Phil Vischer, like me, and perhaps like you, was a disciple of Jesus -- and as such, had to learn the lesson that there's only room for one guy at the top, and it wasn't going to be him. Hit the rewind button to the first century and take a look at another disciple of Jesus.
John the Baptist -- who I affectionately call "J the B" when I teach about him in youth group -- was quite a character, a "card" as my mother likes to say. He wasn't a quiet, meek-mannered bookworm, but a scruffy survivalist who wasn't afraid of the rich or powerful, and upset just as many people as he attracted with his preaching. Every stereotype of a wild-eyed, manic-looking, rag-wearing preacher waving around signs that claim "THE END IS NEAR!" probably owes their inspiration to this guy. Except that for all of how John looked and acted, what with his locust-based diet, this wasn't a man who proclaimed "THE END IS NEAR!" so much as "THE CHRIST IS NEAR!"
His entire life and entire ministry served as a humble prologue to Jesus' arrival on earth. He was Jesus' PR guy, the guy on the loudspeaker who drives a beat-up car around a neighborhood blaring the news about something big about to happen. Or, if you like, John was a blue-collar road-layer, making "straight the paths" (1:3) in the Jewish community so that the people would be prepared and eager to receive Jesus.
In the years that he did ministry in the countryside, J the B was probably tempted to develop a big head. He was a big name of the time, a man who's words carried weight, and who's message drew followers who were baptized by him and dedicated their lives to following him. He could've easily fallen into the trap that Moses did, claiming that his popularity and success came from his own means -- in other words, that it WAS all about him. But he doesn't! Read his message in verses 7 and 8:
"After me will come one more powerful than I, the thongs of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie. I baptize you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit."In John 3:30, J the B said it another way: "He must become greater; I must become less." This was humility in action, a man who wanted what God wanted, who desired what God desired, and couldn't stand the thought of people worshiping him over Christ.
Every time I preach in our church, the part that makes me the most nervous is at the end when I go to the back and shake hands of the congregation. It's a good thing to do -- to be accessible, to minister with a friendly word and touch -- but a lot of people tend to treat it as they would any public performance: to congratulate and praise you. Tell me that's not temptation, after you hear fifty or so people say "Wow, what a great sermon!" or "You did a great job!" or, on the bad Sundays, "You said I'm a sinner, so I might as well go let the air out of your tires." I don't want the attention to be on me after sharing God's Word -- I want it to be on God.
We each are tempted in different ways to accept the glory of successful ministry instead of passing it along to God, particularly when people praise or complement us, or attribute any success to our own efforts. It's not a bad thing to let a complement lift you up, but we should train ourselves to respond to that with "It's not me, it's Jesus. Praise God!"