Part 4. “The Last”

"By the way they had disputed among themselves who should be the greatest. And he sat down and called the twelve. …. “If any man desire to be first, the same shall be last of all”  Mark 9:34-35

 No one ever boasts “I’m last! I’m last!” We are not like that. We all clamour to be the first in case we lose out - on honours, success, fame and prizes! This opens up the whole question of competition. Is competition wrong or bad? Can competition be ‘redeemed’? One problem is that there can only be one winner but many losers!! Am I willing to celebrate when another wins? Consider the ‘handicaps olympics’. Prizes are given for competing, not for coming in first, because competing is victory!

I once watched an olympic marathon. It was getting rather late in the evening as the last runner came into the stadium - walking with a distinct limp and covered with blood. When asked why he hadn’t dropped out he said, “My country did not send me all this way to enter the marathon, they sent me here to finish it!” The attitude of being willing to be last means that we are committed to finish the race, even when beaten down and covered with blood. We will not give up when defeat stares us in the face.

Bringing up the rear: I am reminded of an army marching into enemy territory. Their eyes are peeled searching out the enemy and they are alert looking for any movement. The most vulnerable position is that at the rear of the line. He has to be on the lookout, behind him as well as in front, as the enemy could weaken the unit one by one by sniping at the one bringing up the rear. All the others have to trust that the man at the rear is alert and watching out for their safety. He has to be others-centred, watchful and trustworthy. These are the kind of soldiers the Lord is seeking for His army. Consider Gideon in Judges 7: 6f. Only the 300 soldiers with eyes on possible danger were good enough.

Consider Abraham as our Biblical example: Though he had been mightily favoured by God, he did not cling to his understanding of those promises but was willing to lay them aside and become as the last. 

1. God had promised him that he would have a son to carry on his name. Like any other father, Abraham wanted to know that his name would continue. “Oh that Ishmael might live in your sight!” he pleaded with God, but God said that would not be but that, instead, Sarah would bear Abraham a son for posterity. Isaac was born - the son of promise.

However, when God asked Abraham to give up that son on the altar, he obeyed, even knowing that, should Isaac die, he, Abraham would be the last of his lineage and God’s promised would never be fulfilled. He did not understand this, but he obeyed, being willing to be the last.

2. When Abraham and his nephew, Lot, decided to part as their herdsmen were constantly fighting over the land, Abraham could have claimed the better part based on God’s promises to him. However, he gave the first choice to his nephew and was willing to take the last choice.

He was willing to believe God’s promises, so did not compete to receive them them. There was to be no pushing to the front, no ‘jumping the queue’! There was a willingness to wait until all others had been dealt with.

3. He sought no prizes! When the king of Sodom would reward Abraham for delivering his people from the four kings, Abraham refused to be rewarded. He was not interested in prizes! They are for the winners but he was willing to be as the losers or the last.

[ Continue to Part 5 ]
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