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  • July 11, 2014 - Reflections

    By Jean S. Horner
    The other day while walking down a corridor in a public building, I saw what appeared to be someone walking toward me. On coming closer, I found it was my own reflection in a huge mirror. For a moment it frightened me. Somehow a full-length reflection of one’s self is a startling thing. ...

On Your Mark by Dr. George O. Wood


First or Last?

They came to Capernaum. When he was in the house, he asked them, “What were you arguing about on the road?” But they kept quiet because on the way they had argued about who was the greatest. Sitting down, Jesus called the Twelve and said, “If anyone wants to be first, he must be the very last, and the servant of all.” (Mark 9:33-35, NIV)

Several days before Jesus came back to Capernaum, His disciples asked a question to Him for which they had no answer: “Why couldn’t we drive it [the demon] out?” (9:28). A few moments later, after Jesus again announced His approaching betrayal and death, they were afraid to ask a question of Him (9:32).

But Jesus was not afraid to ask them a question. He wanted to know what they were fussing and fuming about as they walked on the road. He knew the peace of the community had been disturbed — as it always is when believers get into verbal fisticuffs. He certainly knew what they were arguing about. He asked them — not because He didn’t know — but because they needed to verbalize in His presence their competition with one another.

In starting with a question rather than an accusation, condemnation or correction, Jesus modeled excellent conflict resolution. Good leadership draws out people. It provides a context and opportunity for tough issues to emerge into the open.

It’s obvious the disciples didn’t want to answer, since they refused to answer His question. They were embarrassed. And with good reason! We should always be mortified in the Lord’s presence when we’re trying to favorably compare ourselves with someone else.

It’s easy to see why the Twelve argued. Three of them enjoyed the special privilege of going with Jesus and witnessing His transfiguration. Nine of them were stuck in the valley below, impotent to deal with the demon-possessed boy while beleaguered by the critics of Jesus. I suspect the three asserted that their selection, instead of the nine, demonstrated they were the top dogs.

If so, the three made the mistake of assuming blessing meant status. Just because they were (or we are) blessed in a particular way does not mean they were (or we are) at a higher level than anyone else. There’s no place in the Lord’s kingdom for those who want to be the big cheese.

Jesus had watched in heaven while the angel Lucifer tried to elbow his way to the front. Therefore, Jesus knew the destructive power of inordinate ambition and self-promotion. He knew that such an attitude leads straight to expulsion from the kingdom of heaven.

So, He warned His disciples that the greatest one must be the very last, and the servant of all. This is easier said than done — but it is exactly what the Lord himself did, and it’s what He expects from us!

In other words — whether you are a boss at work, a leader in the home, or occupy a position of influence in church or community — you must see yourself fundamentally as serving rather than leading. Leadership is not about bossing others around (including dictatorial attitudes and behavior toward spouse and family members). It’s not about acquiring status for yourself.

If you want to be first, then take care of the needs of others before your own. Replace pride with humility, and arrogance with a servant’s heart.

A prayer of response
Lord Jesus, You didn’t condemn the desire to be first; You just sanctified ambition by redirecting me from the path of self-fulfillment to others-fulfillment. Help me, Lord, to be a better servant to others.

GEORGE O. WOOD is general superintendent of the Assemblies of God.

On Your Mark

Previous Years

2013 On Your Mark

2012 On Your Mark

2011 On Your Mark

2010 On Your Mark

2009 On Your Mark

2008 On Your Mark

Podcasts of On Your Mark are available in video and audio.
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