More than any other generation in history, Millennials desire to be great. They expect to be great. In fact, 96% believe they will do something great with their lives.
But 96% can’t really be great. I mean, that’s pretty much everyone. And if everyone does something, that’s not generally thought of as great; it’s average.
The Keys to Greatness
Since that 96% is just about everyone, it would include just about all Christians and all non-Christians. Those groups have (or should have) different worldviews, which include different views on how to be great.
The world often confuses greatness with fame, though you can be famous these days without doing anything that would be considered great. Or they equate greatness with power, and think that competition and self-promotion are necessary to achieve greatness.
The Bible clearly paints a different picture. Pretty much the opposite picture, in fact. For example, I looked up the word “greatest” in the Bible, and in every instance where it talks about how to become the greatest, it says one of two things:
1. The humblest servant will be the greatest.
Jesus emphasizes this time after time, partly because the disciples (a group of young adults) were likewise overly concerned with being great.
They came to Capernaum. When he (Jesus) was in the house, he asked them, “What were you arguing about on the road?” But they kept quiet because on the way they had argued about who was the greatest.
Sitting down, Jesus called the Twelve and said, “Anyone who wants to be first must be the very last, and the servant of all.” – Mark 9:33-35
At first glance this doesn’t seem to make sense. It’s part of God’s upside-down economy: the first shall be last, the leader is the servant, and the meek will inherit the earth. But He also explained it in practical terms when He talked about not choosing the best seat in the house. That story included one of Jesus’ favorite quotes, which He repeated on at least three separate occasions:
Those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.
And that does make sense, from either a biblical or a worldly perspective. Nobody really likes people who seek their own fame, while they absolutely love the humble star. For instance, if you’re an NBA fan, that’s pretty much the entire explanation for how people felt about LeBron James joining the Miami Heat and putting on a big show about his “Decision.”
Most people want to exalt themselves, so there’s plenty of competition there. Being humble and serving others can actually be a way to stand out, in a good way.
If you think that a humble servant couldn’t possibly be great, consider how Jesus, the greatest person ever and the most powerful being in the universe, lived this out. Read Philippians 2:3-11; Paul puts it better than I can.
2. God decides who is truly great.
That’s the other thing that stands out from the Bible on this topic, and it gives added meaning to Jesus’ words about who gets exalted and who gets humbled.
You can’t really make yourself great. Even if you have great capabilities that give you a high ceiling, you don’t create those capabilities on your own.
King David was one of the greatest people in the Old Testament, and someone whom even God spoke highly of. So how did he become great?
Now then, tell my servant David, ‘This is what the Lord Almighty says: I took you from the pasture, from tending the flock, and appointed you ruler over my people Israel. I have been with you wherever you have gone, and I have cut off all your enemies from before you. Now I will make your name like the names of the greatest men on earth.’ – 1 Chronicles 17:7-8
Did you catch that? All of the steps in making David great, all of the action items in that passage, were taken by God. “I took you…I appointed you ruler…I have been with you…I have cut off all your enemies…I will make your name like the names of the greatest men on earth.” That’s God speaking. The only action David took was “tending the flock”: he was a lowly shepherd, something akin to a teenager in Dallas today cutting lawns for his dad’s landscaping business. But David was humble, he was faithful, and he waited patiently and trusted in God’s timing.
Really, in light of eternity, what does it matter if you do become great in the eyes of men? Famous doesn’t equal fulfilled, and billionaires are just as likely to be depressed as anyone else. But if you focus on what God considers greatness, you’ll receive eternal glory.
What do you think makes a person great?