Finishing in second place

Published 5:30 pm Thursday, April 25, 2019

Michael Brooks
Pastor at Siluria Baptist Church

I found former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s book at our local library recently and enjoyed reading about his life and service.

I heard the governor speak in 2012 and know him to be a commanding figure in person. He didn’t hold back in his book, either.

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Christie told about his rise from federal prosecutor to governor, flirting with national office and the two issues he dealt with in his final term that torpedoed his popularity: Bridgegate and Beachgate. In the former, he explained that the investigation drug on for two years but cleared him of all charges. And he described the latter as a news media publicity stunt. Christie and his family were photographed by helicopter on a state beach during a time of state government shut-down. Thus, the public accused him of privilege. Christie explained that the public beaches were open, though the state beaches weren’t, and that the beach he was on always had a one-mile perimeter protected by New Jersey security.

I guess I’d overlooked the drama in 2016 as the soon-to-be-nominee Donald Trump determined who his running mate would be. It came down to two: Christie and Gov. Mike Pence of Indiana. Christie said Trump offered him another government post, but Christie only had interest in the so-called “veep-stakes” or attorney general. He walked away with neither since Trump had already offered the justice spot to Sen Jeff Sessions.

This story reminded me that life often comes down to two choices. Most of us have had the distinction of finishing in second place every now and again.

Sometimes we fall short in job interviews or promotions. I remember a department director in state government telling me this years ago, insisting that they had to hire a female. My being a stepping stone for female advancement didn’t make me feel any better. And we take little comfort in being number two in athletic competitions, even though our team may have defeated a dozen or more in the process of becoming number two — as with Alabama football or Auburn basketball this year.

As followers of Christ we know we’re always number two. We’re called to be God’s servants, and the servant’s desires are always subject to the master’s desires. We subjugate our goals to his, and this process is never-ending. As the Apostle Paul wrote, “I die daily” (1 Corinthians 15:31).

And along the way, we have to learn to pick ourselves up and press forward in those days when we fall short of some objective. King Solomon wrote, “For a righteous man may fall seven times and rise again” (Proverbs 24:16).

The God who created us rejoices in our success and sympathizes in our failure.