Christians Are Called To Be Great (Part 3)
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.
Humble, Not Puny
God calls us to be humble, not to be puny. When Jesus rebuked the disciples for jockeying for position in his kingdom, he invited them at the same time to greatness, as long as it was greatness on the right terms: “Whoever desires to become great among you, let him be your servant. And whoever desires to be first among you, let him be your slave” (Matthew 20:26b, 27).
God chooses public greatness (church-wide, community-wide, or even broader in scope) for certain people and not for others, but I fear there are many of us whom God has called in that way, who have not listened, trusted, and obeyed. Some of us could be great for God, legitimately called by him, but we’ve turned our back on it.
This is a great loss to the kingdom of God. It is the burying of the talents, for which God offers only rebuke. To dare to be great, as we follow what God has called us to, is to be humble and obedient.
Ready To Pay the Price
There is more to learn about greatness from John the Baptist, this time from the account in Luke. It uncovers the second chief reason we approach the topic of greatness with fear, which I think accounts for some of us shrinking from the greatness God would call us to:
Then he said to the multitudes that came out to be baptized by him, “Brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Therefore bear fruits worthy of repentance, and do not begin to say to yourselves, “We have Abraham as our father.” For I tell you that God is able to raise up children of Abraham from these stones. And even now the ax is laid to the root of the trees. Therefore every tree which does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.” So the people asked him, saying, “What shall we do then?” He answered and said to them, “He who has two tunics, let him give to him who has none; and he who has food, let him do likewise.” Then tax collectors also came to be baptized, and said to him, “Teacher, what shall we do?” And he said to them, “Collect no more than what is appointed for you.” Likewise the soldiers asked him, saying, “And what shall we do?” So he said to them, “Do not intimidate anyone or accuse falsely, and be content with your wages.” And with many other exhortations he preached to the people. But Herod the tetrarch, being rebuked by John concerning Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife and for all the evils which Herod had done, also added this, above all, that he shut John up in prison (Luke 3: 7-14, 18-20 NKJV).
John stirred things up a great deal. He paid a price for it in the end. (Jesus himself did the same, even more so.) John knew what he was called to do; it included agitating for change in a corrupt culture. Some responded gladly. The king, however, threw him in prison, and later had him executed.
Greatness pays a price. Even “successful” greatness–such as the greatness of Daniel, of Joseph, of many others in our day who are seeing great fruit in churches, mission agencies, government, and military–pays a price of long hours, much opposition, deep concerns, many pains.
Trusting in God
I think I have too often refused to step toward greatness because of fear: fear of stirring people up, fear of being branded, fear of having to give up the easy way. The cost of this has been a loss of the thrilling opportunity to see what God could do through me if I followed him wherever he led. The cost is also that the glory of God, which I could have conveyed to many in the wider world, has been hidden like a light under a bushel.
The desert example of John the Baptist is a hard one to follow. God does not call many of us to make a solitary stand for him in that way. He does call each of us individually to decide we will follow him wherever he leads; that is a decision we can only make for ourselves.
From there, though, most of us will find opportunities to follow God into greatness by doing it with teams of brothers and sisters in Christ. Oh, for communities of faith that are determined to change their cities, their world! Oh, to belong to a band of believers who will charge the enemy’s ground and take it back for Jesus Christ!