One language usage in the Bible that keeps recurring in reference to the character and actions of people are the three states of an adjective – positive, comparative, superlative. The words most used to denote one of these states are: more, most; good, better, best; mighty, mightier; great, greater, greatest; holy, holier, holiest; less, lesser, least; pure, purer, purest.
A few other forms are also used to show the relative degree of an attribute or state, such as ‘well’ (‘well-pleased’), ‘very’ (‘very good’); ‘much’ (‘much afraid’), ‘greatly’ (‘greatly beloved’), etc.
When these words are used in reference to a man or woman, they show to what extent this person is esteemed, either in the eyes of the people, or of God. Here are a few passages that show that:
for your daughter-in-law, who loves you, who is better to you than seven sons Ruth 4:15
Ruth is not just as good as seven sons in the estimate of Naomi’s friends; she is better than all of them put together.
And he said, “O man greatly beloved, fear not! Peace be to you; be strong, yes, be strong!” Dan 10:19
Daniel is not merely a man beloved of God, he is someone greatly beloved in his Lord’s eyes.
Now, if you are a Christian who desires to serve God to the best of your capability – to your utmost for his highest glory – there are two teachings of Jesus Christ that should constantly inspire and guide all your thoughts and efforts.
In the first teaching, Jesus describes two categories of people who will be in his Kingdom. One category are those who taught others that they are not under the law but under grace and therefore there is no more requirement for them to keep the minor statutes and precepts given to Israel through Moses. Jesus said that this category of servants will be called ‘the least’ in the Kingdom of God.
Do not think that I came to do away with or undo the Law [of Moses] or the [writings of the] Prophets; I did not come to destroy but to fulfill. For I assure you and most solemnly say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke [of the pen] will pass from the Law until all things [which it foreshadows] are accomplished. So whoever breaks one of the least [important] of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, will be called least [important] in the kingdom of heaven Mt 5:18-19 AMP
But there is another category of people who will be called ‘great’ in the Kingdom.
but whoever does and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. Mt 5:19
In the second teaching, Jesus says the Kingdom of God is like a nobleman traveling to a far country Lk 19, My 25. Before he goes, he delivers a mina each (worth about three months’ salary) to his ten servants. On his return, he rewards each servant according to how well he used the money. The one who made the most profitable use of the mina is made ruler over ten cities, and the one who earned half as much is made ruler over five cities.
We are now not concerned about the one who did not earn anything. This message is for servants of God doing their Lord’s work faithfully on earth – some doing their ten minas’ worth of work, and the others half as much.
Here’s another analogy of how a Christian servant’s work will be evaluated by God:
The one who plants and the one who waters have one purpose, and they will each be rewarded according to their own labor…I laid a foundation as a wise builder, and someone else is building on it. But each one should build with care…If anyone builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, their work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each person’s work. If what has been built survives, the builder will receive a reward. 1 Cor 3:8-14 NIV
Again, let us not concern ourselves in this message about the builders who used combustible material such as wood or straw to build their ministry. Let us focus on those three categories of servants whose work survived the fire.
There are Christians today who, in the sight of God are doing their work with gold, some have work that is ‘silver’ in God’s sight, and the work of some others he looks upon as precious stones.
Now the most crucial question every servant of Christ should often ponder in his service to God is, ‘Am I going to be called ‘the least’, or ‘great’ by Jesus? Am I building the work of God with the best material or the second-best material?
Can we really know in which category of faithful servants we are likely to be classified according to our present works? I think we can. At the end of his life, Paul was confident he had done his very best, and that henceforth he could look forward to receiving the crown from his Lord.
For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing. 2 Tm 4:6-8
Based on Christ’s own words, we can be confident we will be called ‘great’ when he comes if we love and keep and teach God’s every little and great commandment in the entirety of his Word.
We know we can not only be in the category of servants who will be called great in the Kingdom, but we can also be counted among Gods’ people who will be called ‘the greatest’ if we will humble ourselves as a little child before God.
Assuredly, I say to you, unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore whoever humbles himself as this little child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. Mt 18:3-4
We can be confident we are building the Lord’s work with the best material, with gold, if we stop trying to build it ourselves and wait on the Lord in faith to provide us the gold in his own time. Any ministry that did not wait fully for the Lord’s direction and timing can be built only with lesser materials. How many great ministries have I seen which, when the fire of testing came, burnt to cinders! One of them badly burnt me personally as well.
There is one other way, which indeed is the surest way to know if we will receive a good resurrection or a better resurrection Heb 11:35, or if God will call us good, great or greatest, or if at the end of our ministry on earth, our work for God will continue to go on unaffected come inferno or inundation, or if it will be totally or partially consumed when the fiery testing comes.
And that way is to simply go to God on your knees as often as you remember and pray fervently as the psalmist did:
Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. Point out anything in me that offends you, and lead me along the path of everlasting life. Ps 139:23-24 NLT
God’s utmost desire, like that of any good human father, is for you and me to seek from him what’s the very best, and not what’s just good or better; to ask him to mold you so he can call you not just great, but the greatest; that you rely on him like a weaned child relies on his mother for everything you desire to do for him; and that what you do for him will last forever like the mansions in his kingdom.
You would often meditate at night and search your own heart, and implore God to show you if there is any area in your life where you may be presently doing only half as much as you could – or even only 90 percent of what you really could do if you put your whole heart into it. You would cry out to God to reveal to you any shortcoming in your life that may be causing you to build your work with silver and precious stones, instead of gold. You would diligently ask him to equip you with qualities that will qualify you to eventually rule over the maximum number of cities…to your Father’s utmost delight.
May our Lord give you the assurance every day of your life that you are loving God to your utmost, and that you are showing your love for him by doing the utmost you can to share God’s love and blessings with your neighbor.
Then one of the scribes came, and…asked Him, “Which is the first commandment of all?” Jesus answered him, “The first of all the commandments is: ‘Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with ALL your heart, with ALL your soul, with ALL your mind, and with ALL your strength.’ This is the first commandment. And the second, like it, is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” Mk 12:28-31. Emphasis mine.
Don’t settle for kingship of just five cities in the Kingdom of God. Go for the utmost God is willing to grant you. And he is willing to grant you more than you can ever ask or think Eph 3:20.