Time Magazine got it wrong when they put T.D. Jakes’ picture on the cover of their September 17th 2001 magazine with the question – “Is this the next Billy Graham?” Our culture is always on the hunt for the next big thing. But that idea falls short of the glory of God. Why can’t both preachers be great in and of and by themselves? In this third part of their ‘America’s Best Series’, the magazine failed to rise above the age long temptation to define greatness in terms of position, power, prominence and possession.
Even Jesus’ disciples stumbled over this same temptation when they “argued with one another about who was the greatest.”
The desire to be better than or above everyone else is born in a sinful, broken and bankrupt place of an arrogant heart. A lot of people tend to think that this is an American problem. But this is not an American problem, it is a sin problem. Pride is a disease. And the gospel, in all its simplicity and power, is the cure for that disease.
Jesus’ entire life and ministry is a teaching on how to have the same mind that he had: “Who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant.”
Greatness is not about the kind of car you drive, the kind of home you live in and the amount in your bank account. All those things are nice but a “man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.”
Greatness is not about whether we are smarter, more accomplished or successful than our peers. We are not defined by what we create, we are defined by who God says we are. Excelling in the area of our calling is both an occasion to give glory to God and an invitation to humility and service.
I would say, every accomplishment, every exploit and every breakthrough- be it in the medical field, in the arts, or tech industry, all fall under one banner: “Good and perfect gift from above.” In the same way, each person who has ever done anything significant or innovative, received that perfect gift from above for one purpose – to show who God is.
The potential for greatness lives within each of us
The unknown pastor who labors for the kingdom of God in an unknown village in Africa is as great as the well-known one who pastors a megachurch in the United States. Their greatness is measured by their faithfulness not by the size of their congregation or their notoriety.
The obscure first grade teacher who teaches way up in the boonies is as great as the renowned professor who teaches a prestigious university in the big city. Their greatness is measured by the impact they are having on others. Bob Marley said, “the greatness of a man is not in how much wealth he acquires, but in his integrity and his ability to affect those around him positively.”
We must never think of ourselves more highly than we ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned. The potential for greatness lives within each of us, but it should never be harnessed or pursued in order to lord it over others.
10 obstacles preventing us from coming into our true greatness:
If I am not the greatest I am not great at all
I believe we must all strive to do great in whatever field or vocation we are in. We must all push ourselves to excellence. We must always do our best to present ourselves to God as approved, workers who need not be ashamed. And if or when we excel more than others, see it as an opportunity to serve, not as a badge of superiority.
My greatness depends on what others think about me
Too many people sit back and allowed others to define who they are or who they should be. You will never see who you really are until you understand and believe who God says you are. Your true identity is not only in God but it is defined by Him.
A paralyzing insecurity:
- A spirit of fear
- A failure to take risk
- A lack of belief in self
We allow our culture to define what true greatness is
Our culture has no clue about what true greatness is all about. It fails over and over again at it’s definition. Anyone who chooses to live by its definition come up short over and over again. Greatness is what God says it is – and he is never wrong.
We obsess way too much about status than we do about servant-hood
Everyone wants to be the head and not the tale. Everyone wants to be the first and not the last. We are way too concerned about our platform and our following.
The root definition for selfish ambition is “to go both ways to gain one’s point. This definition fits anyone who runs after glory, praise and favor of men in a two-faced or deceitful manner. They always miss the point and fall short.
There is nothing wrong with doing great things. Even Jesus promised that we would do greater things than what He did. There is nothing wrong with accomplishing extraordinary things. What Jesus accomplished for us ain’t no small thing. Christians have idly stood by for generations sitting in mediocrity while quoting scriptures about humility. Humility does not mean lazy.
We compare ourselves to others
We all have different gifts. Your style is different from the leader down the street, so is his. To hope that you were more like the other guy down the street is just a recipe for frustration. You will never be like anyone else – so, be yourself.
We try too hard at being something we already are
How many of you wake up each day and say to yourself, “today I am going to do my very best to be a human being. No matter what you do, no matter how hard you try, you will never make yourself more a human than you already are. We are not defined by what we create, we are defined by who God says we are.
We work too hard at maintaining the image of greatness that we or others have branded us as
I find it incredibly crippling and terribly agonizing to worry about writing another book, producing another record that will be better than my current best seller. That is because my culture tells me that I have to consistently write better books, produce better records than the ones before. And if I can’t I am not great enough.
Greatness lies, not in being strong, but in the right using of strength; and strength is not used rightly when it serves only to carry a man above his fellows for his own solitary glory. He is the greatest whose strength carries up the most hearts by the attraction of his own.
Henry Ward Beecher