In order to know who we are, we must also discover who we are not. One of the consequences of becoming a leader is that sooner or later you discover who you are not. Weaknesses quickly come to the surface and as well as leading yourself towards change, you also have to learn to draw confidence from God rather than from how great you might think you are.
Unfortunately, some leaders become confused and frustrated about their own identity, because they are unable to distinguish between what they do and who they are. This is why kings and presidents can find it difficult to give up their power, because they feel they are fighting to keep their identity. It is the same reason why retirement can be difficult for many people, or why a parent may suffer depression after the last child leaves home.
Know Who You Are, And Who You Are Not
28 You yourselves can testify that I said, ‘I am not the Messiah but am sent ahead of him’ – John 3:28
John could easily have been seduced by the applause of the crowd during his early days when he was at his most popular. You could almost hear a person of less integrity being tempted to say: ‘Yes – I hadn’t thought about it quite like that, but perhaps I am a little like a Messiah. Why don’t we assume I am the Messiah and see what happens?’
John’s inner spirit was centred on God and this prevented him from assuming a false identity of himself. The louder the applause from the crowds, the more he shut himself away and listened to the voice of God. The more popular John became, the more he recognise the importance of going to God for a reality check. John didn’t allow the crowds to distort his understanding of who he was not.
Why was he able to do this? Because he didn’t allow himself to get so busy that he no longer had time to maintain and address his inner spirit.
Possess a Sense of Purpose
Rather than thinking he owned the crowds or feeling tempted to make himself into something he was not – John gives a clear definition of his purpose.
29 The bride belongs to the bridegroom. 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’ – John 3:29
‘This is my purpose’, declares John, ‘And I am happy with it!’
John likens his purpose to that of a best man. The purpose of the best man is simply to stand with the groom and to make sure all the attention is focused on the groom. The best man would be a fool, if in the middle of the wedding ceremony he suddenly turned to the wedding guests and began to sing a song or tell a story from his own life. The best ‘best man’ will draw no attention to himself and will instead help to focus attention onto the bride and groom. This was John’s purpose. And because it was clear in John’s head and heart, so it was clear for him as to how he should behave in any situation.
John’s purpose in life flowed from his ‘calling’ – and he had no desire to become anything beyond what God had called him to be and do. When he saw the crowds heading away from himself and towards Jesus, John knew his purpose was being fulfilled. But only a person with a sense of ‘calling’ can remain relaxed under such circumstances.
Understand Unswerving Commitment
The people who came to John tempt him to drag the crowds back to himself. But John is able to respond by saying:
30 He must become greater; I must become less” – John 3:30
When people take on roles in leadership, whether inside the church or outside the church, they are faced with the seduction of applause and appreciation – this can lead to a competitive spirit – especially if that person loses sight of their original ‘calling’.
I know this to be true from my own experiences – times when I have lost sight of my own sense of calling and become focused on a problem or an issue. The only way to make things right was for me to regain a sense of what I am ‘called’ to do and what I am not called to do.
Having connected himself with what he was and was not called to do – so John was able to feel satisfaction and withdraw quietly.
Remain Peaceful At The Centre Of Your Heart Even When Surrounded By Chaos
If we don’t make our inner world our first priorty, then no matter how great things are on the outside they will eventually crash – and we will be left with a huge hole on the inside.
23 Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it’ – Proverbs 4:23
There was a peace in John’s heart because his security was not tied to his career.
Only Jesus is secure, constant and unchanging. If your life is tied to anything else then you risk having your sense of peace and security shaken at any moment. If your sense of security comes from being good at your job, or being respected at work – then when your job is taken away your heart will be greatly shaken. Check what your heart is leaning on – make sure your heart is leaning on Jesus, and not on some false security such as a career or wealth or position.
If my heart is leaning on my wife, then when she is shaken I will also be shaken, and I will not have the strength to support her properly.
When John’s followers came to him, they thought he might be worried about losing the attention of the crowd and might be feeling like a failure – but instead, they found John feeling satisfied. John could only experience that kind of peace and joy because he was drawing strength from his private world and not drawing strength from the outside world. John had put something in place which stood between himself and public opinion. John had established the Word of God and the call of God first in his heart – and this voice which flowed from his heart was the loudest voice in his life – it came from time alone with God.