The lights faded in as the music began to swell. I gazed across a room filled with people waiting in anticipation for those first words to be sung. The worship pastor readied himself and began to sing. Immediately, hands flew up all throughout the sanctuary. People were singing at the top of their lungs with hands held high. This wasn’t a show, these people were genuinely worshipping. As I looked at this, I thought to myself, “Who am I to be given the privilege to lead these people in worship. Who am I to be put on a platform that allows me to influence so many people on a weekly basis?” This is what I was telling myself, but in the moment, I could only feel one thing, pride. Not just pride in Christ, but pride in myself. Pride in my own abilities and talents. Pride in what I was doing for this congregation. Though I kept telling myself that I was doing this solely for Christ, week after week I came to church secretly hoping that people would notice how good I was. Every Sunday after service, I would stand there in the sanctuary as person after person would come and do just that. After a while, I began to expect this praise. I began to crave it. After enough time, if you’re not careful, it becomes far too easy to lose sight of the very reason why you started doing this. This was the cliff that I was dangerously close to going over. What had started in a desire to praise God with my talents had turned into nothing more than a way to bolster my self-esteem. This is a very dangerous place to be.
I feel that this is a place that many musicians often find themselves. Though the main purpose of playing is to praise God with our talents, there is always this longing deep within us to be praised ourselves. After putting so many hours into this craft, it’s hard not to long for a bit of affirmation. Now I’m not saying that affirmation is necessarily a bad thing, but the minute it begins to take precedent, it becomes just that. We shift from desiring to praise God, to desiring to be praised like Gods. As I said, this is a dangerous place to be.
Now the question remains, what should it look like when a person humbles themselves and gives all praise and honor directly to God?  John 3:26-36 paints a very good picture this. Here, we find John the Baptist at the river baptizing as he always is. However, this time, we find that Jesus is also there baptizing. His disciples come and inform him that everyone is going to Jesus instead of him. At this point, John has two choices, get angry because he is losing the attention, or gracefully give it to the one who truly deserves it. I honestly don’t know how I would react, but John shows us exactly what we should do. Rather than try to regain what he has lost, he graciously and humbly gives it all to Jesus. He praises his name and exclaims, “He must increase, but I must decrease. He never once tried to gain praise for himself, rather, he shifted the focus from himself to the holiness and power of Jesus.
Now you may be saying, “But all John did was baptize, that doesn’t call for praise.” While you may be right, I would argue that John the Baptist had more to boast in than any of us. Matthew 11:11 states, “Truly, I say to you, among those born of women there has arisen no one greater than John the Baptist.” Now I can’t say for certain, but I would more than likely take pride in a comment like that. I believe that it may make me feel more important that I actually am. But not John the Baptist. While he may have been the greatest to come from a woman, he realized that Jesus was that much greater. He realized that no matter how great his calling was, God was still the reason for it all, and in turn, still deserved all of the credit.
This example that John the Baptist sets is an example that we should all strive to follow. No matter how great that we perceive that we are, we must remember that God is that much greater. We have to remember that everything that has been given, has been given from the father. Because of this, we have to realize that we deserve absolutely nothing.  While someone may complement our playing, or speaking, or some other gift, we have to remember that it is because of God that we have this gift. Therefore, this praise does not belong to us. It belongs to God alone. Our gifts and talents are given for one reason, and that is to exalt God. The moment we lose sight of this calling, we begin to travel down a path that leads us to a dangerous place.  This place feels good. It gives us the praise that we all crave. However, once here, it’s a hard place to leave. That is why it is so important to make sure that we never reach this place. Humble yourself just as John did, and in all situation, give all praise right back to God. He deserves it.