What is greatness in God’s sight? Too often I wish for my children, (and even for myself), greatness that is praised in the world’s eyes: high grades, academic accolades, advanced degrees, leadership positions, world-shaping achievements, visible fame, etc. This has been a temptation in every age. George Whitfield had far-ranging, ministry-oriented ambitions for his son at his birth. But when the baby died at only four months old, Whitfield was jarred into reconsidering his hopes. As David Campbell explains in his article “Ambitious for Your Children?”, Whitfield’s application of a particular promise made by God to Zechariah about his son, John, was misapplied.
Campbell’s helpful lesson from history is a powerful corrective for parents in every age, who are tempted to wish for their children a greatness defined by the world’s standards. John’s greatness was anything but worldly. He says,
In John’s case, the promised greatness may be traced in his personal godliness, his faithfulness to his God-given task, his courage in doing the hard thing (reproving Herod for his sin), and his humility before Christ. Not the kind of things, it has to be said, that enter into the world’s estimation of greatness. But very precious in the eyes of God.
How should we frame this biblical prayer that our children be “great in the sight of the Lord”? Campbell exhorts believing parents saying,
Our children, it is true to say, may have no great part to play in the unfolding history of the kingdom of God. No one may write a biography of them after they are gone. They may never serve on the mission-field, never hold office in the church, they may have no outstanding gifts. But if they have a heart for God, serve him faithfully, have the courage to do the right, and are clothed in godly humility, they will be great in the Lord’s sight. And nothing counts for more than that! Let this, then, be our chief ambition for our children. As we pray for them, let these be the things we ask the Lord for above everything else. Unbelievers may not think very much of our children for having them. God, for his part, will think the world of them.
Enjoy the surprising account of Whitfield and the greater context of these concluding remarks by reading the entire article here.
Feeling discouraged in your failure to change the world? Here’s encouragement for faithfulness in the ordinary: “To Be a Diaper Changer”