Chapter Nine

What Great Thing Can I Do For God?

Every Christian with a sensitive heart wants to do something great for God. Tenderhearted appreciation and deep-flowing affection for God and Christ produce a natural desire to do something great for God. This appreciation rises from many blessings: forgiveness received, release from guilt, the sense of peace with God, and the joy of knowing who one is and why one is living. Words are inadequate to express the depth of this appreciation. This burning, inexpressible sense of appreciation makes one yearn to do something special for God.

The desire to do a great thing for God is intensified by the seeming insignificance of what he is doing for God. Nothing he can do seems sufficiently important to show his gratitude. Nothing he does produces significant changes or benefits for God. He is powerless to change the world, society, or even his own community. All he does seems to be so little for so much received.

The desire to do something great for God is both good and dangerous. In many ways it is a good desire. There is spiritual benefit in being sensitive to the Lord's love and care, in knowing one's blessings, and in feeling the debt of gratitude. Such sensitivity generates a natural love for God and creates willing responsiveness to God. The finest motives for service and obedience are produced by such sensitivity.

To realize one's indebtedness to the Lord is a blessing. Proper attitudes and feelings for the Lord are more easily produced when one is aware of his indebtedness. The knowledge of undeserved blessings is effective protection against arrogance, pride, and stubbornness. Christians with this heart are rarely hostile toward or resentful of God.

The desire to do something great can result in a life of Christian service. Christians involved in the Lord's work on a continuing basis are self-motivated, steadfast, and dependable. They have an obvious, deep appreciation for Christ. They do not serve because they have to but because they want to serve.

The desire to do something great for the Lord can also be dangerous. One can feel anything he can do is insignificant, unimportant, and worthless to God. He can feel incapable of doing anything genuinely meaningful. Because he wants to do something great but is convinced he cannot, he can easily become a defeatist who possesses a terrible spiritual self-image.

Defining A "Great Thing"
Most Christians are certain they never have done anything great for God. If asked if they have done something great, most might reply, "I have never given Him an expensive gift. I have never been an elder, preacher, or missionary. Nothing significant in the world has changed because of me. No, I have done nothing which could be classified as great."

What properly can be classified as a "great thing"? What makes an act or deed a "great thing"? How are "great things" distinguished from "insignificant things"? Is it a matter of results? Is it the magnitude of the deed? Is it the impact the deed has on society? Is it measured in continuing influence? Is it determined by the number of people affected? Is it a matter of the changes which result from the deed?

In the New Testament, who did great things for Christ? If Christians made a list, almost everyone would include Paul, Peter, John, Barnabas, Timothy, and Titus. Most lists would be surprisingly short.

Christians need to be certain they properly define a "great thing." Make a list of those who did "great things" for Jesus. The list definitely would include the Apostles. While they would be a unanimous choice, virtually nothing is known about the lives and deeds of most of the Apostles. Apollos, the eloquent preacher, would be on the list. However, not one sermon of this dynamic preacher is preserved. Luke, the author of a gospel and Acts and a missionary companion of Paul's, would be on the list. Yet, little is known about what he did and where he served. So many names associated with greatness are of Christians about whom little is known.

Examples of Greatness
In contrast, consider people Jesus called great. In Matthew 8:5-13 Jesus met a Roman Centurion whose name is unknown. He came to beg Jesus to heal a sick, suffering servant. When Jesus agreed to go with him to the servant, the officer begged Jesus not to come to his house because he felt unworthy for Jesus to enter his home. If Jesus would merely speak the work, he knew his servant would be healed. Jesus said, "I have not found so great faith, no not in Israel." While his name is unknown, the greatness of his faith has lived for almost two thousand years. All he did was express complete confidence in the full power and authority of Jesus.

In Matthew 15:21-28 a Canaanitish woman begged Jesus to heal her daughter. He refused to hear her pleas. Finally, because her pleas disturbed the disciples, they begged Jesus to send her away. He declared a hard, stern fact: he was sent only to the lost of Israel. When the woman continued reverencing him and pleading, Jesus told her bluntly it was not proper to give the children's bread to the dogs. She replied, "Even the dogs eat of the crumbs which fall from the master's table." Jesus then responded, "O woman, great is thy faith: be it done unto thee even as thou wilt." Except for this incident, the woman is unknown. Yet, the greatness of her faith is known two thousand years later.

In Mark 12:41-44 Jesus watched those making contributions to the temple treasury. Some of the rich gave large, impressive sums. A widow passed by and gave two mites, approximately a penny. While Jesus made no comment about the gifts of the rich, he said this widow gave more than all the rest. They gave of their profits: she gave her whole living. Not one name of the rich contributors is known, nor the amount he gave. Every child in Bible class knows the widow who gave a penny. The widow who gave a penny taught the unforgettable lesson on giving and generosity, not the wealthy contributors. In Jesus' eyes, what the widow did was truly great.

Many did small things which were great in God's eyes. Most Christians know Dorcus (Acts 9:36-43). She was so loved and appreciated that upon her death friends hurriedly walked from Joppa to Lydda to beg Peter to come. Who was this woman? What did she do to cause others to seek earnestly her resurrection? She made clothes for the widows of her community.

