Posted by: Brad Beaman | December 11, 2007

How to Become Great in the New Year

A Success Message for the New Year

If you want to become great in the New Year you can!

Just exactly what is success? People are infatuated about success. You can see an emphasis on success and winning in just about every sphere of life. It seems important to drive the right car have the right labels on cloths to make a difference.

A basketball coach got a glimpse of the success philosophy when an alumni of the university told him; “Coach we are behind you, win or tie.” There is a pressure to be successful.

The question is what is success or how do you become great?

In Matthew 20:20-28 Jesus gives a clear answer. His words serve as a reminder to what success is all about.

The time of the questions about how to become great is amazing. It comes up right after Jesus makes a revelation about himself. He foretells of his death for the 3rd time to them. He told them about how he will be betrayed and condemned to death. He tells them he will be mocked flogged (Gospel of Mark adds spit on) crucified and raised again.

Mathew 20:19 “and will turn him over to the Gentiles to be mocked and flogged and crucified. On the third day he will be raised to life!”

Then comes the question, Jesus, can we have a special place of authority, (their Mother asks for them) one on right and one on the left.

Matthew 20:20-21 “Then the mother of Zebedee’s sons came to Jesus with her sons and, kneeling down, asked a favor of him.
  “What is it you want?” he asked.
  She said, “Grant that one of these two sons of mine may sit at your right and the other at your left in your kingdom.”

Often people think that James and John who Jesus called “sons of thunder” (Mark 3:17) were called that because they were ferocious men and even asked Jesus if he wanted them to call down fire from heaven to destroy Samaria. (Luke 9:54) But on the other hand they may have been called sons of thunder because of their mother who was following them around. She may have been the thunder, and they were the sons of her.

This request is a complete irony. Jesus reveals to them his self-sacrifice and all they can do is pursue self seeking interests. Jesus uses the opportunity to teach them a lesson.

The Worldly view of Success

Matthew 20:25 “Jesus called them together and said, ‘You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them’”.

Jesus gave an example of how the rulers of the gentiles act. They Lord their position over others and exercise their authority. They throw their weight around.

The world’s standards of success means ruling over people. It means having them serve you at your beckoned command. The worlds view has not changed from that day until now.

That is the tragedy of the world’s view of success. It includes getting ahead at any cost. It uses people and then throws them away when you do not need them. It is a self-centered philosophy.

People don’t appreciate success hungry people who have a grab all you can philosophy. When the other ten disciples heard about the request they became understandably indignant. Some people climb the ladder of success only to discover that ladder is leaning against the wrong wall.

Athletes in a track event do not go to a judge and ask the judge to give them the gold and silver medals. These medals are reserved to the first ones who cross the finish line. The other athletes would not appreciate the request.

The self-centered success syndrome of the world had found its way into the disciples. And by the way this is not the first time that James and John have had their hands slapped for going for a power grab (see Mark 9).

Even today Jesus disciples need to guard themselves of this selfishness more than ever. With ministries attracting big crowds and the possibilities of building financial empires this self-centered philosophy can spring up like a weed in a garden.

Big crowds and financial inflow is not how Jesus told his disciples to measure success. That view leads to dishonesty and immorality. Don’t confuse the world’s definition of success with God’s.

How do we define success? How do we achieve greatness? The standard we should use is Jesus’ life.

Jesus is the Model for Success.

By the worlds standards Jesus was not a success. He did not even come close to what we call the American dream. He did not own land. He had no house, no retirement account and all his followers eventually abandoned him. At his death the only ones still loyal to him were a handful of unknowns. He wasn’t served, he served others.

Jesus changes the whole definition of what success really is. The disciples thought of glory for themselves. Jesus taught and modeled suffering for others.

Matthew 20:28 “just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

The common expectation was that the Messiah would come and set up an earthly rule. But Jesus was concerned with the spiritual. His was the Kingdom of Heaven. His ultimate commitment was to serve and become a ransom for many.

The worlds system of success fails. Silver and Gold are worthless when it comes to becoming a ransom for us. Jesus came to serve and that included giving his life for our salvation.

Jesus modeled the servanthood that he taught. When Jesus instituted the Last Supper he wrapped a towel around his waist, poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciple’s feet. He dried them with the towel that had been wrapped around him.

Jesus was the model servant leader. The ultimate example is when he paid the ransom price for our sins. On the cross he was mocked, beaten, spit upon and suffered great spiritual anguish. Why? He came to serve. This is true greatness. Jesus is the greatest one who ever walked the earth.

How you become great

Ambition is not wrong. Jesus is not condemning ambition but redirecting it. Becoming great is done is a different way. Greatness comes be serving others. True greatness is marked by humility and service. God will give exalted recognition to the servant who is great.

If you want to become great you can. Put aside the false idea that greatness comes by being served and by bossing people around. For greatness start practicing being a true servant being humble, patient and faithful. These are the marks of greatness.

Matthew 20:26-28
“Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave—just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

When you decide to do something don’t ask what’s in it for me but ask, how will this benefit others. Serving others is the key to greatness.

Jesus used a little child as a model for greatness. Whoever humbles himself like a little child is great in the Kingdom of Heaven.



  1. Well said. My heart is heavy when I see the church
    loving stuff and wanting to be served. There is a
    hireling spirit and a servant spirit. John 10. The
    servant spirit is in minority I’m afraid.

    Thank you for the “tune-up”.

  2. I was really touched by your article.

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