Article by: Moffat Sebola
“Do you see a man who excels in his work? He will stand before kings; he will not stand before unknown men” (Proverbs 22:29 NKJV).
“Observe people who are good at their work –skilled workers are always in demand and admired; they don’t take a backseat to anyone” (Proverbs 22:29 MSG).
There is, within each one of us, an innate desire, a deeper longing, to be great, and to do great. We truly want our lives to count for something bigger than ourselves. We want to live our lives according to a bigger agenda. There is, embedded in the core of our hearts, a dire need to make peace with the reality that we were not designed or destined to be mere decorations on earth. This innate desire, this deeper longing, makes us aware that we are not on earth to waste oxygen. We realise that had God wanted us to be decorations on earth, He would have placed us in museums. We are placed on earth because He wants to flood the whole earth with His glory through us. We are not in museums because we were not designed and destined to be ornaments but instruments, His instruments. We are not, at all, designed and destined to be monuments but a movement. We are not in a museum or an art gallery today because we are meant to make a meaningful contribution in our lifetime. We are positioned on earth so that we may know what true greatness is. True greatness, really, will never be measured in terms of status or position; true greatness will always be measured in terms of contribution and service. True greatness does not reduce others to its service; true greatness reduces itself to the service of others.
And so, when talking about becoming great, there is a need to really know ourselves just as we are known by Christ. We are made in the image of God. The purpose of the image, if you will, is to: represent, reflect and reveal the nature and character of its Maker. Someone has got to look at us and see what Christ looks like. We are the embodiments, the vessels of His glory and power. And so, one of the major features that should characterise our lives is a perpetual pursuit of excellence in everything we do. But let me digress for a moment. The problem, that is, living mediocre lives, begins when the image stops representing, reflecting and revealing its Maker. The problem begins when the image declares its independence from its Maker. Chaos breaks out when the image decides against its Maker. When the image loses intimacy and connection with its Maker, it stops projecting the right representation, reflection and revelation of its Maker. The image malfunctions apart from its Maker. The image then makes God in its own image. The image begins to look at or within itself for fulfilment instead of looking at its Maker. The image is never fulfilled because once it decides against God, it represents, reflects and reveals God from a corrupted, a diluted state. It projects an inaccurate view of God. When the image loses intimacy; it loses its sense of identity. When the image loses intimacy with its Maker, it lives intimidated. As a result, the image defines and perceives itself and God from a flawed perspective.
If we really desire to be great and to do great, it’s important for us to know whose and who we are first. When we don’t know our true identity, we malfunction. When we don’t know our true identity, we define our lives and essence based on our activity. But really identity precedes activity. But of course, we reduce our lives just to what we do and not who we really are. We are not what we do; what we do flows from who we are. You see, a lion does not roar to become a lion; a lion roars because it’s a lion. When identity is unknown or misunderstood, people define themselves by what they do. That is why when their activity, i.e. their job, is taken away, they lose their sense of significance because they attach their identity and worth to what they do. A job, as important and beneficial as it is, should not be our source of validation. We are not important because we earn a salary; we are important because we are human, God’s image. We are designed and destined for a life bigger than just earning a salary. We were not designed and destined to survive; we were designed and destined to thrive. That is why He commanded us to be fruitful. We are commanded to be fruitful because we are seedful. He never commands anything out of us that He never empowered us to fulfill.
Notice that the command to be fruitful came after He established our identity in Him. We are first His image before we are His instruments. So, we were meant to live and function from intimacy and not for intimacy. We did not do anything to impress Him into creating us; it was His initiative. We did not submit our resumes to be created, it’s His prerogative. We cannot function effectively without Him. Fruitfulness and greatness occur within the context of relationship with Him. He is true greatness and so, He knows what true greatness is. No wonder He allows us the privilege to experience true greatness on earth, in and with Him. He is not intimidated by it; He is glorified by it. That is why He commands it out of us. We are commanded and expected to be and to do great. But this has to happen in a context of relationship with Christ. The deal is: know Christ and you will know yourself. I still digress.
You probably remember a conversation that Jesus struck with His disciples. It’s in Matthew 16:13-20. Jesus asked the disciples who people said He was. And of course, people as always, had flawed opinions about who He was. They still do. Some said He was John the Baptist, some Elijah, others Jeremiah or one of the prophets. They held various opinions about the identity of Jesus and all their opinions were wrong, flawed. You see, this is why you should never allow people to define who you are. People define you based on their perception of you. And, their perceptions of you are often, if not always, flawed. They never align with what God says about you. Anyway, Jesus then asks the disciples: But who do you say I am? You see, you need to have your own personal revelation and understanding of who He is. Simon answered: You are the Christ, the Son of the living God. He got it right. And because Simon had the right revelation and definition of who Christ is, Christ Himself released Simon’s right identity. And I also say to you that you are Peter…. The reception of the right revelation occurs in right relationship with Christ. Simon got Jesus’ true identity and Jesus unleashed Simon’s true identity.
None of us is in this world today because we sneaked into it. None of us is in this world as an accident or some sort of an afterthought. You are not here, really, as an additional member. You cannot be great and do great if you do not know who truly are. It is from knowing who you are that you will demonstrate true greatness. We cannot talk about greatness without making mention of excellence. Excellence is simply matching your practice with your potential. You don’t function beneath the level of your gifting and potential. Excellence breeds a life of greatness and greatness is measured in terms meaningful contribution. Great people devote their lives to initiatives that will build worthwhile legacies. Great people are never liabilities. Great people rightly influence their generations. And, before I drop my last fullstop, I want to share briefly with you on how you can develop a life, a culture of excellence and greatness. If you are going to be great and excellent at what you do, in your lifetime, you will need to:
• Decide to be great and excellent
• Discover and develop your craft
• Diversify your associations and interests
• Distribute your passion into different spheres
If you truly want to be great and excellent, you have to decide every single day to give your best in everything or anything you have devoted your life to. What distinguishes Lionel Messi and Christiano Ronaldo today is that they decided to throw their whole selves into their gifting. And, because of their decision to be excellent and great at what they do, people don’t mind spending money just to watch Messi and Ronaldo making money. You see, if you decide to do what you love and you do it the best way you can, people will pay you just to watch you do it. Secondly, Messi and Ronaldo discovered and developed their craft. Today, when their names are mentioned, nothing else comes to mind except football. They have so excellently developed their craft that when they are on the soccer pitch, one cannot tell whether they are playing or working. They have developed their craft to a level where what they do has actually become their second nature. Thirdly, you become great and excellent by associating yourself with people who are great and excellent. The people you surround yourself with can contribute towards your growth or your deficiency. If you want to become a king or a queen, walk with royalty. Diversify your associations, surround yourself with different people who are best at what they do, even people who are better than you.
If you are an employer, you can even hire higher than you. You see, when you walk with people who are greater than you, you will always be challenged to become better. Great people have the ability to challenge the greatness that lies inactive within you. Great people do not have time to discuss people and events; great people discuss ideas. Your thinking is challenged when you are always surrounded by greatness. Lastly, distribute your passion towards different things. Don’t just rely on one sphere of influence. Don’t just rely on your job. Find areas that stir up your heart and choose to pour your passion into all those areas. With an accurate understanding of your own identity and Christ’s, you will know what matters most in life. And because you know what matters most, you will ensure that you live a life worth remembering. You will be an asset to your generation and not a liability. Anything less than a life of excellence will not be a life worth admiring. It may even be a regrettable life. Friend, there is nothing that is as regrettable as living a regrettable life. And so, I drop my last fullstop, for now.