Have you ever noticed that everybody likes to win? Everyone likes being the best or the greatest. That’s why you see bumper stickers or license plates that say “World’s Best Grandma”. That’s why the world watches the Olympics – to see if their country will be the best. For some reason, we like being the best. We like being the greatest.
So this morning I want to talk about being great. Because deep inside of us, I think each of us wants to be great. That’s why we have heros. We look at our heros and say, “Man, I wish I could be great like that.” As I’ve mentioned before, one of my heros is a man named George Mueller – a man who had tremendous faith in God and through an amazing life of prayer, God did incredible things through this man. So I want to be a great man like my hero, George Mueller.
Now when we talk about being great, I don’t mean “great” in a prideful way where it’s all “Hey, look at me! Look how amazing I am and look how pitiful you are.” That’s not what we are talking about at all. In the dictionary, “great” simply means “considerably above average”.
So here’s a question: Should Christians strive to be great? Should we desire to be considerably above average?
Well, if you look at the Old Testament, we find that God was actively involved in making people great. Look what He promised to Abraham:
“I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. Genesis 12:2
And then there is Solomon. God came to him in a dream and told Him that He would make Him Israel’s greatest king. And indeed, it happened.
Solomon son of David established himself firmly over his kingdom, for the LORD his God was with him and made him exceedingly great. 2 Chronicles 1:1
God made Solomon exceedingly above average. And then there was Job.
1 In the land of Uz there lived a man whose name was Job. This man was blameless and upright; he feared God and shunned evil. 2 He had seven sons and three daughters, 3 and he owned seven thousand sheep, three thousand camels, five hundred yoke of oxen and five hundred donkeys, and had a large number of servants. He was the greatest man among all the people of the East. Job 1:1-3
It seems that God is not opposed to people becoming great. In fact, it seems He usually has a hand in helping them become great. Now of course, we’ve only looked at the Old Testament – Let’s look at the New Testament too. First, Mark 9:33-35:
33 After they arrived at Capernaum and settled in a house, Jesus asked his disciples, “What were you discussing out on the road?” 34 But they didn’t answer, because they had been arguing about which of them was the greatest. 35 He sat down, called the twelve disciples over to him, and said, “Whoever wants to be first must take last place and be the servant of everyone else.” Mark 9:33-35 NLT
So how did Jesus react to the disciples wanting to be the greatest? Did He reprimand them? Scold them? It doesn’t say that He did that at all. In fact, instead of scolding them for wanting to be great – He told them what they needed to do so that they could be great. Then look at Matthew 20:25-28
25Jesus called them together and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. 26Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, 27and whoever wants to be first must be your slave— 28just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Matthew 20:25-28 NIV
Here it is again – Jesus tells His disciples, if you want to be great, here’s what you do. So it seems to me that Jesus has no problem with us wanting to be great – to be considerably above average. In fact, He seems to be encouraging us to become great.
So now that we’ve established that God’s ok with us being great – let’s look at HOW God wants us to become great. And that’s really the key.
What must I do to become great? How can I be a great parent? How do I become a great leader in my community or at my work place? How do I become a great Christian? How do we become a great church? How can we make this a great community?
If you’re starting to wonder why we’re talking about “being great” in the middle of our series of engaging with our community, I think you’ll see the connection very soon.
Look with me again at Matthew 20:26…
Whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, 27and whoever wants to be first must be your slave— 28just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
As backwards as this seems to the world, this is God’s formula for becoming great. If you want to be great, you must become a servant. You must serve others.
Jesus illustrated this for us in His life time and time again. How many times does Jesus – The God of the Universe Who created All things – how many times does He serve the people? How many times does He feed them? How man times does He heal them?
One great example is when He washed his disciples feet.
1It was just before the Passover Feast. Jesus knew that the time had come for him to leave this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he now showed them the full extent of his love.
2The evening meal was being served, and the devil had already prompted Judas Iscariot, son of Simon, to betray Jesus. 3Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; 4so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. 5After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him.
12When he had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place. “Do you understand what I have done for you?” he asked them. 13″You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. 14Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. 15I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. John 13:1-5; 12-15
So here’s Jesus, the King of the Universe – the greatest person to ever walk on this earth – doing the work of a slave and washing the filthy feet of his disciples. If you want to be great, you must become a servant.
If you want to be a great husband – then serve your wife. Put her interests before your own. Help out around the house. Tackle those jobs on the “honey do list”. You might even want to put the seat down in the bathroom. If you want to be a great husband – serve your wife.
If you want to be a great dad – then serve your kids. Read stories to them when they’re little. Go on camp-outs with them when their bigger. Give them piggy-back rides. Fix their bikes. Change the oil in their car. If you want to be a great dad – serve your kids.
If you want to be great at your work place – serve the people there. Clean the lunch-room. Take someone’s shift when they’re in a pinch. Do what you can to make your boss a success. If you want to be great at your work place – serve the people there.
If you want to be great in your community – serve your community. Pick up the garbage you see on the sidewalk. Volunteer and get involved in community programs. Do what you can to make your community a better place. If you want to be great in your community – serve your community.
And this is really where I want to focus this morning. Our challenge this month is to engage with our community – and there is no better way to do that, then to serve them. God has called us to be a great church in our community. And we don’t become a great church by building a new building. We don’t become great by having fantastic worship music. Our church will only become great as we serve our community.
And that’s why next Sunday, we will not be having our regular church service. Instead of coming to church, we will be the church. Instead of worshiping through songs & sermons, we will worship by serving our community.
So this morning, we want to take a few minutes to be very practical. In order for us to effectively serve our community next Sunday, we need to be a little bit organized. What we need this morning is ideas for how we can serve our community and then we can work out the details through this week. So I’m going to divide you up into four groups and give you a paper and pencil. I want you to come up with as many ideas of how we can serve our community in that hour and a bit time frame that we’ll have next Sunday morning.
Maybe you know a single mom who needs her lawn mowed or fence repaired. Maybe you know someone in the hospital and their family could use some frozen casseroles. Maybe there is an older person who needs their rain gutters cleaned out, but they can’t do it themselves. Or maybe there is someone who can’t get out and about and would love to have someone come over for a coffee.
Think of as many of these ideas as you can, so that we can make the most of our two hours next Sunday morning as we serve our community.
The other thing we want to do this morning is to celebrate communion together. This is where we remember that the greatest way that Jesus served us, was by dying on that cross in our place. He took the punishment that we deserved so that we could have eternal life, if we only put our faith and trust in Him.