Our theme for this season in Hillsong College is “Born for Greatness” and our Executive Vice President, Lee Burns, put it perfectly; “we are born and He (God) is great!” I love that because it is God who is truly great, and the greatness we attain to then should reflect Him. So let’s talk about greatness…
Jesus says in Matt 20:26 that greatness is about service not status. It is more a way to live than a position to attain to. It is more about the journey than the destination. You could say that true greatness is more about your eulogy than your resume! We don’t really achieve greatness by what we do as much as by who we become. It is not about a final performance or a diploma at the end of a course, as much as who we become through all the hours of rehearsals and learning and discipline that we go through to get to that performance or graduation. So who do we want to become?
I’m guessing that all of our answers would include in some way that we want to become more like Jesus… now THAT is true greatness! What we’re achieving will flow out of WHO we’re becoming, and whom we’re becoming like.
There’s a wonderful story about Jesus’ greatness in Luke 5:17-26 It is the story of Jesus teaching to a packed house, filled with people from all over the region, and the power of God being present to heal the sick. The story goes on to describe how some men, unable to get inside because of the crowd, lower their friend down through the roof to get him to Jesus! Sounds like greatness so far right? People from everywhere, packed house, power of God, people going to extraordinary lengths to get in! Surely that is greatness? It keeps going… Jesus tells the lame man that his sins are forgiven which horrifies the Pharisees. So Jesus demonstrates that he indeed has the authority to forgive sins, by telling the man to “get up, take up your mat and go home.” And the man does just that! Now that’s greatness, surely? He knew people’s thoughts, he saw people’s faith, a miracle took place, and everyone was in awe.
The truth is, Jesus is truly great but not necessarily because of the “great” things he did in this passage. Rather, because He is truly great these great things were the overflow. One of the keys to greatness is in the verse prior, Lk 5:16, “But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.” The gospels often record Jesus withdrawing to pray before “great” things happened. Perhaps it is in this place, with the Father, that true greatness is found. Perhaps who we become there, enables great things to happen.
What does that look like for us?
1. True greatness is a way of life.
Lk 5:16 says, “Jesus OFTEN withdrew….” Seeking the Father was a way of life for Jesus. How much more ought it be for us. Greatness was not about a series of achievements for Jesus, as much as a way to live… and a Person we live in relationship with. If “we are born and He is Great,” then we need to withdraw often to seek the truly Great One so He can mold and shape us into the image of His Son… and that’s a journey! From that place the fruit of greatness will be borne.
2. You will only be as great as the power you’re operating from.
Jesus withdrew to pray. He didn’t just perfect a skill or study or work on His will power to be great. He withdrew to be with the true Power source, His Father. So what power are we operating out of? Will power? The power of our gift? The power of positive thinking? The power of what we or others have said or thought about us? Or are we withdrawing to connect with the source of true power, the power we need to live the lives that we’re believing to. He is great and He is the source of the power we need to do “great things,” so let’s withdraw and draw our strength from the true Source of greatness.
3. True greatness is from God and for the people.
When we withdraw to be with the Father we soon realize that greatness isn’t about us… anything great that God empowers us to do is actually for a purpose bigger than us. It is for others! Just like Jesus, in Luke 5, we withdraw so we can serve the crowds. God shows us hearts and needs so we can serve people. We step into the power of God so we can serve people. We believe to see miracles take place, to serve people. That is why it is more about who we are becoming than about what we’re achieving, because we cannot sustain that kind of service without withdrawing to the One who is truly Great and allowing Him to empower us and transform us into His likeness.
4. True greatness causes people to praise God.
Both the man who was healed and the crowd who witnessed it praised God. I think sometimes we could assume (or even hope) that greatness involves people praising us, but even Jesus’ great works resulted in praise to God! Remarkable when you consider that He could quite rightly have received that praise, being God Himself! Now, of course people will likely give you encouragement and even praise for the great things that you’re achieving and for the person you’re becoming. There is nothing wrong with that! We just need to realize the “great” part of that equation comes from God in us. The more we withdraw to seek our Father and are becoming like His Son, the more we live with the revelation that “we are born and He is truly great!”
Hillsong College Principal