First Things – Setting Yourself up for Success
Pastor Bob Feist
31 So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Matthew 6:31-33 (NIV)
Sometimes in life we’re just drifting along spiritually. It can seem like we’re on a lazy river. Have you been there? Other times we’re inconsistent. We start then we stop, we get started again, and then get sidetracked. Did you have any spiritual starts and stops last year? It’s easy to lose focus or become distracted in normal times let alone these crazy covid times. But then for some there are times, even in the midst of adversity, when we get fired up, when we become passionate, when we become spiritually on fire. I don’t know about you but for me – times of greatest spiritual vitality often happen right in the middle of my greatest struggles. Charles Dicken’s famous opening line in Tale of Two cities– “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times,” is often descriptive of what is going on in my spiritual life.
Jesus taught some helpful things. Once when he gathered his disciples and was teaching them about not being consumed by worry, or fear, or the cares of life he said something simple yet profound. He said Put God first. Don’t worry about the everyday cares of life, your heavenly Father knows you need them. In Matt 6:33 Jesus said, But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. (NIV) He’s talking about putting first things first.
What are some practical ways to do that? How can we go about this in ways that make sense in our everyday lives?
At the first of the day: seek God
We can intentionally seek God at the beginning of each day. The Psalmist says in Ps 63:1 O God, you are my God, earnestly I seek you; (NIV) We can make that a conscious effort. I try to make God the first focus of my thoughts in the morning when I wake up. First, I listen – is there an answer or some insight about a problem I’ve been wrestling with? Often right then – there is a thought or an insight that helps. That’s great! And then as I walk our dog Daisy through the neighborhood, I listen to my The Bible in One Year devotion & scripture passages in my ear buds. And it’s amazing how God brings Scripture passages or insights to bear on what I’m facing. I’ve become fanatical about my morning time with God. I don’t want to miss it. Jesus was intentional about seeking God. We read in Mark 1:35 Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed. (NIV) The first of the day we can seek God.
First day of the week: worship
This was certainly a priority in the early church. In Acts 20:7 we read: On the first day of the week, we came together to break bread. (NIV) If you want 2022 to be a great year spiritually, make worship a priority. Lord this year I’m going to seek you in worship. I’m going to be in worship, either in the Sanctuary or online if I can’t make it. And I’m going to come expecting you to speak to me. I’m going to be fired up about worship. And we will continue to do our best to make worship dynamic, meaningful, impacting. Make it a priority to connect in worship. And come expecting.
First of the month we can seek God: with the tithe
Setting aside a percentage of our income with the tithe or “tenth” being the goal. For the children of Israel in the OT this was part of their faith relationship with God – In Lev 27:30 we read, A tithe of everything from the land, whether grain from the soil or fruit from the trees, belongs to the Lord; it is holy to the Lord. (NIV) This practice of bringing the first fruits of the land encouraged God’s people to trust him. It also was a practical means of funding God’s ministry on earth. That’s how the Temple was cared for, the priests were provided for, and the poor were helped – through those tithe offerings.
First of the year: fast
Fasting is a spiritual practice used for centuries to seek God and put first things first. It has always been a means of saying, God, I’m serious. I’m going to deny my body it’s normal diet of food, to focus my attention and energies on You and Your will.
Remember this – Jesus encourages us to put first things first – to seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these other things will be added unto us. That’s a great promise for a new year. For now – what’s one step you can take today to put first things first in your life?