The two teens were locked in a grueling wrestling match, copious drops of sweat pouring from both of their brows. It was the state championship and these two gladiators had outlasted all other athletes. The match was tied and it came down to these final minutes. As each awaited the referee to begin their last period, the wrestling coach for one of the players yelled out.
“There is no prize for second place!”
Some scattered boos and hisses were heard and several audience members dismissively shook their heads. A few seconds later, there was a quick takedown and the match ended. The player whose coach yelled the inflammatory remark held up his trophy while his defeated opponent slunked off.
There is some truth to this statement but it is entirely dependent upon the activity. For example, in golf, one measure of accomplishment is the winning of one of the four major golf tournaments (The Masters, U.S. Open, the British Open, and the P.G.A. Championship). Jack Nicklaus, still acknowledged as one of the greatest golfers who ever played, holds the record of most wins in the majors with 18. These are very impressive numbers but do not reveal the true greatness of Nicklaus who also came in second an even more amazing 19 times in these same majors. If the eventual winner faltered for just a stroke or two, Nicklaus may have won 37 majors!
The world may sneer at someone who comes in second but it does not mean failure. In fact as Jack Nicklaus demonstrated, a second place finish may encourage a greater performance that leads to success. In God’s Kingdom, He turns our understanding of this in a most unexpected manner.
John the Baptist was the first prophet that God sent to speak to the people of Israel in nearly four hundred years. As one might imagine, there was tremendous excitement surrounding his appearance. In fact, many thought he was the Messiah. John was adamant to tell all who came to hear him and be baptized that he was not the Messiah but was sent by God to prepare the hearts of the people to receive the true Messiah, Jesus Christ. When Jesus Christ began His ministry, even some of John’s disciples left him to join Jesus. He boldly declared the following statement to his remaining disciples who were perturbed by the sudden change of events.
He must become greater and greater, and I must become less and less.
John 3:30 (NLT)
John had no problem placing himself second to His Lord and Savior. This was his God-given task, to lead as many souls to confess and repent of their sins and accept Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. John’s selfless actions were a direct result in trusting in God’s promises for a better life, even if meant that his own life would be cut short by execution for his obedience to preach the Truth.
The world may give all of their accolades to the competitor who comes in first. In God’s Kingdom, our expectations are reversed and he who is first may be last and the last may become first.
Love and trust the Lord; seek His will in your life.