True Greatness


“I know I am destined for greatness!” I could see the dreams dancing in my friend’s eyes from where I sat opposite her. “God wants me to speak to huge stadiums full of people!”

Something didn’t feel right. I headed home, wondering why I felt so “off,” when her statement exactly described how I have thought so many times.

“If I’m called to be on the worship team, that means I’m destined for greatness.”

Or “if I’m called to pastor a huge church, that means I’m destined for greatness.”

Or does it?

Don’t get me wrong; I go to a huge church and LOVE LOVE LOVE it. It’s amazing what God is doing there, and my pastor has an incredible heart! I’m also on the worship team at one of our campuses. However, I’m starting to realize that those things have no bearing on what true greatness is.

In our culture, Americans tend to think about greatness based upon numbers and excellence. The more people that know about what I do, the greater it is. The higher quality of work I do, the greater it is.

But will it last?

Recently a study of 1 Corinthians stopped me in my tracks. I was reading David Guzik’s commentary of 3:10-15. The verses say this:

According to the grace of God which was given to me, as a wise master builder I have laid the foundation, and another builds on it. But let each one take heed how he builds on it. For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if anyone builds on this foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, each one’s work will become clear; for the Day will declare it, because it will be revealed by fire; and the fire will test each one’s work, of what sort it is. If anyone’s work which he has built on it endures, he will receive a reward. If anyone’s work is burned, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire.

I was totally saying “amen” left and right to David’s commentary, until he said: “Notice that the amount of the work isn’t going to be evaluated (though it does have some relevance). Paul says the work will be tested to see what sort it is. If one did a lot of the wrong sort of work, it will be as if he did nothing.”


It was like I’d run into a brick wall, and rock-hard questions loomed before me:

Is the work I’m doing of the sort that will last? Or in eternity will it be as though I’ve done nothing?

The “greatest” things…

It was quite the sobering thought. I get so caught up in what’s pop Christian culture, or what looks cool, or what draws the most people. But that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s built of a material that will last.

It reminds me of 1 Corinthians 13:1-3, saying that we can do the seemingly “greatest things,” but if we have not love, they are nothing.

If I speak all over the world, but am unwilling to help my mom wash the dishes, is that true greatness?

If I give all I have to the poor but won’t spare a penny to help my brother when his car breaks down, is that true greatness?


If I never leave the town I was born in but spend my life visiting the sick and bringing dinners to new moms, is that true greatness?

If I work a 9-5 job the rest of my life but volunteer to help my coworkers when their workload is overwhelming, is that true greatness?

I hope someday I get to speak to millions of people, but that in itself isn’t true greatness.

I think true greatness comes in the form of a backstage pass: offering our lives to God and others, even when no one else sees what we are doing.

Lord, teach me how to build with gold, not with hay. One day may the things I’ve built on Your foundation stand, even though they are tested by fire.


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