This seems like a pretty simple concept, putting God first, then loving others second before we think of ourselves. It’s a concept we can agree is biblical (Matthew 22:37-39), and we can easily assent to it as a great thought. But to live it out every day…now that’s a little harder. What does it look like to live this “I’m Third” mentality in our everyday lives? What does it look like in our church?
Maybe an example would be helpful. Captain Johnny Ferrier was a decorated pilot in the Air National Guard. While flying at a show one day in Dayton, Ohio in 1958, Ferrier was part of a group attempting a trick known as the “flower burst.” In the middle of the trick, however, Ferrier’s control stick jammed. He radioed in the problem and was instructed to bail out immediately. Ferrier knew that there were a great number of homes directly in his plane's path, and he refused to bail out. Captain Ferrier was able to hold onto control of the plane until the last second, and somehow found a way to land his plane in a garden, avoiding hitting any homes and hurting any people. He could have easily bailed out when instructed, and not been at fault for anything that happened. But he decided to put the lives of those people in the homes ahead of himself, even though he had never met any of them. In putting the lives of others over his own, he was able to save many, as well as himself.
How about another example. In 1910, a young woman, Anjezë (Agnes) Gonxhe Bojaxhiu, was born in Albania. By the age of 12, she had committed herself to a life of serving God, and at 18 she left home to become a nun. At 36, she encountered need at its worst, as she traveled through the poverty-ridden slums of India. Agnes’ experiences with the poorest of the poor, with the sick and discarded people in India led her to devote her entire life to caring for those the rest of the world couldn’t care for any less, and she knew this was God’s will for her life. She left her teaching position in Darjeeling, which she loved, and began serving and ministering in Calcutta, often having to beg for food and supplies just to be able to care for people. It was there that she later founded a convent, orphanages, and care facilities for those she felt called to serve. Agnes, or Mother Teresa, as she’s better known, committed her life to serving God and caring for others, even above her own needs.
One more example. Well, actually there’s a lot of them. Jesus’ life was all about living first for God and then others. Throughout His life, we read of many times where He gave up His own comfort and safety and rest and prosperity to serve God and benefit others. In fact, as we are traveling through Holy Week, we are reminded of all that Jesus did for others. He was so determined to serve others…to serve us…that He gave Himself over to be arrested, falsely accused, beaten, battered, and killed on a cross…for others…for us. So we could have life.
Now, I hear what you’re saying- we probably won’t be called on to give up our lives in order to serve others…but we might. And we probably won’t be called from the comfort of a favorite job to work in some Indian slum…but we might. And we certainly won’t be called to give up a Saturday to help with the Youth, or a Wednesday evening to make a meal, or a Sunday morning to pour some coffee, or to help launch an entirely new ministry to reach out to people…oh wait…that’s exactly what we are being called to do. In fact, that’s why we have those spiritual gifts the Spirit gave us.
You see, when we put God first, and commit to serving others above ourselves, we will do the things we are called to do, even and especially when it means giving up something we want (like comfort, or pleasure, or safety, or family, or even our life). We are called to give ourselves up to the service of God and others. No excuses. No shortcuts. And when we do, there certainly will be no shortness of rewarding from God when we, too, hear those words, “Well done, my good and faithful servant!”
God is calling you to serve Him, to serve others, to serve the church. How will you respond? When it comes to your life, who is first?
Sermon Notes for “Spiritual Gifts: I’m Third” from Apr 13, 2014
The point of everything we have covered over the last four weeks is this:
We all have been given a special gift/gifts by the Spirit for the work of the church
We can’t be the church we are called to be without everyone using their gifts to serve God and others
We have something to learn from the story of Jesus’ Triumphal entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday:
The disciples go up to a stranger with a young donkey and start taking it. When asked what they were doing, they gave the owner this response: “The Lord needs it.”
The owner could have tried to stop them or called the guards
But when he heard that the Lord needed it, he gave what he had
What about you?
We all have gifts from the Spirit meant to be used to serve God and others
Just like the nameless owner in the story, we are being told “The Lord needs it.”
How are you going to respond to that request?
Read 1 Peter 4:10
A lot of times when we talk about spiritual gifts, we focus on the first part of this verse: “God has given”
But we tend to lose sight of the “Use them to benefit others” part
Nowhere in Scripture dies it tell us that our spiritual gifts are meant for our own good, to benefit us
Our passage today speaks of this as well: Matthew 22:37-39
God comes first; other people come second
These are the greatest commandments, Jesus tells us
That means they are supposed to be the guiding principles for everything we do in life, including how we use our spiritual gifts
God First; Others Second; I’m Third
This is a counter-cultural thought, but it is biblical, and we need to remember that
The world tells us that it is “Me First,” but God shows us that I am to come after others
God teaches us that we are to focus on God first, and love others secondly, just as we love ourselves
When we do, we will be who God designed us to be and will be doing what God requires of us
So we have to answer these questions:
Can you do better than the disciples who fell asleep in the garden when Jesus asked them to pray?
What if you owned that donkey? Would you have given it when you heard that “The Lord needs it?”
When all is said and done, and you stand before the throne of God to given an account of how you’ve used what you’ve been given, what will you hear?
Will you hear: “You wicked and lazy servant! Throw this useless servant into the outer darkness!”
Or will you hear: “Well done my good and faithful servant! Let’s celebrate together!”
Remember, it is the same Holy Spirit which has gifted you that empowered Jesus to do all that He did
It is the same Spirit that filled the disciples and equipped them to do amazing things.
It is that same Spirit that calls you to use your gifts to serve God and benefit His church!
Use what you’ve been given, use your gifts to serve God and serve others
Stop with the excuses, and start using what you have to serve God first, and others second.
Cori Cypret is the pastor of The United Methodist Church of Coopersville.