Go for Third Place!
As a kid, reading was not a favorite pastime. In fact, I detested it and avoided it at all costs. But because I was obsessed with sports, I couldn’t wait to read the book, I Am Third, written by the famous Hall of Fame football player Gale Sayers. But I was both disappointed and surprised by the book. Disappointed because it hardly mentioned football, but surprised that it was still incredibly attention grabbing. Brian’s Song, the film based on the book, was the first movie that moved me to tears. Dr. James Dobson, founder of Focus on the Family, often writes about the “I Am Third” approach to life as well: God first, others second, myself third.
We live in a world where the “I Am Third” approach to life is totally misaligned with the flood of “I am First” or “I am the One and Only” messages we hear from the media, our government, the news from Wall Street to the local nightly news, TV programs, movies, songs, and all advertising. “Have it your way” … “Because I’m worth it” … ”You deserve a break today” … “I need it” … ”Me first” … ”My way or the highway” … ”It’s all about you.” In fact, the “Me Generation” label was given by the media and sociologists to describe anyone born in the ‘70s, ‘80s and ‘90s.
These messages are endless. We are bombarded from every direction as well as from the most dangerous source of all … inside ourselves. Our flesh constantly demands “ME FIRST!” from the time we are babes crying for milk to this morning when we “cried” for our morning coffee. We want our agendas and needs met NOW! In today’s Scripture, Jesus clearly identifies our first obligation … to follow Him. And to do so we must deny ourselves.
Satan gets us to believe that we will suffer when we follow Jesus. His lie is that being a Christian is all about sacrificing, giving up pleasure, and being persecuted. But I know from my own experience that my worst suffering occurred when I followed my desires and placed myself on top of the totem pole of worship. The list of sufferings I endured when I was looking out for myself first was endless – insecurity, anxiety, neediness, impulsivity, procrastination, irritability, rejection, shortsightedness. But when following Christ, the fruit of the Spirit is our reward and all suffering is healed and fades away.
Today, observe how many times you place yourself first instead of second or, ideally, third. Try to put into practice the concept of God first, others second, self third. When we talk about third, it’s a healthy third in which you care for yourself in a positive way, not as a “martyr.“ You will find much more satisfaction living this way instead of defaulting to your natural instinct to worship yourself and your own agenda. Whether you put yourself third or you always put yourself first is your decision, so choose well.
O Father, I hear You inviting me to follow You and live a life of self-denial. I want to make You the Lord of my life. Some days I get tired and lazy and just look out for my own comfort. Strengthen me to make better decisions, and to be a better steward of my activities so I can see Your will more clearly. I pray, Father, that You fill me with Your Holy Spirit to help me live in obedience to You and in loving service to others. I pray in the name of the one who denied Himself for me, Jesus Christ; and all God’s children said – AMEN!
Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul? For the Son of Man is going to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay each person according to what he has done. “ Matthew 16:24-27
And Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, “You lack one thing: go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” Mark 10:21
One’s pride will bring him low, but he who is lowly in spirit will obtain honor. Proverbs 29:23