I personally prefer to be on the winning side. Most folks familiar with a game played here in Alabama called the Iron Bowl would agree. I’d be willing to bet a month of BBQ sandwiches from Green Top that no one heard Coach Nick Saban state how happy he was that his Alabama Crimson Tide lost to the Auburn Tigers on November 30, 2013. I would bet an additional month of the same BBQ that back in January that Coach Gus Malzahn was not overjoyed when those same Auburn Tigers took second place behind the Florida State Seminoles at football’s last BCS Championship Game. Furthermore, I watched a complete season of college football bowl games where a team ranked number 12 might play the number 14 team or number 22 played number 20, but every fan, with much pride, held up one index finger to say, “WE’RE NUMBER ONE!”
It does not really matter what athletic event, or in what country or culture it’s played; for those participating, and their fans cheering them to victory, second place is never the destination hoped for. The desire to be in first place, at the top, or in victory circle is not new at all. History has supplied us with written records of this for a thousand years. I believe the desire to win was written by God into our DNA. The Lord has always supplied His people with the best He has to give, but so often It is we who choose to and settle firmly for second, third, or even fourth best.
In Sunday school, we have been studying the journey of Moses and the Israelites through the wilderness on their way to Canaan. In reading Numbers chapter 32, we find the Israelites making plans to cross the Jordan River and take possession of the Promised Land. The chapter begins by explaining that the tribes of Reuben and Gad raise cattle and the land where they are currently camping is a perfect place to live and to grow their vast herds. For this reason they ask Moses’ permission to permanently settle outside of the Promised Land and build their homes.
Moses’ immediate response is fear that these two tribes desiring to not enter Canaan with everyone else would cause discontent and discourage others from entering the Promised Land. Furthermore, it would take an army of the combined tribes of Israel to wipe out the land’s current inhabitants. This chapter ends with a compromise between Moses and these two tribes. If Reuben and Gad are allowed first to build homes and fortify their cities as protection for their families, then they promise to cross into Canaan and fight alongside the remaining Israelites for possession of the land.
The question I now attempt to answer is how this would explain why we sometimes desire God’s second best. The land that Reuben and Gad chose to occupy had been won/taken from people who did not worship The Lord and obviously, as these two tribes were cattlemen, they knew how to spot a good place to raise their herds. The question I have is not if the current location was an awesome place, but how much better a place prepared for and promised by God would be? Where I am may be great, but where God wants me to be is ALWAYS better. So for me, this tells the story of how Reuben and Gad were prepared and content to stay in second place when God was offering the winning position.
You see, it takes faith to make a home in a land you’ve never seen. It takes faith to walk through a door you didn’t open. It takes faith to leave a safe place in order to step out into God’s unknown. Just remember the Promised Land lay unknown to Israel but was planned from the foundation of the world by God to be their eternal home.
I don’t know about you, but I have been here many times. I am comfortable in my current location, current level of commitment, current level of relationship with The Lord and when God opens a door to some place better, a new opportunity to serve Him, an opportunity to grow closer to Him…. I choose second place. My prayer today is that I choose God’s first and best place for my life.