Decreasing Into His Purpose - Steve Stenstrom

He must increase, but I must decrease. — John 3:30

March 24th, 2011: “If you become a necessity to a soul, you are out of God’s order. As a worker, your great responsibility is to be a friend of the Bridegroom. When once you see a soul in sight of the claims of Jesus Christ, you know that your influence has been in the right direction, and instead of putting out a hand to prevent the throes, pray that they grow ten times stronger until there is no power on earth or in hell that can hold that soul away from Jesus Christ. Over and over again, we become amateur providences, we come in and prevent God; and say, ‘This and that must not be.’ Instead of proving friends of the Bridegroom, we put our sympathy in the way, and the soul will one day say, ‘That one was a thief, he stole my affections from Jesus, and I lost my vision of Him.’

Beware of rejoicing with a soul in the wrong thing, but see that you do rejoice in the right thing. “The friend of the Bridegroom . . . rejoiceth greatly because of the Bridegroom’s voice: my joy therefore is fulfilled. He must increase, but I must decrease.” This is spoken with joy and not with sadness – at last they are to see the Bridegroom! And John says this is his joy. It is the absolute effacement of the worker, he is never thought of again.

Watch for all you are worth until you hear the Bridegroom’s voice in the life of another. Never mind what havoc it brings, what upsets, what crumblings of health, rejoice with divine hilarity when once His voice is heard. You may often see Jesus Christ wreck a life before He saves it.” (Cf. Matt. 10:34.) —Oswald Chambers, My Utmost For His Highest

It was 2011 when I read this devotional, and it changed my life and faith. I don’t recall the exact details, but the general context in which God used this passage I remember like it was yesterday. My oldest was in 7th grade and I had just dropped her off at school; I pulled out my iPhone to read my daily devotional as I sat in the slow creep of cars exiting the school’s drop-off line.

She and I had just been discussing a circumstance about which she was very upset. I’ve come to learn that the middle school years are not easy ones socially for kids, and she was struggling with how to handle what awaited her after I dropped her off. I remember feeling at a loss for what to tell her and how to guide her in that moment, and so I wrapped up my time with her as I do every morning when I take my kids to school . . . we prayed.

It was in the context of feeling ill-prepared as a dad and inadequate to help her navigate that moment in her life that I read the March 24th entry of Oswald Chambers’ work. As you can see, it says nothing specific about dads and kids. But it opened my eyes in that moment to the general reality that I’m not supposed to have all the answers or be everything to the people I spend my life with. Jesus is what every single person needs; He does have the answers they long for as they navigate through this life.

Call it an “aha” moment, or call me foolish for not recognizing it sooner, but that day John 3:30 took on a whole new meaning in my life. I began to pray over the circumstances of my own life and the lives of those around me: “Lord, please increase in this situation as I decrease and get out of the way.”

It’s been both amazing and humbling to watch God do just that over the past four years. Not only has it helped me navigate countless crossroads and difficult circumstances, it has led to enormous growth in my life spiritually. I have seen Jesus repeatedly increase in my life and in the lives of those I love most, time and time again. Far from some sort of divine formula for life, the reminder to become less so that Jesus can become more changes one’s perspective on everything. As John the Baptist points out in the verse right before John 3:30, “it is a joyful thing to see people turning to the One for whom they are made.”

As much as I love my relationship with Jesus and have learned to discern His voice in my life, it has become an even greater joy for me to watch the people I love the most and interact with most often encounter Him the same way. It’s become the only way for me to live. I must continue to get out of His way so that it’s not my voice that’s heard, but His. —Steve Stenstrom