In sports, there are always arguments over who is the greatest of all time. In football, the question is if Tom Brady is greater than Joe Montana. In basketball, it’s if LeBron James is greater than Michael Jordan. There’s even debate over who the single greatest sports figure is across all sports. People will always have opinions and will argue over who the greatest is when it comes to sports or just about anything really. I believe it’s because God put something in us that wants to be great and fights against mediocrity.
Even the disciples argued over who was the greatest. Luke 9:46 says, “An argument broke out among the disciples as to which one of them was the greatest” (GNT). I can hear their arguments now. John probably said, “I’m the greatest because He loves me most.” Peter argued, “But I walked on water!” What’s funny is you don’t hear Jesus rebuke them for wanting to be great. Instead, He says, “For the one who is least among all of you [that is, the one who is genuinely humble–the one with a realistic self-view]– he is the one who is [truly] great” (AMP).
Jesus’ desire is that each of us would be great, and He told us how. In God’s Kingdom, the greatest isn’t the person who wins the most souls, heals the most people, has the most famous ministry or goes to third world countries. To be great is to be humble and to serve others. It’s understanding who we are on Christ and that we are only great through Him. He is the potter and we are the clay. If you want to be great, then let Him do what He wants with your life. Your greatest potential lies in being who He created you to be.
Photo by Natalie Pedigo on Unsplash
I always thought I was a person who had been faithful in the little things until I read the final chapter in “Good to Great in God’s Eyes” by Chip Ingram. The last chapter is about developing great habits and in it he lists six great habits to adopt. One of which is “Do your own dishes – The principle of responsibility”. He wrote about putting up your folded clothes instead of leaving them out, washing your dishes instead of putting them in the sink and putting your dirty clothes in the hamper instead of on the floor. Each one hit home because I’m guilty of all of them.
If that wasn’t enough, he then wrote, “We usually don’t make a conscious decision to expect others to clean up our messes. It’s a habit. But behind that habit is an assumption that it’s up to someone else to make our life work.” Subconsciously we leave things out, put dishes in the sink and throw our clothes on the floor in hopes that someone else will do it. When they don’t do it, we get exasperated and huff and puff while we have to do it. Am I the only one like this?
These small examples are part of a bigger problem. The attitude of expecting others to make our life work bleeds into our spiritual life too. We expect our pastor to be in charge of our spiritual growth. We expect them to read the scripture to us instead of looking it up ourselves. We get upset when we don’t get anything out of the service, yet we put nothing into it. All of these are “little” things, but they prove to God that He can’t trust us with the big things. We can’t grow because we don’t have any roots.
Zig Ziegler once said, “If you take care of the little things, the big things will take care of themselves.” There are so many little things in our lives that we’ve left undone. When they become big things, we wonder where God is in our mess. We expect Him or someone else to come save us because we’ve come to expect others to clean up our messes. We are the ones who made them, yet we feel it is God’s responsibility to clean them up. Then, when it’s not cleaned up immediately, we get upset with God for not answering.
Our messes are our own responsibility. We create them because we haven’t learned to be faithful in the little things. Today, look at your life to see what little things need your attention. If you’re in a big mess, trace it back and you will see that it started with something little. Once we learn to do the menial tasks, God can trust us with more important tasks. I know I still have lots to work on in this area myself. I can’t expect God to do more through me than He’s doing right now until I learn to take care of the tasks I thought didn’t matter.
In our small group, we are reading through “Good to Great in God’s Eyes” by Chip Ingram. Last night we were discussing the chapter “Pray Great Prayers”. As we were talking about keeping a prayer journal, my wife mentioned that because of the digital age, that’s something our kids are missing out on. The vast majority aren’t keeping journals. Because they aren’t, they can’t flip through pages to see where they thought the world was going to come to an end and then it didn’t. They don’t have a record of the ways that God has moved in their life.
In the chapter we discussed, Chip mentioned that he keeps a prayer journal where he writes down things that are too big for him to handle. By writing them down, he is transferring them over to God. He said he also leaves a little space under each one so that when it gets answered, he can put a note in there. When his faith needs a boost, he goes back through that journal to remind himself of the times when he was faced with the impossible and then he reads the notes below it where God answered. It helps him when he faces other impossible situations.
