We are in the midst of the 2012 Olympics from London. I love watching the Olympics. The athletes and their feats are amazing and inspiring. And every time these hallowed games roll around there is always the media discussion of greatness. The chatter yesterday and today revolves around this question, “Is Michael Phelps the greatest Olympian of all time?”
What is greatness? Merriam-Webster defines “greatness” by using other words such as largeness in size, remarkable in magnitude, and remarkable in skill. There is no doubt that the exploits of athletes like Phelps and others competing in these games do appear larger than life. Their skills are certainly remarkable in their magnitude. I actually think there is something in all of us that longs for greatness. As created beings we carry some of the attributes of our Creator. Our longing for greatness is a reflection of his very nature. But our longings are flawed. They are flawed by our own inherent selfishness in search of significance. So what is greatness really about? Why should we ever seek to be great?
I believe the Bible speaks to this in a profound way. There are many places in Scripture where we could find an answer, but I will highlight one verse that shows up early in the Biblical narrative. Genesis 12 is about God choosing a man to enact His redemptive plan for the nations. God had created mankind in Genesis 1 and 2 to be image bearers of His glory and stewards of His perfect creation. But in Genesis 3 mankind chose a different course. Sin entered the world and all of creation suffered the consequences. The rest of the Bible is about God chasing relentlessly after people to draw them back into relationship with Himself. In Genesis 12 Abram is given a covenant promise by God that he will somehow be used to enact this pursuit. In the midst of this promise God also states that He will make Abram’s name great! And that promise has come to pass. Abraham (his name was changed by God later in Genesis) is revered by Christians, Muslims, and Jews. Abraham’s name became large. It became remarkable. Abraham’s story lasts from Genesis 12-25 and is referenced in many more places within the biblical storyline. But when God promised to make Abraham’s name great He also stated why He would make it great.
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.
Do you see the “so that?” That is a purpose statement. The purpose of Abraham’s greatness is blessing. He was to be a blessing to others. Can I suggest that this is the same purpose for all greatness? All greatness under God’s economy is for the purpose of blessing others.
When anyone acquires greatness it can only proceed in one of two directions. Either it will move toward self aggrandizement or it will move toward selfless blessing of others. Even secular people get this at times. They recognize that their greatness is a “blessing” in some way and they turn it toward the benefit of others.
Ultimately, the way in which Abraham was to be a blessing was in the heritage of Jesus Christ. In Jesus Christ we see God’s redemptive plan in fullness. In Christ we have the ultimate blessing because He is the only sufficient sacrifice to correct our inherent selfishness. For the Christ follower, greatness poured out in blessing to others should rightly point others to the ultimate blessing-Christ Himself.
Leader-do you aspire to greatness? Why? May what ever greatness you achieve be poured out in blessing to all within your sphere of influence. Lead well!