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Redefining Greatness

Greatness. It’s something many, many people aspire to and relatively few achieve in a worldly sense. As a culture, we’re obsessed with it. Being famous. Being powerful. Being rich. And we find these references everywhere! “Never underestimate the power of dreams and the influence of the human spirit.” “Live like there's no tomorrow.” “Make the decision.” “Find your passion.” “Use your full capabilities.” “Aim for the stars.” “Do your best.” “Don't fear greatness.” Or the oft quoted, “Reach for the moon. Even if you fall short, you’ll land among the stars.”

Lately, I’ve been challenged to redefine my measure of success, of how to truly understand greatness in the context of faith. I’m no longer thinking about the super evangelist or famous inspirational speaker, by the way. I’m not looking at the T.D. Jakes or Joyce Meyers of the world. I’m thinking of the slave girl who helped her owner who had leprosy find healing, or the care taker of the donkey who allowed it to be taken away, only later to learn Jesus rode upon its back into Jerusalem. No one knew their names, but they had the willingness to live changed lives and fulfill age-old prophesies.

I think of the poor widow who gave one small copper coin as her offering, yet impressed the heart and mind of the Creator of the Universe by doing so. No one else noticed her, but Jesus was intimately aware of this woman and the incredible gift she was bringing. She literally gave all she had. Her name is not recorded in the annals of humankind’s history. Yet this poor, widowed woman is forever honored in the Lord’s written word, the only word that will outlast time.

As I reflect on the impact of one decision upon all of eternity, it gives me incredible hope. The time I choose to be kind to someone despite their unfair or even ugly treatment of me, or to extend grace to someone who doesn’t deserve it, is a smile in the heart of my Father. When I encounter someone who is rude, unkind and belligerent, and yet still choose to respond calmly and respectfully, I am honoring God. When I push past what is comfortable for me and make the decision to not snap when I’m tired, to not yell when I’m being yelled at, to not quit when every part of me just wants to throw in the towel, I realize my choice is a delight to the Creator of the universe.

Grace covers the gaps between the many, many times I fail and the times I manage to succeed. The goal isn’t perfection; it’s consistently being open to the opportunities to love others the way Jesus loves me. I think that’s what God is going to care about at the end. Not my balance sheet or my worldly accomplishments, but how I grew through the challenges and trials that came my way. How did I invest of myself into others? When did I extend undeserved grace or choose to not walk forward in fear—or walk forward despite it?

Just a few days ago, my husband sat down next to me, wanting to have a conversation about how we can communicate together more effectively in the future. His approach felt all wrong to me. I’d love to say I was humble, stayed calm, didn’t personalize, and worked with him to find a better approach. Only I didn’t. My blood began to boil. I was frustrated, irritated, defensive and tired of talking about the same thing yet again.

But here’s the Jesus moment, though it took a hot second to arrive; the moment my Father stepped in and smiled because there was a small, infinitesimally small, shift in my thinking. “I’m going to pray.”

And I did. I invited Jesus smack dab into the center of our disagreement. I asked him to help me respond the way he would, and not in my self-righteous, self-focused way. I asked him to help me to love bigger, to extend grace, and to remember to see my husband’s heart behind his words.

I think a moment like that one, where I’ve made the decision to walk in Jesus’ footsteps, is the kind of moment that is a great one before the Lord. I think in those kinds of moments the angels lean in, eager to see what’s going to happen next. I can almost hear Jesus whispering, “That one’s mine. Wait until you see what happens now that she’s invited me in. This is going to be great.”

And it is great. Suddenly, my perspective shifts. My husband has also been praying. We are able to reach across the divide the enemy would place between us and grab a hold, once again, of each other’s hands. Ready to connect and resolve. And we do. Finally, we do. I think it’s small moments like these which add up to a great life. They are the stories we will recount in heaven. I think that might, just might, be how God would define greatness.


What about you? Is greatness something you need to reconsider? I love 2 Chronicles 16:9 that says, “The Lord searches all the earth for people who have given themselves completely to him. He wants to make them strong” (NCV). God’s heart is for you, not against you. He wants you to succeed in the areas that feel impossible, to grow past what is blocking you, in moments both small and big. His heart is to make you great—His version of great.

“Do not listen to voice of accusation, for they are not from Me. I speak to you in love-tones, lifting you up. My Spirit convicts cleanly, without crushing words of shame.” (Romans 8:1-2, MSG).

Remember, God’s ways are not our own. Today, focus on inviting God into the messy moments of your life, remembering that He is working for your good all the time. Always.


Papa, how truly amazing you are. I am so humbled by the intimate care you give my life. No detail goes unnoticed. No right decision is missed. You remove the ugly moments as far away as the east is from the west, and wash me off with the richness of your grace. I have no idea why you are so mindful of me, but I am so grateful to be your child. Help me to run after true greatness, Papa, the things that warm your heart and make you smile. May I embrace the strength you so freely offer me today. Amen.


To learn more about author & motivational speaker Barb Lownsbury or to have her speak at your next event, CLICK HERE.

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