My son flirted with greatness not long ago. It happened during a recent trip we took to Stone Mountain here in Atlanta. For those unfamiliar with the attraction, picture a 600-foot-high rounded rock surrounded by flat land for at least 70 miles in all directions and you’ll start to get the idea. Apparently, about 90% of the mountain is underground. Don’t ask me how that makes it a mountain, but its geographic label is hardly relevant to the story.
What makes Stone Mountain unusual is the massive carving on the side of it. The largest of its kind in the United States (larger than Mt. Rushmore) the carving features three leaders of the South, General Robert E. Lee, Jefferson Davis, and General Stonewall Jackson all on horseback. Visitors to the park can take a tram up to the top of Stone Mountain to take in the view and take a closer look at the carving as they pass by.
My son’s brush with greatness happened on the way back down the mountain (he went up a hill but came down a – but I digress). As we began the tram journey down, the guide asked a trivia question: Which person on the mountain caving is buried in two different places? My son’s hand shot up eagerly. His confident answer followed: General Stonewall Jackson. But the guide wasn’t done. He posed another query: What was General Jackson’s middle name? This time he added that only two college professors had ever answered that question correctly over his many years at the park.
I looked to my son, his face twisted as he scoured his memory. Then he lit up, his hand shot up, and he blurted out the correct answer – “Thomas!” The guide was dutifully impressed. For the rest of the day, I was reminded often that my son had become only the third person in the history of that tram driver to know General Jackson’s middle name.
I confess to being a bit proud of my son’s knowledge. All those road trips to Civil War battlefields paid off. But I want him to learn that being great is about more than knowing trivia. And being great in the eyes of men is fleeting at best and often destructive. Two words should prove that: Miley Cyrus.
So how can we be great in God’s eyes? Although not comprehensive, three basic steps should get us started on becoming great in God’s eyes.
Step 1: Let Go of God’s Stuff
On my most recent trip to Guam, I looked out over the island. At a glance, I could see the disparity between the rich and poor – palatial hotels and houses next to run-down apartment buildings and dilapidated shacks. On one side of the island, a booming tourist center complete with Gucci and other retail outlets I can’t even pronounce. On the other side, rusted cars up on blocks in front of houses that are little more than concrete huts.
We hear a lot today about the gap between rich and poor. What we fail to realize is what my friend Jack Alexander points out – no one is really rich.
The Laodiceans had the problem of thinking their stuff was God’s stuff. The chief reason God cited for hating their mediocrity is that they had started to think of His stuff as their stuff.
I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth. For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked. (Rev. 3:15-17)
Wretched. Pitiable. Blind. No wonder we’d rather not dwell on the reality of our situation. In the short term, it’s more enjoyable to pretend to own God’s stuff. But here’s the problem as explained by John the Baptist:
John answered, “A person cannot receive even one thing unless it is given him from heaven.” (John 3:27)
Not one thing. Yet we’re so quick to use words like my and mine, ours and yours.
In the book In, But Not Of Revised & Updated: A Guide to Christian Ambition and the Desire to Influence the World, Hugh Hewitt says that clutter is an anchor to ambition. That’s true of soul clutter as well as physical clutter. When we hold tightly to God’s stuff as if it were our own, we clutter the path He has for us. We make the easy difficult and His light burden feel heavy.
God has certainly had to pry my hands off a few things over the last few years – and He’s likely not done yet. My position as a principal in His school, His house that I worked so hard to beautify, my use of His talents He gave me to steward – all of them needed my cold, sinful fingers pried off of them so He could use them and me as He pleased. He did it, as any good father would, because of His love for me, to move me to a place of greater dependence on Him, knowing that only there would I find the fulfillment he designed my soul to experience.
We are but stewards of his stuff, which leads to the second step to becoming great in God’s eyes….
We’ll tackle the next two steps in the next post. To make sure you’d don’t miss it, subscribe to FaithWalker’s email updates by clicking here.
Have you wrestled with the idea that everything you consider your own is actually God’s? Has He had to pry your hands off anything recently? Share your journey with a comment below.