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The Way to Greatness

A sermon on Mark 9 by Coty Pinckney, Community Bible Church, Williamstown, MA, 1/30/00


Should a Christian be ambitious? Should a Christian aspire to greatness?

Last week we examined the false life of selfish ambition. We looked at James 3:13-4:10, and saw that selfish ambition – ambition for achievement, success, and satisfaction in this world – is the cause of many serious problems, including abortion. We Christians are the bride of Christ – we are to find our joy and satisfaction in our husband, Jesus Christ himself; to seek for pleasure and fulfillment from any other source is adultery. And the solution to this problem of selfish ambition is humility, meekness, submission to God. When we do humble ourselves, God exalts us.

Today we return to our journey through the book of Mark. We looked at the James passage last week in order to examine in more detail the ideas Jesus expresses at the end of Mark chapter 8:

The Messiah must die; his followers must die to self, but by dying to self they become what God intends them to be; they find true life by losing false life.

Humility. Meekness. Submission. Dying to self.

That doesn’t sound like ambition. Those don’t sound like the characteristics of someone aspiring to greatness.

Last week we saw that the word translated "selfish ambition" in James was used by Aristotle to describe politicians who try to gain support for themselves through deceitful means. Such people push themselves forward, displaying their supposed greatness, in order to win the praise of men.

That’s the negative sense of ambition. Indeed, our word "ambition" comes from the Latin ambire which originally meant "to go both ways to gain one's point," being two-faced to gain people’s favor. Ambition in this sense is always wrong.

But Greek has another word for ambition, a word which has no parallel in English. This word has only positive connotations, meaning "to strive to attain a well-deserved honor." This is the word Paul uses in 2 Cor 5:9-10:

  1. we have as our ambition . . . to be pleasing to Him. 10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may be recompensed for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad. (NASB)

Do you have that ambition? Do you aspire to greatness – the greatness of hearing the Lord of the Universe commend you for following Him, for leaning on Him, for depending upon Him for the power to live a life worthy of His calling?

Mark 9 describes for us four methods for achieving this type of greatness. We’ll see that Mark’s description of the Way to Greatness is the same as James’ solution to the problem of selfish ambition: Humility. Dependence. A focused desire to please God.

We'll divide the text into 5 sections:

  1. The Manifestation of Greatness: Then 4 ways to achieve greatness:
  2. Dying to self to achieve Greatness
  3. Depending on God to achieve Greatness
  4. Serving others to achieve Greatness
  5. Judging Self to achieve Greatness

The Manifestation of Greatness

Recall in Mark 8, Jesus asked "Who do men say that I am?" The disciples respond that some say He is Elijah, some one of the prophets. Jesus then asks more pointedly, "Who do you say that I am?" Peter responds for the whole group: "You are the Christ -- the Messiah." As we noted, this is not the first time that the disciples have proclaimed that Jesus is the Messiah; Jesus is not looking for information when he questions them. Instead, he is putting his position up front in their minds before telling them something none of them suspect: He, their Messiah, is going to die.

This astounds the disciples so much that Peter even rebukes Jesus for making such a statement. Jesus then responds that not only must He die -- those who choose to follow Him must die to self also:

And He summoned the multitude with His disciples, and said to them, "If anyone wishes to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. 35 "For whoever wishes to save his life shall lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel's shall save it. 36 "For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world, and forfeit his soul? 37 "For what shall a man give in exchange for his soul? 38 "For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will also be ashamed of him when He comes in the glory of His Father with the holy angels." 1 ¶ And He was saying to them, "Truly I say to you, there are some of those who are standing here who shall not taste death until they see the kingdom of God after it has come with power." 2 And six days later, Jesus *took with Him Peter and James and John, and *brought them up to a high mountain by themselves. And He was transfigured before them; 3 and His garments became radiant and exceedingly white, as no launderer on earth can whiten them. 4 And Elijah appeared to them along with Moses; and they were talking with Jesus. (Mark 8:34-9:4 NASB)

The disciples have proclaimed Jesus as the Messiah – but they still have much to learn about the implications of that statement. In particular, they need to learn of the:

To the disciples – as to so many of us today – Jesus being the Messiah means, "All my problems are solved!" As we have seen, people thronged to him to gain healing from physical disease. The disciples clearly believe that Jesus will end Roman oppression, and restore the kingdom of Israel.

But Jesus says: "I am the Messiah -- so die to selfish ambition!"

