It’s increasingly becoming an anthem of the millennial generation: “Let’s do something great for God!” We hear it at conferences. We read it in books. We see it in each other. Everywhere, young people are striving for and accomplishing great things. We’re sponsoring children, drilling wells, fighting sex trafficking and serving in our churches and communities. What a time to be alive! An entire generation has cast off the idea that we must wait our turn and many are changing the world today.
But in the midst of such opportunities, we must never lose sight of what makes us truly great. Greatness is not merely what we do, but it is who we are. It is possible to do many great things and do them in a way that does not please God. Jesus didn’t just give the disciples a list of things to do and a list of people to talk to. He wanted them to become the type of people from whom true greatness would overflow. Jesus invited them to live with Him, to watch His life closely and to progressively become like Him.
As we chase true greatness, we must first fix ourselves decidedly as disciples of Jesus Christ. Like the first disciples, we pay close attention to everything Jesus said and did in order to live our lives like He would. As Dallas Willard puts it, “I am learning from Jesus to live my life as he would live life if he were I. I am not necessarily learning to do everything he did, but I am learning how to do everything I do in the manner in which he did all that he did.”
Jesus calls us to immerse ourselves in the gospels and watch Him closely, meditating on how He would do everything we do. How would Jesus do your job, invest in your relationships, spend your free time and spend your money? We increasingly consider what Jesus would do if He was living our lives instead of us. We don’t just want to know stories about Jesus, but we want to know Jesus in those stories. The goal of our study is to become like Him.
Jesus is not looking for servants who obey Him begrudgingly, secretly wishing they were doing something else. Instead, He’s looking for apprentice disciples who become like Him as they obey Him with hearts of joy. One of the great mysteries of the Gospel is the more we become like Jesus, the more we’ll rejoice in the difficult things He calls us to do for Him.
Jesus is more concerned with our heart than our works. Certainly works are important, but they are the natural overflow of a heart in right relationship with Him. Jesus illustrated this with the vine and branches. Jesus taught His disciples to think of Him as a vine and themselves as the branches (John 15:5). The only hope branches have of producing fruit is by staying connected to the vine. In the same way, disciples prioritize a deepening relationship with Christ and look to Him for the fruit they should produce. As He said, “Without me, you can do nothing” (John 15:5c).
With all the great things there are to be a part of today, I fear many miss this essential component of discipleship. It is possible to keep yourself very busy doing great things, but to do them in your own strength. Being a Christian is about establishing a relationship with Jesus first and from there, doing everything else.
Therefore, continue attempting great things for God, but chase them as disciples who are following hard after the heart of the Master. Attempt things you believe Christ would do if He were living your life for you and do them from a heart that is learning to enjoy and love Christ increasingly every day.