One of the highlights of every Olympics is the medal ceremony. The top three finishers are announced in order from bronze medal to gold medal winners. Then the national anthem of the gold medal winner is played. All three athletes are happy to be on the platform, but the bronze and silver medal winners are overshadowed by the focus on the gold medal winner. Sometimes the disappointment of coming in second or third is just too much for the athlete. We witnessed this with the Canadian Women’s hockey team. As the silver medals were placed around their necks, one of the athletes quickly removed it. In her frustration, she stated, I didn’t come to the Olympics to win silver. She later apologized, but her actions highlight a truth that we all know but are reluctant to admit. No one likes coming in second!
It is very common for Christians to talk about giving Jesus first place in their hearts. Too often, the reality is that we give Jesus Silver Medal devotion. We have unconsciously divided our lives into two distinct categories; sacred and secular. Our sacred life consists of worship on Sunday, Sunday School, a small group, and personal devotions. Our secular life fills all the rest of our time. If we were to stop and do a time study, we would quickly discover that, in practical terms, we regularly give Jesus second place in our lives. It is not that we disregard Jesus or stop believing in Him. It is more that we just don’t think about Him in the daily routines of our life. We do not make a conscious effort to include Jesus in what we see as our secular life. We functionally practice a personal form of separation of church and state.
At this point it would be natural for us to become defensive. We can come up with all kinds of excuses for seemingly placing Jesus second, but the reality is that we do it more often than we realize. We are all guilty. We place sports activities above worship on a regular basis. We spend far more time reading books and watching TV than we do reading the Bible. Social media has become the dominant force in life. In the past, the church was the center of community life. Today, the church is a marginal player in the community. In the past, the church was the moral compass for society. Today, politics and the media are the moral compass. We give lip service to the value of the church, but we take our clues from the society around us.
We are not the first generation to struggle with this challenge. Way back in the Middle Ages groups of people tried to reorder the priorities of their lives by retreating to monasteries and convents. They felt that the way to give Jesus first place was to completely disengage from the world. There are still people today that believe this. Yet, history shows us that disengagement was not the answer. The answer was given to us by Christ Himself. We need to be in the world but not of the world. To give Jesus Gold Medal devotion, we need to be fully engaged in our world, with Christ at the very center of all that we do.
It begins with our attitude. That which dominates our thinking dominates our lives. In Matthew 6:25-34, Jesus addressed the focus of our everyday lives. "Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?
"And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?' For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.
Our tendency to give Jesus second place is really a matter of trust. We do not trust Him to provide for us what we need. Therefore, we place the pursuit of those things above Jesus. Jesus tells us that we can trust our Heavenly Father. He is not a miser. He is not stingy with His grace and mercy. When we adjust our attitude to seek Jesus first in every situation, He will put everything else into order.
From attitude, we must move to action. The two go hand in hand. If we truly believe that Jesus loves us and cares about our needs, then we will begin to act differently. This means that we can go through our normal activities of life with a different perspective. Instead of seeing the things we do as an end in themselves, we can see them as a means of honoring and glorifying Jesus. Paul states this clearly and simply in Colossians 3:17. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. The way we live our daily lives matters to Jesus. He does not want us to withdraw and become hermits. He wants us to engage fully in life, with the purpose of transforming every situation for His glory. As Paul says in Ephesians 5:15-16. Be very careful, then, how you live--not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.
The way that we give Jesus Gold Medal devotion is by living lives worthy of Jesus in all that we do. We don’t have to become outwardly religious to demonstrate the character of Christ in every aspect of our lives. We don’t have to put up a façade of perfection to live genuine, honest lives before others. We do not have to become syrupy pious to be genuinely compassionate.
Jesus deserves our Gold Medal devotion.
As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received.