“He must increase, but I must decrease.” — John 3:30
On Feb. 26, 1852, the HMS Birkenhead was transporting British troops at Danger Point, approximately 87 miles from Cape Town, South Africa. The ship was estimated to be carrying 643 passengers. On this infamous day, the steam frigate struck an uncharted rock and with it made history beyond the impending disaster that followed.
As the ship took on water and broke apart, one soldier stood out for an act of courage and selflessness. While the boat’s captain called out for all on board to save themselves, Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Seton saw the danger of this order. Seeing the great risk to the women and children boarding the ship’s life boat, Seton ordered the men to stand fast. Of the approximately 643 on board only 193 were saved. This chivalrous act unofficially gave way to the phrase “women and children first.” Seton and many of the men aboard the Birkenhead put the safety of the women and children first, at the expense of their own lives.
When is the last time you can remember helping someone else succeed at your own expense? Maybe it was a family member. Perhaps a friend. If you are lucky to be a part of a great organization, maybe it was even someone else vying for your own job.
Recently on FS1’s “First Things First with Cris Carter, Nick Wright and Jenna Wolfe,” Philadelphia Eagles QB Nick Foles spoke about his relationship with fellow QB and teammate Carson Wentz. The Eagles starter was injured during an MVP-caliber regular season in 2017. Foles stepped up and turned in quite possibly the best conference championship and Super Bowl performance by a backup QB in NFL history. Going into the 2018 season one might think Foles would be solely focused on maintaining the starting role.
But that isn’t quite how Foles sees it.
“I want him to stay healthy the entire season,” Foles said on FS1. “I want him to have a great career. Even at the expense of me not playing. That’s where I have to put my ego aside. I want Carson to have an amazing career there. Be a legend there.”
Foles, a leader and devout Christian, stands out not only for his play on the field but for his selflessness. Rather than worrying about increasing his next contract or his own status among top NFL quarterbacks, he is helping his teammate to increase even if it means he has to decrease.
Like the men on the Birkenhead and in the Eagles locker room, we also see an example of this within the Gospel of John. John the Baptist is speaking with some of his followers and they ask if he is concerned about losing his place of baptizing disciples to the new guy in town, Jesus of Nazareth. As you can guess by his name, baptizing was kind of a big deal to John the Baptist! Yet we see his humility shine through as a great servant of God when he tells them:
“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. He must become greater; I must become less.” — John 3:29-30
While we may not have the heroic opportunity like Lieutenant Colonel Seton, or a Super Bowl-winning performance like Foles, we do have chances every day to put another’s success at our own expense. We skip the workout or personal time to listen to a friend’s difficulties. We praise our spouse or colleague for all they contribute above and beyond ourself. We place the advancement of our children above our own. They must increase and we must decrease.
Think about ways in which you can share God’s love by humbly putting someone else’s success above your own. More times than not, God will reward you above and beyond your imagination. Put those around you first and you too will leave a legacy worth remembering.
— Brian Catanella
If you would like to submit a reader devotional, please email all submissions to [email protected]