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Are you willing to become great?

One of the highlights of the year for us is the annual pig show.  To some that might sound like an insignificant thing to invest time and effort in, but for a lot of us in our community it is an exciting and worthwhile event.  And since one of my grandchildren had an entry again this year, it made it all the more interesting.

We watched as the show started out with a nice clean arena, but as time went on those conditions quickly deteriorated.  Pigs will be true to their nature regardless of how many times you wash them, how well you feed them, and how patiently you train them.  In fact, the Bible makes mention of this truth in 2 Peter 2:22:  “A sow that is washed goes back to her wallowing in the mud” (New International Version).  But our objective for the day was not to see how long the pigs would allow the show ring to remain clean; our goal was to see who the winners would be.  After several hours of watching some fine animals being shown by some of the greatest kids anywhere, the judge finally declared one of the pigs the Supreme Champion.

The winner was declared at a moment in time, but becoming the winner—becoming the great one of the bunch—did not start on the day of the show; it started months ago when the pigs were small.  Addy’s cute little forty pound piglet that she named Oreo grew to become a two hundred and eighty pound fine hog.  It took time, grooming, training, and a whole lot of cash and patience to get the animal where she needed to be, but in the end, it was worth the effort.

Greatness is a much sought after position by humans, and the disciples of Christ were not exempt from such a prideful pursuit.  The Bible preserves these details:  “They came to Capernaum.  When He was in the house, He asked them, ‘What were you arguing about on the road?’  But they kept quiet because on the way they had argued about who was the greatest” (Mark 9:33-34). 

It would seem that just being one of the twelve chosen to be students of Christ would be great enough, but they wanted more.  It was common for the Jewish people of that day to argue about hierarchy and the disciples found themselves following that pattern, but they must have felt small rather than great when they realized that their Master was aware of their argument that was not about eternal matters but about earthly power, position, and status.  But there was something that surely surprised them even more than the fact that He knew what they had discussed:  the definition of greatness that He submitted to them which was in complete opposition with the way they were defining greatness.

Included in Christ’s description of greatness was that of having a servant’s heart.  In His words, “If anyone wants to be first, he must be the very last, and the servant of all” (Mark 9:35).  That was a far cry from what they had in mind, and if we would be honest with ourselves, it is likely different from our usual way of thinking.  Yet that is what He expects of us.  Indeed, that is the example that He modeled for us as He came to earth as a servant willing to lay down His life for our sins.

As the Lord held a little child, He declared something else about greatness:  the truly great are to have a heart to reach out to those who cannot do anything for themselves.  To lend a hand when we expect something in return is easy, but to reach out to the helpless comes with a cost.  God calls it greatness.

Becoming great as God defines greatness does not happen overnight.  It requires surrendering to Him and allowing Him shape us into what He wants us to be.  And what He wants us to be is increasingly like Jesus Christ.  The world despised Him, yet He was great in the truest sense of Godly greatness.