But he does not stop there. He doesn't simply say "Die to self because it’s the right thing to do." He goes much further, offering a blessing and reward to those who obey: "You will then find your true self; and you will see and be a part of the kingdom of God coming with power!"

The transfiguration then gives Peter, James, and John a foretaste of that power and glory. Through this incident Jesus shows these three his power and majesty in a new way. This clearly changed forever Peter's view of Jesus. In his second epistle, Peter says "we were eyewitnesses of His majesty. . . when He received honor and glory from God the Father."

And what majesty! Jesus is shining, and is whiter than any earthly white. Peter had said that Jesus is the Christ -- but now he sees the Christ in a completely new light. Before, Jesus was a great man, the future king of Israel, who was in touch with God's power. But now, these disciples get a taste of Jesus as God, as King of the Universe!

Yet even while Jesus displays his power and majesty to these disciples in a new way, he also reemphasizes that the Messiah must die; Luke tells us that Moses, Elijah, and Jesus discuss His death among themselves.

Why does Jesus meet with Moses and Elijah? Moses is the one through whom God gave the Law to Israel; Elijah is the first and sometimes thought to be the greatest of the prophets. So the three of them meeting together is a potent symbol of the consistency between the Old Testament and the New, between the Law and the Prophets on the one hand and Jesus on the other.

But God also makes perfectly clear that Jesus is above the Law and the Prophets:

5 And Peter answered and *said to Jesus, "Rabbi, it is good for us to be here; and let us make three tabernacles, one for You, and one for Moses, and one for Elijah." 6 For he did not know what to answer; for they became terrified. 7 Then a cloud formed, overshadowing them, and a voice came out of the cloud, "This is My beloved Son, listen to Him!" 8 And all at once they looked around and saw no one with them anymore, except Jesus alone.

As is to be expected, Peter blurts out foolishness. Why is this statement foolish?

There are two incorrect implications of the statement. First, making tabernacles or tents implies that they will all stay there on top of the mountain for some time. Peter is saying, "Oh, great! Let's all six of us live up here together for a while. What a great time we'll have together!" But Jesus does not yet show them his majesty permanently. That time is coming -- Praise God! -- but this foretaste of His glory instead should enable them to serve Him and know Him better in this world.

Second, Peter implies that Moses, Elijah, and Jesus are all of equal rank. Indeed, I suspect that, for Peter, this exalted Jesus higher than he had thought previously. "Wow! Jesus is just as important as Moses and Elijah." Remember, Moses and Elijah precede Peter in time by approximately as many years as Charlemagne and William the Conqueror precede us; these are two giants of ancient history for Peter.

But God clears up this misconception right away: A cloud envelopes them all, they hear God speak: "This is my beloved Son, listen to Him!" Jesus is not only consistent with the Law and the Prophets; he is over and above the Law and the Prophets. Moses, Elijah, and Jesus are not three equals; Jesus is Lord of all.

So chapter 9 begins with this Manifestation of Greatness: a foretaste of the kingdom coming with power.

Dying to Self to Achieve Greatness

9 And as they were coming down from the mountain, He gave them orders not to relate to anyone what they had seen, until the Son of Man should rise from the dead. 10 And they seized upon that statement, discussing with one another what rising from the dead might mean. 11 And they asked Him, saying, "Why is it that the scribes say that Elijah must come first?" 12 And He said to them, "Elijah does first come and restore all things. And yet how is it written of the Son of Man that He should suffer many things and be treated with contempt? 13 "But I say to you, that Elijah has indeed come, and they did to him whatever they wished, just as it is written of him." (NASB)

The disciples here are perplexed. They have seen Jesus in a whole new way. And then Jesus once again makes a crazy statement about rising from the dead. What could he mean?

The disciples clearly are thinking about the last few verses in the Old Testament, when Malachi prophesies that Elijah will return, and mentions Moses also:

"For behold, the day is coming, burning like a furnace; and all the arrogant and every evildoer will be chaff; and the day that is coming will set them ablaze," says the LORD of hosts, "so that it will leave them neither root nor branch." 2 "But for you who fear My name the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its wings; and you will go forth and skip about like calves from the stall. 3 "And you will tread down the wicked, for they shall be ashes under the soles of your feet on the day which I am preparing," says the LORD of hosts. 4 ¶ "Remember the law of Moses My servant, even the statutes and ordinances which I commanded him in Horeb for all Israel. 5 "Behold, I am going to send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and terrible day of the LORD. 6 "And he will restore the hearts of the fathers to their children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the land with a curse." (Malachi 4:1-6 NASB)

The disciples have just seen Elijah; does that mean that the "great and terrible day of the Lord" is here? Jesus mentions that he will rise from the dead, whatever that means; is he referring to Malachi 4:2, "for you who fear My name the sun of righteousness rise with healing in his wings"? If that's the case then surely this is a time of rejoicing, not sorrow; the "rising" is one that will cause them to skip like calves, the kingdom will be restored, Jesus will reign, and all problems solved.

