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Second Fiddle Is Okay

June 02, 2016
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We are told as Christian leaders that we need to have a relentless drive, determination, discipline, resilience, passion, and overall “stick-to-a-tive-ness” (among numerous other leadership character traits) to be the best that we can be. As Christians, we should give it our all and rise to the top of our respective fields of endeavor for God’s glory. In the workplace, it may mean aspiring to be president or chief executive officer of a major corporation. We think to ourselves, “If I could only rise to this level of authority I could have much more of an impact for the Lord.” In a ministry setting, it may mean being the pastor of a large church with a congregation of tens of thousands. In this example, the preacher’s desire may be to build an enormous organization and reach as many people as possible for Christ. In the athletic arena it may mean to strive to be the most valuable player (MVP) on the team or lead your teammates in all of the offensive and defensive statistical categories. Day after day, athletes go to the practice field and hone their crafts to become professionals and be the best in their respective sport. Christian athletes believe that they have been given this God-given natural ability and want to use it for His glory! We want to be the best! But what happens in each of the above examples when you come up short of these tall aspirations? What happens when all of the planning and hard work doesn’t get you to the “so-called” ideal situation or place in life? What happens when you do not reach the summit of all of your goals, plans, and dreams? Think for a moment, what if God wants you in a backup role and wants you to play “second fiddle” to help pave the way for others. How will you respond?

While exploring this topic, there are three primary considerations that will be discussed using the Bible as our guide. First, we will take a look at some Bible characters of the early Christian church along with key Old Testament figures and how they responded. Second, I would like to evaluate the “second fiddle” syndrome from what God has to say about the use of our spiritual gifts. Third, this article will discuss the impact that God’s timing has in all of this. Taken collaboratively, I believe that God has given us a proper framework to discuss and think through this topic.  

John the Baptist

This is one of my all-time favorite Bible characters. John the Baptist was called to pave the way for our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. He was asked by God to play “second fiddle” and he did it with joy! John made three statements that epitomized who he was as a follower of Christ.

“He said, I am THE VOICE OF ONE CRYING IN THE WILDERNESS, MAKE STRAIGHT THE WAY OF THE LORD, as said the prophet Isaiah.” (John 1:23)  

“He it is, who coming after me is preferred before me, whose shoe’s latchet I am not worthy to unloose.” (John 1:27)

“This is he of whom I said, After me cometh a man which is preferred before me: for he was before me. And I knew him not: but that he should be made manifest to Israel, therefore am I come baptizing with water.” (John 1:30-31)

In my mind, what is so special about John’s comments was his selfless perspective and his willingness to declare the preference of someone else before himself. In human terms, what he was communicating and suggesting runs counter to the natural predisposition of most human beings. Let’s pause to think about the historical context for a minute. John had notoriety, followers (disciples), and the attention of the government officials. He was an enigma and people wanted to hear what he had to say and be around him. John’s message was having an impact in people’s lives. Many of his followers believed that he was a prophet and on the same spiritual plain with Elijah. He also had a ministry that was growing in popularity. There were droves of converts and other disciples coming to John for baptism as he preached a message of repentance. Jesus himself came to John to be baptized. There was even a time period where John’s ministry overlapped the ministry of Christ. So what did John do? Did he capitalize on his growing fame to make himself the center of attention? Did he move to more populated urban areas where the opportunity for additional fame and glory awaited him? No, he did not! John understood that his call from the Lord meant playing “second fiddle” and paving the way for his Lord. He preached in the wilderness, ate locusts and honey, and was content with the role that the Lord provided for him. He was unwilling to take advantage of his situation for the furtherance of self. Rather, John knew that the best that he could be was to proclaim the coming of a Savior and by his willingness to “MAKE STRAIGHT THE WAY OF THE LORD.” A generous and selfless act for the glory of God.  

