I wonder if I’ll always remember that my two sons and I had just shared kung pao shrimp at P.F. Chang’s when I stopped in my tracks on the way out the door. I had to make sure I had correctly read the words that were scrolling across every television within sight: Apple founder Steve Jobs—dead at 56.
I can’t explain why, but my hands were shaky and sweaty as I pulled my iPhone out of my pocket to verify.
One of the first things I saw was a statement from President Obama. He said that Steve Jobs “was among the greatest of American innovators.” That “he transformed our lives, redefined entire industries, and achieved one of the rarest feats in human history: he changed the way each of us sees the world.”
My next thoughts made my stomach hurt. Or was it the kung pao? Either way, I got downright introspective. I was wrestling with a tension:
Steve Jobs was a great man. He changed the world through technology.
I’m a pastor. I have a mission to change the world through the Gospel. But am I really achieving that mission? I’m doing well by some standards, I guess. I love Jesus. I have integrity. I love my family. But still … I’m not redefining an industry. I’m not accomplishing one of the greatest feats in human history. So what am I really doing? That matters? That will matter? That will set my life apart?
In short, I was processing the nauseating feeling that, when I stack it all up, I don’t feel like I’m anything close to being the great man of God I want to be. Some days, actually, I feel like I sort of suck as a Christian.
For some reason I felt compelled to pull up a certain Bible verse.
It’s one of the most staggering statements Jesus ever made.
“I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father” (John 14:12).
I’d read that verse so many times. But I had a new context for it. And it sliced me with the edge of fresh challenge.
Greater things than Jesus, the greatest man who ever lived? What does that even mean? How can we do greater things than Jesus?
Does it mean that we’re able to do more powerful miracles than Jesus? Have a bigger impact than Jesus? I don’t think so.
After all, I don’t know many people who have walked on water, multiplied fish and loaves to feed thousands, opened the eyes of the blind, or given salvation to the world.
Jesus isn’t calling us to be greater than He is. He’s calling us to be greater with Him through His Spirit within us. The fact is, we are so much better than we’ve become,
because God is so much greater than we’re allowing Him to be through us.
Let me give you a simple way to look at this tension in our faith.
Good enough = the baseline living marked by mediocrity, being stuck in spiritual survival mode, and being controlled by complacency.
Greatness = the vague, unrealistic aspirations of doing better that don’t work in real life.
Good enough leaves you stuck in stagnation. Grasping for greatness leads to endless frustration. But greater is a third way.
Greater = the life-altering understanding that God is ready to accomplish a kind of greatness in your life that is entirely out of human reach. Beyond Steve Jobs. Beyond what you see in yourself on your best day. But exactly what God has seen in you all along.
Personally, I’ve decided to give up on my aspirations for greatness and legalistic expectations of Christian perfection. Not because I’ve given up on getting to the place God has called me to. But because I’ve found a better way to get there. A way that actually works.
It starts here, with a question: Are you ready to open your imagination to the possibility that God has a vision for your life that is greater?
And when you live this way—the greater way—God will empower you with the confidence to know that nothing is impossible with Him, the clarity to see the next step He’s calling you to take and the courage to do anything He tells you to do.
You’ll begin to get a real sense of what greater things God wants to do in your life. Maybe God will call you to make a major life change. Or maybe He simply wants you to come at your present life with greater passion from a fresh perspective.
Either way, the pathway to God’s best is paved with faith. If you choose to come this way, don’t expect a final destination where you can announce, “Now I’m officially greater for God!” Because the call to be greater is the call to walk with God Himself.
God’s greatness will not just be working around you—it will start working through you. The result will be a life of greater effectiveness. Greater impact. Greater vision. And it’s important to embrace the joy of the journey, because the destination is a mirage.
That’s the thing about God’s leading in our lives. It’s not static. It’s not automatic. But it’s imminent. And it has the potential to change everything.
Excerpted from Greater by Steven Furtick © 2012 Excerpted by permission of Multnomah Books, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved.
Pastor Steven Furtick is the founder and lead pastor of Elevation Church, based in Charlotte, North Carolina, and the author of Sun Stand Still (Multnomah Books, 2010) and Greater (Multnomah Books, 2012).