What makes a person great? Here are 5 Steps to Greatness according to the Bible. God’s view of greatness and how we achieve it is the opposite of the world’s view. As representatives and ambassadors of the Kingdom of God, our greatness must come in the way God has ordained. Our base for achieving God’s greatness will be Psalm 18:35 along with the words of Jesus and others to further amplify the source of greatness and what greatness really means.
Psalm 18:35 NKJV, “You have also given me the shield of Your salvation; Your right hand has held me up, Your gentleness has made me great.“
This is the Scripture we are using to identify what is involved in receiving God’s greatness. The first time I saw this scripture, I was a little confused. I couldn’t figure out how God’s gentleness could possibly make me great! I didn’t think I was supposed to be aiming toward any type of greatness and could not connect God’s gentleness with me being great!
What is Greatness In The Bible?
Greatness in the Bible is seeing and embracing a gentle God who wants to make me great and that moves my soul toward Him. It is such a beautiful concept and so much the opposite of the world view of greatness. In the world, greatness seems to be synonymous with fame, power, or some extraordinary feat. There is the occasional person, like Mother Teresa, who is viewed as being great, humbled, and admired. I don’t fit in any of those categories. So, what is greatness in God’s eyes? What makes a person great?
First Step – Believe That God Provides a Shield of Salvation
Let’s go deep into Psalm 18:35. David has been talking about all the things God has done for him. One of those things is that God gave him the shield of salvation. When armies went to war in that day, it was common for one man to wield the sword while another held a shield over him to protect from the arrows (sometimes flaming ones) of the enemy. Another practice was to stand a large shield up in front of you as you shot your own arrows at the enemy. These big, thick shields were made of wood and had a substance on them that would quench the flames of those burning arrows.
David said that God had provided the shield that saved him. Of course, this is exactly what we find in the work of Jesus on the cross. The shield is provided by God to save us and bring salvation and eternal life. The shield God has given us also extinguishes the fiery arrows of our enemy. David is acknowledging that this is strictly the gift of God and that he received no credit for it.
Second Step – Stay In God’s Right Hand
David then says that it is the right hand of God that held him up throughout his life. In the New Testament, we see Jesus seated at the right hand of God. We also see that we are seated in heavenly places with Christ. So, where are we? We are at God’s right hand in Christ. It is God’s hand that got us there and that keeps us there.
The right hand symbolizes strength, authority, power, sovereignty, rulership and love. The right side has its own symbolism in the Old Testament. When Aaron and his sons performed blood sacrifices, they took part of the blood and put it on the tip of their right ears, the thumbs of their right hands and the big toe of their right feet (Leviticus 8:23). They took the rest of the blood and threw it against the sides of the altar. The anointing oil was applied in those same 3 places to the one who needed cleansing and was poured on the guilt offering. Jesus’ was our guilt offering, cleansing us completely from all our sin.
Isaiah 41:13 NKJV, “For I, the Lord your God, will hold your right hand, Saying to you, ‘Fear not, I will help you.’
Psalm 110:1 NKJV , “The Lord said to my Lord, “Sit at My right hand, Till I make Your enemies Your footstool.”
Luke 20:41-44 NKJV, “Jesus: How Can David Call His Descendant Lord? “And He said to them, “How can they say that the Christ is the Son of David? Now David himself said in the Book of Psalms: ‘The Lord said to my Lord,“Sit at My right hand, Till I make Your enemies Your footstool.” ’Therefore David calls Him ‘Lord’; how is He (Jesus) then his Son?”
Luke 22:66-70 NKJV , “As soon as it was day, the elders of the people, both chief priests and scribes, came together and led Him into their council, saying, “If You are the Christ, tell us.” But He said to them, “If I tell you, you will by no means believe. And if I also ask you, you will by no means answer Me or let Me go. Hereafter the Son of Man will sit on the right hand of the power of God.” Then they all said, “Are You then the Son of God?” So He said to them, “You rightly say that I am.”
Mark 10:36-44 NKJV, “They said to Him, “Grant us that we may sit, one on Your right hand and the other on Your left, in Your glory.” But Jesus said to them, “You do not know what you ask. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?” They said to Him, “We are able. ”So Jesus said to them, “You will indeed drink the cup that I drink, and with the baptism I am baptized with you will be baptized; but to sit on My right hand and on My left is not Mine to give, but it is for those for whom it is prepared.”
Ephesians 1:19-21 NKJV, “and what is the exceeding greatness of His power toward us who believe, according to the working of His mighty power which He worked in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, far above all principality and power and might and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in that which is to come.“
Genesis 48:14 NKJV, “Then Israel (Jacob) stretched out his right hand and laid it on Ephraim’s head, who was the younger, and his left hand on Manasseh’s head, guiding his hands knowingly, for Manasseh was the firstborn.” Ephraim received the blessing that should have gone to Manasseh.
Exodus 15:6 NKJV, ““Your right hand, O Lord, has become glorious in power; Your right hand, O Lord, has dashed the enemy in pieces.“”
Exodus 15:12 NKJV, “You stretched out Your right hand; The earth swallowed them.”
