The pursuit of Christian greatness is an art, not a science.  While there are clear commands in Scripture that the way up is the way down, pursuing Christian greatness (aka humility) does not preclude discipline, passion, hard work, and focused effort.  This often confuses people who would equate those disciplines with self-seeking ambition.  I confess they confused me at times.  Those lines have been blurred in my heart’s motives more than once, which is why the pursuit of Christian greatness could be called an art—something requiring a sensitive touch.

Let’s start with what we learn from the Master, Jesus.

In Matthew 11:29, Jesus exhorts followers to “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart”.

“When he (Jesus) had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place. “Do you understand what I have done for you?” he asked them. “You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. Very truly I tell you, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.” -John 13:12-17

“When the ten heard about this, they were indignant with the two brothers. Jesus called them together and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave— just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” -Matthew 20:24-28

In Andrew Murray’s classic, Humility, he writes, “How little this is preached. How little it is practiced. How little the lack of it is felt or confessed. I do not say, how few attain to it, some recognizable measure of likeness to Jesus in His humility. But how few ever think of making it a distinct object of continual desire or prayer. How little the world has seen it. How little has it been seen, even in the inner circle of the Church.

“Whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant.” Would God that it might be given us to believe that Jesus means this! We all know what the character of a faithful servant or slave implies—Devotion to the master’s interests, thoughtful study and care to please him, delight in his prosperity and honor and happiness.

Jesus taught on humility extensively (Matthew 5:1-12; 18:1-3; Luke 9:46-48; Luke 14:7-11, etc.) and modeled humility to the end of his obedient life.  And His disciples eventually understood it.  They were able to claim themselves as “bondservants” and “slaves” of Christ and to exhort followers to have the same mind in themselves (Philippians 2:5-12).

But how quickly they (and we) forget!  After the revelation of Christ’s humility and our call to imitate it, we go right back to arguing about who is “greater”.  The required sensitive touch I mentioned above is required of us as we examine ourselves.  Let us use exacting and sensitive skill in assessing the condition of our hearts.  And always, always, always, seek to take the position of a humble servant.

To draw from Andrew Murray, the question we must then ask ourselves is whether we wish to please our master with outstanding devotion to his interests?

If your answer is yes, then here’s part 2.

One writer named Jimmy Page (not the guitarist for Led Zeppelin) believes that devotion equals the sum of focus, passion, and action.

In our devotion, let us stay focused with our Master Jesus always before us providing direction. 

Our love for Jesus fuels our passion to serve Him.  We have motivation to rise each day and energy to love others as ourselves.  We know that God opens every door, and if we are faithful in small things, He will grant us management of big things.  The possibilities of Christian service are global, dynamic, and miraculous. 

And we always take action.  Our service to Jesus is not passive.  It is always moving forward.  We give thoughtful care to please the master in ways that honor him and delight him.  We do not bury our gifts in the sand, but move, assess, respond, correct, improve, and move forward again.

Greatness (aka Humility) and focused, disciplined, energetic hard work are not mutually exclusive ideals.

Let’s conclude with Andrew Murray… “We have seen humility in the life of Christ, as He laid open His heart to us: let us listen to His teaching. There we shall hear how He speaks of it, and how far He expects men, and specially His disciples, to be humble as He was. Let us carefully study the passages, which I can scarce do more than quote, to receive the full impression of how often and how earnestly He taught it: it may help us to realize what He asks of us.”