Phew!!! It’s been a minute since I last posted on this blog (two months to be exact.) I’ve been so busy with planning for our new radio talk show, writing my next book, serving in ministry and well, life in general, that I’ve been neglecting to post in this in-depth format. I’d be telling a half truth if I left it at being busy as my only reason for not posting. It’s also been because when I post I want to make sure that I’m posting something with substance and not just posting just to post. This topic has been on my heart lately, so hopefully the wait for new material will be worth it. Fingers crossed!
Lots of people know Matthew 6:33 and can quote it verbatim. “Seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all things shall be added to you.” It’s a very powerful commandment and promise rolled into one, but what does it really look like when put into action by God’s children?
Seeking Him first is more than spending the first part of your day in prayer. It’s more than just going to church every Sunday. It’s more than being nice to people and being a part of a Christian based organization. All of those things are important and certainly have their place, but seeking the Kingdom first is a lot deeper and more challenging than that. It requires a commitment and dedication beyond what is natural and comfortable. It requires sacrifice. Take the parable of the rich man for instance.
This man came to Jesus wondering what more he could do to be saved. He was already keeping all ten commandments and had done so all his life. What else could the Lord require of him? Jesus told him something he had not been expecting–go and sell all of his possessions and come follow Him. The rich man’s heart was broken. He dropped his head at the thought of giving up what he had worked so hard for; the lavish lifestyle he was enjoying; the mark of his success and social status. And for what? To follow Him everywhere He went? The man walked away from Jesus that day because he wasn’t willing to sacrifice for the cause of Christ.
Sacrificing the things that are most valuable to us is putting God first. Jesus wasn’t as concerned about the riches the man had. He’s not requiring His children to live poor, beggarly lives by any means. He came so that we might have life and have it more abundantly. He was concerned, rather, about the condition of his heart. His heart was obviously set on the things he had because he was not willing to part with them, not even for the Lord.
Another example of putting God first is found in Luke 9:57-62 and involves our time. In this passage there are three individuals who speak to Jesus about following Him as His disciples. Two of them actually said, “Lord, I will follow you,” but there were conditions attached. Let me go bury my daddy first, one said. Let me go say goodbye to the folks at my house party first, said another. Jesus’ response was this…”no one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back [to the things behind] is fit for the kingdom of God” (AMP) The men had the best of intentions, but when it boiled down to it they were not willing to sacrifice the time they had allotted to other matters that were important to them, not even for the Lord.
But isn’t it important to maintain a certain level of wealth? To attend your own father’s funeral? To show hospitality to the people visiting your home? Sure they are, but they are not more important than God and His call on your life. He wants to be our number one priority. That’s what true disciples do–they love others and they put God FIRST!
So practically speaking in this day and age, what does that look like? We can’t physically follow Jesus Christ himself anymore, so what can we do that is equivalent to this level of discipleship? Well, one of the thins it means for is being connected to a local body of believers (my church) and committing to the vision given to my pastor from God. It means giving of my resources (money, time, and talents). And it means making the support of ministry my priority. How? I take the needs of the ministry into consideration when I am making plans for how I spend my money and how I spend my time. I use my gifts and talents (writing, singing, working with children etc.) to help the ministry. If conflicts arise between what I want to do and what I’ve been called to do through ministry service (and they sometimes do), I make the tough decision to sacrifice my own desires. It’s not always easy to do, and I’ve grown to this place over time. But my life is so blessed because of it.
It also means seeking to obey His Word in spite of how I may feel about it, who doesn’t agree, or what my flesh is telling me to do contrary to it. I don’t always get it right, y’all and I have to repent often, but I do not practice sin. I choose God’s way over my own. I’ve had to apologize to and love people that I really did not like. I’ve had to abstain from fornication when my flesh wanted to give in. I’ve had to praise God through things I really did not understand. I’ve had to turn down worldly pleasures that other people said was okay to do. I’ve had to turn down opportunities that most people would have jumped on because I was already committed elsewhere. I’ve had to walk in integrity when it was easy to lie or cover my faults. All because I so wanted to please Him. That’s sacrifice. That’s putting God first. And again, my life is blessed because of it. Here’s Christ’s special promise to those who go the extra mile to follow Him.
