Greatness

Power is a whispering liar and always promises more than it can deliver.

For example, pursuing inner satisfaction and contentment through control never ends with genuine peace. However, Christ can deliver the inner serenity we seek, but His way is one of a servant.

The original disciples struggled with reconciling the concepts of power and service. On two separate occasions Jesus stopped and specifically rebuked their notions of greatness. On one occasion, when James and John desired privileged seating in the new kingdom, they even boasted of being able to handle everything Jesus could (drink the same cup and be baptized with the same baptism). But Jesus calmly spoke of a different mindset:

“…but whoever desires to become great among you shall be your servant. And whoever of you desires to be first shall be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.” – Mark 10:43b-45 NKJV

What’s your idea of greatness? If you’re a minister, are you content to be known as a “pastor” or do you secretly hope to be identified more as a great “communicator”? As a believer, are you content with serving “as to the Lord” (regardless of who sees it), or do you secretly hope to be recognized by your peers “for your sacrifice”? We all struggle with it; perhaps in the role of parent, student, employee, etc. May our lives today be “but to serve”…and according to the Lord; that’s greatness.

Workers

In ancient times, someone looking for work would be grateful for the chance to tend a vineyard. However, in Jesus’ parable of the workers (Matt. 20), the joy of getting hired in the morning was replaced by envy and anger as new hires were added. Was it because the owner came along and treated them poorly? No, it was because of what happened at pay-time. When the wages were passed out, the early morning hires got a denarius; but so did the rest. EVERYONE got the same pay regardless of the hours spent working, so suddenly the idea of “fair” crowded out the joy of getting work. And at the end of the parable, the owner says this to the ones unhappy:

Is it not lawful for me to do what I wish with my own things? Or is your eye evil because I am good?” – Matthew 20:15 NKJV

The pursuit of fairness can be a minefield of danger, for the measure we use is often flawed. What seemed “fair” in the morning became “unfair” later in the day; and it all had to do with expectations. The first ones made a contract for a denarius, but the later ones agreed to work and trust the owner to give them “whatever was right” (v.4, 7).

Excitement with God’s provisions can get neutralized quickly if our eyes are on others instead of Him. We’re recipients of grace, not entitlement. He is good, what He chooses is right and we must trust that His motives are too.

Return

The touch of the Master is special.

Luke records where ten lepers were crying out to Jesus for healing. In response to their requests, Jesus instructed them to go show themselves to the priests. As they went, their bodies were healed, and at the moment of cleansing, one of them returned to give thanks. Then Jesus said:

…Were there not ten cleansed? But where are the nine? Were there not any found who returned to give glory to God except this foreigner?’ And He said to him, ‘Arise, go your way. Your faith has made you well.” – Luke 17:17-19 NKJV

As it was in the Gospels, many today benefit from God’s intervention, but not all truly acknowledge His benevolence. The one that returned to Jesus desired to specifically show his gratitude. It isn’t to say the others weren’t happy and thankful to be healed, but only one made the extra effort to return and show it. In the end, they were all physically clean, but only one was pronounced “well”.

How’s the heart today? Is it well? Life comes at us fast, and prayers flow in the midst of the battle, but don’t forget the “return”.

Sorrow

Jesus understands the human condition.

And it isn’t some kind of divine pity, it’s a thorough, all-encompassing, “been-there-felt-that”, loving compassion. Consider the shortest verse in the Bible:

Jesus wept.” – John 11:35 NKJV

The backdrop of the verse was Lazarus’ death and a conversation with Martha and Mary. So, ponder this for a moment; if Jesus knew He would soon bring Lazarus back, why the emotion? He was about to fix everything, right? Well, the Bible doesn’t necessarily give a detailed explanation of the “why”, but consider what we do know;

  • He loved them very much (v. 11:5)
  • He knew the weight of their sorrow and identified with their grief (“A man of Sorrows…” Is. 53:3)
  • He knew Lazarus would be leaving the glory of heaven to come back to a sick and broken world
  • He knew their perception was limited (v. 11:21)

We can only imagine what He was thinking about at that moment, but one thing’s for sure; the Creator stood among the created, looked deep into their eyes, saw their broken hearts, and wept with them.

Our Shepherd loves us very much, and literally knows what it is to be human. So, Child of God, if you weep; never think you’re alone in your struggle.

Duty

Occasionally, there are passages that “jump” from the Bible in total contrast to “greeting-card-type-quotes”. For example, when the disciples asked Jesus to “increase their faith”, He identified the power of “mustard seed” size faith; but then spoke this sobering truth:

“And which of you, having a servant plowing or tending sheep, will say to him when he has come in from the field, ‘Come at once and sit down to eat?’ But will he not rather say to him, ‘Prepare something for my supper, and gird yourself and serve me till I have eaten and drunk, and afterward you will eat and drink?’ Does he thank that servant because he did the things that were commanded him? I think not. So likewise you, when you have done all those things you are commanded, say, ‘We are unprofitable servants. We have done what was our duty to do.’” – Luke 17:7-10 NKJV

Instead of a “me-oriented”, “I’m-the-center-of-the-universe” relationship with Jesus, He speaks as if there’s an expectation of dutiful service; because there is. And what’s more, he has a right to expect it. Yes, He loves us unconditionally, but He has also charged us to serve Him faithfully without an expectation for recognition or positional betterment.

What drives your service today? Does recognition play a role? Does the lack of it lessen your zeal? “We have done what was our duty to do…”

Exalted

When it comes to a potter’s work…the clay doesn’t get a say.

And it’s the same with us too. None of us had a say in the skill-set, aptitude or body we were born with; that was God’s creative hand. And in the same way, He holds the power to exalt and lower us at His discretion. Consider what Jesus said:

“For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.” – Luke 13:11 NKJV

He was using the illustration of a wedding feast to address the “me-first” attitude of the Pharisees. They always angled for the best seats and praise of their peers. Pride can be subtle, seductive and quietly working its way through the blind spots, but Jesus elevated humility, and identified it as something to be embraced. How’s it going in the area of humility? Paul put it this way:

“Now we have this treasure in clay jars, so that this extraordinary power may be from God and not from us.” – 2 Cor. 4:7 HCSB

Life

Within you is life.

If you’re a child of God, you carry the most precious commodity on earth…life. Not just physical breath passed down from Adam, but spiritual life from the Second Adam-Jesus (Romans 5:12-21). As we go, the joy of the Lord and the seeds of life go with us. Jesus compared His kingdom to a mustard seed:

“What is the kingdom of God like? And to what shall I compare it? It is like a mustard seed, which a man took and put in his garden; and it grew and became a large tree, and the birds of the air nested in its branches.” – Luke 13:18-19 NKJV

He then compared it to leaven, working its way through three measures of meal. In both descriptions, there is something very tiny bringing newness and change.

As we move through the day, our words, actions, and demeanor have great potential. There is life in us; may we carry it well.

 

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