So at this point, despite what they have heard of the conversation of Moses, Elijah, and Jesus, despite Jesus' previous statement about his suffering and death, the disciples are focused only on the glory of the Messiah. They need to see His glory -- but they need to see much more.

So Jesus turns their focus back to his suffering and death in verse 12. "I am the Messiah -- and I must suffer and die, as it is written in the prophets." Jesus says that Elijah does indeed come to restore all things, and that he has come already in a sense. John came in the spirit and power of Elijah to prepare the way for Jesus at His first coming; Elijah will come again prior to Jesus second coming.

Jesus emphasizes for his disciples that the way to greatness is through giving up your right to the "good life." Like the good shepherd, you too must lay down your life, your desires, your earthly goals for the sheep. Note that Jesus emphasizes that even John -- the partial fulfillment of Elijah’s return – suffers as a consequence of his ministry. Jesus says, "Yes, look at this manifestation of greatness! But you achieve this greatness through dying to self!"

Depending on God to Achieve Greatness

The four come down from the mountain to find a crowd all in a tizzy around the disciples. There are some scribes there also, arguing with the disciples. Evidently, a boy with symptoms that sound much like epilepsy has been brought by his father, seeking healing. The disciples discern, correctly, that this boy has a demon. They try to cast it out, they believe they can cast it out – indeed, they have cast out demons in the past -- but now they are unable to do so. The scribes probably are making fun of them, making disparaging remarks about their failure. The disciples argue back, and try again -- all to no avail.

Why did the disciples fail? This is a key question. Keep it in mind as we proceed.

When Jesus arrives, the father tells Him what has happened, saying the disciples were unable to cast out the demon. Jesus responds in verse 19:

"O unbelieving generation, how long shall I be with you? How long shall I put up with you? Bring him to Me!" (NASB)

As noted in our introductory sermon on Mark, this gospel brings out Jesus' human feelings more than any other -- especially his frustration (perhaps this is because Peter was the source for much of Mark, and Peter was also the source of much of Jesus' frustration!). Now, Jesus knows how long he will be with these disciples, and he knows there is very little additional time. He must be thinking, "Are these guys really ready for me to go?"

20 And they brought the boy to Him. And when he saw Him, immediately the spirit threw him into a convulsion, and falling to the ground, he began rolling about and foaming at the mouth. 21 And He asked his father, "How long has this been happening to him?" And he said, "From childhood. 22 "And it has often thrown him both into the fire and into the water to destroy him. But if You can do anything, take pity on us and help us!" 23 And Jesus said to him, "'If You can!' All things are possible to him who believes." 24 Immediately the boy's father cried out and began saying, "I do believe; help my unbelief."

The father is desperate. The boy is having convulsions, the ones whom he thought could cure him have done nothing. So he says, "If you can do anything . . ."

Verse 23 contains a Greek idiom that is difficult to translate into good English. Literally, Jesus says, "As to the 'If you can' all things can for the one who believes." There is no question about Jesus' ability; the question for the father is, "Do you have faith?"

Jesus says, "All things are possible for the one who believes." All things! Greatness! Power! Majesty! Jesus says elsewhere "Seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness – and all these things will be added unto you." Paul writes, "I can do all things thru Christ who strengthens me." Believe. Seek Him and His righteousness. Depend on His strength. And all things are possible.

The boy's father, now having the question turned from Jesus' ability to his own lack of faith, gives a gut-wrenching cry, acknowledging his own weakness, his complete dependence on Jesus even for faith: "I do believe, help my unbelief!"

Jesus rebukes the demon, who comes out; the boy initially appears to be dead, but Jesus raises him by the hand, and restores him to his father.

