A View of El Capitan from the Yosemite Valley (Photo taken by author)

It is a trait we all admire.  When we observe it in others we stand in awe, marveling at their abilities.  We are drawn to those who excel in remarkable ways. When someone rises above the mediocrity of the masses we label their accomplishments and achievements with this word! Entire aisles of most bookstores are dedicated to helping us achieve this word in our lives.

The word is… greatness!

We seek greatness in different ways, and yet, every one of us aspires to it in some way or another.  Some of us seek it in many different areas, while others focus the pursuit of greatness in the narrowest of niches.  Some seek it at work or in our hobbies. Others seek it in our families, relationships and neighborhoods. Our obsession runs deep and seems to transcend stereotypical biases and pre-conceived notions we may have about ourselves and others.

As I write these words, I am laying on the edge of a beautiful grassy meadow in the Yosemite Valley in California. Tall pine trees reach towards the sky all around me,  providing sanctuary for hundreds of birds, each filling the air with soft, serene songs. Many of the trees are well over 100 feet tall and appear to be hundreds of years old. And yet, these trees seem minuscule in comparison to the monolithic granite cliffs that inexplicably and majestically rise from the valley floor on the each side of the meadow.  The tall grass, sways softly in the warm breeze and seems to bow in sense of awe and wonder at the awesome and imposing presence of El Capitan, on the other side of the meadow.

El Capitan is a granite formation that rises, almost completely vertically, to a height of nearly 3,000 feet above the valley floor and is one of the most iconic rock faces in the world. From nearly a mile away, I can’t get a picture as it fills the entire screen on my iPhone. According to the National Parks Service, over 4 million people from all over the globe come to Yosemite each year to look at this geological wonder and its counterpart Half Dome, another majestic cliff at the other end of the valley. Rock climbers from around the world take pilgrimages to this valley in order to test themselves against this rock, seeking to traverse and scale thousands of feet up its formidable and foreboding walls.

For the past half hour I have been watching two climbers in bright orange shirts inch their way up the wall. So small in comparison, they are like grains of sand on an otherwise unsoiled carpet, only noticeable with the most focused of concentration.

When a visitor to Yosemite first drives into the valley, they are afforded a spectacular view of truly epic proportions. The vista when you arrive only partially captures the sweeping vastness of the land and yet it literally takes your breath away. Yosemite is unquestionably great. Everywhere you look you see greatness. Spectacular and enduring views seem endless, otherworldly and unreal. The landscape almost seems like a scene from a movie, developed using computer graphic imagine, that couldn’t possibly be real because it is simply too amazing. It is a unique, one of a kind, bucket list sort of place that everyone should try and visit at least once in their life.

Did you know, that when God created cliffs and valleys of Yosemite, He thought is was pretty good? In fact, immediately after He finished forming the earth, the continents, the oceans, Yosemite and the rest of the natural wonders on earth, God tells us exactly what He was thinking. In Genesis 1:10 we hear His first response to all of this when it says, “And God saw that is was good.”

He follows up the formation of the world with creating the sun, the moon, the stars, plants, birds, fish and animals. All of these creations He also declared to be good. Really? After making all of this, he only thinks it is just “good?”

A few verses later we discover why He seems to be underselling the accomplishment of forming El Capitan and all the other beautiful and amazing aspects of creation. On the sixth day of God’s creative explosion, He makes man! Unlike everything else He created up until that point, God doesn’t call call it “good.”  Instead, He says something He had never said before. God steps back surveys everything he had done up to that point, and in regards to man He says, “it was very good” (Genesis 1:31).

In the moment God created humans, he not only identifies them as the crowning achievement of creation, but also placed with in humanity the potential for greatness. He identified in his creation of Adam a potential unparalleled in all creation.  He goes on to entrust Adam, and subsequently all the humans who would follow him, with the authority to rule over, to enjoy and take care of His creation.

Greatness lies in you. It is sewn into the fabric of your being. It is imprinted in your DNA. It is not something you can manufacture any more than the grass on the Yosemite meadows could choose rise up and tower over the granite cliffs above. The greatness in you is placed there by God and can only be unleashed when you step into the purpose, design and intention that He had for you before you were born. The Psalmist captured this when he wrote in Psalm 139:13 “I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well” (ESV).  Another translation makes it even more personal, “Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex! Your workmanship is marvelous–how well I know it” (NLT).  In this passage we see God described as an artist, laboring, with painstaking attention over the details of our lives.  The God of the universe, crafted you and your story with the focus and attention that Michelangelo gave to the paintings on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel or his magnificent statue of David.

You hold inestimable value that can not be quantified.  The Apostle Paul put it this way, “For we are God’s masterpiece” Ephesians 2:10 (NLT). In God’s eyes, you are a masterpiece, His crowning achievement.  Think about that for a moment.  The very same God who created the heavens and the earth, declares over you, that you are the very pinnacle of His creation. Your story has greatness in it, because it is being co-written by God.

For we are God’s masterpiece” Ephesians 2:10

In Jeremiah 1:5 the prophet shares a similar sentiment, “before I formed you in the womb I knew you.” Nothing about you is an accident. Your life was  intentionally contemplated and thought out before you were conceived. You were meticulously crafted and intentionally wired the way you are, by God from the very beginning of your existence.

When we admire the greatness achieved by heroes, athletes and celebrities, we often forget that just as each of them has cultivated, nurtured and developed the incredible potential God placed in them, we were also designed by God with greatness to be released.  Unfortunately, too often we seek to emulate the greatness of others, and in so doing, achieve a shadow of what God has uniquely placed in us. God waiting with great anticipation for us to develop and embrace the gifts and talents he placed within us. When we choose to chase the greatness God intended for others we stray away from the potential for greatness God uniquely placed in each of us. We have a gravitational like propensity to compare ourselves to others. Throughout the Bible and annuals of history, men and women just like you and I, have wrestled with this reality.

Comparing ourselves to others, gets us into trouble every time.  It tends to lead us to seeking what God has assigned for their lives instead of pursuing His intentions for our life. However, we can learn much from the choices and habits of ordinary people who have sought to unleash the potential God assigned to them.  We can seek to learn from the actions of others and apply similar disciplines in our own lives.

A few months ago I wrote a series of posts that detailed thirteen specific choices that changed the trajectory of the lives of ordinary people. Each of these choices came from the characters in the Old Testament book of Ezra. These choices not only launched them on a journey that unleashed their own potential, but also changed the course of history for their nation and the world. The willingness of these ordinary men and women to cultivate the potential placed in them, led to the restoration of the glory of God throughout the known world at the time and the impact has rippled through history.

The book of Ezra is a small, seldom studied book in the Old Testament, and yet in it we encounter many ordinary people who made extraordinary decisions. These decisions are simple enough for us to choose to make today, and yet are powerful enough to change the course of our lives as they did for those men and women thousands of years ago.

God has Placed the Potential for Greatness in You

God has placed the potential for greatness in you. He has a unique and amazing journey for you to travel. If you have not read the already, look through the list of choices, and identify one or two you need to read more about. Read the post and the scripture that correlates. As you explore the choices made by the people we encounter in Ezra, I challenge you to make the same decisions in your own life. Let’s stop comparing ourselves to others and decide to unleash the greatness God placed in us.

Choices That Unleash Greatness



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