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Empower Great People, Part 1

Chip answers the question: “Who is the greatest?” It may be surprising to learn that scripture actually advocates pursuing greatness. But as you’ll hear, desiring greatness is something that will help you go from good to great in God’s eyes

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As we think about good to great in God’s eyes, we’re kind of moving toward the end of this series.  And I have a question for you, how do you measure true greatness?  I mean, if you’re Forbes Magazine, you measure true greatness by a big dollar sign and how much either people or a business produce.  Right?  If you’re People Magazine, you measure true greatness by either how popular people are or how pretty they are.  Correct?  If you’re the NBA or the NFL or the NHL, you measure true greatness by what?  Who makes the All Star Team or who’s the MVP.

I suggest from the moment that you can talk and walk to the moment that you die, that we in the human species have one crucial question that we’re always asking.  The question is, who’s the greatest?  Who’s the greatest?  I mean, two little boys, right?  They’re six years old.  My dad can beat up your dad.  Right?  We’re always comparing about greatness.  And so it doesn’t surprise us, as we jump into this session, that even after three years of walking with Jesus, after seeing miracles, after hearing the greatest sermons in the world, after having informal conversations, right when we see that Jesus is about to come into his kingdom, or so they perceive, we’re going to listen in on a conversation among his most faithful followers.  His most godly followers, the people that have seen the greatest miracles.  And we’re going to listen in on what’s on their heart, toward the very end of Jesus’ ministry.

We pick up the story in Mark, Chapter 10.  There is a bold request, beginning at verse 35.  “Then James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came to him.  Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask.”  That’s pretty bold, isn’t it?  Dear mom and dad, could you just sign the bottom of the check and I’ll go cash it and write in the rest.  Right?  “What do you want me to do for you? he asked.  They replied, “Let one of us sit at your right and the other on your left, in your glory.”  Plain and simple, they wanted to be famous.  They wanted acclaim.  They wanted respect.  They wanted glory.  They wanted personal exaltation.  They had the sense that Jesus was going to come into His kingdom. 

And their mindset was a political kingdom at this point.  Rome is going to fall, and you’re going to be the new king.  And they kind of have pictured in their mind, I’m on the right.  You’re on the left.  That’s a pretty bold request.  This is followed by an indignant response in verse 41.  “When the 10 other disciples heard about this, they became indignant with James and John.”  Indignant is a strong word.  I mean, ticked off.  I can’t believe you’d do that.  Why are they so indignant?  ‘Cause those two guys asked first.  That’s why.  Right?  I mean, they’re ticked off like, you know what?  You got to him first.  Since they probably hid it behind pious, righteous, how terrible of you two.  And then what we have is a radical redefinition, by Jesus, about greatness. 

Jesus called them together and he said, “You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them.  Not so with you.  Instead,” now notice this, “Whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant.  And whoever wants to be first must be slave of all.”  And then he gives this amazing illustration using himself.  “For even the son of man did not come to be served but to serve and give his life a ransom for many.”  Notice very carefully, he didn’t reprove John and James for wanting to be great.  Notice he didn’t reprove the 10 for being indignant.  He pulls them altogether and talks about the issue.

And by the way, if you read the gospels carefully, this is not the first time this issue has come up.  As you read very carefully, you find they argue about something on the very last night.  Remember?  The very last night He’s with them, they’re still arguing about who’s the greatest.  But what he does is he shifts the paradigm.  And he says the desire to be great is not wrong.  It’s how you get there.  If you want to be great in man’s eyes, you have got to lord it over people.  You know, you gotta be on the cover of Sports Illustrated or Forbes.  You gotta have power and position and prestige and beauty, and all that the world says.  But if you want to be great in God’s eyes, you need to be the servant of all. 

If you want to be first, you need to be the slave.  You need to understand – in fact, the summary of this for me is that true greatness is serving others for the glory of God.  That’s really what He’s saying.  I was in this study for two or three years.  And out of the blue, I had a book sent to me.  Has this ever happened to you?  Someone just drops a book in the mail?  I’m sure I met this person because it had a little inscription – to Chip, with appreciation, CJ.  I’m sure I met him at one of those Christian bookseller type things or something.  And it was a thin little book, which always attracts me because I can read it quickly.  But the name of the book was Humility.  And then the subtitle was, True Greatness.  And I thought, you know, that’s what I’ve been teaching.  Maybe God sent me this book. 

CJ Mahaney writes on page 44 of his little book, Humility, “In each of our lives, if we’re to have any possibility of becoming truly great in God’s eyes, it means turning upside down the entrenched worldly ideas of our own definition of greatness.  The difference couldn’t be more stark,” he writes.  “As sinfully and culturally defined, pursuing greatness looks like this.  Individuals motivated by self-interest, self-indulgence and a false sense of self-sufficiency, pursuing selfish ambition for the purpose of self-glorification.” 

