Authored by Dia
How would you define greatness?
In his bestselling book The Purpose Driven Life, Rick Warren says: “There will always be more people willing to do ‘great’ things for God than people willing to do the little things. The race to be a leader is crowded, but the field is wide open for those willing to be servants.”
The interesting thing is that Jesus promoted the role of a servant. Whenever the disciples argued about who would be greatest, Jesus reminded them that the greatest thing they could ever do—the action that would make them great in God’s eyes—was to serve others. “Whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant.”1
Here are a few more excerpts from Rick Warren’s book on what it means to be a servant:
The world defines greatness in terms of power, possessions, prestige and position. Jesus, however, measured greatness in terms of service, not status. God determines your greatness by how many people you serve, not how many people serve you.
Jesus specialized in menial tasks that others tried to avoid: washing feet, helping children, fixing breakfast, and serving lepers. Nothing was beneath Him, because He came to serve. It wasn’t in spite of His greatness that He did these things, but because of it, and He expects us to follow His example.
Small tasks often show a big heart. Your servant’s heart is revealed in little acts that others don’t think of doing, as when Paul gathered brushwood for a fire to warm everyone after a shipwreck. He was just as exhausted as everyone else, but he did what everyone needed. No task is beneath you when you have a servant’s heart.
John Wesley was an incredible servant of God. His motto was, “Do all the good you can, by all the means you can, in all the ways you can, in all the places you can, as long as you ever can.” That is greatness. You can begin by looking for small tasks that no one else wants to do. Do these little things as if they were great things, because God is watching.
Servants are always on the lookout for ways to help others. When they see a need, they seize the moment to meet it, just as the Bible commands us: “As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith” (Galatians 6:10). When God puts someone in need right in front of you, He is giving you the opportunity to grow in servanthood.2
Take a moment to think about the people who have had the greatest influence in your life. Why do you remember them? Why do you admire them? With few exceptions, the people who mean the most to us and play the biggest roles in our lives are usually those who have in some way served us and cared for us.
The Bible is filled with examples of imperfect men who were of service to others. Joseph, of the Old Testament, is one of them. He had his flaws, but whether he was working for the captain of the guard, a prison warden, or the king of Egypt, he served with his whole heart. Being put in positions of service probably helped to chip away at his pride and give him humility, which aided him in his next role of being the vizier of Egypt.
You see, you don’t have to be perfect or have the “right” personality in order to be of service to others. Just start serving. Look for ways that you can help another and then do what you can with all your heart, and as you do, as you serve, you will learn to serve well.
Keep in mind, though, that service doesn’t mean setting yourself up to receive recognition. But you can be encouraged that as you serve, your life will have a positive impact on others and you will cultivate deep relationships.
When I read about people like Mother Teresa, who helped so many of the destitute on the streets of Kolkata, or Father Damien, the leper priest of Hawaii, their lives of giving and service inspire my soul and heart to pursue a path greater than myself; it gives me a vision far surpassing my petty wants.
One of my favorite quotes is by George Bernard Shaw. He said, “This is the true joy in life: being used for a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one; being thoroughly worn out before you are thrown on the scrap heap; being a force of nature instead of a feverish selfish little clod of ailments and grievances complaining that the world will not devote itself to making you happy.”
In other words, selfless living is a joy; it’s fulfilling! Albert Schweitzer said, “The only really happy people are those who have learned how to serve.” It’s funny, because when some of us think of the word “serving” or “service,” joy and happiness are not what come to mind. We more likely think of work and self-denial. But obviously, many people have discovered that they have received happiness, joy, and satisfaction through living to serve, give, and care.
Now, here’s a tip for all those interested in service: Refuse discouragement when others don’t recognize or seem to value your service. Remember that your service should be done as unto God, and not for personal glory or because you are expecting something in return. If you are expecting a return for your service and giving, you are setting yourself up for disappointment and frustration. Search your motives, give and serve as unto God and because you want to, not for appreciation, respect, honor, or reward.
With that being said, if you serve others with the right motives and without agenda, you will often be happily surprised at what boomerangs back to you. Not that you can always quantify or expect in return exactly what you want or need, but there will be positive dividends. The Power of Nice3, a book I have read more than once and something I go back to when I feel discouraged, knocked around, and resentful of giving, serving, or making an effort to be nice, says: “The beauty of focusing on other people’s concerns is that it shifts your attention away from your own worries and anxieties. And it’s a lot cheaper than therapy!”
Through serving others you’re creating a ripple effect of giving and receiving. Your giving is not just bringing sacrifice into your life, but joy and positive experiences that you might not have expected. And you don’t only have good things coming back to you in this life; imagine what it will feel like one day to have God say to you, “Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!”4
To end, here are some lyrics from Lady Antebellum’s song “I Was Here”:
I wanna do something that matters, say something different
Something that sets the whole world on its ear
I wanna do something better with the time I’ve been given
I wanna try to touch a few hearts in this life
Leave nothing less than something that says, I was here.
1 Mark 10:43 NIV.
2 Rick Warren, The Purpose Driven Life (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2004), 257, 259, 260–261.
3 Linda Kaplan Thaler and Robin Koval, The Power of Nice (NY: Doubleday, 2006).
4 Matthew 25:21 NIV.
Read by Amber Larriva. Music by Simon W. Copyright © 2012 by The Family International