As we discussed that, we began to talk about how we remember years ago when churches would have testimony time. It’s something that’s missing from our modern church. I believe it’s something that is still necessary. Scripture says that we overcome by the blood of the Lamb and the word of our testimony. We need to hear the stories of what God is doing in people’s lives. We need to see His hand at work around us. It reminds us that He’s still listening and that whatever we are facing, isn’t too big for God.
We then went around the room and shared stories of a God answering prayers, big and small. Each person in our group could point to a time when God answered. That built my faith up. God knows your need and He hears your prayers. You don’t have to use your prayers to try to persuade God to move in your favor. You simply need to make your requests known to Him. Call out the promises He has made in His Word. Remind Him of what He’s done for others. Your heartfelt prayers touch the heart of God. Your need is not too big and it’s not too small. He’s not so concerned with everything else in the world that He doesn’t have time for you or your needs.
If you need your faith built today, ask someone what God has done for them. Ask them what prayers He has answered. If He’s answered something, then tell others. They need to hear what He has done for you. Your testimony will help them be an overcomer in their situation. If you don’t know who to tell, then use the comments below to share what God has done for you. People will read it and be blessed. God still moves today. God still answers prayers. Tell Him what you need, He’s listening right now.
I’ve started to read “Good to Great In God’s Eyes” by Chip Ingram. The book is for people who don’t want to be ordinary Christians. In the book there are ten practices that we can adopt as believers to live extraordinary lives in God’s eyes. He uses a lot of the techniques that I’ve learned in selling and management. I believe the Bible is full of men and women who lived great lives that set them apart and that you and I can live a life that would be worthy of writing about.
The first thing he talks about in the book is thinking great thoughts. He mentions that he doesn’t start with a physical action or attitude because true change starts in the mind. From all of my learning, I have found this practice to be true. In order to change a behavior in our lives, we first have to change how we think about it. You and I are creatures of habit, but we are not creatures who are stuck in our ways unless we believe that with our mind. If you want to change for the better, you have to believe that you can change.
How you think about something is what determines your feelings about it. How you feel about it determines your attitude about it. Your attitude then determines your behavior towards it. If you want to change your behavior towards something, you have to change your attitude. If you want to change your attitude, you have to change how you feel about it. If you want to change how you feel about it, you have to change your thoughts. You and I have the capability of changing our thought pattern over time.
Think about Romans 12:2. It says, “Do not be conformed to this world this age, fashioned after and adapted to its external, superficial customs, but be transformed (changed) by the entire renewal of your mind by its new ideals and its new attitude, so that you may prove for yourselves what is the good and acceptable and perfect will of God, even the thing which is good and acceptable and perfect in His sight for you (AMP). Our transformation, our changing comes from the renewing of our mind. We renew our mind by renewing our thoughts. We renew our thoughts by being intentional about the thoughts we think.
It also says that when we renew our mind, we get a new attitude. When we get the new attitude, we will be able to prove what is the good and acceptable and perfect will of God. The Message says then you’ll “readily recognize what He wants from you and quickly respond to it. Your attitude will determine your action. You will begin to do the things that God wants you to do. You will begin to live the life a God wants you to live. You will start moving from a good, Christian life to a great Christian life. It all starts with the thoughts you think. If you want to change your life, change your thoughts.
I heard a quote from Jim Collins that resonated with me. He said, “Good is the enemy of great.” The more I thought about it, the more it sunk in how true this statement is. We quit trying to be great because good becomes acceptable. Good leads to satisfaction. Satisfaction leads to contentment. Contentment leads to stagnation, and stagnation is the beginning of the end. We as Christians have grown comfortable living good lives. We have accepted the lie that being good is all we need to be. Jesus didn’t die on the cross so you could live a good life. He died so you could live a great life.
