Many men and women have a burning desire to be great. In the movie Whiplash, the main character’s sole passion is to be one of the greats, one of the best drummers in history. Ali called himself, “The Greatest”. Do you want to be great? What does it take to be great? Well, it depends on whose standard of greatness you’re striving for.
When Zechariah was in the Temple, doing his priestly duties, he was praying for Israel and an angel showed up, telling him that his prayer had been answered and that he and his previously barren wife would now have a son. His name was to be John, which means “God is gracious”.
The angel says in Luke 1:15,
for he will be great before the Lord.
What this means is that he will truly be great. If every man in the world thinks that you’re great, but the God of the universe does not agree, then your ‘greatness’ is really nothingness. But if God says of you that you are, in fact, great, then you truly are.
John was to be set apart, not allowed to drink wine or strong drink, being kept from even the semblance of temptation.
And he was to be “filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother’s womb“. So, to be great, you must be made great by God, and he will consider you great. John’s situation is unique. He’s the only person in the New Testament who’s described as being filled with the Holy Spirit before birth.
Then in verse 16, we read,
And he will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God,
This was the function a prophet, one of which Israel had not had for hundreds of years. John was to turn many Israelites back to God. And that’s what he did. He grew up to preach a baptism of repentance for the Kingdom of God was near. He was announcing the coming of the Messiah, the One who would save the world.
John’s greatness did not come from his person, but rather his work. He was considered great by God, he was made great by God, and it was so that he could do great things for God. That’s what true greatness is. If you’re a Christian, you are seen as righteous before God, not because of anything you’ve done, but because of the righteousness of the One who died in your place. And you have been given new life in the Holy Spirit to do great things for God’s glory. That’s what true greatness is. Be great, by His grace, and for His glory.