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?