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Dose of Truth

    by Brent Barnett

Do You Want to Be Great?
Date Posted: August 16, 2006

Often times, Christians balk at the thought of becoming great. When we hear things like "be all you can be," "pursue greatness," and "live up to your full potential," we often condemn such thinking as self-centered and worldly. Granted, when the world says things like this, they usually do mean it in such a way. They are telling us to draw our strength from ourselves rather than Christ, they are telling us that life is about us making our mark on the world, and they are assuming that greatness is fame, popularity, wealth, and other false ways of identifying success. We know that the world has it wrong; in fact, they have it totally backward. But is it wrong to aspire to greatness, if we know what true greatness is?

I believe that the Scripture teaches that we ought to maximize our stay on earth in light of kingdom priorities (Matthew 6:33). I believe that we are to want to run in such a way as to win the prize of God and receive the crown of life which is given to those who persevere in faithfulness and steadfastness (1 Corinthians 9:24, Revelation 2:10). I believe that it is an honorable thing to aspire to leadership in the church (1 Timothy 3:1), and it is true that those who serve in such a capacity are deserving of a double reward (1 Timothy 5:17). I believe that God has gifted us all with a special spiritual gift design so that He can empower us to be part of His body advancing the kingdom of God in the hearts of mankind (Ephesians 4:7, Romans 12:6). If God has so gifted us and if He so desires to reward us, it only makes sense that He wants us to be great in His kingdom. Why wouldn’t He want us to experience maximum blessing and joy when we get to heaven? Of course He does. Thus, He has made it so that we can receive rewards and honor in the kingdom if we live for Christ in the here and now. If we pursue the kingdom of God with all of our heart now, we will be rewarded later. If we pursue the things of this world now, we may not be saved, and if we are, we will likely lose out on our reward (2 John 1:8). This is why Christ says that those who want to be first in the present life, achieving all that the world tells them is important, will be last in the next to come. Those who lay aside the earthly encumbrances and view this life as a testing ground for the eternal life to come are those who will be first in the kingdom, even though the world will despise them and mock them for not indulging in the things that they glory in. The world’s selfish lusts are its glory and shame, while those who seek the kingdom of God first have the honor and blessing of Christ to boast in. It all depends upon what we would rather have: the approval of men in this life and the worldly comforts that can come with a sinful, selfish lifestyle or sacrifice and servanthood in this life which will give us great honor and privilege in the life to come.

Jesus says in Matthew 19:29-30, "And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or farms for My name’s sake, will receive many times as much, and will inherit eternal life. But many who are first will be last; and the last, first." Jesus is getting at the true desires and ambitions of our hearts. If we are willing to follow Him at all costs, even if it means that loved ones reject us or ridicule us and even if we lose out on wealth that could have been ours, such is what will bring rewards in the kingdom. A little sacrifice here means significant gain in eternity. Those who hoard up for themselves treasures on earth will have nothing in the life to come, and depending upon where they have put their faith for their salvation, they may not have eternal life at all. Yet it is possible to have eternal life but to be devoid of rewards. The lives of some people will bring forth fruit symbolized by gold and silver in 1 Corinthians 3:12-15, while others will have worthless hay and stubble that will be swallowed up by the all-seeing judgment of God. The goal ought to be that we receive both eternal life and eternal rewards because of a life that is consistent and persistently lived from faith and in a way honoring to God. Isn’t this what God has called us to from the start saying, "And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him" (Hebrews 11:6)? Saving faith carries with it an expectation of salvation and of rewards, though many who are saved only view the rewards as getting to live forever with God in heaven. Yet there are rewards for how we live as Christians as well.

True greatness is living as those who put their values and investments in heaven where moth and rust do not destroy. They send on riches for the life to come by denying themselves in the here and now. They are also those who are wise stewards of the gifts that God has given them, not wasting their talents and abilities for selfish things, but doing what God enables as means of service for Him and the kingdom.

True greatness is also servanthood. Greatness is not for those who strive to get to the top of the pecking order so that they can rule their earthly kingdom as a means of self-gratification by the indulgence of the privileges of power. Leadership is fine if it is viewed as a stewardship and gift from God. Yet it is not acceptable to "lord it over" others and get some selfish pleasure out of being in authority. Even leaders are to be servants. Jesus says in Matthew 20:25-28, "But Jesus called them to Himself and said, ‘You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great men exercise authority over them. It is not this way among you, but whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave; just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many." God may entrust us with positions of authority and responsibility on earth, and we will be held accountable for how we serve in them. But the key is that we serve in such positions and in all positions. True greatness is losing one’s life that we may find it and save it, not in the sense of salvation but in the sense of finding true joy, the abundant life, and earning eternal rewards. This is a works-based thing, though of course the works are done through faith and by grace, as all things that bear fruit and honor God are done. Yet faith has works, and these works, when done by faith, are what will either keep us from rewards or enable us to receive rewards.

True greatness is laying down our lives so that others can be all that they can be in and through Christ. It is putting the interests of others ahead of our own. It is viewing our entire life’s purpose and our entire existence as one of a servant, first and foremost of God but secondly of our brothers and sisters on the earth. Galatians 6:10 says, "So then, while we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, and especially to those who are of the household of the faith." We have opportunity to do good for others only as long as we are alive and functioning on this earth. God may call us home at any moment. At that point our race run for Christ is over, and our eternity is set. We don’t get any "do-overs." For the golfers, there are no "mulligans." If our first life lands out of bounds of God’s desires, that is how we will be judged in eternity. This is why it is so important that we understand true greatness and that we pursue it for the duration of our lives. We don’t have to live in fear that we may not measure up to God’s standards because our righteousness and salvation is in and through Christ. We can rest in that fact. Yet our honor and rewards, whatever they may be, will be dictated based upon how we walk by faith after being saved.

Do we want to be great in God’s kingdom? If we do, let us live with an eternal perspective, let us send on treasure ahead, let us value others ahead of ourselves, let us seek the kingdom above all things, let us walk by faith, and let us live as servants who value our lives only in light of how God values them. How did Christ value His life? He laid it down so that others might live. At the end of the day and the end of life for that matter, the only opinion that counts is that of our "Audience of One." If we want to be great in God’s kingdom, we must learn to be the servant of all.

If you enjoyed this article, you will also like Brent's book on revival called Catch Fire: A Call to Spiritual Awakening. Visit http://www.relevantbibleteaching.com and http://www.needrevival.com for a FREE preview!

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Biography Information:
Brent Barnett is founder and author of the Bible teaching ministry, Relevant Bible Teaching, found on the web at www.relevantbibleteaching.com. He has authored Catch Fire: A Call for Revival and Times of Refreshing: 100 Devotions to Enrich Your Walk with God. Brent's greatest joys in life are his wife Sarah, his daughter Anneke, and his son Kyler.  
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