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10 Ways to Fight the Pursuit of Greatness (A Guide to a Lowly, Contented Life)

  • Brenda Rodgers
10 Ways to Fight the Pursuit of Greatness (A Guide to a Lowly, Contented Life)

For the past several years I've felt this pressure to do great things for God. Being a writer and blogger, I believe it started when I saw all the great things other people were doing for God. I watched as fellow moms founded non-profits, adopted children, started online businesses, and published books. I began searching for "the thing" I was supposed to do to change the world.

The Christian community and our American culture in general have become more respondent to social issues in the past several years, and this is good. But as I searched for what God wanted me to do "to be great," I felt defeated, inadequate, and burned out. In my mind I began to minimize the work right before me, primarily taking care of my family and loving my friends. Then my perspective took a turn. I began envying people who "just" go to work, raise their kids, and serve their friends well; and I began envying friends who aren't on social media. Their lives seemed simpler, more content, and peaceful – even happier.

Then I started asking questions. Are we all called to do great things? Does God weigh taking care of my family less than starting a non-profit or fostering children? Is serving my family and friends well just as important to Him? Was my desire to do great things for God really about glorifying God, or was it more about glorifying myself?At the beginning of this year, I chose the word "small" to focus on for 2018. I can't say that I've made any huge changes; I still have a Facebook account. However, I have been aware of the significance of the small in the everyday.

Here are 10 ways to fight against the need for greatness that have helped me during this process of pursuing God in the small.

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1. Remember who you follow.

When we're busy trying to do great things for God, it's interesting to notice in the Bible that Jesus never did the same. Jesus wasn't about doing great things, rather He was about following God's will. He didn't chase numbers and notoriety and accolades. Instead, He chased God's heart. When Jesus traveled around preaching and doing miracles, He helped some people and not others. He didn't come up with a strategy to get more followers; instead, He just took the next right step as God called Him. Sometimes, He even stopped His ministry and went away to rest and pray.

We need to follow Jesus' lead and remember that He was not about doing great things. He was only about obeying His Heavenly Father.

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2. Value the small.

Everywhere we look we're encouraged to be bigger and have bigger. But no longer are people just striving for bigger material possessions. Now the trend is to create bigger lives - bigger platforms, non-profits, social justice organizations, and personalities. Improving one's self and the world are people's new "bigger."

This past year in Bible study I came across Zechariah 4:10, "For whoever has despised the day of small things shall rejoice and shall see the plumb line in the hand of Zerubbabel." Here Zechariah is encouraging the Israelites to continue the work of rebuilding the temple even though the beginnings seem small. Layers of small are what create a final product of something bigger.

The same is true in our lives. The day-in and day-out that we sometimes despise, thinking we should be doing more important works for God are actually what God is using to create His grand final product.

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3. Be faithful with the small.

"One who is faithful in a very little is also faithful in much, and one who is dishonest in a very little is also dishonest in much," Luke 16:10. God has convicted me of this truth several times. I've found myself striving for more or wishing for more all while not doing an honest job with my present responsibilities.

An example of this is the college girls small group that I lead. I've felt God asking me, "Are you making this group a priority in your prayer life? Are you interceding for these girls regularly? Are you preparing for your group meetings? Are you seeking me while discipling them?"

This principle applies to other seemingly small responsibilities - marriage, children, home, work, church obligations, and friends. If we're not being good stewards with the responsibilities that get no credit, then we can't expect God to give us more.

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4. Know what gifts God gave you.

The Bible is clear that everyone has different gifts that they are to use for different callings, and all of these are from God.

"Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good," 1 Corinthians 12:4-7.

All the work for the Lord, whether large or small in our eyes, is necessary for God's economy. Because they are all from Him, they are all important to Him. Even though we value them differently, depending on the impact we think they make, God sees all of the work He assigns as equally important. Knowing our gifts guards us against the temptation to engage in work that is not in congruence with who we are.

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5. Know your calling.

Likewise, to know our gifts is knowing our calling. What exactly is God calling you to do?

In Colossians 4:17, Paul told the brothers at Colossae, "And say to Archippus, 'See that you fulfill the ministry that you have received in the Lord.'"

Our ministry needs to be from the Lord, not from our own ambitions, culture, or what the next online expert is telling us. When God tells us to go, we go. But when God tells us to stay, we stay. And we don't despise the staying. Instead, we look at it as the great work it is in God's eyes.

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6. Stay in your lane.

It's so easy to get sidetracked with what everyone else is doing. I am guilty of this more than anything. Comparison leads to feelings of inadequacy, and we question if what we're doing is good enough. But look at Proverbs 4:25-27:

"Let your eyes look straight ahead; fix your gaze directly before you. Give careful thought to the paths for your feet and be steadfast in all your ways. Do not turn to the right or the left; keep your foot from evil."

When we veer off outside of our lane, we're no longer in God's will for us. His divine strength and protection are not present there. It's important that we stay in the lane He's called us to.

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7. Realize what you're asking for.

We often crave greatness but don't understand the cost. As I listen to different leaders, and especially church leaders, there is a common thread that the road to the top (and the road to stay at the top) is a difficult one. Leaders will tell you that their businesses, organizations, ministries, and books have brought tremendous spiritual warfare. It's as if doing great things puts a target on your back.

It reminds me of the Luke 12:48, "Everyone to whom much was given, of him much will be required, and from him to whom they entrusted much, they will demand the more." Are we prepared to give to the point of suffering?

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8. Guard yourself on social media.

Social media gets the blame for most of our problems today, but I do think the need for greatness has become epidemic because of social media. When I think back to when I was a child, the adults didn't seem to be chasing dreams like they do today. My parents were busy and content, raising their family and serving their friends. There wasn't time for much else.

We're aware of what other people are doing, and this leads us to compare ourselves and feel like we should be doing the same thing. That's why it's important to guard yourself on social media. Know what your triggers are and stay away from those people or topics. Also, take a fast from social media periodically to reexamine your calling.

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9. Focus on what's right before you.

The friends who I admire most are the ones serving their families, friends, and communities - the people closest to them - well. There are needs all over the world and plenty of opportunities for greatness, but that doesn't mean everyday needs are any less significant.

As I've watched friends go on to do great things, I've also experienced them forgetting the needs closest to them. They're stretched too thin to bring a meal to a sick friend, honestly pray for those around them, or simply go to dinner with a friend. Our endeavors should be out of an overflow of the life we're already living. Our first priority should always be the real-life lives we see every day.

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10. Beware of pride and vanity.

Pride is thinking highly of ourselves, and vanity is thinking highly of what other people think of us. It's hard to do great things and not struggle with pride and vanity. But the Bible is clear that pride and vanity are the opposite of greatness.  "Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves," Philippians 2:3.

True greatness is following Jesus with a tenacious heart, embracing where He has you and leaving the results up to Him. This will lead to contentment.

Brenda Rodgers considers herself a “recovering single” after years as a single woman chasing after marriage instead of chasing after Jesus. Now her passion is to mentor young women to live purposefully and grow in their relationship with God and others. Brenda has been married for five years to a heart transplant hero and is the mom of a toddler girl miracle. She is also the author of the eBook Fall for Him: 25 Challenges from a Recovering Single. You can also read more on Brenda’s blog, www.TripleBraidedLife.com and follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

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