God never promised us the Christian life would shield us from the temptation of popularity, greatness, or admiration. In fact, don’t we often toy with getting what we want out of life just like the world does?
On His way up to Jerusalem for the last time, Jesus once told His followers that greatness is a fine goal to pursue. In fact, He applauded it.
As long as we understand what true greatness is.
Jesus and the Twelve Opportunists
Jesus’ twelve disciples were opportunists all—the original team of rivals. Each of these Galilean nobodies saw Jesus as their opportunity for personal greatness or gain.
- Judas took advantage of insider information about Jesus in order to get money (Mark 14:10-11).
- James and John used a family relationship to jockey Jesus for special favors (Matt. 20:20-21).
- Peter used his close relationship with Jesus to boast of his superiority in devotion (Matt. 26:33).
- Each of the twelve argued about which of them was the greatest (Mark 9:34).
They kept on the lookout for opportunities to get ahead—even if accelerating meant cutting off a brother. No problem. When the goal is promotion or position or esteem, other people never come to mind except when they get in the way.
How did the other disciples respond to the opportunistic manipulation of the others?
Discovering the Secret to Greatness
After James and John jockeyed Jesus for the prime seats in the kingdom of God, the other disciples responded accordingly:
And hearing this, the ten became indignant with the two brothers. —Matthew 20:24
You think? The other ten were upset that they didn’t think of that first. So Jesus gave the twelve a lesson we must remember:
Whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant . . . just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many. —Matthew 20:26, 28
3 Questions Only You Can Answer
If someone cuts you off in their own pursuit of greatness, ask yourself these 3 questions:
- Even if another’s motives are purely opportunistic, what is that to me? Is God able to deal with them in His time and in His way?
- Did their actions simply reveal my own desires?
- Am I seeking greatness as Jesus defined it—or as the world defines it?
God does not need us to climb higher in order for His kingdom to advance. He desires instead our humility. Servanthood is the secret to greatness. The way up is down. I like the way Michael Hyatt puts it:
Ego can be a good thing. It’s part of what drives us to succeed. But it can get in our own way. Usually it happens when take our eye off the mission and start worrying about winning and losing by less important measures—like status.
I’m discovering that a mature ego understands the secret of greatness. It requires the humility to allow others to pass us—if that’s what it takes to accomplish the mission. So what’s the goal? The kingdom of God. Of course, we can still pursue the secret of greatness—and we must!
Greatness as Jesus described it: a servant’s heart.
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