First Things First

First Things First

Some people wish God was a genie who would grant anything they ask. Some even preach that if your faith is strong enough, God is obligated to grant what you ask. If that were true, and God said, “I will grant you three wishes," what would you believe God for?

Think carefully. Everything has consequences. We all talk about what we want, but what would you ask God for without knowing the consequences of your request?

That is a scary thought isn't it? I’m sure glad God is not a genie. There is security in trusting God and His love, for our needs.

Therefore, what should we be seeking and asking God for?

Jesus said in Matthew 6:25-33, "Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life? And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?' For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”

Jesus' teaching strikes at the heart of our lists of things we desire most in life. We spend too much time worrying about life and the things of this world, and we lose sight of what truly matters. That is why Jesus encourages us to seek first things first. His kingdom and His righteousness should be the first thing we desire and seek after. If we do that, God will supply the rest of our needs.

We are not the first to be misguided and misinformed by the tempter of this world. Since he walked onto the scene in the Garden of Eden and deceived Eve, the human heart has been focusing on the things of this world instead of God’s desires.

We've been seeking after diamonds and gold while dismissing the voice of God. We've been seeking after designer clothing while robes of righteousness are offered. We’ve been seeking after good health while holiness is neglected. We've been seeking after palaces of bricks and mortar while homes of grace and godliness are passed by. We've been seeking for our pain to be alleviated while we turn our backs on God's purposes for our lives.

The only way out of our predicament, the only way to discard our wish lists of toys and trinkets is to allow Jesus to take His seat on the throne of our hearts and then earnestly, continuously, and passionately seek God's will for our lives each and every day.

Only God can change our hearts. He alone can remove our hearts of stone that seek after the things of this world and give us a heart of flesh that seeks after the things of God.

J. Vernon McGee said, “What is your ambition in life today? Is it to get rich? Is it to make a name for yourself? Is it even to do some wonderful thing for God? Listen to me, beloved. The highest desire that can possess any human heart is a longing to see God.”

Most people have their priorities all wrong. Most college students today are choosing careers based upon how much the job will pay, what it can provide for them in life, rather than seeking God's purpose for their lives. Most adults are consumed with the thought of being happy while they give no thought at all to being holy. Then they are wondering why they can't seem to find happiness, why there is so much pain, while neglecting the passionate pursuit of God and His purpose for their life regardless of their circumstances.

We seek things, not God. We seek comfort, not God. Things can never give us direction in life. Things can never comfort us in a lasting way. Things can never instill within us the wisdom we need to understand our predicaments and possibilities. Things are just things and they don’t last, but God is God, who is eternal.

So often we get so focused on what we want, and we convince ourselves that what we want will alleviate everything that troubles us and we will be happy. Nothing could be further from the truth. To be blessed, we must keep first things first.

Jesus said, "Seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness and all of these things will be given to you as well."

How do we do that? How do we find freedom from what we desire?

That is a question that Jesus was confronted with when He prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane. Jesus knew what lay ahead, He had a clear vision of the cross—its pain, its shame, and its suffering. He wanted the cup of suffering to be taken away and yet what did He do?

Luke 22:39-44 He withdrew about a stone's throw beyond them, knelt down and prayed, "Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done." An angel from heaven appeared to him and strengthened him. And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground.

How did Jesus find His way beyond what He desired at the moment? He sought God, the Father. Jesus said, "Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done." If you and I truly want to find our way beyond our own wishes and wants, our own desires for the toys and trinkets that this world has to offer, then we must seek God first, last, continuously, and earnestly.

I know that is not a popular teaching in the church today. I am fully aware that the popular trend among churches today is to meet people's needs - help them feel more fulfilled, become better moms and dads, husbands and wives, help them increase their earning potential and boost their bottom line, help them feel better about themselves, and help them achieve the happiness that everybody is longing for in life. I know these are the popular topics that are filling Sunday school classes and pews all across our nation. The problem is that I simply can't find the basis for the mad pursuit of these topics in God's Word. The Bible certainly has something to say about all of these topics, God desires that we be good husbands, fathers, employees, mothers, sisters, etc., but the way to achieve this is not by focusing on becoming "better," but by focusing on God. God's Word is filled with godly counsel on a far greater need than all of these, and that is seeking God first.

Brothers and sisters, our greatest need is to seek God with all of our heart. We need to spend time in prayer seeking God's will for our lives, what He is doing in the midst of our present circumstances, and where He is leading us. We need to spend time in prayer and in His Word, allowing the Lord to teach us about His character, His love, His justice, His mercy, His grace, His mighty power, His majesty, and His sovereignty over all things. This is what we truly need in life. Nothing apart from seeking the Lord with all of our hearts will give us the security, rest, and joy that every person longs for in life.

When we seek the Lord, when we long to be in His presence, then we will find that He begins to change us. The things that use to matter most, the temptations of the world and Satan, lose their power over us. The plans that we have pursued with fervency and passion lose their grip on us, so that we might pursue the plans that God has for us. The troubles that use to unravel our souls are put into His divine perspective and we learn that nothing happens apart from His knowledge.

The consequences of “seeking first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness” are that we are more fulfilled, we become better moms and dads, husbands, and wives, we feel better about ourselves, and we possess the “joy of the Lord”.

