Tempted by Being Great

by Bryan Marvel

Read Mark 10:35-45

Whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant,

and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. (v43-44)

One of the desires of my heart that I’ve battled throughout my life is the desire to be great. From a very early age, I had dreams of being a professional basketball player who was the star of the team, or a rock star who traveled the world playing to sold-out stadiums, or a stand-up comedian who was loved by all people and could have any crowd doubled over with laughter. When God called me to be a pastor, the desire to be great followed me into the church.

While I deeply loved the church, it simultaneously became a means to greatness. I had visions of speaking tours, book deals, radio interviews, and being a spiritual expert who would headline conferences. However, during my first season of ministry, God showed me what Kingdom greatness was all about. During that season, God gave me the exact opposite of all my ministry hopes and dreams. Instead of serving a large congregation, I served a small one. Instead of being instantly loved and adored, I had to work diligently to earn respect and trust. Instead of being known by a wide audience, I served in obscurity.

While this was hard, it was the best thing for me. Through that season of ministry, God instilled in me an alternate vision of greatness. It’s the same vision that He shares with the disciples in Mark 10. Even though James and John audaciously asked for the most important seats in the Kingdom, based on the reaction of all the other disciples in v41, they all believed they deserved the same thing.

In response to their desire to be great, Jesus showed them that greatness in the Kingdom isn’t about glory, but about sacrificial service. God in His mercy spared me from ever getting close to achieving all my ministry hopes and dreams. If I had, it would’ve been disastrous for my soul. Not that book deals, speaking tours, and radio interviews are bad, but my heart wasn’t in the right place to carry the weight of that level of exposure and responsibility.

Even now, twelve years later, the battle for worldly greatness is still present. However, when it rears its head Jesus reminds me that true greatness is found in laying myself aside and putting others first.

Don’t get caught in the trap of worldly glory. Instead, find the joy of putting others first.


1. Where do you find the desire for worldly greatness in your heart?

2. How might God be inviting you to experience Kingdom greatness?