After the crowd disperses (the scribes are silenced for a time), the disciples ask Jesus the question we asked above:

28 His disciples began questioning Him privately, "Why could we not cast it out?" 29 And He said to them, "This kind cannot come out by anything but prayer."

What does Jesus mean here? Hadn’t the disciples prayed? Hadn't they invoked Jesus' name in their attempts to cast out the demon? In verse 19, Jesus uses the word "unbelieving." Did the disciples lack faith?

The disciples did believe that they were able to cast out the demon; they were surprised when they did not succeed. Faith does not mean convincing yourself that you can do something.

Given the problems the disciples have understanding Jesus' calls to die to self, and given the contentious spirits they display in verse 34 below, it seems most likely that the disciples failed because they were not acting out of genuine faith. They focused on the ritual of saying a few words and invoking Jesus' name, instead of focusing on the person and glory of Jesus himself. They tried to use the opportunity of healing a demon-possessed boy to exalt themselves, to make themselves great, instead of discerning and enacting the will of the Father.

Thus, Jesus' statement "This kind cannot come out by anything but prayer" in context cannot possibly mean that they failed to say a particular prayer. Instead, prayer was not the characteristic of their life. They failed to see that greatness comes from dependence upon God's power and wisdom, not from marshalling God's power to accomplish your own selfish purposes, as one would use a genie's power. The disciples failed to align themselves always, constantly with the will of God. The disciples have not yet learned to die to self. Instead they are trying to exalt themselves, trying to make themselves look good, trying to win an argument with the scribes.

Ray Stedman puts it this way:

"This kind cannot be driven out except by a heart which is kept fresh and alive and in touch with God by a life of prayer." That is where Jesus' power came from. He was always in touch with the Father. He was always drawing upon his Father's power. He always walked in reliance upon God. He referred every event of his existence to the God who indwelt him, and he prayed consistently and constantly to the Father, in expectation of his working. This is what he is talking about -- maintaining a fresh and vigorous relationship with God, and trusting in him. This is a life of prayer.

What are the lessons for us? Do we too try to use our spiritual gifts and works of service to exalt ourselves? Do we too fall flat on our faces at times when we try to minister, because we attempt to use God's power for our own glory?

If we are to be useful for our Lord, we must live lives of continual dependence upon Him. Only through dependence will we gain His commendation; only by His power can we accomplish anything. Yet by His power we can accomplish all things, fulfilling His purpose for us in this world.

Jesus emphasizes this dying to self again by telling the disciples of His death a second time:

30 ¶ And from there they went out and began to go through Galilee, and He was unwilling for anyone to know about it. 31 For He was teaching His disciples and telling them, "The Son of Man is to be delivered into the hands of men, and they will kill Him; and when He has been killed, He will rise three days later." 32 But they did not understand this statement, and they were afraid to ask Him. (NASB)

Jesus takes his disciples off by themselves, away from the crowds, to deal with their continued thick-headedness. He once again tells them that he will die -- and for the first time he tells them that he will be delivered, or betrayed into the hands of the men who kill him. (I commend to you a study of the progressive nature of Jesus' prophecies concerning his death in 8:31, 9:31, and 10:33-34).

But the disciples still do not understand, and don't ask Him to explain himself better -- perhaps because they are afraid of finding out more that they don't want to hear.

Serving Others to Achieve Greatness

Despite this period of intimacy with Jesus, the disciples are still have far to go to learn these lessons, as we see beginning in verse 33:

33 And they came to Capernaum; and when He was in the house, He began to question them, "What were you discussing on the way?" 34 But they kept silent, for on the way they had discussed with one another which of them was the greatest. (NASB)

Can you imagine the conversation of the disciples? Perhaps it began with Peter, James, and John berating the other nine: "You guys couldn't even cast out a demon! Boy, if we'd been there, that demon would have been gone in no time! Hey, we three are the best. He chose us to go to the top of the mountain. And up there, we saw something so great, we're not even allowed to tell you peons what it was!"

But then perhaps there arose division among the three, with Peter saying, "So we three are the top dogs. But is there really any question that I'm the best of all? Jesus said he gave me the keys to the kingdom. And up there on the holy mountain, I was the only person who even said anything. You two just stood there with your mouths hanging open!" "Yeah," says John, "we heard the dumb stuff you said. The right thing to do was to keep quiet!"

The disciples all want to be great -- but how are they measuring greatness? By comparing themselves to each other!