Did anyone pick up a little common denominator in any of that?  Contrast that with the pursuit of true greatness, as biblically defined.  And then I love this line.  I thought, wow, I must be on track.  “Serving others for the glory of God, this is the genuine expression of humility.  This is true greatness, as our savior defines it.  Conclusion then is we become great in God’s eyes by helping others become greater than ourselves.”  Isn’t that interesting?  We become great in God’s eyes by helping others become greater than ourselves. 

The Apostle Paul would put it this way to Timothy.  Timothy’s got a new assignment.  Paul’s invested his life in Timothy.  “Timothy, I want you to really become great.  So the things that you’ve heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, I want you to entrust to faithful or reliable men, who can teach others also.”  Do you get it?  Great Christians empower great people.  That’s the summary.  If you want to be great in God’s eyes, it’s going about life trying to figure out how I can help other people, literally, become greater than me. 

And if you want to put a little note, just write in the corner of your notes, John the Baptist.  No one says it better than John.  When John meets Jesus and his popularity eclipses John’s.  And his disciples are concerned about, you know, hey John, your market share is going down in the spiritual community.  And remember what John says?  “I must decrease and he must increase.”  And then I don’t know – have you ever kind of done a little study about what Jesus says about John the Baptist?  He says, “Of those born among women, no one is,” what, “than John?”  Greater.  Why?  Because John’s sole purpose was to make people greater than himself.  True greatness, in God’s eyes, is empowering other great Christians.

And so the Apostle Paul said, you want to invest wisely.  And you see four generations.  The Apostle Paul wants to help Timothy be great in God’s eyes.  So he serves him and teaches him and loves him.  Timothy, I want you to help reliable, faithful people that really have a heart for God.  I want you to help them become great in God’s eyes.  So that they, in turn, can help other people become great in God’s eyes.  Four spiritual generations of impact is what the Apostle Paul did.

In the Old Testament, you have some great examples of this where Moses is great, right?  And Joshua is outside his tent.  Moses gets the law and Joshua conquers the land; even greater impact.  Or you have Elijah and Elisha.  You know, Elisha boldly prays for a double portion of his spirit.  And we see Elisha doing even greater miracles than Elijah.  Or you have a situation where Eli is the one that mentors Samuel.  In the New Testament, you have Jesus, of course, doing what?  Helping 12 other people, 11 of 12 and then they get a substitute.  He has an impact in this geographical area.  And by the end of the first century, those 12 multiply their life to literally reach almost the whole known world. 

You have Paul interested in Timothy.  You have Barnabas reclaiming John Mark.  So by the end of Paul’s life, he’ll say, John Mark is of great use for me.  Please ask him to bring the parchments and my cloak.  Someone saw potential and took someone who had fallen away, who had failed, who had really struggled.  Barnabas found John Mark and made him greater than himself.  How in the world can we empower great people?  Let me give you, in terms of this whole session I think it’s the most – if you don’t get anything else.  If you ever open these notes up again, if you ever look at this again, if you ever think about, you know, greatness in God’s eyes, the next phase is what I’d want you to circle and say, this is what matters most.  My summary here is that good Christians live the life. 

Good Christians live the life.  I mean, they love God.  They walk in integrity.  They’re faithful to their marriage partners.  They’re in the scriptures ‘because they want to hear from God.  They’re caring.  They discover their spiritual gift.  They’re involved in their local church.  They give the first portion of their finances and then proportionally out of a heart of love and care.  They’re the kind of parents that really are concerned about their kids and do all they can to help their kids grow up and be men and women.  They’re single people that live pure lives.  They go on short-term missions trips.  Good Christians live the life.  It’s wonderful and you have to and you need to and God expects it.  But the difference between good Christians and great Christians is good Christians really live the life. 

Great Christians leave a legacy.  So you can be a good Christian.  And you can walk with God.  And you can do what God wants you to do.  And you can love people and you can obey Him.  Then when your life is over or my life is over, and they take that little square of dirt and they drop you in it, or burn you and put you in one of those urns.  However it works these days.  If there’s a period after your life, instead of a dash, then you were a good Christian.  If there’s a dash after your life because you’ve poured it into the lives of others, who poured it into the lives of others, who poured it into the lives of others, you are a great Christian. 

Great Christians leave a legacy.  Great Christians don’t just live the life.  Great Christians live the life in such a way that they become like a Paul to Timothy, Timothy to a faithful person, a faithful person to others, so that the impact of the grace of God in their life multiplies and multiplies and multiplies and multiplies.  That’s the difference between good Christians and great Christians.  Great Christians empower great people.  And so what I would want to ask and answer is, how can you and how can I, leave a legacy for God’s glory?  And that’s what I want to talk about in our time together.