Apostle Paul

Unlike John the Baptist, who was growing in popularity in a remote region, the Apostle Paul was someone who had already achieved the highest levels of leadership impact and influence in society at large. In today’s terms, Paul would have been considered an influential star, mover-and-shaker, and at the top of his game. He was a Roman citizen, studied at the feet of Gamaliel (who was a well-known intellectual of the day), and was recognized by the ruling elite as a person of influence and power. In the world’s eyes, Paul sums up his credentials in a couple of verses in Philippians.

“Circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of the Hebrews; as touching the law, a Pharisee;

Concerning zeal, persecuting the church; touching the righteousness which is in the law, blameless.” (Philippians 3:5-6)

Wow! Paul was the real deal! He couldn’t have come from any better lineage or stock than what is described above. However, like John the Baptist, the Apostle Paul was willing to lay down his life for the sake of the gospel. He, too, parted ways with the allurements of this present world to embark on a life-long commitment to the Lord.

“But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ.

Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ,” (Philippians 3:7-8)

So there it was………….Paul’s willingness to play “second fiddle” to a cause much greater than himself, the cause of Christ.

King David

Here sat a King with a heavenly anointing from above who was considered a man after God’s own heart! David was a young shepherd boy who slew the giant Goliath, was anointed King by Samuel, had legions of followers, and eventually unified and consolidated power in the Northern and Southern kingdoms. By the world’s standards, he was a dominant political and religious powerhouse who had the authority, charisma, leadership capabilities, and legitimacy to rule his countrymen. Yet, when David had the chance to slay his nemesis, King Saul (who repeatedly tried to destroy him), he instead chose a path that would put him in a position of “second fiddle” until God’s timing was evident. He would not usurp the position of King Saul.

“And David said to Abishai, Destroy him not: for who can stretch forth his hand against the Lord’s anointed, and be guiltless?” (1 Samuel 26:9)

David’s restraint in not killing or removing King Saul from the throne and immediately consolidating power when he had the opportunity to do so was an incredible testimony to his relationship with the Lord. David was so in tune with the Lord’s will for his life at this point in time that he would not “stretch forth his hand against the Lord’s anointed.” He was content abiding in the wilderness and on the run from King Saul until the Lord’s perfect timing. David had such a respect for God’s anointed king (Saul), that when David “cut off the skirt of Saul’s robe privily” he was upset with himself for being disrespectful.

“And the men of David said unto him, Behold the day of which the Lord said unto thee, Behold, I will deliver thine enemy into thine hand, that thou mayest do to him as it shall seem good unto thee. Then David arose, and cut off the skirt of Saul’s robe privily.

And it came to pass afterward that David’s heart smote him, because he had cut off Saul’s skirt.

And he said unto his men, The Lord forbid that I should do this thing unto my master, the Lord’s anointed, to stretch forth mine hand against him, seeing he is the anointed of the Lord.” (1 Samuel 24:4-6)

In lieu of the circumstances, David was even willing to refer to King Saul as master! What a wonderful testimony of loyalty and respect. 

Joshua

In many respects, we find a description of the wonderful blessings of being placed in a role of “second fiddle” with the account of Joshua, Moses’ minister. For decades Joshua stood at his leader’s side in a less prominent role only to be used greatly of the Lord in the future. Joshua served at Moses’ command during the exodus period, two wilderness odysseys, and eventually during the conquest of the Promised Land. One can only imagine the wealth of knowledge and wisdom that he learned at Moses’ side. What an awesome spiritual training ground! Yes, it was the servant Joshua who was second in command that God eventually commissioned to cross the Jordan River and conquer the lands.     

“Now after the death of Moses the servant of the LORD it came to pass, that the LORD spake unto Joshua the son of Nun, Moses' minister, saying,

Moses my servant is dead; now therefore arise, go over this Jordan, thou, and all this people, unto the land which I do give to them, even to the children of Israel.” (Joshua 1:1-2)    

Can you think of anyone more qualified to lead the crossing of the Jordan River than Joshua? His unique position as “second fiddle” in the previous decades allowed him the time to listen, learn, let go, live, and lead. In other words, Joshua had the God-given experiences, wisdom, credentials, and understanding to take on the challenges awarded him! The “proving ground” under Moses’ leadership was like none other and fully prepared him for the task at hand. Joshua understood the people of Israel and their inclinations and he understood God’s promise while having the fervor and discipline to get the job done. Oh, that the Lord would allow me an opportunity like Joshua to be “second fiddle” for the cause of Christ! Praise the Lord! 

