The Pursuit of Greatness

Posted by Dr. Wade Smith on

Collegefootballnews.com recently ranked the University of Oklahoma as the “Greatest Football Program of All-Time.” (Boomer. . .) Last summer, Michael Phelps was proclaimed the “Greatest Olympian of All-Time.” Muhammad Ali simply declared, “I am the greatest!” And today, President Trump is acting out on his promise to “make America great again.”

How do you feel about “greatness?” Is the pursuit of greatness a worthwhile endeavor? Do you want to be great? Do you want to live in a great nation? Is there anything wrong with pursuing greatness or wanting to be great? I suspect your answer to these questions is shaped by your experience and understanding of “greatness.”

During His years of ministry, Jesus gathered around Him 12 men. Known as the “12 disciples,” they left everything to follow Jesus. These disciples witnessed in Jesus the coming of the “Kingdom of Heaven” on earth. He instilled in them a new way of understanding and living life. He mentored them and empowered them to continue His work after He was gone.

One day, two of Jesus’ disciples approached Him and asked if they could be the “greatest” in His Kingdom. Interestingly, Jesus did not rebuke the disciples for their desire or pursuit of greatness. Rather, He called them to a new understanding of greatness. In the kingdoms of the earth, greatness is defined through the exercise of power and authority and the accumulation of wealth or fame. Great leaders lord over others. Certainly, this is the greatness these two disciples sought.

But, Jesus offered a new definition and path to greatness. Greatness in the Kingdom of Heaven would not be accomplished by the lording of power and authority over others. On the contrary, greatness in the Kingdom of Heaven would be defined by humility and service to others. “Whoever wishes to be great or first among you,” Jesus said, “shall be the servant of all.”

This new “servant based greatness” is validated and fulfilled through the death and resurrection of Jesus when scripture proclaims that God highly exalted the humiliated Jesus and gave Him the greatest name of all, declaring that every knee will bow and tongue confess Jesus as Lord.

In this same chapter of Philippians 2, the scripture boldly defines the attitude of greatness found in Jesus and calls us to this same pursuit: “do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.” A greatness based on selflessness, humility and service to others is a greatness that will last into eternity. Every other type of greatness will pass.

Are you pursuing greatness today? If so, which path are you taking?

Which path of greatness will our President and nation choose to pursue? Yes, we must look out for our own interests, but what about the interests of others? Will we pursue a greatness that lords and exercises power over others (both inside and outside our borders), or a greatness that serves and empowers others?

Jesus declared that we should love God with all that we are and that we should love our neighbor as we love ourselves If this is the definition of a “great person,” then surely we can say the same for a “great nation.” If so, let’s join together in our pursuit of greatness!