First Things

Every one of us lives life according to a set of priorities; things we do first before we do anything else. These priorities may not be written down and posted on the refrigerator, but they exist. Of course, there is also a hierarchy of priorities which overrule the normal everyday priorities. For instance, it is one of our household priorities to clean the kitchen after preparing and eating a meal. No TV, no social media, or other distractions before the kitchen has been cleaned. It’s a small priority in the grand scheme of life, but it’s a priority, nonetheless, and the reason we can identify it as a priority is the very fact that we do it consistently.

But there are higher priorities as well. If one of us were to cut themselves with a knife while washing the dishes the care and attention to treating that wound would surpass the priority of cleaning the kitchen. Why? Because we value human life and we recognize that bodily injury may constitute a threat to our well being. Again, we know this is a priority because of the way we act and respond to the situation. What was previously first, has now been demoted to second, or third, or some other station below its previous status.

You have priorities, too. Yours may differ from mine or any other person, but you have them and you know what they are because they are reflected by what you do. We may have a mental list of priorities which we think govern our activities and behaviors, but if the list does not match what we do, then the list should be revised. The real list of priorities is always reflected by what we do.

This is true in every facet of life and it is reflected not only by what we do but by how we spend our money, our time and our energy. We may KNOW certain habits and behaviors are better for us but that does not mean they are the things we do. It is self-deception to claim certain things are our priorities when, in fact, they never get done.

Jesus talked about “first things” on several occasions. He encouraged us to align ourselves with the highest priorities in life by practicing those priorities consistently.

Matthew 5:1-6
1 Now when Jesus saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to him,
2 and he began to teach them. He said:
3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
4 Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
5 Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
6 Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.

The idea that our lives are better lived when aligned with God’s purposes is a priority Jesus stressed. He pointed out that we have a part to play in whether or not we live our lives according to God’s standard for rightness. We must be the ones who hunger for it; the ones who desire it. But it is the practice of thinking right and acting right which proves God’s standard for rightness is a priority for us. Wanting the nature and character of God to dominate our human nature, character and tendencies is evidenced by the choices we make; the things we do.

Yes, we will all experience failure in this area, but if our desire for God is a priority the failures should be fewer and fewer and our successes more consistent.

Jesus also referred to this hunger for God in Matthew, chapter 6, in conjunction with our tendency to worry about things we have little or no control over. He connected this desire with faith and trust in God. That is, our faith is fortified the more we seek after God and desire to align ourselves with His divine standards for what is right.

Matthew 6:25-33
25 “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 than food, and the body more than clothes?
26 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?
27 Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?
28 “And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin.
29 Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these.
30 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—you of little faith?
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.

We all worry. We worry about big things. We worry about small things. We fret over things we can do something about and churn over things we have no power to change. Worrying about things we can change is a waste because the remedy is to take action. Don’t worry about it, do something about it. Worrying about things we cannot change is a waste because, “Hello!,” we can’t change them.

Worry, Jesus points out, is overcome by trusting God. What we know to be true about God overwhelms the things we spend so much time worrying over. God takes care of things every day that we give little thought to. He knows who we are and He knows what we need. Our challenge is to place our trust in Him and confidently believe He will work things out for His glory and for our good even when what we see doesn’t agree with what we believe the outcome should be.

Jesus instructed us to seek after God’s Kingdom and to align ourselves with His righteousness and then to trust God to handle all the rest. That doesn’t mean we sit back and do nothing, but it does mean that we should probably worry less because our God is over all.

If we will see it, there is proof that God is at work all around us every day. That is the evidence we need to make following Him our first priority.

So when our “first things” are not the same as the things God tells us should be first, we can struggle with life’s problems and challenges or we can set new priorities which place knowing and following God at the top of the list.

As always….we get to choose.

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