When I was a young man, just 20 years old, I hadn’t yet been to seminary or finished my undergraduate degree when I first began serving a small, country church. I knew nothing about preaching, so I found a few preachers I liked and started reading their books to learn a little theology and also to get ideas for my sermons! J. Wallace Hamilton was one of the preachers that inspired me. His sermon titled “Drum-Major Instinct” had a huge impact on me as a young preacher. The sermon title came from Hamilton’s thought that each of us has a drum major instinct; you want to do well, you want to see your name on the diploma, to hear your name called, you want to be the one who sings the solo, you want to be the one who gets the lead in the play, you want people to cheer for you, to know your name, you want to feel great! There’s nothing wrong with pursuing greatness! In fact, Jesus encouraged this! Just three things I want to share with you about the pursuit of greatness.
First, Hamilton made an observation, saying “A drum-major instinct enters into everything we do. We like to do something good and we like to be praised for it. Most of us are not quite sure of ourselves or of our place in the esteem of others. We welcome praise because it re-establishes our self-esteem, it gives us a temporary lift over the low opinion we have of ourselves. The warm glow we feel when we hear ourselves applauded, when we see our names in print. It’s Vitamin A to our ego. Praise has never made anyone unhappy, we like it even when we know we don’t deserve it. We like it even when we don’t believe it and as someone has said, we dislike it only when we hear it bestowed too much on others. If a person can enjoy hearing his predecessor praised or his competitor complimented then they qualify as an authority on the doctrine of sanctification.” Isn’t it true? We all want to be praised and know we are doing great!
A few years ago, Marsha and I were visiting our daughter Kelly, son-in-law Andy and our 4 grandkids in Colorado. One evening, Parker (who was 4 at the time) was playing t-ball and Marsha went to watch him play. Marsha said she was looking out onto the field and could see that Parker wasn’t happy, she could tell something was wrong. Our son-in-law Andy was helping coach the team and went to check in with him. Andy walked over to Marsha and Kelly explaining, “Park’s not happy. He doesn’t feel like you’re watching him enough.” Marsha said, “As soon as I heard this, I lasered in on Parker! I made sure he saw me, I just kept clapping and waving. I even felt a little crazy but I wanted to make sure he knew I was watching. Sure enough when the game was over he came over to the stands and he said to Marsha,”Monnie I saw that you were watching me…” and she responded, “Yes yes I was clapping for you, you hit 3 home runs, you were great!” He just kind of puffed out his chest and said, “Thanks,” and walked off! The drum-major instinct starts at a young age! We all want to know that we’re noticed and that what we do matters and is important. We believe that every person, no matter how young, no matter how old, no matter what you do, you can live a life of meaning and significance and God can use you to make a difference in this world.
Second, do you ever think about how somebody else feels or are you solely focused on how you feel? Instead of asking, “Am I happy?” or “Am I getting what makes me feel good?” consider thinking about how somebody else’s feelings. Jesus spent His whole ministry trying to get us to take our eyes off ourselves to look around and consider the needs of others. When you consider how someone else feels, it opens you up to serve more. It doesn’t matter whether you’re the preacher or the plumber or the president, you can use your position to further your ego and a sense of self-importance or you can use your position to ask, “How can I serve and make a difference in this world?“
Third, if you are looking for the secret recipe to greatness in your life, living out of gratitude is one key ingredient! When you give thanks for what Christ has done for you and remember that YOU are forgiven, YOU are affirmed and YOU are called to greatness it changes the way you view others and the way you live. Living in gratitude for what Christ has done for you changes your perspective in the good times and bad.