Every man chases a greatness that eludes him. That chase can send him on an ambitious hunt for career success. It can drive him to amass power and influence. It can propel him to garner fame. But there is nothing inherently evil about our longing for greatness. It's how we go about it that sets our lives along healthy or destructive trajectories.
That longing for greatness gets realized another way through epic stories. We read about heroes or watch them on film and are immediately engrossed by their exploits of greatness. There is a universal fascination with the heroic that knows no racial, political, or religious boundaries. That fascination is one of the reasons why Avengers: Endgame is breaking so many box office records worldwide. What we see in all the superhero characters are imaginative projections of that longing for greatness, a greatness often manifested in superhuman abilities.
ANOTHER KIND OF GREATNESS
But there is more to our heroic characters that fascinates us. Every heroic tale contains a story of love and sacrifice for the sake of others. At some point, the hero makes a pivotal decision to let his life go (literally or figuratively) so that others can benefit. How they flourish because of that sacrifice is often how the tale comes to a close. The hero achieves greatness another way. He achieves it by honoring and lifting up the greatness of everyone else.
I find the parallels between heroic tales and the story of Jesus surprising—and illuminating. Jesus did what we love to see in our heroes. Yet He did it on a scale never before imagined or achieved. He let his life go for the benefit of the entire world. Something happened on the cross that smashed the chains of guilt and shame. That upended and routed death, that drove a sword into the heart of evil. Something happened that opened a door back into the Edenic garden from which we were banished—a door into a new life, a new family, a new creation, a new future. The greatness of Jesus is lies here. He did all of this for one reason only—for us.
ENTERING TRUE GREATNESS
But there is always more with Jesus. He wants to share His greatness with us. There are many ways this happens. But I want to mention one that has struck me recently. It comes from the dialogue with His disciples the night before His crucifixion: "Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father" (John 14:12). Jesus invites all who believe into the works of His kingdom. What He did in terms of healing, teaching, serving, and loving altered the world's landscape forever.
And He wants us to continue that great work. He even wants us to do greater things than He did. Whatever we are to make of this promise, it's a call to increase our confidence in prayer (see vv. 13-14). It's a call to quit looking at the humanly possible and lift up our eyes with imaginative hope. It's a call to be ambitious for His name and to let our lives go for the sake of others.
This can be any man's greatness. You don't have to be a superhero.
This article is adapted from the book, HEROIC: The Surprising Path to True Manhood by Bill Delvaux.
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Bill Delvaux is a graduate of Duke University and Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. He has been a church planter, a high school Bible teacher, and a running coach. Six years ago, he pioneered Landmark Journey Ministries to help men connect their stories to God’s story through retreats and spiritual direction. His newest book, Heroic: The Surprising Path to Manhood, will be released in April 2019. His greatest claim to fame is being married to Heidi for 32 years and having two amazing daughters, Abigail, and Rachel. He and his wife currently reside in Franklin, TN.