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(Part 12)


September 27, 2017

Today’s readings:
Ezra 9:5-9
Tobit 13:2-6
Luke 9:1-6

Why are we destined for greatness? First and foremost, because we are God’s children, people and disciples, and God is a great God. We must never forget and must always “recount his greatness” (Tb 13:4a). Know that “he is your Lord, and he is your God, our Father and God forever and ever!” (Tb 13:4c). Like Father, like children. Like Lord and Master, like disciples.

God’s greatness is also in His great power and might. He is the Almighty who is all-mighty. It is He who has power over all. Our destiny is totally in His hands, as He raises up and He brings down. He “casts down to the depths of Hades, brings up from the great abyss.” (Tb 13:2b). There is no one like Him. “What is there that can snatch from his hand?” (Tb 13:2c).

So God is great, no question about that. But are we great? No we are not. We are sinful and weak. Ezra recognized the human condition, acknowledging his “wretchedness” (Ezr 9:5). He admitted that “our wicked deeds are heaped up above our heads and our guilt reaches up to heaven.” (Ezr 9:6b). Rather than being puffed up because we are destined for greatness, we rather bow low. “My God, I am too ashamed and humiliated to raise my face to you, my God” (Ezr 9:6a).

But God is merciful. He is patient and forgiving. “And now, only a short time ago, mercy came to us from the Lord, our God, …. For slaves we are, but in our slavery our God has not abandoned us” (Erz 9:8a,9a). In fact, God did not only show mercy to us, but He “gave us a stake in his holy place” (Ezr 9:8b). We have a share in His inheritance. We are destined for heaven. We are called to be holy as He is holy. Now that is why we are destined for greatness.

Not only that. We are to participate in God’s great work. We are to stand in the place of Jesus and continue his work of salvation, the most important thing in the world. As God’s people, we are sent forth, like the apostles. Jesus “sent them to proclaim the kingdom of God” (Lk 9:2a). Now this is God’s work. This is divine work. In being sent, we are given authority and power that belong to God. “He summoned the Twelve and gave them power and authority over all demons and to cure diseases, …. and to heal the sick.” (Lk 9:1,2b). Demons are powerful beings and on our own we cannot overcome them. But in God, we prove greater than them.

God intends for us to be great. How does it happen, as we often stand in the way of God’s intent? Well, we must strive to have no barrier between us and God, we must know who He is and what He does for us, and we must strive to be as He is. God gives us the path to this.

One, we must know we are very far from greatness and what is great about us is our great sin. Part of that sin is pride and self-sufficiency, thinking we are already great without God. Big mistake. Ezra acknowledged this. “Then, at the time of the evening sacrifice, I rose in my wretchedness, and with cloak and mantle torn I fell on my knees, stretching out my hands to the Lord, my God.” (Ezr 9:5).

Two, we must then turn away from sin and unrighteousness, as this separates us from God. God wants to fully embrace us, but we ourselves push Him off. But “when you turn back to him with all your heart, and with all your soul do what is right before him, then he will turn to you, and will hide his face from you no longer.” (Tb 13:6a). We are to love God with our whole heart, mind, soul and strength. We are to obey His commandments.

Three, being restored in our relationship with God, we must strive to strengthen that relationship. Basically we live a life of worship. “Exalt him before every living being” (Tb 13:4b). We pray without ceasing. We bless God at all times. “Bless the Lord of righteousness, and exalt the King of the ages.” (Tb 13:6c). Doing so is not just fitting in its own right, but will remind us that God is great and we are not, that God is holy and we are not yet.

Four, as there will be many times when we will fall and continue to sin, God, in His great love and mercy, will allow us to be afflicted. “He will afflict you for your iniquities, but will have mercy on all of you.” (Tb 13:5a). To punish us for sin is justice. To punish us when we sin, in order to bring us back to Him, is mercy. Besides, affliction is part and parcel of the authentic Christian life, wherein Jesus tells his disciples to take up their cross. There is no path to holiness aside from the cross.

Five, as greatness is in who we will become, and also in what we are enabled to do, we must be about God’s great work in the world. We must “declare his power and majesty to a sinful nation.” (Tb 13:6d). Part of our being destined for greatness is being God’s instruments of salvation in the world. We are to do the very work of God, manifesting signs and wonders. As the apostles were called and chosen, they were sent off. “Then they set out and went from village to village proclaiming the good news and curing diseases everywhere.” (Lk 9:6). We are to go to every village, town and nation. We are to proclaim the gospel everywhere.

Six, lest our hearts and heads puff up as God allows us to do great works, we must always be mindful of our total dependence on Him. Apart from God we can do nothing, and only God provides the power to overcome. This is why God told Gideon to cut his army from 32,000 to 300. This is why Jesus told the apostles: “Take nothing for the journey, neither walking stick, nor sack, nor food, nor money, and let no one take a second tunic.” (Lk 9:3). We are to be totally dependent upon God. Besides, it can be part of the purification process, as we endure suffering and pain, and allow nothing to stand in the way of God’s mission. We may lack support and provisions, we may experience hunger, we may lack funds, but we plod on anyway.

Seventh, as the path is difficult and challenging, as we will encounter opposition and oppression, as we will suffer deprivation and pain, we must focus on the good that God is doing, and never be ungrateful. Many blessings will come, as well as many pains, but even the pains are intended to be blessings. “Now consider what he has done for you, and give thanks with full voice.” (Tb 13:6b). Let that gratitude and joy shine forth as you do your work, and be a witness to all the nations. “Give thanks to him, you Israelites, in the presence of the nations.” (Tb 13:3a).

It is not easy to be great. Athletes go to extreme lengths to be great at their game. Special forces undergo extreme training. We, by God’s intent and design, are destined for greatness. We engage a powerful enemy. The demands and the stakes are much higher.

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For household discussion and sharing:
Do you see that you are destined for greatness? Do you understand what is that and why is that?

Evaluate yourself based on the 7 points on the path to greatness.

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