Leonard Bernstein, the late great conductor of the New York Philharmonic, once was asked: “Mr. Bernstein, what is the most difficult instrument to play?”
Second fiddle. I can get plenty of first violinists, but to find one who plays second violin with as much enthusiasm, or second French horn or second flute, now that’s a problem. And yet if no one plays second, we have no harmony.
Bernstein nailed the problem—not only in music, but in all relationships.
Very few are willing to be second, because being second requires someone else to be first, which requires giving instead of taking.
In the movie Schindler’s List, one of the most powerful scenes shows Oskar Schindler is speaking with a Nazi commander who had a habit of impulsively shooting Jews.
Watch this scene and think about the power you have in your life.
Schindler told him that true power is not the power to destroy, but rather, having the power to kill but choosing instead to pardon. The Nazi tried it for a while, but he couldn’t do it for long.
This is an extreme example of what we do every day, not politically, but personally.
Purpose and Power
It’s human nature to use our power and influence for our own benefit. True power is being able to extort and use others, but instead, choosing to use our influence, power, and abilities as God intended we use them: for the benefit of others.
A man of great power and influence once wrote:
Now we who are strong ought to bear the weaknesses of those without strength and not just please ourselves. Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, to his edification. For even Christ did not please Himself. —Romans 15:1-3
While the first part of the passage is tough, it’s that last phrase that seems absurd. God played second fiddle.
- If ever anyone deserved to be served, it was Christ.
- If anyone deserved to be pleased, it was the Son of God. And yet “even Christ did not please Himself.”
Jesus, the epitome of strength and power, demonstrated power by serving others.
The Temptation of Your Power and Influence
Remember this statement?
“If You are the Son of God, tell this stone to become bread.” —Luke 4:3
Sounds devilishly common, doesn’t it? The devil tells us the same thing every day:
- “If you’re really the man of the house, tell her what you think of her.”
- “You don’t have to take his attitude! You’re attractive; you’re intelligent. Leave the jerk.”
- “You deserve more than you’re getting. So take it.”
We are daily tempted by the evil one to use our gifts, influence, and power for ourselves. But if we look back down the road at the trail of tears behind us, we can see that kind of mindset has contributed destruction, not benefit, to our lives.
The popular Web site, I Am Second, is a “movement meant to inspire people of all kinds to live for God and for others.” They interview celebrities, athletes, and others who have admitted, “I am second.”
Today’s Assignment—Power with a Purpose
Wherever you are strong in life today, it has a purpose. God grants you power for a reason:
- Your position at work has a purpose.
- Your education has a purpose.
- Your role in your marriage has a purpose.
- Your money has a purpose.
- Your retirement has a purpose.
God gives power and strength to the strong, not so we can “just please ourselves,” but so that we can help others.
God blesses our lives so that we may be His conduit to bless others. (Tweet that.)
The one who had all power chose not to use it for Himself. Jesus used His unlimited knowledge, power, and strength to serve and build up others. God played second fiddle.
If the Son of God did as much, surely we should do no less.
Question: Who can you help today? To leave a comment, just click here.