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Thursday, April 17, 2008

True Greatness

Jesus’ disciples may have given up more than we have to follow Jesus, but occasionally they manifested a what’s-in-it-for-me attitude. After hearing Jesus predict His crucifixion, James and John demanded, “Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask” (Mark 10:35).

Talk about poor timing and a completely inappropriate request! What brazen selfishness! They elaborated, “Let one of us sit at your right, and the other at your left in your glory” (v. 37).

Clearly, their focus was on personal prestige in the kingdom, whereas Jesus’ focus was on selfless suffering on the cross. They coveted earthly crowns, whereas Jesus anticipated a crown of thorns. They wanted to be served, whereas Jesus had come “to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (v. 45).

Eventually, the disciples learned to serve and to suffer on behalf of others and to be Christlike instead of self-centered, but the learning came slowly and painfully. James died at the hands of Herod. An executioner severed James’s head from his body. John felt the sting of persecution. The Roman emperor banished him to Patmos. However, before dying, each man had poured his life into ministry on behalf of their fellow believers.

It is much easier to talk about leading a Christlike life than it is to live in a Christlike way. Christlike living involves selflessness, suffering, and service. It seldom involves fame and fortune. If fame and fortune occur, the Christlike person gives all the credit to the Lord and uses fortune as a means to advance the gospel.

I often think behind-the scenes humble servants of Christ will receive greater recognition in heaven than some famous Christians I could name. After all, didn’t Jesus teach us to expect this phenomenon? He said, “Whoever wants to be first must be slave of all” (Mark 10:44).

So who is truly great? Here’s a partial list:

• the Christian parent who strives selflessly to mold his or her children into devout followers of Christ;
• the Christian who gives sacrificially with pure motives to support the ministry of the pastor and missionaries;
• the Christian who gladly devotes time and love to teaching and working in Sunday school, or VBS or some other Christian education program;
• the Christian who visits or entertains to strengthen the fellowship of the local church.
• the Christian who gives his or her talent and time freely for the benefit of fellow believers;
• the Christian who shares the gospel with the lost in obedience to the Great Commission;
• the Christian who works in the Nursery because she loves the Lord, babies and infants;
• the Christian who donates time and skills to keep the church’s property and books in good condition; and
• the Christian who encourages the pastor and others to abound in the work of the Lord.

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