As a kid, reading was not a favorite pasttime, in fact, I avoided it at all costs. But being obsessed with all things sports, when the famous football player Gale Sayers wrote I Am Third … I couldn’t wait to read it. I was both disappointed and surprised … disappointed it hardly mentioned football, but surprised that it was still incredibly attention grabbing. Brian’s Song, the film made from 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 in total misalignment with the flood of messages we hear in the media, in the news from Wall Street to government to the local nightly news, and through 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” describes anyone born in the 1970s through the 1990s.
The messages are endless. We are bombarded from every direction, and most of all, from inside ourselves. Our flesh constantly demands “ME FIRST!” from the time we are babes crying for milk, to this morning when we whined in traffic. We want our agenda and needs met NOW! In today’s Scripture, Jesus clearly tells us what our first obligation is … to follow Him. And to do so we must deny ourselves.
Satan gets us to believe we will suffer when we follow Jesus. But I know from my past that my worst suffering occurred when I followed me and placed myself on top of the totem pole of worship. Insecurity, anxiety, neediness, impulsivity, procrastination, irritability, shortsightedness, rejection … the list of sufferings I endured when I was looking out for self first was endless. When we follow Christ, the fruit of the Spirit is our reward, and all suffering is healed and fades away.
Today, observe how many times you make yourself first instead of second or ideally third. Try to put into practice the concept of God first, others second, you 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 instincts to worship yourself and your own agenda. 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 will 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. “
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.”
One’s pride will bring him low, but he who is lowly in spirit will obtain honor.