Christians are called to be great. Although, maybe you don’t think you’re one of the great ones. Maybe you do. Either way, this message is for you.

One of the most damaging, disastrous failings of the church in our age is that you and I, “ordinary Christians,” have not responded to God’s call to be great.

John the Baptist: Great in Humility, Humble in Greatness

Consider the amazing humility, yet boldness, of John the Baptist, as seen in John 1. Here is humility personified. “I baptize with water,” he says, “but there stands One among you whom you do not know. It is He who, coming after me, is preferred before me, whose sandal strap I am not worthy to loose” (John 1:26b27).

This is the man who clothed himself in goatskins, who ate locusts and wild honey, who eagerly turned over all his followers to Christ when he arrived on the scene, one who gladly said, “He must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3:30).

How then could he say what he said about himself? You may not have noticed it; it’s easy to miss from our distance. Here’s the scene: The Jewish leaders had sent messengers to ask him who he was and how he claimed the authority to baptize, that is, to establish a prominent new religious movement outside of their authority.

They asked Him if he was the Christ, or Elijah, or the Prophet (the one predicted very early by Moses) and he denied them all. So they said, “then who are you?”

How John answered when called to be great

His answer: “I am ‘The voice of one crying in the wilderness: make straight the way of the Lord,’ as the prophet Isaiah said” (John 1:23). Let me paraphrase that to give you a clearer sense of what his listeners heard when he said that. John’s answer to their question was, “I am one of the three or four most important people in the history of this nation!”

This messenger was one of the most anxiously awaited people in all of prophecy, second only to the Messiah he would herald. When John claimed that identity, he took the title of one for whom Israel had been waiting for 700 years! John claimed greatness in high degree.

Called To Be Great And Sent From God

This is humility. It’s humility of a kind we seldom see, though. The explanation is in a simple statement in verse 6: “There was a man sent from God, whose name was John.” John was sent by God; he was simply doing what he was told to do, and he was doing it for the glory of God, whom he constantly lifted up in the person of Jesus Christ. John was both humble and great at the same time.

There are many such examples in the Bible. Isaiah’s response when he saw the Lord was, “Woe is me, for I am undone! Because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell among a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of Hosts” (Is. 6:5). Yet when God asked, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for Us?” he said, “Here am I! Send me” (v. 8). He humbly confessed his unworthiness, he accepted his call, and he went on to a career that changed kings and kingdoms.

Called To Be Great

God chooses who may have greatness of impact or leadership. Our part is to recognize what God has called us to, to trust in him to accomplish it through us, and to direct all glory to Jesus Christ. Indeed, this is the greatness of spirit that all of us are called to seek. In some people, however, it will produce more widely visible fruit than others. This is the choice of God.

God gives some of us more opportunity than others. In Matthew 25:14-30, one man received five talents, one received two, and another only one. The ones who received five and two brought a return to their master of five and two respectively.

Even though the second one brought back less than half than the first, he received the same commendation: “Well done, good and faithful servant; you were faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord.” The exact same words are used in both Matthew 25:21 and 25:23.

Called to great is both leading and following

Those who are not asked to enter leadership of widespread impact are no less of value to God than those who are, and they are expected to be faithful with what they are given. The one who received just one talent brought nothing back with it; he was the one who was censured. His lack of understanding of his master, his lack of faith, and his fear caused him to end with disapproval.

God chooses leaders according to his own will. We see this throughout the Bible, beginning with Abraham, continuing through many others like Moses, David, Esther, Mary, the twelve, and Paul.

What these men and women shared in common was the calling of God and their response of humility, faith, and obedience; and also that their lives made a great deal of difference in the world.


Tom Gilson is senior editor and columnist with The Stream. He’s published over 700 articles and several books including his most recent, Too Good to Be False.

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