Our Spiritual Gifts

The Bible clearly articulates the diversity of spiritual gifts. We have all been gifted with unique and distinguishable gifts and talents that are to be used for His service. A church is fully functioning when EVERYONE      is using their spiritual gifts to the fullest extent, with joy. Anything less and there is a chink in the armor of the local body of believers. Let’s see what the book of 1 Corinthians has to say on this subject.

          “Now there are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit.

And there are differences of administrations, but the same Lord.

And there are diversities of operations, but it is the same God which               worketh all in all.

But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal.

For to one is given by the Spirit the word of wisdom; to another the word of knowledge by the same Spirit;

To another faith by the same Spirit; to another the gifts of healing by the same Spirit;

To another the working of miracles; to another prophecy; to another discerning of spirits; to another divers kinds of tongues: to another the interpretation of tongues:

But all these worketh that one and the selfsame Spirit, dividing to every man severally as he will.” (1 Corinthians 12:4-11)

But what does this have to do with the topic of “second fiddle”? Let’s think about it from an exaggerated point of view. Using the examples at the beginning of this article, what would organizational life look like if everyone was the CEO or president? Do you think that things would get accomplished? How about all of those detail issues that most executives can’t stand? What would happen to them? Outside of lofty thinking and strategy discussions who would actually do the so-called “grunt” work? On the other hand, what would the ministry look like if preachers only served and ministered to large congregations? Who would minister to those who live in rural areas? What would happen to the local body of believers? What would happen if all the players on a major-league baseball team’s roster were catchers? How do you think the team would function? Seems to me that there would be a bunch of confusion and turmoil. No pitchers, fielders, or those that could run the bases with speed. There wouldn’t be anyone who could run down those long fly balls in the outfield. Well, I am sure that you get the point by now. Everyone has a job to do and a spiritual gift(s) to exercise. Everyone can’t sit at the top of an organizational pyramid. However, what everyone can do is be at the top of their game for the glory of God. We need to be good stewards and content with the roles and responsibilities that God has afforded us. It should be a privilege to serve the God of this universe in a capacity of “second fiddle.”  

Timing

The article would be remiss if it didn’t touch on the Lord’s perfect timing in our lives. In today’s fast-pasted American culture our citizens have everything at their fingertips. They have access to most anything, and they can get it right away. There is no waiting around. With a few clicks of a button we can gain access to most of life’s needs and wants. However, I do not believe that the Lord is in all of that. This is the world’s system and its view of how things should be done. It wants us to compete against one another, covet one another’s possessions, and never be satisfied or content with our station in life. In its eyes more is always better.

I believe that the obsession with “me” and “now” is destroying the benefits of life-long learning. We want to skip over all of the key learning moments of life to get what we want……right away. There is no doubt in my mind that God puts us in a position of “second fiddle” for our development. He wants to mold us into His image. Oftentimes, he has to slow down our aspirations to make sure we understand that He is in control. This allows us the opportunity to experience life, learn patience, be content, grow spiritually, and then learn to fly. It really is okay to be “second fiddle”. It is okay to slowdown, relax, take time to smell the roses, and allow God to put you in the positions in life that are best for your eternal development. For all of the overachievers and type “A” personalities out there, this message is for you.  

In summary, we are on an exciting, awe inspiring, and unimaginable journey here on this earth for the glory of God. Our Heavenly Father has adopted us into His family and wants what is best for His children. He will allow the situations in life to mold, guide, and instruct us along the way. His will for our lives is perfect. We need to stop and hear that still small voice of our Creator. We need to learn to appreciate and enjoy each step of the journey. And while the world may tell us a much different story, “second fiddle” is okay! May the Lord help us strive to be our best in the positions of life in which He has placed us and where He is allowing us to grow spiritually. Amen!    


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