When considering greatness, many clients unknowingly define success in counterproductive or unbiblical ways. They fail to look at God’s standards. Measuring yourself against others is a common trap—success becomes relative, a moving target instead of something attainable. Other clients expect to feel certain feelings if they succeed, or that all problems in life will magically disappear if they are really faithful Christians. And still others measure their greatness in terms of outward religious behavior instead of the heart—I’m a success if I do everything right, or pray enough, or practice the right disciplines. An unbiblical picture of greatness can cause a lot of heartache. That’s why it’s useful for the coach to have a solid grasp of success from God’s standards and perspective.
God’ standards have a simple success , and it’s one that fits right in with the coaching methodology. In the Kingdom of God, greatness is about stewardship: making the most of what you have been given. The parable of the talents, for instance (Mt 25:14-30), teaches us that we are stewards of our lives, and taking good care of God’s gift means taking risks and stretching ourselves to use our abilities, rather than letting them lie dormant. The master rewarded the servants who fully used whatever they had been given, and criticized the one who wasted the opportunity. He never compared them with each other; instead comparing their results to the resources they’d been given. (This also provides a real imperative for life purpose discovery: how can you effectively steward what you’ve been given when you don’t know what you’ve been given?)
Defining greatness in terms of stewardship also means we don’t need to strive to be something we’re not. Life is not a competition: it has nothing to do with being as good as or better than someone else. Jesus was a success because he completed the unique task he was sent to do. Our success comes the same way.
It is often a great relief when we grasp that God does not judge us in comparison to the accomplishments of others. In my younger days I remember reading about John Wesley, who preached an average of three sermons a day and is estimated to have traveled over 100,000 miles (on horseback!) in his lifetime to preach the gospel. What a great hero of the faith! So I chose Wesley as my internal standard for what it meant to be a radical Christian. If I was really sold out to God and wanted to meet God’s standards, I should pray as much as Wesley, serve with as much energy, and have the same kind of impact.
After several years of condemnation, it finally dawned on me that God never created me to be John Wesley. I didn’t have his energy, his personality or his famously-devout upbringing—and I didn’t have to. What a relief! I only have the abilities I was born with and the background I was born into, and my assignment is to make the most of that. The only way to surpass Wesley is to become more of what I was uniquely created to be than Wesley did—and only God can really measure that.
Tony Stoltzfus is a master coach, author and coach trainer and director of the Leadership Metaformation Institute. A presentation of a thorough, practical toolkit for coaching Christian leaders to discover their identity can be found in his book the Christian Life Coaching Handbook.