We live in a world where greatness is measured in terms of one's career, possessions, prestige, appearance etc. Because of this, it's easy to believe the lie that greatness is a result of our own good works. I'm learning that greatness actually has nothing to do with how I am - it is about realizing how great God is.
The book of Haggai recounts the story of a group of people who, after returning from exile, were faced with the task of rebuilding their city. Slowly but surely homes were built, businesses were established and everything fell into place. The people eventually became so consumed by their own greatness that they no longer felt the need to include God in their lives. They put His plans on hold and instead went on to pursue their own. They decorated their homes beautifully and left His temple in ruins. Because of this, God withheld His blessings from them. No matter how hard they worked, no matter how much money they made, no matter how much they sowed, they were never satisfied.
Whether we own up to it or not, we're all drawn to the idea of greatness - especially our own. Just like the people in Haggai, many of us are guilty of decorating our own houses and neglecting God's call to build His. I myself am guilty of pursuing my own definition of a great life – a great job (+ a great paycheck), a great reputation, a great holiday, a great relationship (?), a great photo (for crying out loud) etc.... Basically, a great me. To my own detriment, I have often lost sight of what/who is truly great.
In order for God to bless us with truly great things, we have to die to our own selves and our own ideas of greatness.
It isn't wrong to want great things -what's wrong is to want these things more than we want God. More than anything, He wants us to pursue Him. He longs to be a part of everything in our lives - not just for His sake, but for ours too! God promised the people in Haggai that if they rebuilt His temple, it would be ‘far better than it started out, a glorious beginning but an even more glorious finish: a place in which He will hand out wholeness and holiness'.
When we make God's plan our plan, we allow Him to carry out great things in all areas of our lives. God promises to not just relieve us from our past experiences, but to also restore, refine and make our lives even greater than before. And what could be greater than that?!
In my own pursuit of greatness, I have often run ahead of God only to find myself running back to Him. A great life without God is just... impossible. Despite what our culture says, it's in God alone that we find out who we are and what we're really living for - not our careers, bank accounts, relationships, Instagram feeds or whatever. Greatness isn't something we can get, buy, or achieve on our own - it's something that comes naturally when we hand over everything to God...including our pursuit of it.
C.S Lewis said it like this:
"Give up yourself, and you will find your real self. Lose your life and you will save it. Submit to death, death of your ambitions and favorite wishes every day and death of your whole body in the end submit with ever fiber of your being, and you will find eternal life. Keep back nothing. Nothing that you have not given away will be really yours. Nothing in you that has not died will ever be raised from the dead. Look for yourself, and you will find in the long run only hatred, loneliness, despair, rage, ruin, and decay. But look for Christ and you will find Him, and with Him everything else thrown in.”