Anyone know the test of greatness? I think it might just be whether we exalt or humble ourselves. If you have considered the scriptures, one of the themes which comes through loud and clear is the importance of having a humble view of oneself and not exalting self over others. Pride is one of the most important "barriers" to greatness spoken of in scripture. In fact, the attitude of pride will never yield greatness - greatness is achieved because people have learned the value of being a servant. It is contrary to what the world teaches - it is not dog eat dog, it is man serve man. Humility is one of those things which actually helps us to manage our ambitions - it acts as a "governor" of sorts over what would otherwise cause us to plunge ahead at all cost without regard for others.
I’m speaking to you out of deep gratitude for all that God has given me, and especially as I have responsibilities in relation to you. Living then, as every one of you does, in pure grace, it’s important that you not misinterpret yourselves as people who are bringing this goodness to God. No, God brings it all to you. The only accurate way to understand ourselves is by what God is and by what he does for us, not by what we are and what we do for him. (Romans 12:3 MSG)
Ambitions are really some type of desire for achievement or recognition. It is the thing which gets us saying stuff like "look at me" or "did you see me then I..." and we become the center of attention. Behind the ambition is the desire for fame, honor, or some type of achieved "greatness". God isn't against us scoring the winning point in the football game, getting first prize at the county fair, or in getting accolades for a job well done. He just wants us to guard against doing anything simply because it will get "us" recognized. Every achievement in our lives is really a way to point the honor back to the one who gave us the talent in the first place!
When our will is submitted to the will of the Father, our ambitions will be managed by him. We will not seek glory or fame for our name's sake, but all honor and glory will go to him. Selfish ambition is really marked by one tell-tale sign: Being demanding. If you ever find yourself demanding your own way or out of sorts because you didn't get your own way, you might have to step back for a moment to consider if the thing you are really struggling with is some form of selfishness. Lessons of real value rarely come out of us demanding our own way. In fact, we learn lessons about humility whenever we elevate ourselves over others or God!
If you have ever been around a demanding person for any length of time, you know they expect you to act they way they want you to act. In fact, if you don't act a certain way in response to their actions, you might find yourself in the midst of a little session of someone having a pity party about not getting their own way, or getting the attention they felt they deserved. Humility is the opposite of being demanding - it is the willingness to lay down the "my way or the highway" philosophy in life. It is marked by dependence - not on self, but on God himself. To walk independent of God is to walk in pride - and this is truthfully a very lonely and rocky walk!
One test I think might just help us determine if we are really being humble is our ability to look in the mirror after we make a mistake. If we are operating in humility, we tend to look in the mirror at ourselves to see what we could have done differently rather than focusing on the other person to point out what they did wrong. Humility looks at others and sees their successes - not their failures. Anytime I am looking at another with the idea of pointing out their failures, I am truthfully putting them down to attempt to make myself look just a little better (if not in your eyes, at least in my own). The issue with this is that I rarely come out very well in the deal!
To be truly humble is to allow God to deal with our need to be noticed. If you look in scripture, you don't see a whole lot of examples of God telling people to do stuff which will get THEM noticed - he usually uses them to help people notice HIM. Someone once told me to live for an audience of ONE - God himself. If I do this, I am likely less focused on what YOU think of me and really genuinely concerned about what GOD thinks of me. What I come to appreciate is his focus is always on his kids - he never takes his eyes off us. If we want to be "noticed", we might just do well to turn our eyes to Jesus and catch a little more of his attention!
On our knees we become aware of the needs of others around us. There is no greater honor than to lose oneself in the passion of serving those around us. Truth is, we need to see life from a different perspective most of the time - getting to our knees often helps us change perspective. In truth, humility is putting God first, others second, and self last. It doesn't mean we never see our own needs met, because in meeting the needs of others, we often realize the needs we had get met in return. Just sayin!