God’s kingdom! And the approval of man wasn’t needed to build that kind of kingdom.
I don’t know about you, but JB shows me that living a life of purpose is all about having our priorities straight: Acknowledging my humanity, praising God for his saving grace, and spreading that message more than advancing my own name and agenda.
John the Baptist shows me that a life of true purpose is spent in the waters and at the feet of Jesus. Doing the good, hard, and intentional work of advancing His kingdom with passion and humility. It’s the most purposeful work we could do with our lives.
I hope this was encouraging to you and gives you a few ideas to consider this week as you seek to live a life of humility and purpose!
If you’re looking for an action step to really bring this truth home, here are some ideas:
- Make repentance a regular aspect of your spiritual life. Reflect on your day and admit to God when you have fallen short. Thank Him for His forgiveness, and make a choice to turn from that behavior. This will increase your understanding of humility and help to develop a correct view of man and God.
- Regularly praise God for who He is and what He has done. Again, this will help with having a right view of God- placing Him on the throne of your life.
- Before you post something on social media, ask yourself some questions about why you are posting and what you are hoping to gain from that interaction. If it is for your glory, attention, or affirmation, wait 24 hours before posting, and then decide if it is right.
Now go out and live the life of purpose and freedom that God has graciously given you!
With Love & Freedom,