The Great Achievers Are the Great Believers

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By Jon Bloom About Faith

Most people want their lives to count for something. Something deep inside them wants to make some kind of difference in the world, to leave a mark, a lasting legacy. It is a longing for significance to do something “great.”

But for most people this pregnant desire miscarries because they don’t believe that what is truly great is great. They believe in the fool’s gold of false greatness achieved through personal achievements.

False Greatness

Have you noticed that in the Bible, God largely ignores all the events and people that would have garnered the headlines of the ancient world and would have had all the Sunday morning pundits of that age earnestly discussing and debating? For the most part, God ignores the “great” people. He’s just not very impressed with the empire builders, great political leaders, military geniuses, philosophers, poets, writers, artists, architects, entertainers, and other historical high-achievers. When he does mention them, frequently it’s to expose the ridiculousness of their inflated false sense of personal greatness. Pharaoh in Exodus and Nebuchadnezzar in Daniel are the poster children of false greatness. They at least get a biblical mention, though perhaps they would have preferred obscurity. God doesn’t even waste his ink on most of the rest.

When God’s eyes ran to and fro throughout the earth to give strong support to the one who was great in his eyes (2 Chronicles 16:9), the worldly greats did not capture his attention.

True Greatness

Who did capture his attention? People like Abraham.

By worldly standards, what did Abraham really achieve during his lifetime? What did he have to show for his life when he died? Not much. He had a few children, owned one tiny piece of property (a grave-cave) and some wealth in livestock. And yet Abraham, by God’s standards, was one of the greatest men who ever lived.

What made Abraham great? One thing: Abraham believed God (Genesis 15:6, Galatians 3:6). He believed God with his whole being. He banked his life on the belief that God existed and rewarded those who seek him (Hebrews 11:6). He believed in God’s promises so much that he did not even have to receive what was promised in his lifetime (Hebrews 11:13). And his belief in God led him to obey God’s call on him to leave his kin and culture and go live in a foreign land as an alien and exile for the sake of God’s glory and his future purposes (Hebrews 11:8–9, 13). And Abraham’s faith-filled obedience to seek God’s kingdom first changed the course of human history — and is still changing it.

Note this: Hardly any of Abraham’s earthly contemporaries is remembered and none, except those who shared his faith in God, continue to make a difference in the world.

Give Up Pursuits of Piddly Greatness!

What great pursuit are you devoting your life to? What is it that you want to achieve? What do you really believe will make the biggest difference in the world? How you answer these questions will dictate how you will invest the one life you have to live.

Don’t believe the promises of false greatness. Nebuchadnezzar was about as high an achiever as a human can get and his greatness was piddly compared to Abraham’s. Give up the pursuit of piddly greatness! You’ll never find it in the achievements the world admires most.

The truly great people in God’s eyes are not the great achievers but the great believers. They really believe God and therefore seek his kingdom first (Matthew 6:33). They know that they have no greatness of their own — all greatness is God’s — so they are free to be the servants of all (Mark 9:35). Because they know that here they “have no lasting city” (Hebrews 13:14) their eyes are set on the city with everlasting foundations (Hebrews 11:10). That’s where they lay up their treasures (Matthew 6:20), and so they are happy to forego them here as God calls. And the great believers are willing to go into foreign lands and live on the promises of God for the sake of God’s purposes to bless all the families of the earth (Genesis 28:14, Matthew 28:19–20).

The true greatness of the glory of God and his global purposes is the burden and call of this book: Cross: Unrivaled Christ, Unstoppable Gospel, Unreached Peoples, Unending Joy. It is a call for us to give up pursuits of piddly, ephemeral delusions of greatness and to live the truly great life of radical faith in God, following him as he leads into all the world in order that the gospel will be preached to and believed by every people group on the face of the planet. This is what God is up to in the world. All the events that capture today’s headlines will one day look like historical footnotes in comparison.

In the end, the great believers are the truly great achievers. They build the house that God is building and therefore the greatest house and only house that will last (Psalm 127:1). What they have to show of their lives when they die may not look like much. But what they have built will go on growing forever. It will make an eternal difference; it will leave an eternal mark, the longest-lasting legacy.

Don’t let your desire for greatness miscarry. Make your life count for the one thing that really matters. 

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