First of all, let’s get very, very practical.  And I don’t mean this tritely.  But let’s get clear on what we’re talking about.  Dawson Trotman, who was the founder of The Navigators, was an amazing man with only a high school education.  He said, “Activity is no substitute for productivity.  Productivity is no substitute for reproduction.”  There are a lot of Christians who are active, active, active, active, active, doing a lot of things, going to a lot of meetings.  And there’s even a lot of Christians who are very productive.  They produce things, there’s fruit.  There are very few Christians that are reproducing their life where a legacy, a chain, a spiritual lineage is being developed. 

And so the first thing you need to do is, you want to pray.  You know, God wants this to happen.  It’s commanded.  It’s in his will.  It’s on His heart.  Jesus modeled it.  The Apostle Paul did it.  Elijah did it.  Moses did it.  I mean, the great Christians, they leave a legacy.  And so James 1:5 says, “If any of you lack wisdom,” in other words, you don’t know how to live life skillfully.  You don’t know exactly how to do what God’s called you do to.  If anybody lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all men generously and without reproach.  And He’ll give it to you. 

And so the first and foremost thing is to seriously pray.  And say, Lord, yes, I want to be a good Christian.  But Father, I know you want me to be a great Christian.  I would like to leave a legacy.  So I need to be discerning.  I want to help many people but I want to train a few.  I want to spread a lot of grace around a lot of people but I want to focus and invest my life.  I want to train and build into a few.  And so the first thing, I think, is to pray.

The second thing, I think is very important is look under your own roof, 1 Timothy 3:4.  I mean, it’s not about who are these people out there that I ought to invest my life in.  I ought to start with, who lives under my roof that I’m morally responsible for, that I’m spiritually responsible for.  There’s an amazing correlation that we’re not doing well here.  I mean, how many of us have met pastor’s kids or missionary’s kids that you go, whoa.  Right?  And you think to yourself, I’m not sure what they were doing but their kids didn’t get it at home.  Or they were so busy helping other people that their kids rebelled. 

And I’ll tell you the other area, the group of people that – only the poorest of the poor do worse with their children than executives, according to Forbes magazine.  What it takes to be a high-powered executive.  The drive, the focus is all the kind of thing that make it very difficult to make a very good parent.  And often, people are very successful with their ladder leaning against the wrong wall.  The percentage of children that are in counseling, that struggle with depression, that have attempted suicide, who have major issues with drug and rehab is so high!  You go among America’s top executives and you just – they’ve done studies because they have to pay insurance on all those things.  And only the poorest of the poor have a worse track record.

Where are we going to start?  You want to leave a legacy?  Start under your own roof.  I watch my wife model this in our home.  She is actually a good communicator.  She doesn’t like to get up in front of people much.  But she did it for about 300 women, and it was an amazing response.  It happened that part of it got on the radio.  And so pretty soon, people all over the country – this is probably 10 years ago or more – were asking her to come and speak at their church.  And she said, no, no, no, no.  I’m her husband going, yeah, yeah. 

I mean, I’ll watch the kids for a weekend.  That’d really be – she goes, Chip you don’t understand.  She’s really good.  Everything that I’m not really good at, she’s really good at.  I bring some strength to help her out.  But I mean, like this whole focus and boundary issue.  She just looked at me and she goes, Chip, I can go and speak at these weekends and encourage women and sprinkle a little bit of grace here and there.  She said, when we get to heaven, our greatest impact will not be who we talked to, an impact a sixteenth of an inch thick.  Our greatest impact will be the kids in our home.  She said, “You know what?  If God wants me to do that when our kids are a little older and they’re grown, fine.  But I’ll tell you what I’m going to do – “and I mean, my kids watched my wife pray early in the morning.  She read to them.  Even now, I have an 18 year old.  And last summer, she and Annie did a bible study.  And she asked me to bring home a book that she and Annie are thinking of doing this year.  I still, on Saturday mornings, with my grown kids – I have one son that every weekend I’m in town, we meet at Starbucks at 8:00.  We go through material.  We’re talking about – he’s a young dad.  He’s a young pastor.  And when my kids were younger, I thought, what issues do they have in their life? 

And early on, we had a very structured family time.  Older, I had each of my kids learn to spend time with God on their own.  Then I looked at struggling areas.  And yes, yes, I confess I challenged them with, “I’ll give you 10 bucks if you read this book on worldviews.  I’ll give you 15 bucks if you read Mere Christianity and write me a report on it.”  But we had a very strategic plan to build in and disciple our children, knowing that that was what mattered most. 

When I wrote in my schedule, I wrote in personal time to spend with my kids.  And it all wasn’t just spiritual.  Some of it was just having fun.  But I wanted to invest in my kids.  The greatest legacy we’ll ever leave starts under our roof.  Good Christians live the life.  Great Christians leave a legacy.  Leaving a legacy means you help many, you train a few.