The term “GOAT” stands for “greatest of all-time.” Usain Bolt is the fastest running human to ever live. He competed in the last three olympics, each time racing three separate events, and each race and every olympics he took home the gold medal. He currently holds world records in the 100m, 200m, and 4x100m. Michael Phelps is the greatest olympian of all-time. He has won 28 olympic medals, with a staggering 23 of them being gold (perspective: the next closest individual in olympic gold medal count has 9). Phelps also holds seven world records. These two are rightly considered the greatest of all-time in their sport.
Everyone strives to be the greatest at something. Whether it’s a sport we’re passionate about, excelling in school, arts, or even video games - we don’t want to be the 2,078th best - we desire to be the very best. But, in the end, what would “greatest of all-time” status actually do for us? To be the best, or one of the very best at what we do, in the grand scheme of things - what can our greatness do for us?
In Matthew 19:16-20, we read about the interaction between Jesus and the rich young ruler. This rich young dude, in worldly terms, must have been doing something right. In his youth and wildly successful to be known as the "rich young man," I’m sure he had a little “GOAT” complex. This man asked Jesus how to get an eternal relationship with God spent in paradise, in efforts to avoid an eternity of punishment in Hell. Jesus said, for starters, do what God wants you to do - and proceeds to list off six of the ten commandments.
The rich young guy tells Jesus that he’s got the commandments covered (pride check?), but he realized what he was doing with his life was not quite good enough - he felt as though he should be doing more. He asked Jesus, “what do I still lack?” Jesus, in his perfect wisdom knowing this man’s heart, told him to "sell everything you own - and then you can follow me.” Because the man loved money more than he loved God, he walked away sad knowing he couldn’t give it up. The very thing that he was great at (earning money, being rich) could buy him all the temporary happiness he could ever want, but it was at that point he knew that his greatness couldn’t buy his way to Heaven.
Jesus essentially told that man “no matter how much success you have, how good you think you are… it doesn’t matter. You must put me first in your life to truly follow me.” Christians are called to put Jesus first, above all else. So to apply this illustration to our lives - would you be willing to give up what you’re passionate about to follow Jesus? What are you great at that you love doing - is it sports? Would you be willing to give up soccer, baseball, or basketball if Jesus told you to? Would you be willing to give up surfing for Jesus? Could you let go of your i-Phone, Instagram, and Pokemon Go if Jesus wanted you to?
These things (sports, i-phones, etc.) are not bad things - this is purely a priority issue. In your life, do those things have a higher priority than Jesus? If you can’t answer that you’d be willing to give them up for Him, than your response may be similar to the rich young man. Jesus made His point crystal clear in John 14:6 when He said,
“I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”
Jesus is the true “greatest of all-time” and He is the only way to salvation and to an eternal relationship with God in Heaven. The things that we’re great at, that we’re passionate about, trying to be a “good” person, and just trying to follow the rules will never be good enough. They can never save you for what truly matters - eternal life after death. Your greatness can’t save you, only Jesus can save. Bolt and Phelps are the fastest humans on land and in water, but their GOAT status will mean nothing to God in the end - He looks at where our hearts are at.
To clear up any potential confusion, this does not mean that we have to give up everything that we love to become a monk for Jesus. God has given us passions and talents for us to use them the best we possibly can. But are we using these things with heavenly motivations to bring glory to God, or are we just looking for all the glory ourselves? So, here’s the hard question: Who is your god? What is your top priority in life? Is Jesus your top priority, or is He just in the mix somewhere between sports, school, Instagram, family, and friends? Is He the rightful top spot that not only He deserves, but requires? Or does He get lost in the shuffle of your life?
The rich young man knew his top priority was his own greatness, success, and money - and in the end, he was unfit to follow Jesus. Are you willing to give up what you truly love to follow Jesus? Not that you have to, that’s not the point, but would you? How surrendered to Jesus are you? If you are realizing that Jesus doesn’t have the rightful top slot of your life, ask for forgiveness and ask Him to re-shift your priorities. Seek to make Him the overall #1 in your life, because God doesn’t care about your earthly greatness, only where your heart is at and if it is locked in to Jesus. Or if you realize for the first time that you do need to be saved, don’t wait! Accept this free gift of salvation by asking Him for the forgiveness of your sins and surrendering your life to Him. Because if you do, it means an eternity in perfect paradise with an infinitely loving God, and it means here on earth, you truly have purpose, you have comfort, peace that surpasses all understanding, and many more promises that you can hold on to!
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