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True Greatness


I am unemployed, and I do not have a university degree. I do not own a house, or even a car. I have spent many years trying to build a Christian fellowship, and all that I have to show for it are about a dozen followers, most of whom are even less formally qualified than myself. And yet I believe that what we are doing and saying will have powerful worldwide, and eternal consequences. I believe that we represent something that is right up there with the works of such people as Leonardo da Vinci, Karl Marx, or Mohandas Gandhi.

We hear the names of the supposedly great people in the history of the world, and we tend to forget that for the great people themselves, life is/was still very much like it is for the rest of us. Michael Jackson still has his fears about his health. The Queen still has to watch what she eats. Bill Clinton still gets tempted to cheat on his wife. Muhammad Ali still has to deal with issues like whether or not there is a God, and what God thinks about the way he lives his life.

Even notorious people like Adolf Hitler, Charles Manson, or Mike Tyson have problems with things breaking down and needing to be repaired, organising their daily schedule in order to get everything done on time, and worrying about what others will think of them.

What I am trying to say here is that so much of the world misses out on true greatness simply because they have created an unrealistic image of greatness. They chase the image and miss the reality. They imagine people who don't get constipated, don't get stuck in rush hour traffic, and don't get into arguments over the phone bill. And because of this false image, they live their lives in despair of ever achieving anything great.

True greatness comes from focusing on an ideal, and holding to it despite the setbacks and disappointments. William Shakespeare probably never imagined that he would become a household name throughout the rest of human history. He was too busy trying to get off his next play, or trying to replace an actor who had fallen sick just before the show was to start. Of course he was also busy trying to do the very best job he could with his next play. He worked on the plot, the poetry, the characters, the language, endeavouring to get as close as possible to perfection in all areas at once. He would have known when he finished that what he had produced was good. His standards were high, but he must have felt immense satisfaction when he achieved them.

That was probably the extent of his own awareness of his greatness. It did not depend on royal appearances (for even the monarch was just another human being) or media hype. It depended on his own deep personal satisfaction with what he did.

An art gallery curator said of my son, Kevin, when he was 16 years old, "Kevin is not just a good artist, but I believe that he has the ability to become one of Australia's truly great artists." Over the years Kevin has not been able to give the time that he would have liked to his artwork, because of his involvement with various forms of missionary and social work. But he has still won enough recognition from the so-called experts to indicate that the curator knew what he was talking about.

But with or without the official recognition, there is no doubt in my mind that Kevin is a great artist, because his standards are higher than those of any artist I know. You can see it in his paintings.

I have another son, Gary, who is studying medicine. In his studies he, too, has set high standards for himself, and he is well on his way to the level of greatness that he has chosen for himself.

Our eldest daughter, Sheri, is an absolute genius in her dealings with her children. She creates whole children's books, hand made with loving care exclusively for the use of her three children, whom she home schools as she and her husband travel around the country. She does not need official recognition to know that she has done a great job of raising her children. In her own heart she knows that she has done a great job, and that is reward in itself.

Then there is our youngest daughter, Christine. Like Gary, she topped her class at university. Like Kevin, she is a keen artist. Like Sheri, she is a gifted teacher. But Christine has sought to find greatness in the same way that Cherry and I have sought greatness. We have dedicated ourselves to finding and following God's absolute best for our lives We have sought to know the truth about the world around us, and about ourselves, at any cost. We have chosen to live without the usual measures of greatness (wealth, education, and a good reputation) in order to concentrate on an eternal masterpiece, a divine degree, a key role in the building of God's heavenly kingdom.

We have discovered things which are not being said anywhere else, and which represent the answers to the world's problems. God has given us a job that is right up there with the greatest of the greats in human history. There is nothing more satisfying in all of life than what we are experiencing in our walk with God.

Things like intelligence can be helpful, but basically all that is needed to achieve true greatness is a willingness to stay honest, humble, teachable, and open to the leading and correction of God every day of your life. He'll provide the tuition, as long as you are willing to do the assignments. Please consider the possibility that you, too, may be able to achieve greatness for God. The sooner you start, the better, and as you grow older you will be able to take comfort in knowing that you made the right decision.

(See also Faithfulness: Some Thoughts.)

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