God’s Idea of Greatness

January 11, 2022

A compilation

Audio length: 13:39
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How would you define greatness?

In his bestselling book The Purpose Driven Life, Rick Warren says: “There will always be more people willing to do ‘great’ things for God than people willing to do the little things. The race to be a leader is crowded, but the field is wide open for those willing to be servants.”

The interesting thing is that Jesus promoted the role of a servant. Whenever the disciples argued about who would be greatest, Jesus reminded them that the greatest thing they could ever do—the action that would make them great in God’s eyes—was to serve others. “Whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant.”1

Here are a few more excerpts from Rick Warren’s book on what it means to be a servant:

The world defines greatness in terms of power, possessions, prestige, and position. Jesus, however, measured greatness in terms of service, not status. God determines your greatness by how many people you serve, not how many people serve you.

Jesus specialized in menial tasks that others tried to avoid: washing feet, helping children, fixing breakfast, and serving lepers. Nothing was beneath Him, because He came to serve. It wasn’t in spite of His greatness that He did these things, but because of it, and He expects us to follow His example.

Small tasks often show a big heart. Your servant’s heart is revealed in little acts that others don’t think of doing, as when Paul gathered brushwood for a fire to warm everyone after a shipwreck. He was just as exhausted as everyone else, but he did what everyone needed. No task is beneath you when you have a servant’s heart.

John Wesley was an incredible servant of God. His motto was, “Do all the good you can, by all the means you can, in all the ways you can, in all the places you can, as long as you ever can.” That is greatness. You can begin by looking for small tasks that no one else wants to do. Do these little things as if they were great things, because God is watching.2

The Bible is filled with examples of imperfect men who were of service to others. If you’re looking for God’s greatness, just start serving. Look for ways that you can help another and then do what you can with all your heart, and as you do, as you serve, you will learn to serve well.

Keep in mind, though, that service doesn’t mean setting yourself up to receive recognition. But you can be encouraged that as you serve, your life will have a positive impact on others and you will cultivate deep relationships.

When I read about people like Mother Teresa, who helped so many of the destitute on the streets of Kolkata, or Father Damien, the leper priest of Hawaii, their lives of giving and service inspire my soul and heart to pursue a path greater than myself; it gives me a vision far surpassing my petty wants.

One of my favorite quotes is by George Bernard Shaw. He said, “This is the true joy in life: being used for a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one; being thoroughly worn out before you are thrown on the scrap heap; being a force of nature instead of a feverish selfish little clod of ailments and grievances complaining that the world will not devote itself to making you happy.”

In other words, selfless living is a joy; it’s fulfilling! Albert Schweitzer said, “The only really happy people are those who have learned how to serve.” It’s funny, because when some of us think of the word “serving” or “service,” joy and happiness are not what come to mind. We more likely think of work and self-denial. But obviously, many people have discovered that they have received happiness, joy, and satisfaction through living to serve, give, and care.

As Christians, our service should be done as unto God, and not for personal glory or because we are expecting something in return. We are called to give and serve as unto God out of love and gratefulness for Him, not for appreciation, respect, honor, or reward.

Through serving others you’re creating a ripple effect of giving and receiving. Your giving is not just bringing sacrifice into your life, but joy and positive experiences that you might not have expected. And you don’t only have good things coming back to you in this life; imagine what it will feel like one day to have God say to you, “Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!”3Daveen Donnelly

Full of His greatness

God’s idea of greatness is having a heart, soul, and spirit so full of His greatness that it manifests through us. In the Bible, the word “great” is nearly always used to describe who God is: “For the LORD is great and greatly to be praised.”4 Or what God has done: “The LORD has done great things for us, and we are glad.”5

A great person is one who obeys God: “Whoever therefore breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.”6 A great person is one who is a servant: “Yet it shall not be so among you; but whoever desires to become great among you, let him be your servant.”7

When we acknowledge God’s greatness through our worship of Him, we invite His greatness to dwell in us. When we obey God and serve Him, then He does great things through us. This is the kind of greatness God has called us to in our lives.—Stormie Omartian

What is greatness?

The world measures greatness by money, or eloquence, or intellectual skill, or even by prowess on the field of battle. But here is the Lord’s standard: “Whosoever shall humble himself as this little child, the same is the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven.”—J. H. Jowett


Do not confuse notoriety and fame with greatness. Many of the titled in today’s world obtained their fame and fortune outside their own merit. On the other hand, I have met great people in the most obscure roles. For greatness is a measure of one’s spirit, not a result of one’s rank in human affairs. Nobody, least of all mere human beings, confers greatness upon another, for it is not a prize but an achievement. And greatness can crown the head of a janitor just as readily as it can come to someone of high rank.—Sherman G. Finesilver

Choosing significance over success

Ever since God breathed His story into existence, we’ve been drawn to the stories of heroes. We are inspired by brave warriors who stand up for justice, such as firefighters who run into buildings when everyone else is running out. Heroes don’t do what they do for recognition, credit, or fame. They do it because they can take something wrong in the world and set it right again.

Isn’t it interesting that when we read these stories, we don’t consider ourselves in the same category? … The truth is that every one of us is called to be heroic for God’s Kingdom. That means prioritizing a life of eternal significance over worldly success.

That can be hard for us to accept. For most of us, our success in life has been determined by how well we perform inside worldly grading systems. Whether it’s school and report cards, or the adult world of commission structures and performance reviews, in order to gain success, we have to measure up well inside the system. Believe me, I know. For many years, my ultimate goal was success. Get the highest grades possible. Earn recognition and awards.

But do we want success at the cost of God’s will being done?

It’s not that God doesn’t want us to be successful; He wants us to experience the abundant life He has to offer.

Jesus came to offer that abundant life by turning things upside down. He came to tell us about what rewards look like in His Kingdom. He came to invite believers to partner with Him in building His Church.

As leaders (and we are all leaders in some way), the goal is to shift our mindsets. We aim for significance by being major heroes in building God’s Kingdom instead of minor characters, or worse, players who never got in the game. How do we do that? ...

When what we say and do honors God and invites others into a relationship with Him, we lead a life of significance.

Father, help me to prioritize the building of Your Kingdom above all else and live faithfully and fully in light of eternity. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.Erin Weidemann8

Published on Anchor January 2022. Read by Reuben Ruchevsky.
Music by Michael Dooley.

1 Mark 10:43 NIV.

2 Rick Warren, The Purpose Driven Life (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2004), 257, 259, 260–261.

3 Matthew 25:21 NIV.

4 1 Chronicles 16:25.

5 Psalm 126:3.

6 Matthew 5:19.

7 Matthew 20:26.

8 https://proverbs31.org/read/devotions/full-post/2020/12/09/choosing-significance-over-success.

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