“…there is no man that hath left house, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my sake, and the gospel’s, but he shall receive an hundredfold now in this time, houses, and brethren, and sisters, and mothers, and children, and lands, with persecutions and in the world to come eternal life.” (Mark 10:29-30 KJV)
This is an encouragement to you, not to drastically change everything you are doing, but to take inventory of your life and really see how you can give God a little more of your time to serve in your church; how you can give God a little more of your financial resources and tithe consistently. How you can take just one habit that you know is against God’s will and begin to break it with the help of the Lord. I don’t know about you, but I want and need “all these things” to be added to my life. Putting God first, not second or third, is the key.
In what other ways can believers put God first?
I’m not proud of this, but it’s my truth. When I was dating Russell I drove in the middle of a snow storm to see him. Why did I do it? It was Friday night date night, and I had gotten used to seeing him every Friday without fail. No snow storm was going to get in the way of me seeing my man. He didn’t want to brave the weather to drive to my house like he usually did, so I went to him against all attempts of my mom and grandmother to reason with me about how foolish that decision was. If you’re dating or have ever dated someone seriously before, you know how it is. Your day is just not the same if you don’t hear from or see your boo thang. Those emotions are sho nuff a powerful!
Maybe the thing you cannot get through a day without is working out. I’ve been thre too. I’ve rolled out of bed at 4 am to hit the gym before work. I’ve hit play on my workout videos at midnight because the rest of my day was too hectic. Heck, I’ve brought my exercise clothes to work to do it before I got home from work because I knew that wife and mommy duties would interfere. Those endorphins are sho nuff powerful too! What’s my point? We make time and provision for the things we want to do. And we sacrifice comfort and convenience for the people we want to be around.
Why should time with the Father be any different?
You’re busy. I get it. So am I, but we should never be too busy to acknowledge the Lord in our daily lives. We should never get so comfortable that we think neglecting His presence is no big deal. Quite the contrary. It is the BIGGEST DEAL and absolutely necessary for our spiritual success. If you want to live your best life and experience the fullness of God daily, time in His presence is the prerequisite. Not because you have to earn God’s blessings because let’s be real-none of us can. But because Christ has already done the redemptive work to give you access to every promised blessing. Spending time with Him puts you in a position to receive them. It makes you keenly aware of what you are entitled to as a believer and gives you the strength to resist the adversary when he comes in trying to steal said blessings. That’s his MO. Your (our) MO should be to get your marching orders from above each and every day because each day brings with it a new challenge for which you need to be prepared and strengthened.
The alternative is so beneath you, woman of God. (I’m talking to myself too.)
Have you ever seen a Christian living beneath their God-given privilege and who seems to be hopeless and powerless like their unsaved peers? You were most likely looking at someone whose spiritual account has been tapped out. And who stands in the wings of your life smiling with glee when all the drama hits you, causing you to react outside of your Christian character? Why satan does. He knows (better than many believers unfortunately) that peace, prosperity, and blessings are your birthright as a child of God. But what you need to know is that defeat is not in your spiritual DNA, neither is lust, fear, or depression!
Don’t get me wrong. There is such a thing as suffering for righteousness sake and being persecuted even when you have been spending time with the Lord. But for someone whose spiritual tank has been filled by the Savior, their conversation will be a little different from one who is running on E. Instead of complaints, you will hear praise. Instead of defeat and woe is me, you will hear victory. Time with the Father indeed makes a difference. When you are spiritually empty desperation to fill the void with temporary pleasures kicks in, discontentment kicks in, bitterness kicks in, doubt kicks in. I’ve noticed in my own life when I was at my best spiritually, feeling like I could run through a troop and leap over a wall and when I wasn’t, second guessing myself and lacking confidence. The determining factor for each scenario was how much time I had or hadn’t spent with God. So my dear sister, let’s make time for what and who matters most. Let’s put the Lord back at the throne of our lives like we did when we first met and fell in love with Him. He’s still the same and able to fulfill us like no one or no thing can.
Now what about you? Have you seen a difference in yourself when you’ve been in God’s presence and when you haven’t?