My Favorite Mistakes of 2008 – Part 1


At the end of each year, I spend time reflecting on my 11.5 months of making as many mistakes as possible. I look back upon the year that has passed and its miscalculations with a degree of glee. With a bit slight demented smile, I sit down, a pad of paper in hand, a good pen as my companion I narrow down a long list of misfires into something I can relate to others as my favorites of the year.

I say “Demented” because not all people relish the notion of seeing in positive the things we don’t do all that well. In my case, I have grown accustomed to reflecting upon this faux pas in a positive light each year. I see my misfires as opportunities for learning. These are a means for growing ever smarter, more emotionally vigilant as I move into each coming year.

This year life is no different. These are now akin to the coming year of attractions in the theater of my life. I’ve done a decent job of continuing to make a sufficient number of mistakes that provide ample opportunities to fill the pages and a few minutes of what you’re about to participate in.

Maybe we are a little bit genius in our dementia – perhaps in our capacity to look back with the flow of positivity to it, we have something going for us. It is in a positive reflection regarding mistakes that we learn our most powerful mistakes/lessons.

So for a few minutes let’s learn to sit back, listen up, and gather together to see what God has for us.

1:  I concerned myself with the notion of the small-minded idea of “Excellence” instead of pursuing what God calls  “Greatness.”

I’ve learned that as we pursue matters that begin with the notion of excellence we are in all likelihood going to talk ourselves into thinking of something that is utterly impossible for mere humans to accomplish.

Some things are attainable. Excellence is something humans talk plenty about. We chat about it as though it is something we can set our sites upon then persevere on our “To do” list then to simply get there by human effort. No so. In fact, never so. When we begin to chat about excellence and we must understand what stands behind that notion – it is a notion that appeals to our lower, broken nature.

The concept of excellence is not biblical. Instead of the “E” word we are wise to align ourselves with the biblical concept of “Greatness” – a word God repeats many times in the scriptures and holds high as a concept that describes his character and that which he calls his people to develop as we walk increasing dependence upon him.

What is greatness? It is a location in our orbit of nearness with God where we realize that our life is making a difference because we’ve done all we can do – we’ve said all we can say – we have aspired to all we can – and now all that is left to happen is for God to show up and make the ultimate difference in things. He is God and we can never fake his works. A person who attains greatness has an ever-increasing notion of the vastness of the power of God.

That’s Great

What is greatness? What does the Bible mean when it holds up the word “Greatness”? It is the quality of having an enduring life. We do what we can do in human faithfulness. We walk as disciples of Christ – little replicas of the life of Christ. We do what we are capable of doing. We lean into the strength of God with all our hearts. We have done all we can do. All that is left is to trust in God – to see God show up to do what he and he alone can do.

We know from lots of Bible promises and biblical stories that God majors in the notion of holding high the theme of showing up in the nick of time to show himself strong in our lives. When he is called upon, and when we cannot go forward but by the appearance of God himself, God loves to show up and prove himself to be all the promises in his word.

Then greatness begins to happen at the next, deeper level in our lives.

In greatness, God proves himself as the deciding factor. If God does not show up there will be no greatness. We show up in human faithfulness. Then there is the mere possibility of greatness being attained. But in the end that is still left up to God. We cannot control the will of God. God is God and we are not. We cannot force God’s hand. God will do as he pleases and only what he pleases. We can pray. We can show up on time we can do our part to be faithful. But the rest is left up to God Almighty. If God so wills greatness will occur.

The Big Picture

There is a real problem today among many, myself included, with our times of operating on a small picture of God. My challenge is the same as yours I suspect. I operate continually on a too-small picture/notion of God. It’s easy to become chummy with God and miss his grandeur. We are destined to be blown away by the amazing vast size of God on a continual basis. When I have a geeky itsy-bitsy picture of God in my mind and heart and I am operating that way in my dealings with him I run the risk of anticipating that at all times I can do things myself. I can anticipate that he will of course always do things that will cause me and my system and my church – all the works of my hands in fact – to be seen as something that is fantastic.

It doesn’t work that way folks. The way that it works is it is left to God’s hands to decide how things land. Sure, I can do things to cause a crowd to come together but that does not mean that greatness attained. I can do lots of things in an attempt to jury-rig the surrounding circumstances to make God do something that he may not desire to do. In the end, nothing will be changed whatsoever. I will have done nothing to change anything. Things will continue exactly as they were from the beginning. “Same as it ever was” as David Byrne wrote.

Excellence works that way. Excellence is an attempt to manipulate the end of things without taking into account the totality of the equation. Not greatness occurs because we operate in our strength only. My role is to give God my best, my highest then to lean back and say “God do with this what you will as you will and I will be satisfied.” He tends to take us at our word when we pray deep prayers of honesty from the heart.

continue on to Part 2, which you can view here

Steve has spoken, mentored and modeled to churches and leaders around the world with the simple message that anyone – regardless of their gifting or experience – can be involved in bringing God’s loving kindness to others. His first book, Conspiracy of Kindness has been translated into several languages with more in the works. His first book has sold over 300,000 copies. Altogether his books have sold over 500,000 copies.


  1. love you Steve, paragraph on greatness and I am being blown away daily as the Lord continues to magnify Himself in me, through me and in more incredible ways than I could ever imagine
    thanks for encouraging me these past 18 years!!

  2. My role is to give God my best, my highest then to lean back and say “God do with this what you will as you will and I will be satisfied.” He tends to take us at our word when we pray deep prayers of honesty from the heart. THANKS STEVE, AND MY PRAYER IS TO ASK GOD TO VISIT US AND INVITE US TO DO A TASK EACH DAY, OR EACH WEEK THRU THE CHURCH. I’VE DONE PLENTY OF MOVING ON AHEAD OF HIM; NOW I PRAY THAT HE WILL SHOW HIMSELF TO ME TODAY AND THAT I WILL FOLLOW. VERY HELPFUL COLUMN.

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