Onesimus is the central figure of the small book of Philemon. What great thing did he do to cause an Apostle to write a letter in his behalf, a letter which is Scripture? He was a runaway slave who fled to Rome. He happened to find the imprisoned Paul, his Christian master's friend. He cared for Paul's physical needs and was converted to Christ. Paul so appreciated Onesimus' service that he sent Onesimus back to Philemon declaring he was to be received as a Christian brother. His great thing was his service to Paul.

By most people's standards, Dorcas and Onesimus did nothing significant, earthshaking, nor of lasting importance. By God's standards, their deeds were of such significance that their names will never die.

Consider the memorable characters of Jesus' parables. Who are the inspiring, heart-touching characters who created unforgettable impressions? Were they kings or people of noble birth, of wealth, and of power? The unforgettable characters are a shepherd who searched for one lost sheep, a prodigal son who returned home, a Samaritan who helped an injured Jew, and a widow who pled with an unrighteous judge.

God's Definition
Obviously, the Lord's definition of a great thing and people's common definition of a great thing are in distinct contrast. With the Lord, anyone, regardless of economic condition or social status, is capable of doing a great thing. Every Christian needs to understand that any Christian can do something great for God. Any Christian can do great things which urgently need to be done.

By God's definition living a consistent, godly life is a great thing. Controlling the mind, the tongue, and the body and using each for righteousness is greatness. Few Christians present God this gift.

Being a person of compassion is a great thing. Helping people instead of condemning them is a rare quality of greatness. Feeling for people rather than being disgusted with them was a quality of Jesus' greatness.

Trusting God with one's life and future is a great thing. Having the faith to live today fully and to trust God with tomorrow is greatness. Trusting God's promises with full confidence is greatness. Serving the Lord with assurance rather than wasting life in worry is greatness. These are uncommon qualities of greatness.

Forgiveness is a great thing. It is greatness to refuse grudges, bitterness, and hostility a place in the heart, or to possess a love which hurt cannot overshadow. To use forgiveness to build a future with those who have been offensive is greatness measured by Jesus' example and image.

The list of great things is almost endless: mercy, kindness, unselfish service, and steadfastness with all their kindred feelings, attitudes, and acts. If one doubts the greatness of these qualities, do two things: note the value God and Christ place on each of them in the New Testament; note how few people become a person possessing those qualities.

Jesus declared those faithful in little would be faithful in much (Luke 16:10). Doing God's great things prepares a person to do the things Christians consider great. Great servants of God are built through years of doing small things of true greatness.

Imagine all the happenings in the early church people would thrill to know. What was Peter's most spectacular miracle? What was Paul's largest audience? What was Apollos' greatest sermon? What congregation had the greatest number of baptisms? What were the most phenomenal deeds of the Apostles? All such questions are fascinating but unanswerable.

With all the fascinating material to write about, the Holy Spirit preserved the deeds of nameless people who did far less to change the world than any Apostle: a centurion who wanted a servant healed, a Gentile woman begging for her daughter's health, and a widow who gave a penny. The names of a woman who clothes widows and a runaway slave were preserved. Stories about a rebellious son who left home, a despised Samaritan who helped a Jew, and a widow who worried a judge were preserved. Why were these things preserved for future generations? In God's eyes, these represented a greatness He did not want forgotten, a greatness to be preserved until the end of time. This is the greatness within the capability of all.

Do something great for God. Be a devout, committed Christian. Live for the Lord daily. Fulfill each day's opportunities without considering how big or little the deeds are. Years of such living will result in true greatness by God's definition.


  1. Why do sensitive-hearted Christians want to do something great for God?
  2. Why is it a blessing for a person to realize his indebtedness to God?
  3. Illustrate the fact that the desire to do something great for God is the springboard for a life of Christian service.
  4. How can the desire to do something great for God be dangerous?
  5. Why is it difficult to distinguish between a "great thing" and an "insignificant thing"?
  6. How much is known about people such as the Apostles who did great things?
  7. Name three people Jesus said did something great and tell what each did.
  8. What is noteworthy about Dorcas and Onesimus? What lesson about greatness is to be learned from them?
  9. Who are the most memorable characters in Jesus' parables? Discuss what each did.
  10. Explain this statement: God's definition of a great thing and people's common definition of a great thing are in distinct contrast.
  11. Discuss some great things all people are capable of giving God.
  12. If a person wants to do something great for God, how should he begin?

Thought Questions

  1. What is God's definition of a great thing?
  2. Why is there so much difference between God's definition and people's definition?
  3. What advice would you give a person who wants to do something great for God?
  4. What is the most important lesson in this chapter?
transcribed by Donna Davis
Copyright © 1983, David Chadwell
Chapter Eight Chapter Ten
table of contents

 Link to a summary of other books by David Chadwell

 Link to   David Chadwell Home Page

From Prodigal To Priest is copyrighted material. Everyone is granted permission to download any or all of the text. Permission is granted to duplicate the material for class studies or small group studies. Permission is granted to duplicate the material to share with others. Permission is not granted to use this material for profit. The specific purpose of placing the book's full text on this Web site is to make the material available to as many people as possible at no cost.
If you read this book, would you e-mail me at stating that you read it? If you share it or use it in a class situation, would you e-mail me and inform me about the use you made of the material? If enough people read the book or make use of the book through Internet access, we will place the full text of other books that I have written on our Web site.
David Chadwell