Asaph, the author of Psalm 73, went through the same emotions that we go through. Something happened to make him bitter and angry, but all that changed when he sought the Lord.

Psalm 73:21-28 When my soul was embittered, when I was pricked in heart, I was brutish and ignorant; I was like a beast toward you. Nevertheless, I am continually with you; you hold my right hand. You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will receive me to glory. Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. For behold, those who are far from you shall perish; you put an end to everyone who is unfaithful to you. But for me it is good to be near God; I have made the Lord GOD my refuge, that I may tell of all your works.

What a beautiful change of heart! Prayer may not change my circumstances, but prayer changes me. So often, when I am out of fellowship with God and neglecting Him in prayer, I find my life begin to drift. I am not sensitive to His Spirit, I hurt people without even trying, I neglect the things of God, I miss opportunities to minister to someone is who needing help, and I begin to feel depleted and drained, burned out.

If I will pray, read the Word of God, and seek God with all my heart, God shows me where I have gone wrong. God reveals His plans for me and then gives me the desire to walk in His will. He renews my strength by giving me His strength.

Psalm 119:57-64 You are my portion, O LORD; I have promised to obey your words. I have sought your face with all my heart; be gracious to me according to your promise. I have considered my ways and have turned my steps to your statutes. I will hasten and not delay to obey your commands. Though the wicked bind me with ropes, I will not forget your law. At midnight I rise to give you thanks for your righteous laws. I am a friend to all who fear you, to all who follow your precepts. The earth is filled with your love, O LORD; teach me your decrees.

Unfortunately, there are many today who do not feel worthy to seek the Lord, let alone to seek Him first. They feel that their lives are such a mess or that they have neglected the things of God for so long that surely God would not listen to their prayer. I want you to know that there is absolutely nothing that you have ever done that God is not fully aware of. He sees our deeds, He knows our hearts, He knows that we are sinners, and that is why He died for our sins. Jesus didn't die because we were good people, He died because we are sinners to the core of our souls. We are without hope apart from God acting on our behalf out of His great love for us.

Oh, how I wish we could understand the love and mercy of God! I wish we could realize that God is yearning for us to lift our face to Heaven and cry out to Him! I wish we could realize that God delights in sinners seeking Him. Consider this example in the Bible of one of the most evil kings of Judah:

2 Chronicles 33:1-10 Manasseh was twelve years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem fifty-five years. He did evil in the eyes of the LORD, following the detestable practices of the nations the LORD had driven out before the Israelites. He rebuilt the high places his father Hezekiah had demolished; he also erected altars to the Baals and made Asherah poles. He bowed down to all the starry hosts and worshiped them. He built altars in the temple of the LORD, of which the LORD had said, "My Name will remain in Jerusalem forever." In both courts of the temple of the LORD, he built altars to all the starry hosts. He sacrificed his sons in the fire in the Valley of Ben Hinnom, practiced sorcery, divination and witchcraft, and consulted mediums and spiritists. He did much evil in the eyes of the LORD, provoking him to anger. He took the carved image he had made and put it in God's temple, of which God had said to David and to his son Solomon, "In this temple and in Jerusalem, which I have chosen out of all the tribes of Israel, I will put my Name forever. I will not again make the feet of the Israelites leave the land I assigned to your forefathers, if only they will be careful to do everything I commanded them concerning all the laws, decrees and ordinances given through Moses." But Manasseh led Judah and the people of Jerusalem astray, so that they did more evil than the nations the LORD had destroyed before the Israelites. The LORD spoke to Manasseh and his people, but they paid no attention. So the LORD brought against them the army commanders of the king of Assyria, who took Manasseh prisoner, put a hook in his nose, bound him with bronze shackles and took him to Babylon. In his distress he sought the favor of the LORD his God and humbled himself greatly before the God of his fathers. And when he prayed to him, the LORD was moved by his entreaty and listened to his plea; so he brought him back to Jerusalem and to his kingdom. Then Manasseh knew that the LORD is God. Afterward he rebuilt the outer wall of the City of David, west of the Gihon spring in the valley, as far as the entrance of the Fish Gate and encircling the hill of Ophel; he also made it much higher. He stationed military commanders in all the fortified cities in Judah. He got rid of the foreign gods and removed the image from the temple of the LORD, as well as all the altars he had built on the temple hill and in Jerusalem; and he threw them out of the city. Then he restored the altar of the LORD and sacrificed fellowship offerings and thank offerings on it, and told Judah to serve the LORD, the God of Israel.

When Manasseh repented, cried out to God, and sought the Lord, he found God present that very moment. There wasn't a probationary period due to Manasseh's atrocious sins. There wasn't a waiting period because of his devilish deeds. This Scripture tells us that God was moved by the prayer of Manasseh. And, God is moved by your prayers and mine as well.

Won't you lift up your eyes to the King of Kings and cry out to Him this morning? Regardless of your circumstances or situation, won't you confess your need of Jesus and seek Him to be your Lord and Savior.

We desperately need to seek first God and His Kingdom with all of our hearts so that we can learn of His ways and allow Him to reveal to us His purposes for our lives. Call upon the Lord and watch Him work in your life!