So Jesus corrects their idea of greatness:

35 And sitting down, He called the twelve and *said to them, "If anyone wants to be first, he shall be last of all, and servant of all." (NASB)

Question: Does Jesus say, "Don’t aspire to greatness! Be humble!"

No. Jesus does not reprimand them for the desire to be great. This is the key to understanding this passage. The desire to be great is God-given! God wants us to aspire to greatness!

The problem is not with the desire, but with our understanding of greatness. We, and the disciples, have twisted the true meaning of greatness, defining it as being great in this world, being better than others, enjoying worldly power.

Jesus says, "Yes, aspire to greatness -- but understand the Way to True Greatness!"

Greatness is pleasing the Lord of the Universe. And how do we do that? By emulating Jesus, by becoming Christlike -- in service, in being willing to be last in order to serve others all the better.

Mark then provides us with four examples of the meaning of service:

36 And taking a child, He set him before them, and taking him in His arms, He said to them, 37 "Whoever receives one child like this in My name receives Me; and whoever receives Me does not receive Me, but Him who sent Me." (NASB)

To receive a child is to serve that child. For what reason? Jesus says, "In My name." We serve the child in Jesus' name not to get anything in return; not so he will pay you back; not so you can name drop. Name dropping an ordinary four-year old won't buy you greatness in the eyes of the world. But Jesus says, serving the weak and the powerless leads to our receiving Him, leads to our receiving the Father himself. This is true greatness.

Friends, do you serve? Why? Because you feel guilty? Or because you may get something in return? If so, then you have already received your reward. Or do you serve in Jesus' name, and so please the King of the Universe, who then takes up residence within you?

38 John said to Him, "Teacher, we saw someone casting out demons in Your name, and we tried to hinder him because he was not following us." 39 But Jesus said, "Do not hinder him, for there is no one who shall perform a miracle in My name, and be able soon afterward to speak evil of Me. 40 "For he who is not against us is for us. (NASB)

As a second example of the meaning of service, Mark relates to us this interaction between John and Jesus. Here, Jesus contrasts serving others with judging them peremptorily. Now, the New Testament makes clear that there is a time for the church to separate from false teachers, and from those who continue lives of blatant sin. Even in such cases, however, one of the primary goals is always to serve the person who has gone astray -- to make clear to that person that the life he leads and the doctrine he teaches are inconsistent with God's revealed truth, and to give the person an opportunity to repent and be restored.

But Jesus here makes clear that we are always at first to give the benefit of the doubt to the person in error. Assume initially that the errors are innocent, that the person simply is a lamb in need of a shepherd. We should respond as a servant, not as a judge.

A good example of this is found in the story of Apollos' interaction with Priscilla and Aquila (Acts 18). Priscilla and Aquila hear Apollos preaching, and realize he doesn't know Jesus as resurrected Lord. They could have denounced him -- but instead they take him aside, and gently teach him. The result: Apollos becomes a mighty witness of the risen Lord, even at one point being termed an apostle.

Ray Stedman once said, "We like heresies. We encourage them to be expressed because they are great teaching opportunities." When our goal is to serve, we open the word and explain it to someone with a mistaken understanding of these great truths.

41 ¶ "For whoever gives you a cup of water to drink because of your name as followers of Christ, truly I say to you, he shall not lose his reward. 42 "And whoever causes one of these little ones who believe to stumble, it would be better for him if, with a heavy millstone hung around his neck, he had been cast into the sea.

Third, Jesus tells us that even a seemingly insignificant action like giving a cup of water to someone, if done for Jesus' sake, will be rewarded. God will tell us, "Well done, good and faithful servant!" Doesn't that put all the little things you do in a different light?

But he contrasts this attitude of service to one of self-centeredness: If instead of serving we treat others with contempt, looking down on them, and thus causing them to stumble, then our punishment is severe. Being a child of God, being called by His name, means serving others humbly. If we treat others harshly, we are providing evidence that we are not His children at all.

So the Way to Greatness includes dying to self, depending on God, and serving others. This brings us to our last method of achieving greatness:

Judging Self to Achieve Greatness

43 "And if your hand causes you to stumble, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life crippled, than having your two hands, to go into hell, into the unquenchable fire, 45 "And if your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life lame, than having your two feet, to be cast into hell, 47 "And if your eye causes you to stumble, cast it out; it is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye, than having two eyes, to be cast into hell, 48 where THEIR WORM DOES NOT DIE, AND THE FIRE IS NOT QUENCHED. 49 "For everyone will be salted with fire. 50 "Salt is good; but if the salt becomes unsalty, with what will you make it salty again? Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with one another." (NASB)

Jesus says that if a bodily organ causes you to stumble, cut it off. If the choice is between being disabled in this world and being thrown into hell, there is no question which is worse.

