What Is Greatness? — Morning Devotions - Hope 103.2

What Is Greatness? — Morning Devotions

When people gain power, over a kingdom or a helpless child or animal, they may feel in control and begin to believe they don't need God.

Listen: Chris Witts presents Morning Devotions.

By Chris WittsWednesday 3 Nov 2021Morning Devotions with Chris WittsDevotionsReading Time: 4 minutes

Winston Churchill is known today as one of the greatest leaders of the free world as the UK’s Prime Minister from 1940 until 1945. These were difficult years, and Britain looked to Churchill for clear leadership, which he gave.

In 1953 he received a knighthood from the Queen. He was a brilliant man in many ways. But, like all of us, he had his failings. Author William Manchester tells a story of Winston Churchill in his book The Last Lion in which Churchill reveals clearly how he believed that his power allowed him to operate in a different realm from others. He saw himself as different from other people, someone set apart.

Manchester says this in his book:

His idea of a good dinner was to dine well and then to discuss a good topic—’with myself as chief conversationalist’…He admired his own speeches so much that he used to lie in bed listening to recordings of them. Once, he and his valet had words. Afterwards, Churchill rumbled: ‘You were rude.’ His manservant, forgetting his station, said, ‘You were rude too.’ Churchill pouted. After a moment he said: ‘But I am a great man.’

How do you feel about hearing that response? Is it OK for someone like Churchill to brag about his greatness, inferring he was better than others? How should we deal with heroes like this? In your opinion, what makes a person great?

The shepherd boy that became king

I’m reminded of another hero, and that was King David, in the Old Testament. In 1 Samuel 17 we read this remarkable story of David and Goliath, well-known today and taught at Sunday School. Maybe you recall that story being told you or reading it in a children’s book.

A boy named David versus a giant named Goliath. You could probably tell me about his amazing defeat of Goliath as a boy—a young boy, coming in with confidence and faith and a pocket full of smooth stones. Not even the tallest, strongest, and bravest of all the warriors would dare face the giant. Everyone was scared of him. But the boy David did, without a stitch of armour, without an ounce of fear. He faced Goliath and with one swing of his slingshot, defeated him and killed him. The rumours started even before Goliath’s huge body hit the ground:

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  • This kid is destined for greatness!
  • He is fearless!
  • He is faithful to his God!
  • He is just a boy. Think of what he could do as a man!

Years later, David lived up to all of these rumours. Not because he sought the throne. Not because he lusted after power. No, he went from youngest-son-of-least-importance, to shepherd boy, to musician for the king, to killer of Goliath. He grew to be a man and had many interactions with King Saul and his family, continuing to show faithfulness to God, leadership in battle, and wisdom.

The great king’s fall from grace

God chose David to be king and David ruled as a servant of God to God’s people. He was a good ruler. He was a faithful king, strong in might, victorious in battle, and telling those near and far of the power of his God. But he got carried away with his own importance, and in 2 Samuel 11 we read of an amazing fall from grace.

It was an unbelievable act of stupidity and weakness. One night he sees a beautiful woman bathing in the moonlight and sends for her and they have sex together. He was the king—he could do anything. But she is Uriah’s wife and she falls pregnant to David. David panics and arranges for Uriah to be in the front line of battle where he is killed the next day. David did everything he could to cover up his sin—but he was found out. This great leader’s integrity is destroyed.

How could this happen? This story doesn’t fit in with the King David we read about before in the Bible. It just doesn’t fit.  King David was a hero’s hero up to this point in the story. As the scandalous tragedy unfolds, though, readers old and young alike come to the same conclusion: David has fallen from his throne of grace, from his heroic, kingly pedestal. And he has fallen hard.

You know the saying, Power corrupts. Absolute power corrupts absolutely. I believe it to be true. Why? Because when we gain power, whether it is over a kingdom or a helpless child or animal, we begin to believe the lie that we are in control. We begin to believe the lie that we don’t need God, that we don’t need others and that we ourselves are gods.

We allow ourselves to believe that we are above the laws of God. How sad, but how important we remember that God is God is God, and we are not. We ought to live our lives in order to give glory to God, not to ourselves. We are called to love God and to love others. If we love ourselves only, without regard to God, without regard to the other, then sin will abound.

If we love ourselves only, without regard to God, without regard to the other, then we will lie to get ahead, we will cheat to get what we want, we will say and do things that hurt and betray those we love, we will say and do things that hurt and betray those whom God loves.