“Good is the enemy of great and that is one of the key reasons why we have so little that becomes great. Few people attain great lives, in large part because it is just so easy to settle for a good life.” – Good to Great, Jim Collins
In my lifetime, I have known many good Christians and a few really great ones. The good ones live a moral life, show up for church, and try to be a decent human being. Perhaps you smile at that as you think “Jerry, that would be good enough for me.” God, the Spirit, invites us to more, to be people who love Him deeply, whose devotion defines them in every part of life.
A couple of months ago a lady who was part of the church I pastor for 50 plus years died. She was a great Christian. Marie never wrote a book. She was not a ‘deep thinker’ who influenced thousands with profound thoughts in a blog. She had little money. But, for 5 decades, she served the Lord and others. Her little basement apartment was always occupied by someone trying to get life back on track as she loved them. She went to visit the elderly in the nursing home until that same home became her final residence on earth. She taught little girls to love God and mentored women to live for Christ. She gave out of her resources in spite of not having much. She prayed and worshipped and loved. Was she perfect? No, but she was great!
We are tempted to define ‘great Christian’ using the measures of our success culture. ‘Great’ is gaining fame, creating a wide circle of influence, perhaps even controlling more wealth. We hold up the mega-churches as our standard, follow the preacher with a dozen books to her credit, and adore the musician whose songs fill the playlists of millions.
Jesus defines greatness differently. When the disciples were arguing about who was greatest, Jesus reminded them that “whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave— just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Matthew 20:26-28, NIV)
Great Christians are not always successful, but they are always faithful. They do their work without recognition, without trying to validate themselves with the ‘numbers.’ They, like the Good Shepherd, are happy to serve one. Luke 15 pictures the Shepherd “searching for the one lost sheep… joyfully carrying it home on His shoulders.”
Great Christians are not ‘big moment’ persons. They are process people – giving themselves to discipleship, with patience, effort, in faith, and fueled by godly vision. “We’ve created a generation of Christians who look for a magic bullet. That’s why people travel thousands of miles, from conference to conference, just to ‘get a word,’ find ‘fresh oil,’ get ‘the glory,’ or ‘catch the blessing.’ … After WW2, we experienced a time of real miracles in this country. We had amazing prefab houses, miracle drugs, fast food, and space-age appliances – instant satisfaction was everywhere. It changed everything. … 50 years later we are still addicted to the feeling.” (Phil Cooke, Charisma) We like solutions, self-help, and results. There are plenty of preachers who offer miracle seeds, prayer clothes, holy oil, vials of water from Jerusalem, or the secret of success in their latest book. No discipline is involved, just a credit card to place the order.
God’s counsel is much different. The Word teaches us to “Rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for Him; … those who wait on the Lord, they shall inherit the earth. “ (Psalm 37:7, 9 NKJV) That work, “patiently,” in the Hebrew text of the Psalms is a word includes the idea of a woman in labor, enduring pain while she anticipates the birth of her baby! Good Christians won’t allow themselves that kind of pain. They sidestep it. Great Christians allow the Spirit to call them. They are willing to endure the difficulty of living against the culture. They hopefully anticipate the glorious new life produced by the Spirit. And, they accept that pain is just part of the process.
You can be a GREAT Christian. Forget comparisons to others.
The word from the Word counsels this- “Keep your eyes on Jesus, who both began and finished this race we’re in. Study how he did it. Because he never lost sight of where he was headed—that exhilarating finish in and with God—he could put up with anything along the way: cross, shame, whatever. And now he’s there, in the place of honor, right alongside God.
When you find yourselves flagging in your faith, go over that story again, item by item, that long litany of hostility he plowed through. That will shoot adrenaline into your souls! In this all-out match against sin, others have suffered far worse than you, to say nothing of what Jesus went through—all that bloodshed! So don’t feel sorry for yourselves. Or have you forgotten how good parents treat children, and that God regards you as his children?
My dear child, don’t shrug off God’s discipline, but don’t be crushed by it either. It’s the child he loves that he disciplines; the child he embraces, he also corrects. God is educating you; that’s why you must never drop out. He’s treating you as dear children. This trouble you’re in isn’t punishment; it’s training,” (Hebrews 12:2-7, The Message)
America needs some GREAT Christians in 2020, people who desire more than good. Are you aspiring to mediocrity or giving yourself to greatness?
Shine, Jesus, Shine
(This is the prayer of my heart)
Lord the light of Your love is shining
In the midst of the darkness shining
Jesus Light of the world shine upon us
Set us free by the truth You now bring us
Shine on me shine on me
Shine Jesus shine
Fill this land
With the Father’s glory
Blaze Spirit blaze
Set our hearts on fire
Flow river flow
Flood the nations
With grace and mercy
Send forth Your word Lord
And let there be light
Lord I come to Your awesome presence
From the shadows into Your radiance
By the blood I may enter Your brightness
Search me try me consume all my darkness
Shine on me shine on me
As we gaze on Your kingly brightness
So our faces display Your likeness
Ever changing from glory to glory
Mirrored here may our lives tell Your story
Shine on me shine on me
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