I believe there may be something in each of us that desires greatness, that wants to be great, that wants to be special, that wants to stand out, that wants to be a person of distinction, that wants to be someone ‘important’. Martin Luther King, Jr. argued that we all have this desire and he called it the drum major instinct in one of his famous sermons. Some long to be the fire that starts the revival! To be a ‘star’ revivalist and have our name up in lights! To be on TV, be another Joyce Meyers, Beth Moore or T.D. Jakes..to have people come from all over just to hear us preach.
We see such a desire evident in the Gospel of Mark, chapter nine. The disciples are arguing about who was the greatest. They sensed that in following Jesus they were part of a movement that was going to shake things up, change the world, and they wanted to be front and center, and even to stand out among Jesus’s closest followers. They wanted to be the brightest star! The tragic-comic irony in these verses is that Jesus keeps telling them that things are going to get rough, brutal, painful. World-shaping change would come, but only on the other side of sorrow and tragedy. How many know that to get to the top, you first must go through the valley. In order to be.. you must be taught. They just didn’t get that. In order for a victory, there must first be a battle fought!
They also didn’t get the meaning of “greatness,” at least Jesus’ meaning of greatness. “Whoever wants to be first must be last of all and servant of all.” Everybody wants to be in God’s house but no one wants to work His fields. Greatness, Jesus says, comes through compassion, service, caring, especially for the least, the hurting, the broken, those without status, those unable to return the favor. In order for one to be big, one must first become little.
If greatness comes through service, through compassion, caring and love, then everyone can be great. Everyone is a star who lets their light shine. We kind of like that and we don’t. If everybody can be great, if everybody is a star, then is anybody really great, really a star? The really great are those who serve well, those who humble themselves. In order to lead you must first learn to follow. The deepest measure of our lives, the most thorough measure of our greatness has nothing to do with comparing ourselves to others. If caring, compassion, service and love define greatness, then the only comparison worth making is an inside comparison. Am I better today than who I was yesterday? Am I more compassionate, caring, loving, giving, than I was before? That’s the greatness question, and it will take our whole lives to answer it.
A long time ago, I knew I would never be great like Beth Moore or any other of the ‘greats’. Over the years, I have also discovered that I will not be great in the way Katherine Kuhlman was great. I’ll probably never be a great evangelist traveling the globe healing the sick and raising the dead. That’s just a fact, the way things are. The greatness question for me is not whether I can be more compassionate than Mother Teresa, but whether I can be a more compassionate Elizabeth Parker today than I was yesterday, last week, last month, last year. I can boast not that I am a star with my name written on some church marquee but that my name is written in the Lamb’s Book of Life.
And that’s the question for you, too. You want to be great? Then love, serve, care, be compassionate. Does your greatness need a little competition? Be in competition with yourself…love and serve and care and be compassionate a little more today than you were yesterday. Will anyone see this and call you great? Will anyone else know about your greatness? Maybe not, probably not but God will know, and your heart will know and grow.
In His love,