“A man can receive nothing unless it has been given him from heaven.” (John 1:27)
John the Baptist set forth a general principle here which applies in every area of life. We receive nothing that does not come from God (James 1:17). Jesus knew this, and declared it to Pilate in John 19:11, “You would have no authority over Me unless it had been given you from above.” No one can do anything unless God allows or empowers it.
And this especially applies to ministers and ministries.
Here in John 3 people were comparing the relative “success” of the ministries of Jesus and John the Baptist, and remarking about how everyone was going to Jesus. But John wasn’t “jealous”; he knew that “a man can receive nothing unless it has been given him from heaven” — and that what Jesus was accomplishing was exactly what God had given Him to do, and the same thing was true for John himself.
And it is true for us today as well. Every minister, every ministry, every church, which “has” or “does” anything — that is from God.
— Why does a man prosper in his ministry the way he does? The answer is simple: It has been given to him from heaven.
— Why do we see that certain people have such influence on others, and have been a part of raising up so many for ministry and service? Again, it has been given to them from heaven.
— Why do YOU personally have — or do NOT have — what you do? Because that is what has been granted to you from heaven. As Paul wrote in Romans 9:16″So then it does not depend on the man who wills or the man who runs, but on God who has mercy.”
Now, the needed “balance” here is that we are indeed responsible to God for how hard we work, and how we purify ourselves for His service (II Tim. 2:21), etc. But our gifts, abilities, and accomplishments are to be recognized as coming from GOD, not as something we somehow brought about ourselves. In a very real sense, there is no such thing as a “self made man.” It is not “false humility” to say that it is the Lord, and not we ourselves, who is the source of our good. Thus we ought not be proud of “our” accomplishments, nor jealous of others’. Instead we should be thankful for how the Lord Himself is glorified in each. It all comes from Him. John the Baptist made it clear here: “A man can receive NOTHING unless it has been given him from heaven.”