Note the types of organs Jesus mentions:

Jesus says, if you satisfy the desires of this world, you have your reward in full; today you have pseudo-greatness, today you have pseudo-pleasure and pseudo-fulfillment -- but then not only will you lose your opportunity to attain true greatness, you will also suffer eternal punishment.

Is that what you want? If not, judge yourself!

Note that Jesus has just said, "Do not be quick to judge others. Give them the benefit of the doubt." But he says, "Be quick to judge yourself! Do not give Satan a foothold! Cut out whatever leads you to sin!"

Jesus here uses "salt" as a picture of our flavoring the world as God's agents. We become salty, we become effective agents for God, when we are fired, or judged. And if we really become God's agents -- if we really are salty -- we will be at peace with others, as we serve them lovingly and are quick to judge and take care of the sin we see in ourselves.

CONCLUSION

So should you be ambitious? Should you aspire to greatness?

By all means! But what should you want? The praise of men? Great influence in this world? The tokens of worldly success: money, houses, cars, fame?

No. If that is what we aim for, then we will lose what we really desire most deeply. We will never become what God intends us to be. We will receive our reward here and now in treasures that we will lose, sooner or later. And eventually we will despair.

So aspire to greatness – but not that kind of greatness! Look to someone like Daniel as your example: he sometimes had praise, fame, great influence, and the trappings of power: but his ambition was to be great in God’s eyes, to faithfully serve the Lord of the universe – and he willingly gave up all his worldly power and influence to remain faithful to his God.

Harry Ironside, one of the greatest preachers of the first half of the 20th century, told a story of his apprenticeship to a shoemaker at the age of 14 in Los Angeles, in 1890. Harry's boss was a fine Christian man named Dan Mackay. One of Harry's jobs was to take leather that had been soaked overnight, and to toughen it by beating the water out prior to its use in the shoes. This was a tedious, demanding task that young Harry hated. One day, passing another shoemaker's shop down the street, Harry noticed that this cobbler was using wet leather in making shoes -- leather that had not been beaten. So Harry asked the other cobbler why this was the case; he winked, and replied, "They come back all the quicker this way!"

So, upon arrival at his shop, Harry asked Dan, "Why is it necessary for me to beat this leather? The other cobbler down the street doesn't do it, and he says he makes more money that way!"

Dan sat Harry down, and said:

You know, son, I expect to see every pair of shoes I've ever made in a big pile at the judgment seat of Christ. And I expect the Lord to take those shoes and go through every one, and examine the work I did. And then I expect he'll take one and he'll look at me and say, "Dan, that's not up to par. You didn't do a very good job there." But others, he'll encourage me by saying, "Dan, that was a splendid job." You know, when I make shoes, I keep remembering that. And I want to so make shoes that every shoe I make will pass the judgment of the Lord at the judgment seat of Christ."

Is that your goal? To hear the Lord of the Universe say, "That was a splendid job! Well done!"

Every one of us can please the Lord -- through doing all by His strength, for His purposes, through living lives of active dependence on Him, for His glory. Now, we don't please the Lord by becoming perfectionists who never finish their work for fear of displeasing the Lord, who neglect other responsibilities to work on projects we never complete. But within the time constraints we face, we so work that we bring glory to Him, and thus become what God intends us to be.

So:

Make that your ambition. Aspire to greatness in that way. Not the greatness the world seeks, not the momentary praise of mere men. Instead, seek the eternal praise of the king of the universe: Seek his commendation: "Well done, good and faithful servant."


This sermon was preached at Community Bible Church in Williamstown, MA on 1/30/00. The sermon draws even more heavily than usual on the wisdom of Ray Stedman; see the links above as well as his two sermons on this passage. A.T. Robertson's Word Pictures in the Greek New Testmanet is the source for the literal translation of 9:23. After preaching this sermon, I found Harry Ironside's own written account of the shoemaker here.

Copyright © 2000, Thomas C. Pinckney. This data file is the sole property of Thomas C. Pinckney. Please feel free to copy it, but only in its entirety for circulation freely without charge. All copies of this data file must contain the above copyright notice.

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