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Empower Great People, Part 1

From the series Good to Great in God's Eyes

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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Message Transcript

As we think about Good to Great in God’s Eyes, we’re moving toward the end of this series. And I have a question for you: How do you measure true greatness? If you’re Forbes magazine, you measure true greatness by a big dollar sign, and how much either a person or a business produces. 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’d 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? 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,’ they said, ‘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, You’re going to come into Your kingdom, and their mindset was a political kingdom at this point. And Rome is going to fall, and You’re going to be the new King. And they kind of had 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 ten other disciples heard about this, they became indignant with James and John.” Indignant is a strong word. Ticked off. “I can’t believe you’d do that. How – the shame of that!”

Why are they so indignant? Because those two guys asked first. That’s why. Right? They’re ticked off, like, “You know what? You got to Him first.” Of course, 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 ten for being indignant. He pulls them all together, and He says, “There’s an issue.”

And by the way, if you read the gospels carefully, this is not the first time this issue has come up. And as you read them 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’ve got to lord it over people. You’ve got to be on the cover of Sports Illustrated, or Forbes. You’ve got to 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, I love the summary of this, for me, is 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? And I’m sure I met this person, because it had a little inscription: “To Chip, with appreciation – C.J.” And so, 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, That’s what I’ve been teaching. Maybe God sent me this book.

C.J. Mahaney writes, on page forty-four 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, pursue 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. And 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 – when Jesus’ popularity eclipses his, and His disciples are concerned about, “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 other 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 – a select group of 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.” Generation four, generation three, generation two, generation one. 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; Joshua conquers the land – even greater impact. Or you have Elijah and Elisha. 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 twelve other people, eleven of twelve, and then they get a substitute. He has an impact in this geographical area. And by the end of the first century, those twelve multiply their lives to literally reach almost the whole known world.

You have Paul investing in Timothy. You have Barnabas reclaiming John Mark, so that 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.” And here was a lost cause. But someone saw potential, and took someone who had fallen away, who had failed, who had really struggled. And Barnabas found him and made him greater than himself.

How in the world can we empower great people? If you ever think about, greatness in God’s eyes, the next phrase 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. 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 kinds 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 mission trips. Good Christians live the life. And 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. 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. And 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 they drop you and burn you and put you in one of those urns – however it works these days. If there’s a period after the end of your life, instead of a dash, then you were a good Christian.

If there’s a dash where 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. 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 – a high school education. He said, “Activity is no substitute for productivity. Productivity is no substitute for reproduction.”

See, 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 are even a lot of Christians who are very productive. They produce things; there’s fruit. There are very few Christians that are reproducing their lives, 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. 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. 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 it’s very important – is, look under your own roof, 1 Timothy 3:4. 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?

Good Christians live the life. Great Christians leave a legacy. Leaving a legacy means, you help many, you train a few. It starts with prayer. Second, you look under your own roof.

And then, beyond that, you look for FAT people. And these are from my old parachurch days. This is not – I’m not trying to be negative toward body issues. Okay? This is an acronym, F-A-T: faithful, available, teachable. That’s the kind of people you want to invest in: faithful, available, teachable.

Proverbs 20 says, “Many a man” – or many a person – “proclaims his own faithfulness but a faithful man who can find?” So, that’s why, when you’re helping people – people get all about hype. Faithful people show up when they say they’re going to show up. Faithful people are the people in the Bible study that actually do the assignment, they fill it out. Faithful people say, “I’ll take care of that.” They actually take care of it. Faithful people say, “I’ll call you tomorrow afternoon.” They actually call.

And the people that follow up, and follow through, and do, are the people that I want to invest my life in.

The second is availability. There are some people that are faithful, but their lives are going seventy miles an hour, forty-six directions. And you talk, “I want to grow. I want to grow – oh, I’m out of town that weekend.” “I really want to grow, and – but I wish I could. I want to grow,” and you know what? It doesn’t mean they’re not great people. It’s just, I’m not going to invest my life in people that are not available.

You invest in people who are faithful, people who are available, and then, finally, people who are teachable. They want to grow. They want to learn.

How do they respond when you have to say hard things? According to Jesus, you want to look for humility, character, surrender, and perseverance. Those are teachable people.

I think there’s a real, real danger of evaluating people the way the world does. And the people that have impacted me – I’ll just tell you, I think of, as I read through this book, you know something? God, at least according to 1 Corinthians, chapter 1, He says, “Most of you were ‘are nots.’” That’s an interesting phrase.

He says, “There weren’t many wise among you.” And then, He says, “You were the ‘are nots’ of the world.” And then, He makes this list of – wow, former prostitutes, and former homosexuals, and idol worshippers, and adulterers, and stealers, and drunkards. And He says, “And such were some of you.”

See we don’t want to look at people’s history. We want to look at their heart. We want to look at their faithfulness. We want to look at their availability. And we want to look at their teachability to really be who God wants them to be. And you test that out. And that’s who you invest your life in, because those people will pass it on to the next generation.