But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you. (Matthew 6:33)
We all have priorities – those things that are most important to us. Things that, when we are forced to make a choice, supersede all others. Many of those things merit high priority – spouse, family, friends, health, etc. Other things that we make high priority are not so worthy – entertainment, pleasure, material possessions, and things of that sort. Whatever our priorities, God wants us to make Him top priority in all things.
A couple of Sundays ago, the Rev. J. John of England, touted as “Europe’s Billy Graham,” gave the sermon at our church. He presented a great message, but the part that stuck with me most was the acrostic “FIRST” that was offered as a memory aid to help us remember to put Jesus first in every area of our lives.
Put Jesus FIRST in your Finances. Someone once said, “Show me a man’s checkbook register, and I will show you where his priorities lie.” Throughout the Old Testament, God demanded the first and the best of the people’s possessions – the firstborn male child (Exodus 13:2), the firstborn of every animal (Exodus 34:19), the first of the harvest, a tenth of the harvest (Leviticus 27:30, 32; Deuteronomy 14:22, 28), etc. God has no need of any of these things. In fact, they all belong to Him in the first place (Exodus 19:5; Leviticus 25:23; Job 41:11; Psalm 50:10, 12; Haggai 2:8). The reason He makes these demands is so that His people will learn to depend on Him for their provision. The tithe (the tenth part) is not addressed in the New Testament, but “generous giving” is encouraged. Luke tells us that the early believers “sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had need” (Acts 2:45). As Paul made the circuit of the churches, he took up a collection for the needs of the Christians in Jerusalem. Of the churches in Macedonia he commented, “How that in a great trial of affliction the abundance of their joy and their deep poverty abounded unto the riches of their liberality … Praying us with much intreaty that we would receive the gift, and take upon us the fellowship of the ministering to the saints. And this they did, not as we hoped, but first gave their own selves to the Lord, and unto us by the will of God” (2 Corinthians 8:2, 4, 5, emphasis mine). Note that they gave themselves FIRST to the Lord. In order to have our priorities right, we must put Jesus and His kingdom FIRST in your Finances.
Put Jesus FIRST in your Interests. These days many things contend for our attention – television, Facebook, entertainment, family, friends, etc. How often do those things keep us from spending time in God’s Word or in prayer? What kinds of books or magazines do we read? Are they God-honoring? When given the opportunity to attend a professional sporting event that conflicts with a church service, which do we choose? Do you allow your children’s sports activities to keep you away from church on Sunday? If our priorities are right, the things of God should be FIRST in our Interests.
Put Jesus FIRST in your Relationships. Jesus said “He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me” (Matthew 10:37). That is painfully clear, and it may seem rather harsh; but God created the family, and when God is given first place in familial relationships, there will be enough love to go around and then some. In fact, we are instructed in proper familial relationships. “But if any provide not for his own, and specially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel” (1 Timothy 5:8). “Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it” (Ephesians 5:25). “Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord” (Ephesians 5:22). “Children, obey your parents in the Lord: for this is right … And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:1, 4). Of course, even when we follow God’s instructions, our relationships may not work out to our liking. Jesus warned that our commitment to Him may divide our families. “For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter in law against her mother in law. And a man’s foes shall be they of his own household” (Matthew 10:35-36, emphasis mine). In that case, Jesus must come FIRST. As for relationships outside of the family, we are instructed: “Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness?” (2 Corinthians 6:14). If our priorities are right, we must put Jesus FIRST in our Relationships.
Put Jesus FIRST in your Schedule. Many things compete for our time. In the busyness of our lives, making time for God can be a challenge. The best way to overcome this is to set a time every day to spend time with God in prayer and Bible reading. I am reminded of Daniel when a law was passed “that whosoever shall ask a petition of any God … shall be cast into the den of lions” (Daniel 6:7). Daniel put God FIRST in his Schedule and “he went into his house; and his windows being open in his chamber toward Jerusalem, he kneeled upon his knees three times a day, and prayed, and gave thanks before his God, as he did aforetime” (Daniel 6:10, emphasis mine). Daniel had his schedule set and nothing was going to keep him from his appointment with God, not even a decree from the king. If we want our priorities to be right, we must put Jesus FIRST in our Schedule.
Put Jesus FIRST in your Troubles. While it is true that we often forget about God until we are really in trouble, too many times we try to manage our trouble all on our own and only call on God as a last resort. How about calling on Him at the first sign of trouble? “I cried unto the LORD with my voice, and he heard me out of his holy hill” (Psalm 3:4). “I sought the LORD, and he heard me, and delivered me from all my fears” (Psalm 34:4). “In my distress I cried unto the LORD, and he heard me” (Psalm 120:1). “But verily God hath heard me; he hath attended to the voice of my prayer” (Psalm 66:19). “I will praise thee: for thou hast heard me, and art become my salvation” (Psalm 118:21). Since God hears us and is ready to come to our aid, why not call on Him FIRST? Better yet, why not stay “prayed up” before trouble hits? When our priorities are right, we make Jesus FIRST in our Troubles.