Part of the fascination with superheroes lies in the fact that they satisfy juvenile fantasies about doing great exploits. What child has never imagined doing some heroic deed that impresses the world—or, at least, family and friends? That so many little boys have flirted with the idea of becoming policemen, or firemen, or cowboys when they grow up is symptomatic of this fact. But that desire is not limited to little boys. Although we may cease wanting to become policemen, we want to become rich or powerful; we want to grab the headlines. But that natural desire is rooted in a carnal wish to exalt self. A. B. Simpson has observed that God “is not wanting great men, but He is wanting men who will dare to prove the greatness of their God.” George Mueller exemplified that sort of person: he became renowned, not because he sought greatness, but because He determined to glorify God by relying on Him alone to supply his needs and the needs of the hundreds of orphans that he sheltered, fed, and clothed.
The Bible is replete with examples of people who longed to be important or impressive in the eyes of others. They are the likes of Jezebel, King Nebuchadnezzar, and Haman, people who scarred the earth with their misbegotten desires, destroyed kingdoms, and wrecked lives. Satan epitomized those desires when he revolted against God: “I will ascend to heaven; I will raise my throne above the stars of God, and I will sit on the mount of assembly in the recesses of the north. I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High” (Isa. 14:13, 14). His arrogant ambition cost him everything. Those who seek greatness may actually acquire some measure of temporal recognition. They may make the front page of the newspaper, cause Twitter to explode, and even grab a few pages in history books. But their fame is illusory and their gains ephemeral.
On the other hand, we find men like Joseph, an alien slave in Egypt, who saved an empire because he trusted in and exalted his God, refusing to take any personal credit for his ability to foresee future events or to interpret dreams. Instead, he dared to prove the greatness of his God. And we have a woman like Jael, a housewife and certainly not a glory hound, who took great and courageous action to kill Sisera, the general of the army of Jabin, king of Hazor. God’s immediate summary of her selfless deed was that “God subdued on that day Jabin the king of Canaan” (Jud. 4:23). Nevertheless, she is later praised in song by Deborah and Barak (Jud. 5:24-27). And Daniel. Like Joseph, an alien slave captured as the spoils of war, he rose to prominence because he “made up his mind that he would not defile himself” (Dan. 1:8). He would honor God at any cost. He did so . . . and it cost him greatly, but God greatly used Daniel and honored him as well. Then there’s Jonathan, who with his armor bearer killed twenty Philistines. Simpson’s remark is wonderfully exemplified in Jonathan’s testimony: “perhaps the Lord will work for us; for the Lord is not restrained to save by many or by few” (I Sam. 14:6). Such self-effacement absolutely counters the attitude of those who wish to be thought great. Jonathan placed himself in the hand of God, wholly submitting himself to God’s will and His use.
“My soul exalts the Lord” were Mary’s words in response to the angel Gabriel’s announcement that she would bear the Messiah (Lk. 1:46). Her words encapsulate the spirit and character of those the Lord chooses to greatly use. He does not use men who seek their own greatness, nor does He need people who are great in themselves. But those who rest in Him, rely on Him, and desire that their lives would magnify the Lord, those who desire that the greatness of their God and Savior might be demonstrated through their lives—those God uses in exceptional ways to make known His greatness. In some cases, as in the case of Jael, that greatness is demonstrated in the privacy of our homes. Or in the case of Mary, although the conception was miraculous, the miracle was entirely invisible. But God is so powerful, that He can take the otherwise ordinary act of motherhood—a woman bearing and raising a child—and use it to the salvation of countless people. Mary did not seek fame or fortune, she sought to glorify the Lord, “for such people the Father seeks to be His worshipers” (John 4:23). Will you dare to prove God’s greatness by yielding to His will for you?
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