The First Shall Be Last

If anyone has any desire to serve God, he or she will also have a great desire to be fruitful in the Kingdom of Heaven.  For some this becomes a driving force to achieve great things for God.  They wish to excel and do exceedingly well.  The desire becomes so intense that nothing can stand in their way.  They want to be the very best, the first, the greatest, all in the name of the Kingdom of Heaven.  Their ambition is to be able to one day stand before the Lord, and exclaim,  “Look at what I have accomplished for You, Lord!”
Back in the days of the great healing revival that swept across the United States, many of the evangelists would announce that they had the largest gospel tent.  It became a great competition as to who was the greatest, who was the biggest, and who was the top evangelist in the nation.
Now I am not trying to put down any of these great men of God, but Jesus warned that this is not how the Kingdom of Heaven works.  He said something that has puzzled many,  when He warned:
“But many who are first will be last, and the last first”  (Matthew 19:30 NKJV).
When I was a young believer I heard a story about a church where the ministers would come out on the platform first, and then the choir would follow them, and take their seats in the choir section.  Then one day someone pointed out that Jesus said, “The first will be last and the last first. ”  So they had the choir go out first, and the ministers came out last.  I do not know if that was a true story, but it would not surprise me if it were true.  We often get funny ideas in our heads when it comes to spiritual things.
If you had been a minister in that situation, and you had to make that decision, what would you have done?  Let me tell you the answer:   It wouldn’t have mattered to you who was first or last,  There would have been no need to establish who was first.  This is how things work in the Kingdom of Heaven, dear saint!
In their attempt to be first, many have gone to great lengths to promote themselves.  As a result, they have left many  bruised and hurt in their wake as they pressed ahead to the top.  This is not how Jesus wants His followers to conduct themselves.  He said:
“And whoever desires to be FIRST among you, let him be your slave – just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.”  (Matthew 20:27-28 NKJV, emphasis mine).
It is not the first out of the starting blocks who will be given first prize at the end of the race.  Neither is the one who is first above everyone else, who will be honored in the end.  God is not impressed by that.  He is looking for another quality in His saints.  He is looking for humility!
Jesus often taught on humility.  He said:
“Therefore whoever humbles himself as this little child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven”  (Matthew 18:4 NKJV).
When it comes to promotion, we need to realize that promotion comes from the Lord.  In our efforts to be promoted in life, we have to be careful to only allow the Lord to promote us, and not fall into the trap of promoting ourselves.  Jesus warned about this when He said:
“For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted”  (Luke 14:11 NKJV).
When you see a statement like this, you need to ask the Holy Spirit to teach you what it means, and not just assume you know it already.  Then you need to have Him to show you where it applies to different situations in your life.  In this case you need to understand that “exalting yourself” also means “promoting yourself.”  In particular, Jesus was warning about promoting yourself above others.
Now there is nothing wrong with promotion.  However when it comes to promotion in the Kingdom in Heaven, the Lord always wants us to take the position of humility, and allow Him to promote us as He sees fit.  Promotion comes from God, not from our own efforts!
Years ago, I heard of D.L. Moody, a great evangelist in Chicago.  It is said that he always sought to promote other young evangelists above himself.  The result was that the Lord promoted him above many of the ministers of his day.
In case you didn’t catch it, promoting others was a position of humility.   Simply put, humility is the pathway to promotion in the Kingdom of Heaven. This is what pleases God the most, not whether you are first or the best.
Now there is nothing wrong with being first, when God is the One who has made you first.  If God does put you in that position, then be careful to keep a humble spirit, and you will keep that position.  This is what a true saint looks like, whether he or she is the first or the last.
You are holy, dear saint!
Steve Smith
[All Scripture quotations have been taken from The Holy Bible, New King James Version,  copyright 1982, Thomas Nelson Inc.]
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