We like to be the centre of attention. We like to be the big deal. We want people to take notice of us, and be impressed. (Don’t believe me? Just take a look at Facebook…) Even in worship some of us like to be the guy or girl who is up there at the front jumping around while everybody has to look at you to see the words on the projector (just one of the reasons why I’m bringing hymnal back, you powerpoint users won’t know how to act…)
But that is not God’s way. In Philippians 2:3-4 he tells us to “Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourself. Don’t think only about your own affairs, but be interested in others too, and what they are doing.” His Son Jesus was born not in a palace, but a lowly stable. We should not be living to seek fame and attention for ourselves, but should boast only in what Christ has done for us. We must decrease so He can increase. It is time to stop hogging the limelight, and turn the spotlight onto God, for He alone is worthy.
A few months back God used those verses from Philippians to remind me that so often my priorities are totally wrong. I was working at a Christian summer camp (Beaver Cross), it was Sunday morning, a new group of kids were coming that afternoon and I was having a bit of quite time before church. And I was taking advantage of the fact that the camp was in New York State and doing my quiet time outside in the sun (something you don’t often get to do when you live in Northern Ireland). I was praying that I would be able to make a big impact on the kids that week, that I could be confident, funny, bold, memorable, popular with the kids, all that sort of stuff. Then I opened up my Bible, where I was at Philippians chapter 2. And I was sitting there, reading. And soon I came to the bit were Paul writes “Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourself. Don’t think only about your own affairs, but be interested in others too, and what they are doing.” It was like a slap to the face.
It was pretty humbling. I had been so focused on me in my prayer moments earlier. I had wanted me to be memorable. I had wanted the kids to look up to me. I had wanted to be able to amuse them in such a way that they would remember me, and talk about me when they went home. I was focused on me. And I felt like God was screaming at me that my priorities were wrong. It’s not about me. I am not important. It’s not about you. We don’t matter. It’s all about Jesus. We need to exit stage left, leaving the stage for Him. (In drama circles, exit stage left is a direction to get off the stage in such a way as to avoid distracting from what is happening on stage.)
But not only do we have to be careful to make sure we don’t steal the limelight from God, we have to be sure to avoid obscuring the role of others. We need to step back not just enough to be away from the centre stage spot that belongs to God, but back enough that we can see the others in our life, and realise that they are more important than us too.
We can so easily get caught up in our lives that we forget about the needs of others. As I was praying for God to give me some time in the limelight I was forgetting the 20 or so other people who would be working at camp that week. I wasn’t praying for them. I wasn’t caring what issues they were going through. My burning concern was that I would be memorable. I was so caught up in my own ego and pride that I was blinded to the needs of those around me. We need to take the focus of ourselves, and pay more of an interest to the affairs of others, being genuinely interested in their lives and what is happening (which means going beyond the superficial “How are you?” “Fine” conversations we have so often).
We need to exit stage left and give God the central role. We need to be content with a supporting role and accept there is One much, much more worthy of the limelight than us. But we need to keep exiting further stage left and let others have a more important supporting role than us. Be humble. Put God first. Put others second. Put self a distant last.