What does it mean to be great?
I’ve explored this question for a while now, as I’ve always wanted to be great. I think we all want to be the hero and save the day, to impact the lives of those around us, to do something that will outlive us and outlast us. To leave a legacy. To change the world.
I met Jesus for the first time on April 12th, 2008. I was a senior in high school who courageously left the comfortability of a party weekend to attend a Friday-Sunday retreat with my mom. The whole weekend was serendipitous - it was different than any “church” function that I had ever attended before. The team hosting the retreat was excellent in all they did, they made it a lot of fun, and it was REAL. The moment of the weekend that everything changed for me was when a lady in her 40’s got up and shared her God story.
She had had a pretty rough life, actually the worst past I’d ever heard of. It was the first time in my life that I heard someone’s story that was worse than mine. I was amazed as she described the Person of Jesus entering her world and bringing her radical freedom. She described how His love entered her life, and when it did, it changed everything. She went on to tell how her pain was transformed into purpose, and how God began to put her in places where she could minister to women who were where she used to be.
As she said these things, something abnormal happened to me. Something supernatural. Something that I actually had never experienced before.
I felt the Presence of Love.
It came over me like a warm blanket. I felt it in my heart, and somehow kinda on my body too. It was the most remarkable thing I’d experienced in my life.
You see, I know that I had people in my life who had loved me. My family was great - there was just some brokenness that happened to me and inside of me that kept me in performance mode my whole life. I was never actually able to receive love because I always felt like I had to earn it. And no matter how much I did, it never seemed to be enough to earn it.
But this was different.
To put it in a human word, I knew it was UNCONDITIONAL.
When I felt it, something happened to my heart.
My heart said these words:
“God, if you can love her, you can love me.
And if you can give her life a purpose, you can give my life one too.
If you do those two things, God, I will give you my life and You can do with it whatever You want.”
That was the moment I entered into a relationship with the Creator of the Universe. I invited Him to be my Father, Lord, and Friend.
It was the best decision I ever made in my life.
It launched me on a journey of healing, restoration, redemption, and freedom.
AND…. It began my adventure of discovering that I was great. That greatness was placed inside of me. Realizing that I was born to do great things. And that with God, all things are possible.
I’ve gotten to go on many fun adventures with God since then. I am humbled by the things that I’ve been able to do, the people I’ve been able to meet, the favor I’ve been shown, and the miracles I’ve seen. I’ve traveled to Israel, South Africa, and all around the United States. I’ve met influential business, government, sports, and ministry leaders from all over the world. I have experienced two of the premier ministry training schools in America, and rubbed shoulders with my heroes in the faith. God has worked miracles and healed bodies through me. Men have been discipled unto Jesus, hearts have been healed, relationships have been restored, and prophetic and encouraging words have established people in their identities and launched them into their destinies.
Sometimes I forget, though, that greatness is a gift of grace that I don’t have to earn. Too often than I’d like to admit, I return to the pseudo-safety of the performance mindset that dominated my first eighteen years of life. I’ve learned to see some of the things in the world that need to be transformed, and I get ahead of myself (and God) to try to do them. I see that a leader is needed in certain circumstances, and I assert myself to be that person in charge who will make things happen. And I remember the celebration and affirmation that comes from being successful, and something inside or around me reminds me how good those things feel, that I need them, and compels me to make success my idol and forget that I’m my Father’s son.
I was reading today a story from the life of my Best Friend, Jesus. I’d like to share it with you:
Then James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came to him. “Teacher,” they said, “we want you to do for us whatever we ask.”
“What do you want me to do for you?” He asked.
They replied, “Let one of us sit at your right and the other at your left in your glory.”
“You don’t know what you are asking,” Jesus said. “Can you drink the cup I drink or be baptized with the baptism I am baptized with?”
“We can,” they answered.
Jesus said to them, “You will drink the cup I drink and be baptized with the baptism I am baptized with, but to sit at My right or left is not for me to grant. These places belong to those for whom they have been prepared.”
When the ten heard about this, they became indignant with James and John. Jesus called them together and said, “You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Mark 10:35-45)
An important first thing to note:
Jesus didn’t rebuke their desire to be great. He just showed them what the Father’s definition of greatness truly is. Jesus perfectly exemplified greatness with the way He lived His life. He was a leader and an influencer, a miracle-worker and powerful teacher and preacher. He was good with kids, He was kind and compassionate, fierce and loyal, wise and knowledgeable. He lived a life of power, beyond which the world had ever seen before. He also used it in a way different than the world had ever seen before: to serve and to love.
Jesus constantly sacrificed for others. He took the lowest spot at the table. He spent time with the outcasts and rejects of society. He allowed Himself to be inconvenienced by those around Him. He was persecuted by His peers and rejected by His hometown.
Yet, He never turned His love off. He never gave up hope. And He never stopped loving.
His identity came from His Father, and Jesus never stopped believing that He was the Father’s beloved Son, the One in Whom His father delights. He didn’t need to step into performance, because He was never afraid of failing, being rejected, or being punished. He humbly lived in His Father’s Presence and Love, and that enabled and empowered Him to live out the greatness of who His Father created Him to be. And to do the great things that His Papa made Him to do.
I’m glad that Jesus didn’t false-humbly shy away from doing the big things that the world needed Him to do.
And I’m glad that He redefined what it means to be great for you and I, so that service, sacrifice, humility, and love could be our guides to being world changers instead of performance, fear, competition, or comparison.
There’s great things that need to be done. The world could use a few more great people like MLK Jr, Mother Theresa, Ghandi, Heidi Baker, and Billy Graham. There are some Goliaths out there that need some shepherd boys and warrior girls to pick up their slings and learn how to toss some stones. There’s work to be done, people to be impacted, lives to be saved, hungry to be fed, and victims to be rescued.
Why not us? Why not now?
Two things I’ll leave you with
1.There’s greatness inside of you. He wants to show it to you. And the world is waiting to see it.
For all of creation waits with expectation for the revealing of the glorious sons and daughters of God. (Romans 8:19)
2. The journey to greatness doesn’t lie in performing to earn it, striving for leadership, or cutting down others to get there. Greatness looks like serving. When we humble ourselves, God exalts us. And when we lay down our lives and choose love, God can position us in places of influence.
I bless you to be baptized in His love today. I bless you to see Him as He truly is, and for Him to reveal to you who you truly are. And I bless you to see the path of greatness in front of you and to have the wisdom to know how to get there.