Thursday, December 17, 2009

Advent Lessons: John the Baptist

John was a man with a purpose. His entire life was centered around a single mission: to prepare the world for Jesus. John went out into the wilderness and attracted all kinds of people with his eccentric ways. He told the people that they should get ready for someone unlike any prophet in their history, someone who could baptize them with the Holy Spirit and with fire. In essence, John spent his entire career as a prophet capturing people's attention and then diverting them to Jesus. John's extremely effective introduction probably saved Jesus a lot of initial legwork. By the time Jesus arrived on the scene, John already had a lot of people thinking about his message. There were also a lot of people hanging around John who saw the spectacle when Jesus came to be baptized. There's no question that John was a very dedicated and successful forerunner to Jesus.

Still, I can't help but notice that outside of working for Jesus, John didn't really have a life. John knew that being "the voice of one crying in the wilderness" was more than just a day job. Everything about John's life down to where he slept, what he wore, and what he ate was part of his mission to promote Jesus. As far as we know, John never married or had children. He didn't have a trade or even a roof over his head. Preaching on behalf of Jesus was his entire life. Eventually John's zeal for God even resulted in his death because he dared to cross Herod and Herodias. John knew that it was essential for him to prepare people for Jesus, but he also knew that Jesus' ministry—not his own—was the main event. He told the crowd that he was unworthy even to untie Jesus' sandals.

At first glance it kind of seems like John got a raw deal. He got stuck in the desert wearing camel's hair and eating locusts. He had to preach day in and day out and was denied the comforts of a traditional family life. Eventually he lost most of his followers to Jesus, and he faded from the spotlight until he was eventually murdered by King Herod. When John knew his death was coming soon, all he wanted to know was that Jesus was the one for whom he had waited and that his work of preparation was indeed complete. John's life was dedicated to Jesus, and he asked nothing for himself. That kind of single minded selflessness is difficult to fathom. How many of us would want to give up our homes and comforts to devote ourselves completely and utterly to proclaiming the gospel? How many of us could reshape our entire lives to force ourselves to focus on God 24/7? John's life can seem a bit miserable to a modern Christian.

And yet, John said that he was happy. When one of John's disciples complained that followers were defecting to Jesus, John told him that was good news. "The bride belongs to the bridegroom," John said. "The friend who attends the bridegroom waits and listens for him, and is full of joy when he hears the bridegroom's voice. That joy is mine, and it is now complete. He must become greater; I must become less." John thought of himself as a devoted friend to Jesus, and nothing could bring him more joy than to do a good service for his friend. He didn't want the honor and acclaim that belonged to Jesus—instead John rejoiced when he saw the people paying attention to Jesus, even though that meant they were paying less attention to him. John discovered that selfless service for a beloved master and friend is one of the greatest imaginable sources of peace and joy. He truly understood the blessing that Jesus was bringing into the world, and he felt blessed to be able to be a part of that process.

John teaches us that true happiness doesn't come from living a comfortable lifestyle or achieving big things. Instead, joy comes from being a member of God's team by contributing to something incredibly important and worthwhile, whether we get personal recognition or not. John knew that he couldn't save the people himself, so he was more than happy to direct them to the redeemer who could. John was not the most important character in his own story, but his task was still essential. Every job God assigns to to us is both important and fulfilling, even if it doesn't seem very glamorous on the surface. We may not gain any material rewards for doing God's work, but we will be blessed with joy. John lived in the wilderness and ate bugs, and yet his joy was complete. That's a powerful lesson for all of us.

No comments:

Christian Love Lessons - Free Blogger Templates - by Templates para novo blogger