The evangelist Billy Graham is one of the most recognizable names throughout the world. Few have cast a gospel net further than this man. The numbers are staggering. Across the span of 60 years Mr. Graham spoke live to more than 215 million people in a total of 185 countries. Yet, throughout his ministry Billy Graham had an uneasy conscience about his notoriety and popularity. In the early 1950’s following his famous three-month London campaign which drew record crowds, Graham confided with a friend over dinner in New York, “I’m scared I’m going to get the credit for what God is doing. And that’s just not right.” More than fifty years later that concern continued to bedevil him. After touring the Billy Graham Library just before its opening in 2007 Dr. Graham was asked his impressions of it. After commending the excellence of the exhibits, and particularly the area devoted to his wife Ruth, Dr. Graham confessed one misgiving, “Too much Billy, not enough Jesus.”
Billy Graham’s concern should be all our concern! The clear and present danger in all of our lives is that in too much of our conversations, spending, worship, endeavors, and achievements there is too much of us and not enough of Jesus. How quick we are to inflate our importance, display our giftedness, and convey our indispensability. How slow we are to glorify God, magnify Christ, and extol the mercy and magnificence of God’s grace at work in our life (Phil. 1:20-21; Cor. 15:10). How slow we are to let Jesus take center stage, while we slip off onto the sidelines. The sad and sorry fact is that sin at its essence is the displacement of God and it is often our sin. Like Billy Graham, we should all be scared of getting or taking the credit for what God is doing in us and through us. With the psalmist we should want to say, “Not unto us, O Lord, not unto us, but to your name give glory, because of your mercy, because of your truth” (Psalm 115:1).
If anyone understood this clear and present danger of stealing the glory from God and the limelight from Jesus it was John the Baptist. John’s calling in life was to be the “advance man” for Jesus Christ (John 1:6-8). It was his fundamental job and joy to point to Christ, to make much of Jesus. The Baptist’s life was a shop window into the grace and glory of Christ (John 1:14-18). That is why the governing and guiding principle in his life was, “He must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3:3). He understood that Jesus was the Word, John was only the voice (John 1:1, 14, 23); he understood that Jesus was the bridegroom, John was only the best man (John 3:26-30); and he understood that Jesus was the light, John was only the lampstand (John 5:31-35; 1:6-8). John was always happy to take a back seat to Jesus. John understood that he could not simultaneously give people the impression that he was wonderful, and Jesus was magnificent.
John the Baptist was a miracle baby, a gifted prophet, and according to Jesus among those born of women few were greater than John (Matt. 11:11). But as we have seen John’s true greatness lay in his desire to make Jesus great. The life that counts is the life that makes Jesus count.
Therefore, for Jesus' sake, please step aside!