Living for the Glory of God ~ Vivir para la Gloria de Dios

The Dangers & Destinies of Greatness

There exists an interesting life paradox in which we are always pining for greatness, but we grow more ordinary everyday. From birth, we inculcate into our children that they are destined for greatness (and sometimes suggest anything less is failure). Yet, as each day passes and greatness is not achieved, one simply grows more ordinary. Being ordinary is not only normal, but something quite extraordinary and is a characteristic that should be encouraged.
We live in a culture that currently defines greatness as heroin usually brought about by unexpected circumstances in which a person prevailed. It may be the person who has created a masterpiece like no other, one who has generated in impact far beyond his or her lifetime, or one who has championed the social cause of the day. Ordinary, on the other hand, is seen as dull. Perceived dullness in the events and people of everyday life results in lowered expectations, contentment in mediocrity, and lack of attention. Such definitions require both a change in our definitions of greatness and ordinary as well as caution in the message of greatness we proclaim.

Three Dangers
Our current standards of greatness as defined by societal ideas brings about three dangers that threaten the well-being of our people.

  1. Delusions: Interestingly, I find myself frustrated with the constant contentment in mediocrity that so many people have subjected themselves to. Yet, with the expectations of greatness comes delusions of expectations. Those desiring nothing but greatness fail to recognize the influence of sin, and in doing so set standards that are unattainable. While the result may be quite incredible, the person is unable to comprehend the profundity because it did not meet the expected level of greatness.
  2. Dissatisfaction: Additionally, while delusions from unobtainable expectations begin to infiltrate one’s life, dissatisfaction will prevail. When a person repeatedly falls short of perfection, there is no other option but to be dissatisfied. Perhaps one may be dissatisfied with his or her own work, or perhaps the unrealistic expectations result in dissatisfaction with others. It may be a co-worker, friend, spouse, child, or insert any other relationship you choose, but the danger and potential result are the same. Dissatisfaction that can make for destroyed relationships.
  3. Depression: Dissatisfaction from the inability to reach greatness threatens the well-being of individuals because it can bring on depression. Constant ‘perceived’ failure causes one to question his or her capacity, his or her goals, and his or her value. If greatness is not properly proclaimed, it can create a level of depression.
Such serious dangers warrant attention that requires us to consider both the dangers and also the alternatives.

Three Destinies
If greatness is defined as either a master or heroin in the secular world, what is a godly definition of greatness? Perhaps before determining a definition, we should consider how God has destined us for greatness:

  1. We are destined to be part of a great God: We see from the beginning that greatness is never about who we are, but about who God is. Even David wonders at God’s greatness in the Psalms, acknowledging his ability to create and maintain the world (cf. Psalm 8) while Paul brings attention to the greatness of His Son (Colossians 1:15-20). Paul does not stop at Christ’s greatness though, but goes further to discuss Christ’s reconciliation to God through Christ Colossians 1:21-23). Those who have trusted solely in the work of Christ are destined to a relationship with this great God, of whom there is no variation (Mal. 3:6), of whom is love (1 John 4:8), and of whom has loved the world (John 3:16).
  2. We are destined to be part of a great transformation: Greatness further comes in the work that God is doing in us through the Holy Spirit. Knowing our corrupted states (Romans 3:23), God is working in those who have trusted him to transform his followers from the inside out (2 Corinthians 3:18). This great transformation is one that leaves behind an old self and transforms one into the image of Christ, generating the ongoing work of sanctification in the believer’s life. This is not something that is undertaken on our own, but only through His work in us.
  3. We are destined to be part of a great work: Finally, God has called us to be part of a great work. He has called individuals to proclaim his truth (2 Timothy 4:2) and allowed them the privilege of taking part in his work of transformation through disciple-making (Matthew 28:19-20). All of this comes through the opportunity through the great privilege of being able to have deep and profound relationships with others. His grace is continually seen in the opportunities in which he has allowed us to be part of his work in this world. When disaster strikes, we have a great work of directing people to God’s glory; when joy prevails, we have a great work of directing people to God’s glory; when people are indifferent, we have the great work of directing people to God’s glory.
God has destined his followers to greatness, but this greatness is distinct not because each person’s will prevails, but because God’s will prevails.

As we look at the way in which God has called individuals to greatness, there are some common denominators here. Greatness requires ambition towards a mission, but it is not a mission that is completed by one’s own labors but by his or her existence and labor within a community. Therefore, greatness requires ambition, mission, and community that is all oriented towards God’s greatness. Therefore, I propose that greatness is this: the faithful advancement of God’s mission for the church through the use of one’s personal ambition and skills (given by God) for God’s glory.
With this in mind, greatness is measured then, by our faithfulness to God. There is no ability to be prideful here because greatness cannot be attributed to our own activities and attributes but in God’s ongoing work in and through us. Greatness is not about who we are, but about who God is.

Photo “Past Greatness” courtesy of user Phillip Watts and Flickr.

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