In John 14:12 Jesus said, “The person who trusts in me will not only do what I am doing but even greater things.” When is the last time you saw someone feed 5,000 people with a couple of loaves of bread and some fish? When is the last time you saw someone walk on water? When is the last time you saw someone raise another person from the dead? Jesus said we could do these things and greater things than these. We don’t see or do those things today because we’ve accepted the lie of the enemy that good is enough.
In II Corinthians 6:11-13 Paul chastised the Corinthian church because they were accepting the lie that good was enough. He said, “Dear, dear Corinthians, I can’t tell you how much I long for you to enter this wide-open, spacious life. We didn’t fence you in. The smallness you feel comes from within you. Your lives aren’t small, but you’re living them in a small way. I’m speaking as plainly as I can and with great affection. Open up your lives. Live openly and expansively!” Living a good life is living a small life. It’s fenced in to the boundaries that you have set on yourself.
We have to open our lives up to the possibility of fulfilling Jesus’ promise to us. Either we believe He meant what He said or He is a liar and our faith is in vain. The early church was able to do greater things. Christians throughout the ages have done greater things. Where are the men and women today who are doing greater things? Why have we fenced ourselves in with unbelief? Why have we settled for a watered down Gospel that just encourages us to live good lives? You were created to be great! You were made to do greater things!
To leave the good life and enter the great life, we have to be dissatisfied with good. We have to press on in our walk with God. We have to make the sacrifices of spending time with Him instead of our devices. We have to pursue Him the way He pursues us. We have to expect Him to move and work in our lives just like He did in the disciple’s lives. If you don’t believe He can or will do greater things through you, you have allowed yourself and future to be fenced into a small life. Live expansively and start desiring and expecting to be great today. Write out what you believe God will do through you and then say it out loud. Declaring leads to believing. Believing leads to expecting. Expecting leads to performing, and performing is the beginning of living a great life.
I read one of Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s prayers last week and a phrase he wrote is still echoing in my mind. Here was a man who left the comfort of America to go to Nazi Germany to be with his fellow Jews. He was captured and sent to a Nazi prison for two years. Before he was executed in that prison, he wrote many prayers and poems. The last line in the prayer I read was, “Think Thy kingdom thoughts in mine.”
I have been making that my prayer this week. I don’t want to think my thoughts. I want to think God’s thoughts. Better yet, I want Him to think His thoughts in me. To do that, I have to yield my mind to Him. I have to give Him that control. It has to be more than a prayer. It requires action on my part. I know my thoughts and they’re not always kingdom thoughts.
If I truly let Him think His kingdom thoughts in me, how would that affect everything I do? I know it would change my priorities. What I consider important right now, doesn’t line up with what’s important to His kingdom. If I truly thought kingdom thoughts, I would be doing everything I can to get as many people into the kingdom as possible before my time is up. I’d sacrifice all that is secure now for what is eternal.
Knowing what needs to be done and knowing the sacrifice that will take creates a struggle. It creates a discontentment within me for where I am knowing where I need to be. I want to hold on to the things that my earthly mind thinks bring me security. The kingdom mind says, “Those things are temporary. Let them go and find real security.” Real security is found by having faith in what we cannot see over what we can see.
It’s difficult to have that kind of faith. We are raised in a world who’s culture is the opposite of that. Our culture says, “Acquire as much as you can so that you can retire comfortably.” Jesus said, “Sell all you have, give the money to the poor and come follow me.” Many of us hear that statement and are like the rich, young ruler who originally heard it. We walk away sad because our faith, trust and security are in the temporary things.
I wonder what would have become of him if he had done what Jesus said. He clearly loved God and had obeyed all the commandments since he was young. He was a good “Christian” but he asked what he lacked to be great. He wasn’t willing to make the sacrifice required to be truly great in God’s kingdom. In reality, most of us aren’t. We aren’t willing to adopt His kingdom thoughts that would require the sacrifice necessary that leads to greatness.
I’m trying to get there. I have made Bonhoeffer’s prayer my own even after I’ve understood what that means. I’m not content to be a good Christian. God has called me and you to greatness. He leaves the choice up to each one of us though. Are we willing to sacrifice what we think makes us secure in this world so that others can truly live? Are we really willing to make the prayer, “think Thy kingdom thoughts in mine” our own?