Is It Bad to Want to Be a Great Christian?

By Chip Ingram


There’s a question that I wrestled with for quite awhile for most of my Christian life: Is it really wrong to want to be great? Is it self-centered to want your life to really make an impact?

What I’ve discovered is that “greatness” is most people’s ambition in nearly every area of their lives. When I’ve asked a lot of people about their hopes and dreams, I usually get unapologetic answers about their desires to be great at what they do. Corporate leaders want their companies to be great, professionals want to have great careers, men want to be great husbands and fathers, and women want to be great wives and mothers.

Yet when I ask believers if they want to be great Christians, many of them seem to be afraid to answer the question, as if they’re worried that their ambitions might make them seem arrogant.

But is it really prideful to want to honor God with lives of great faith and excellent work? Should we accept mediocrity instead?

After spending three years with Jesus, the disciples didn’t seem to think so. They actually argued about which one of them was the greatest. What I find most fascinating is that Jesus never admonished them for having ambition or for their desire to be great. Instead, He just showed them a different way to get there.

In Luke 22, Jesus redefines greatness by laying out a clear but counterintuitive pathway that 11 of the 12 disciples eventually fulfilled. He responds to their desires to be great by saying: ” … the greatest among you should be like the youngest, and the one who rules like the one who serves.” (Luke 22:26)

Jesus modeled what it means to be truly great. He came to this Earth as a humbled servant of God, yet He didn’t live a life of mediocrity. The night before his crucifixion, He said to the Father: “I have brought you glory on earth by completing the work you gave me to do.” (John 17:4) He went on to ask that the Father glorify Him and that His glory be shared with His disciples.

Jesus’ statements about greatness were bold, yet we would never accuse Jesus of being arrogant or immodest, would we? From God’s perspective, His desires were godly.

So what about you? Do you want to be great? I’m not talking about financial success or popular opinion. That’s usually a self-centered ambition. I’m talking about being great in God’s kingdom. That is a noble desire!

In fact, God loves it when his people are zealous about making a difference in His kingdom.

Maybe you’re wondering, would God ever use an ordinary person like me, just like the great Christians in the Bible or the men and women of great faith that we read about in church history? And what I want to tell you is, yes!

God eagerly looks over the landscape of this world to honor, empower, and strengthen those whose love and obedience bring him pleasure. For the eyes of the Lord move to and fro throughout the earth that He may strongly support those whose heart is completely His. (2 Chronicles 16:9) 

Our greatness – as He defines it – is His desire.

This week, we’re beginning a new series, Good to Great in God’s Eyes. In it, we’ll explore 10 clear steps to becoming great in the things that matter most. It’s my hope and prayer during this time together that each of us will discover the life that God has destined for us. Most of all, I desire that we become Christians who actually live like Christians and experience our deepest desires to be “great” in God’s eyes!

Keep Pressin’ Ahead,

Chip Ingram, Teaching Pastor
Living on the Edge

Written By

Chip Ingram

Founder & Teaching Pastor, Living on the Edge

Chip Ingram is the CEO and teaching pastor of Living on the Edge, an international teaching and discipleship ministry. A pastor for over thirty years, Chip has a unique ability to communicate truth and challenge people to live out their faith. He is the author of many books, including The Real God, Culture Shock and The Real Heaven. Chip and his wife, Theresa, have four grown children and twelve grandchildren and live in California.

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