Keys to Living a Life of Greatness

Greatness has less to do with an individual’s circumstances and more to do with an individual’s attitude. Oliver Wendall Holmes is quoted saying, “Greatness is not where we stand, but in what direction we are moving. We must sail sometimes with the wind and sometimes against it-but sail we must, and not drift, nor lie at anchor.” Holmes is referring to the character of a person and how that character guides a person toward greatness, or away from it. It is within a person’s character that greatness resides, for it is character that serves as a bedrock to the human condition (Peteron and Seligman, 2004, p. 3).

In scripture, particularly in the Old Testament, the individuals God uses come from a variety of backgrounds: some are shepherds and others are kings, one is a prostitute (Joshua 2) while another is a queen (Esther 2), and some are successful prophets such as Samuel while others are shunned and shamed prophets like Hosea and Ezekiel.  Despite their social and economic status, the characters found in scripture have one thing in common: the desire to be obedient to God that flows from their character. Nothing of human greatness is ever accomplished without desire (Eldridge, 2001).

From the beginning of time narrative has been a part of mankind’s communication, using stories that are compelling and often spur people to action (Appleman, 2008). Through their desire and character, individuals in the Bible lived compelling lives that inspire generations of people to emulate. Without such a life, there are no glorious stories to be told. It isn’t about accomplishment, riches, or fame as much as it about faithful obedience to God and character it takes to posture one’s self in such a way (Fedler, 2006). This is why weak, powerless people with nothing often pass into oblivion.


Appleman, J. E. (2008). 10 Steps to Successful Business Writing (1st edition). Alexandria, VA: ASTD.

Eldredge, J. (2001). The Journey of Desire: Searching for the Life We’ve Only Dreamed of. Nashville, Tenn.: Thomas Nelson.

Fedler, K. D. (2006). Exploring Christian Ethics: Biblical Foundations for Morality. Louisville, Ky: Westminster John Knox Press.

Peterson, C., & Seligman, M. (2004). Character Strengths and Virtues: A Handbook and Classification (1 edition). Washington, DC : New York: American Psychological Association / Oxford University Press.

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