Deuteronomy 33:2 NKJV, “And he said: “The Lord came from Sinai, And dawned on them from Seir;
He shone forth from Mount Paran, And He came with ten thousands of saints; From His right hand
Came a fiery law for them.”
Revelation 1:16-17 NKJV, “He had in His right hand seven stars, out of His mouth went a sharp two-edged sword, and His countenance was like the sun shining in its strength. And when I saw Him, I fell at His feet as dead. But He laid His right hand on me, saying to me, “Do not be afraid; I am the First and the Last.” Here we see gentleness and power.
Matthew 25:32-33 NKJV, “All the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate them one from another, as a shepherd divides his sheep from the goats. And He will set the sheep on His right hand, but the goats on the left.“
In Psalm 18, it says that God’s ‘gentleness’ is what makes us great. But, what is gentleness in this context? Gentle means – free from harshness, sternness, or violence. Gentleness is ‘gentle’ in action. However, in the Bible there is a deeper meaning in the context of this verse.
The Hebrew word used for ‘gentleness’ is anvah. It means gentleness and meekness and also infers condescension. Meekness is humility. Quotes from a Bible Hub Commentary called Biblical Illustrator.
God’s gentleness lies in His consenting to the use of indirection, as a way of gaining His adversaries. Instead of coming down upon man in a manner of direct onset, to carry His submission by storm, He gently lays siege to him, waiting for his willing consent.
THE END GOD HAS IN VIEW IN CONDESCENDING TO THESE GRACIOUS METHODS, — TO MAKE US GREAT. The Christian Gospel is a plan to bring down the loftiness of our pride and the willfulness of our rebellion, but to make us loftier in capacity and power and personal majesty. This is true of our will and of our intellect. Then, how perverse are those who require God to convert them by force. Let us adjust our conceptions of the true scale of a Christian man by God’s careful respect for our liberty, the detentions of His violated feeling, the sending of His Son, and the silent intercession of His Spirit. Be it ours to live with a sense of our high calling upon us.
This commentary is so beautiful because it changes our outlook on how God deals with His children. It is not by force or violence, even though we have seen the power of His right hand. But is His gentleness that draws us to Him.
Third Step – Greatness Comes In Gentleness and Humility
Gentleness is put in contrast with greatness. There is first God stooping down to that which is lowly, and as the result of this, His condescension, we have the gentle tender rule of His loving administration.
It is remarkable that the Psalmist should speak of God as gentle, and of himself as great, and that he should ascribe his own greatness to God’s gentleness, as the effect to the cause. This would appear to reverse the natural order of things. The greatness of God might well teach us a lesson of gentleness.
To what but the Lord’s gentleness, forbearance, long suffering, and tender mercy is it owing that our rebellious and guilty race haw been so long spared and so graciously dealt with? But it is in the person of His well-beloved Son, the meek and lowly Saviour, that the gentleness of God is exhibited to us in a visible and palpable form. Was not the Spirit of Christ emphatically one of gentleness? Did not that lovely Spirit, so aptly typified by the similitude of a dove, characterise His every word and action? Such a combination of gentleness with fortitude; of meekness with dignity; of the tenderest love with the most inflexible firmness, belongs only to Immanuel. The delineation of the character is far above human power.
THE NATURE OF THE GREATNESS WHICH THE PSALMIST AFFIRMS TO BE THE EFFECT OF THE DIVINE GENTLENESS. Is it the grandeur of wealth, power, fame, or royal dignity to which he refers? His own testimony negatives the supposition. It is of moral greatness, as distinct from earthly grandeur, — greatness of principle, of soul, of destiny — that greatness which teaches man to contemn sensual indulgences, that greatness which consists in spiritual endowments, and heavenly relationships — this is the only greatness which really dignifies and ennobles a never-dying spirit. This true spiritual greatness is at once the evidence and the effect of a Divine nature. To such heavenly greatness God’s gentleness would lead us by Christ Jesus. The one subject of our everlasting songs will be, the gentleness of God in Christ.
Here we see the depth of meaning in these few lines of Psalm 18. God, putting us ahead of Himself, uses His gentleness to make us great! But there is so much involved in ‘greatness’ and it has nothing to do with worldly power, fame, or riches.
Fourth Step – Greatness Is Seen In Moral Goodness
The Biblical Illustrator says – “True greatness is moral goodness. And, – So the face of God, like Divine sunshine, calls out of you and me all that is good and really great. We realise this fact as we muse on the Divine love, so unwearied and continuous through our lives. Let us all strive to realise that God’s eye of love rests on us. He sees our joy and grief, our loss and gain, our sin and our sorrow. Let us ever keep the windows of our life open to Him. God’s benignant grace makes us truly great.”
“For man is great in the proportion that he resembles the holy God who made him. Man’s greatness, therefore, is greatness in holiness.”
“Now, true greatness in man is precisely what it was in Him who, because He was the God-man, was the archetypal man. It is moral excellence, the greatness of character, preeminence in holiness, and is such that no external meanness can obscure its radiance, and no blaze of earthly glory can outshine its brightness.”
What Makes A Person Great?
