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Ed Jordan: Two Perspectives on Becoming Great

Posted: 8/11/17 at 12:20 pm. by Ed Jordan.

The Bible’s book of Genesis is a book of beginnings. It moves along quickly, starting in Genesis 1, with God creating the universe and everything in it. In this year’s Vacation Bible School, our sixth-grade class members took turns being blindfolded and playing  “pin the planet on the solar system,” similar to “pin the tail on the donkey” game.  The planets ended up all over the place. We talked about the fact that God created the heavens and the earth and put us at just the right distance from the sun, in the right orbit, with the right atmosphere and biosphere that we need, and it was no accident.  

In Genesis 2-3 we read about the beginning of human life, as humans are created in the image of God. Many of the early chapters of Genesis describe humans beginning to make many things.

In chapter 11:1-4, we find humans with one language settling down in a valley, making a city, and building a tower that reached the sky. In Genesis 11:4 we discover that they made these things in order to “make a name (reputation) for themselves,” … and “to make themselves great.”  These are the phrases I wish to draw our attention to in this column, along with some phrases from Genesis 12:2  (ESV) where God said to Abram: “And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing.”  

In these two verses we find two distinct perspectives on becoming great.

In these two verses we find two distinct perspectives on becoming great.

In 11:4 we see man making himself great; in 12:2 we see God making Abram great. Herein is a living picture depicting two options that people have regarding paths to greatness. Secular efforts to become great focus on myself, and my efforts, guided by self, energized by self, carried out by self, and proclaimed by self. This self-made man assumes that to become successful we must do it ourselves, with the further assumption that becoming superior to all others will make us great.  

In contrast to this, Abram received a message from God that God was going to make Abram great, as Abram obeyed God’s will for his life. Abram was told to leave his own land, leave his established security, and follow God into a land that God would show him. He left his old family and land, and by faith believed that God would do as he promised. In Genesis 12:4 God said he would make Abram a great nation and the father of many nations.   

God promised to bless Abram and to give him more than secular man could ever give himself. While secular man seeks greatness through blessing himself, Abram accepted God’s promise to do great things through him. While those building a name for themselves found their lives scattered, those who let God bless them, and make them great, become a blessing to others.  

God blesses us in order for us to become a blessing to others. Those who become truly great are humble people who are focused upon God, not themselves, and focus their attention upon using what they can to bless others. It is not wrong to become the best person you can become; it becomes a problem when we attempt to replace God with ourselves and replace God’s plans with our plans.   

People seeking to become great on their own focus on themselves, build for themselves, give to themselves, live for themselves, and therefore live and die by themselves as lonely people. Really great people don’t seek to become great; they seek to serve God, and in the process God makes them, or their influence, great.  

Which model describes your life?

In your day-to-day living, is your life all about you? Is the goal of the majority of your activities to enlarge your name, reputation, power, and influence? Or is your life mostly about serving God, serving others, and being a blessing to others?

The Lord himself capsulized this theme in Mark 10:43-44. Jesus said that secular people seek to be great by gaining positions of authority from which to order others around, but that his followers are not to be like that. Instead the one who is great in the company of Jesus must become the servant of all.  

May we each live to serve God and to bless others as God blesses us.  

ed-jordan2Award-winning columnist Dr. Ed Jordan is pastor of Gwynn’s Island Baptist Church, Gwynn, VA. You may also read his past columns.

He can be reached at szent.edward@gmail.com.