You know the Scripture: “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” (Matthew 6:33) It sounds really good. And this verse is often used by church people to say, “Give to the church, and God will take care of your needs.” But what does it really mean to put God first in all things? And how do you do it?
This Scripture is about much more than money. In fact money is only a minor component of what Jesus is talking about. We humans try hard to manage our own lives, to figure things out, to be in control. And we worry, or get angry, when we can’t.
And Jesus is saying, You can’t control things anyway. So don’t struggle. Don’t worry. “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.” (Matthew 6:34)
Running your own life, and asking God to help when you want Him to, is a recipe for frustration and sometimes disaster. That’s treating God like a heavenly vending machine; put in a prayer, get out a blessing. He’s too big for that!
Putting God first means He is in charge. Of everything. Always. It does not mean things always turn out as you wish. But it does mean you take your grubby hands off!
So here are three aspects of what it looks like to put God first in all things.
Many otherwise good-hearted Christians decide what they want to do, and then ask God to bless it. You feel attracted to that person, and ask God to make him/her your spouse. You imagine the kind of job or house you want, and ask God to make it happen. Your marriage is in trouble and you ask God to fix it. Your mind or your body is troubled and you ask God to heal you.
That’s all good, but that’s not putting Him first. The “Ask Him” I’m talking about is asking Him first.
God absolutely cares about your heart’s desires! But if you want “all these things” added to you, you ask Him first – about His perspective, His plans, and what He wants to accomplish. You ask Him what He wants you to do, and where you fit into His plans.
Specifically that looks like, ask Him how He wants you to handle your money, what kind of person He needs you to be to your spouse, what kinds of entertainment He wants you to engage in, where He wants you to live, what service He wants you to do for His kingdom.
And when things go sideways in life, ask Him, “Jesus, what’s going on here?”
And then follow that up with, “Jesus, what step to You need me to take next?”
It wasn’t that long ago when I faced a possible big change that would require a great deal of my time and also bring a significant financial benefit. I believed God was telling me this would happen. But because I wasn’t certain, (truthfully, because I was afraid) I said Yes to some “side jobs” in order to protect myself financially.
When the big day came and the big change did happen, I was suddenly completely overbooked and overstressed. During the next few months I ran myself ragged and became emotionally out-of-sorts. Once my schedule became a little calmer and my mind quiet enough to hear God’s voice again, I heard Him say, “I warned you. All that stress was unnecessary.” God wasn’t angry with me for taking those “side jobs,” but He had certainly tried to protect me from the overwhelm. But I hadn’t believed Him completely. I had acted out of anxiety and fear. OUCH!
Hearing God’s voice is a matter of spiritual growth. And when you believe you hear His voice and it doesn’t happen your soul can be deeply troubled. But when you do hear from Him, believe Him!
Not believing Him out of fear is human. But it’s dishonoring to God and eventually harmful to you. Putting God first means that once He speaks to you, you believe Him.
Do What He Says
Soon after the Scriptures we mentioned to open this article, Jesus talked about the wise man and the foolish man, and where they built their houses. (Matthew 7:24-27) The difference in whether their houses withstood the storm was not whether they heard Him, but whether they did what He said.
Following Jesus, hearing Him and doing what He says, is not about a short prayer each morning and showing up in church for an hour on the weekend. It’s about the way you live 24/7/365. Once you’ve asked Him, do you believe what He says (in His word, and in your heart)? And do you then follow any directions you receive?
For example, when God says, “The borrower is servant to the lender,” (Proverbs 22:7) are you running away from debt?
When God says, “Whatever is good, think on these things,” (see Philippians 4:8), do you carefully guard what goes into your mind?
When God says, “Husbands, love your wives as Christ loved the church,” (see Ephesians 5:25), are you treating your wife with that kind of sacrificial love?
When God says, “Wives, respect your husbands,” (see Ephesians 5:22), are you seeking to give your husband the honor he needs?
When God says, “Flee sexual immorality,” (see 1 Corinthians 6:18), are you doing just that?
And that’s only a few examples. This is not a list of sins or their opposite virtues; it’s a few of the more obvious directions God gives about living in a way that puts God first. It’s not so much about right and wrong as it is about life and death.
If you want to run your own life your own way, you can. How’s that been working out for you?
If you want “all these things” both here and eternally (see Luke 18:29-30), put God first.
That’s a snapshot of what it means to put God first in all things.
Your Turn: Where have you struggled to put God first in all things? What do you need to ask Him about now? Leave a comment below.
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