Here, we see the truth of God’s gentleness making us great. Our greatness comes in our Christlikeness and our moral character. It does not come through the flesh but through the Spirit. We see the Holy Spirit depicted in Scripture as a dove – a gentle, white dove who brings only peace and good. God has never withheld his gentleness and goodness. We see it in the Old Testament, in Jesus, and in the Holy Spirit who dwells within us.
God never accomplishes His greatest goal – the reconciliation of man to God – through anger and parading His might and power. Instead, He did it through Jesus who was meek (humble) and mild, yet what He did was the most powerful act of all – redeeming mankind and snatching us out of the hands of enemy through love and sacrifice.
What is the most common response to gentleness?
Gratitude and admiration. If you have ever met a gentle person, they make you feel at ease. But, you still understand the power of their gentleness. You can choose to view them as weak, or you can choose to see the greatness encompassed in their choice to be gentle. But if God’s gentleness is what makes a person great, then surely we must embrace gentleness inside ourselves as well. Gentleness must be part of the fabric of our inner being – our soul and spirit.
Gentleness is a moral characteristic. It is a choice. You can live in a spirit of gentleness, or not. If you do, you are living the characteristics of Christ. What are the fruit of the Holy Spirit? They are – love, joy, peace, patience, kindness goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. How do you know if God’s gentleness is making you great; making you like Him; making you like Christ? By looking at the fruit in your life.
Before you get depressed because you think you have failed, remember this: Our greatness is not based in our perfection. If it was, why did Christ die for us? Our greatness is based in His perfection and our efforts to become more and more like Him every moment of our lives. Do we fail? We certainly do. But He forgives and restores if we have given ourselves to Him as a living sacrifice.
When You Think You’ve Failed
I sometimes see an anger rise up in me that I really dislike. I’m surprised by it because I try diligently not to be an angry person, and – I’m not. That “feeling” doesn’t mean I have failed. It means that I have an opportunity to make a choice. The word of God says that the anger of man does not accomplish the righteousness of God (James 1:20). It also says to ‘be angry but don’t sin’ in Ephesians 4:26.
Psalm 37:18 says not to give in to anger. God isn’t condemning us for having an emotion. He is saying that we have the ability to control it. What we feel is not supposed to rule over us. We are to take authority over our emotions. Ecclesiastes 7:9 tells us to keep our temper under control. Obviously we are able to do that or the Bible wouldn’t tell us to do it!
Ephesians 4:26 says, ““Be angry, and do not sin”: do not let the sun go down on your wrath,”
Is it easy? Not always, at least for me. Anger is a strongly felt emotion but, we have a choice; I have a choice. I choose to put my anger under the feet of Jesus.
Fifth Step – Choosing Gentleness Brings Greatness
Choices are a big part of what makes a person great! Making good choices (Godly choices) are part of true moral character and goodness. The ability to make decisions based in gentleness came to you through God’s gentleness, not Him raining fire and brimstone down on your head every time you stumble. His gentleness draws us back, gives us confidence, assures us of hope, and makes us want to be more like Him. This is what makes a person great – the gentle, unfailing, ever patient, and powerful gentleness of our God.
Our greatness comes, as we become more and more like Christ. Again, it isn’t about our perfection. It is about Christ in you, the hope of glory.
Colossians 1:26-27 ESV, “the mystery hidden for ages and generations but now revealed to his saints. To them God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.”
5 Steps to Greatness
It’s all God – He is the one who chose to use us to make known the riches of the glory of the mystery of Jesus IN you, which is the hope of glory. Again, we choose to make this glory known. We choose to be a reflection of Jesus. Also, we choose God’s moral goodness and we choose not to quench the Holy Spirit as He works in us.
All these choices are possible because of the gentleness and goodness of God. It is almost incomprehensible that God would do all of this for us; that He would be so humble; that His greatest desire is our greatness!
Here are the 5 steps again –
- Believe That God Brings a Shield of Salvation
- Stay In God’s Right Hand
- Greatness Comes in Gentleness and Humility
- Greatness Is Seen in Moral Goodness
- Choosing Gentleness Brings Greatness
As we choose to walk in the footsteps of Jesus, we find greatness, humility, and gentleness come more naturally. It takes practice. It also requires casting down the thinking of the world which says that your own power, might, strength, determination, and ruthlessness are what determines greatness. Yet, how many times have we seen the mighty fall? When they are arrogant and presumptuous, it is a long fall to the bottom. Yet, that is when God will lift you up if you believe in and love Him.
So, dear friend, relax and stop trying to be like the world. Relax and let the Holy Spirit work in you. Zechariah 4:6 ESV, “Then he said to me, “This is the word of the Lord to Zerubbabel: Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the Lord of hosts.“
Relax and remember that what God desires from us is really very simple and this one little verse sums it up along with Psalm 18:35. Micah 6:8 ESV, “He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you
but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” Do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with your God. It is so simple that it’s hard in some ways. Let go and let God have you and your life and you will find yourself doing those three things because He will have filled you.
If you have questions or need help, please email me here: email@example.com
**WM uses verses from different Bible translations. To see more information about the copyright for each one, please visit this page – Scripture Citations.
You might also enjoy reading – How To Be Good – 7 Steps To The Goodness of God