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:

                Luke 19:30-35

                                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.



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08/25/2014 11:58am

I missed the reading the eyes when I hesitated and didn't automatically post first impression.

08/27/2014 6:33am

I find it very interesting that in terms of racial representation, the majority of the faces seem to be white, save for a few women who could be of Southern Asian or Middle Eastern descent.

08/27/2014 9:19am

Also there is now an Asian version of the task.

09/18/2014 11:23am

Should have done better because of life experience of a long marriage (39 years), mother of 5, grandmother of 4 and profession as a school and clinical counselor.

09/26/2014 2:08pm

Some major flaws (that show why it is not a good idea to test this on readers)

10/08/2014 1:08pm

Pretty bad, especially since I have a PhD in English. (Just finished MaddAddam last night: a great piece of literary fiction).

10/11/2014 10:00pm

This is tricky. Had they asked: what expression is the person either clearly having or trying to convey, then we'd answer that instead.

11/16/2014 1:26pm

36 on my first attempt. But it didn't really feel like a test of emotional intelligence... more my ability to recognise Hollywood's stereotypes.

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