“In that hour came the disciples unto Jesus, saying, Who then is greatest in the kingdom of heaven? And he called to him a little child, and set him in the midst of them and said, Verily I say unto you, Except ye turn, and become as little children, ye shall in no wise enter into the kingdom of heaven. Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” (Matt. 18:1-4).
There is in every human being a desire to become great. This is indeed not so remarkable. We were not created for mediocrity; we were created for greatness. So when the desire to become great rises in us it is not as unmixed evil. Among all that is false and sinful in this yearning for greatness, there are also vestiges of a lost nobility.
The longing to rise above the poor and commonplace — all that which would drag us down into sin and shame — belongs to our true worth as human beings. Where all desire to rise is absent in a human soul, there the last remnants of humanity have perished. He who no longer hopes for progress and promotion is more like an animal than a human being.
However, it is unfortunately too true that this urge for greatness has been polluted by sin, and has become an instrument for evil. It is for this reason that so many are small precisely at the moment they imagine themselves to be great.
To earn money and become rich; to exchange a humble hut for a palatial residence, and our working clothes for festive attire; not to have to soil our hands with work but to let others serve us, make our food, and carry our baggage; to rise on the social ladder; to be elected to public office and be honored on every hand — this is greatness in the opinion of most people. All of us are more or less affected by it. We Christians know within ourselves that there is nothing to it; yet, we permit ourselves to be deceived by this bewitching falsehood.
Which one among us really cares to be a drudge all his life, to have gnarled hands and wear patched clothes? Perhaps we may think it amusing to do so for a while, but in the long run it is anything but fun. He who then finds nothing more than toil and drudgery in his work soon comes to look upon labor as plague to be endured by the common people.
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What is the road to true greatness then? Jesus answers this question for us; we must become as little children. The road to greatness goes through the deep valley; we must first become small. There is no other way for us to go if we are to regain our lost nobility, our seat of honor, our true wealth and power. We shall have to give up the paths of our own choosing and bow before God; we shall have to lie down before Him as helpless children and plead for mercy and help.
As the little infant lies helplessly in its mother’s lap, so must you and I lie helplessly in the arms of our gracious God. When we have reached this point we have found the road to our heavenly home. Then we enter into the kingdom of God.
The first step toward greatness is to become small. The greatest victory which we self-sufficient human beings win is to bow before the living God, confess that we are helpless, and let God take care of us as a mother takes care of her little ones. He who has won this victory gains peace in a soul that was full of fear, and relief from an accusing conscience. His tears are wiped away and heaven is opened for him. He goes from darkness to light, from death to life, and from the power of Satan to the power of God.
It is a great thing to be saved from this evil, but still greater to be saved to and for all that God offers.
At this point and by these words I would ask all who have not turned to God as little children to do so now.
You who read: Turn around!
I know that it will cost a good deal for many of you. For some it may be a pet sin; for others it may be good friends, and bright future, a fine home and perhaps a loved one. If you will but pause to consider you will soon realize that it can never be too costly to give your life, the only one you have, to God. It costs too much to be lost eternally.
“For what shall a man be profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and forfeit his life? Or what shall a man give in exchange for his life?” (Matt. 16:26).
Everything is lost if one loses his soul.
I can see you young folks upon whom God is calling; I can see you against the background of my own experiences, for I was young as you are when God called me. You are strong and courageous, with perhaps a mite of pride. Life seems so bright and alluring. You have great plans and hopes for the future. You are in the rushing waters. And in the midst of all this God calls upon you to become a child again; you are asked to yield yourself to God’s grace and will.
This is a costly affair for you.
It feels almost as though your heart is torn out of your bosom. Nevertheless, it is in this way that you are to be rid of sin and death. It is to lie down in the lap of eternal life. This is the door into the paradise of eternal youth for you.
This is to become great.
I can see you stalwart farmer and able businessman. You have your hands full of the good things of this life. Fortune has favored you on every hand. You enjoy the confidence and respect of those who know you, and your name is spoken with favor in large circles. And yet you too must become as a little child. You must turn your back upon the world and regard yourself as nothing. You must say to God: I am a lost and helpless sinner; I am as a zero; I have been weighed and found wanting; I plead for mercy.
This is in truth to lose one’s life. But upon the ruins of this your life will grow by the cross of Christ an eternal life. It is this which will make you live even though you die; for he who lives and believes on the Lord Jesus Christ shall never die.
This is to become great.
But he who one day must meet God on his own record will become very small. Today you are alive; tomorrow you might not be.
He who wants to take life as it is will find that a life outside of fellowship with God is a life of hopeless night no matter how great he might become. Come, then, from the byways of sin and home to your God. If you would become as a little child, then God who gave His Son for our salvation shall exalt you by making you His child and heir. He will make His death a servant of your life, and when you see Him as He is you shall become like God without being God.
One radiant morn when sinless souls assemble Where each desire is born in purity,
No more the thought of wrong shall make me tremble
But ransomed I shall live forever free.
One radiant morn in hall of home supernal
I’ll meet again the friend I here esteem, In glory speak with him of life eternal, And of the life that vanished like a dream.
Then a human being has truly become great.
But while we live here below there is also another way which leads a Christian to true greatness. It is to walk in the footsteps of our Savior; we should learn of Him to walk among the erring ones on earth in such a manner that they will be drawn to God. This is the work He has given us to do here on earth.
“Not so shall it be among you: but whosoever would become great among you shall be your minister; and whosoever would be first among you shall be your servant: even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.” (Matt. 20:26-28).
It is told of the Swedish princess, Eugenie, that she sold her jewels and used the money to establish an orphanage and a rescue home for drunkards. When she one day passed through the halls of these buildings, and saw the tears in the eyes of those whom she had helped, she exclaimed: Now I have received my jewels again!
David Livingstone worked for thirty-two years in the dark jungles of Africa and wore himself out on his exacting missionary journeys. One morning he was found dead on his knees beside his simple bed.
Years later dark faces would shine with gratitude each time the name of Livingstone was mentioned. His name and memory will live for a long time.
These walked in the footsteps of the Master and became great; they served others in the love of Christ.
Be a servant of Christ among your fellow-men. Love and serve others. Speak a kind word to the one whose conscience is troubled and send a friendly glance in the direction of the burdened soul. Give a warm handshake to the one who is looking for reproof, and a helping hand to the poor that you meet on life’s way. Open the Bible to read and pray for the one who is bowed down in his spirit. Never tread under foot one who has fallen into sin and shame.
The world is thirsting for great men of this kind!
There are some things in this life that one will never regret; a person will never regret that he:
has been kind toward others. did not speak evil of anyone. listened to both sides before passing judgment. thought before he spoke. bridled his tongue. was friendly to the oppressed. asked for forgiveness after having wronged anyone. was gentle toward all. closed the door to all gossip. did not believe most of the evil one heard about others.
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