Getting up at 4 a.m. on your vacation is not normal. If you asked my wife, she might say something even less charitable. But we rose early that day for a special reason – to be the first to see the sunrise in America.
We had come to Acadia National Park in Maine to reconnect with our New England roots, enjoy cooler temperatures and explore its unique beauty. The rocky shoreline, the stunning views and the plentiful hiking trails did not disappoint. We had a great time but there was one adventure left.
In Acadia stands Cadillac Mountain. At 1,530 feet, it is the highest point on the Atlantic seaboard. Combined with being one of the easternmost points in America it’s the first place to see the sunrise in this country. We drove up early that morning to be the first to see the sunrise anywhere in America that day.
I like to be first. I like it a lot. I was formed in the fires of athletic and academic competition. In my early years I heard phrases like "second is first loser" and "if you’re not first, you’re last." So when I found out I could be the first one out of 327 million people in the United States to see the sunrise, I was all over it.
But when we arrived at the top of the mountain we could barely find a parking spot. And over the next 45 minutes we would watch hundreds more people pour onto the granite summit. I was not going to be first. I would be one of hundreds that day to see the first sunrise in America. It put me in some pretty rare company, but it wasn’t first.
When the sun rose, it was spectacular. People actually began to clap. Not a bad way to start your day. But as we left we drove by more cars parked all along the road and I realized there were even more people who saw the first sunrise beside me.
There is nothing wrong with wanting to be first – someone has to be first. Greatness is a worthy goal to pursue.
The reality is we all can’t be first. Only one person can. We can't all be the best, or "best" wouldn't mean anything.
When Jesus said "the last will be first and the first will be last," He wasn’t criticizing the desire to be first. He was teaching us about having a servanthood attitude. Jesus doesn’t want us to act superior to others. He wants us to serve others. You can be the best and still not act like you’re better than anyone else.
The reality is we all can’t be first. Only one person can. We can't all be the best, or "best" wouldn't mean anything. What each of us can pursue is being the best we can be. Taking the talents, gifts and opportunities God places in our lives and doing all we can to be the best we can become.
If the result is we are first, then that’s great. If we’re not, it’s OK as long as we know we strove for greatness and simply came up short. Your best may not be good enough in certain situations with particular people. But on another day, in another circumstance, it may be different and you come out on top.
The key is to pursue impact over outcome. Because impact you can control, results you cannot. I’m big on impact.
My preaching broadcast is called "High Impact Living," my podcast is named “Point of Impact” and the church I pastor is known as a contemporary high-impact church. I believe in the power of making an impact.
I have seen the incredible impact our church has made over the last 25 years. Thousands of lives have been changed, families have been restored and our community has been immeasurably blessed because of our ministry.
The impact in so many ways is undeniable. But the outcomes have not always been what we've wanted. We have not seen results from all our efforts like we would have hoped for or even expected.
Impact you can control because it is about doing the best you can with your resources. Outcomes are different because there are so many things beyond our control. We can do everything right but others can mess it up. The actions of some in companies, families and teams can keep the right outcome from happening. There are those that not only mess up their lives but yours too.
Sometimes the results just don’t show the whole story. But the impact will. You may not be acknowledged as the best or receive the first-place prize. That doesn’t mean you never will. As long as you keep pursuing being the best you can be, you’ll be first in what matters most.