The apostle Paul received his salvation and calling before many of his countrymen, the Jews. It was a great thing for him to be called and used by God because many people believed in the Lord Jesus Christ because of his obedience to that call. And yet, in one way in particular Paul grieved – over the lost souls of his countrymen who did not yet believe. He was chosen, on the team, and yet he looked back with deep sadness at those he loved who did not also believe. Christians whose families have not also become united in belief can empathize with Paul. There’s a division and a sadness that doesn’t go away until loved ones come to faith in Christ.
Often, people want to be first out of selfish ambition and an exaggerated sense of self importance. That’s just human nature, but it’s not a godly attitude. Ambition, on the other hand, is a good thing when kept in balance. The opposite of ambition could be viewed as laziness, and that’s not a good thing. Prayerful ambition, keeping the needs of others in mind, even first, will help guard against failure in the very things we ought to be successful in.
3 John 1:9-10 I wrote something to the church; but Diotrephes, who loves to be first among them, does not accept what we say. For this reason, if I come, I will call attention to his deeds which he does, unjustly accusing us with wicked words; and not satisfied with this, he himself does not receive the brethren, either, and he forbids those who desire to do so and puts them out of the church.
Ever noticed how people are often slow to line up at the buffet – because no one seems to want to be first in line? Then, when someone finally goes ahead, the line quickly forms because no one wants to be last in line, either.
Sometimes it’s uncomfortable, or even scary to be first – but someone has to lead, or set a good example for others to follow, or be the first to stand up for what’s right in a difficult situation. Fear of what others may think – or even do – can be a huge hindrance to godly boldness. Paul asked others to pray for him, that he might be bold in the preaching of the gospel. And he later was able to say that he had not shrank back from declaring the whole purpose of God among them.
Acts 20:26-27 "Therefore, I testify to you this day that I am innocent of the blood of all men. "For I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole purpose of God.
I plan to write more on this theme because I find that the bible has a lot to say about ‘being first.’ Meantime, here’s a parting thought: Keeping Jesus ‘first’ will help keep all the other ‘firsts’ in my life in proper order and balance, and it will ensure I find the plan of God for my own life.
Job 42:1-2 Then Job answered the LORD and said, "I know that You can do all things, And that no purpose of Yours can be thwarted.
[ALL SCRIPTURES NASB]