When we talk about putting God first in our lives, what exactly do we mean? Do we seek God first and everything else later?
Whenever I used to hear the instruction to “put God first” the picture that immediately came to my mind was a dotted line. This was the timeline for the day and on that line, there was a number of activities I would do throughout the day. At 12:30 p.m., for example, I’d eat some lunch and watch a DVD and at 2:00 p.m. I’d read a few chapters of a new novel. At the very beginning of this line was God. Prayer was the first activity and only when that was over could I go ahead and do everything else I wanted to do. But as I got to know who God was and what role He played in our faith I realized that putting God first was more than merely praying in the morning and putting everything else second. Instead of a horizontal line, I began to realize that the picture was more akin to a pyramid, where God sat at the top and everything else sat under Him, not separated from Him or beside Him.
So the question now is, how do we put God first in our lives? The first step is simply to trust in Him first. Trust in His direction, His grace, His mercy, and His forgiveness. I’m sure we’ve all put our trust in someone at one point only to be let down or betrayed. Maybe it was due to laziness or irresponsibility. Maybe it was due to greed or lust. There are people in our lives we can always trust and depend upon, however, we all make mistakes and we all fail one another at some point in our lives. This is not to justify or else make light of our failings and wrongdoings but to remember that we are creatures who have fallen short of the glory of God and nothing we can do can change that. If we expect someone to become something they cannot be it’ll only open the door to bitterness and resentment. Putting God first means that we trust His grace and love more than the person who receives it. How many times have we thought that someone was just too far gone or that they’ve fallen so many times they’ll never get right? Aren’t we putting our trust in the decisions and actions of the person rather than on the saving grace of God and His power to transform?
The second step to putting God first is to resist stepping out in front of Him. Let’s use the topic of evangelism for an example. Say you recently gave your life to Christ and you’re bubbling with excitement over your newfound faith. Not long after, you learn about an overseas missions trip and you’re certain that that is what God would have you do. But you immediately face a problem we all face as we start our Christian walk: you realize that there are still areas of your life that need to be improved or changed.
Over the years I’ve learned that putting God first requires a lot (a lot) of patience. We tell ourselves that God’s greatest need is to save the lost, and while I agree that salvation is God’s greatest desire, it sometimes isn’t His first desire for us. I’ve spent the last few years doing nothing but waiting on the Lord, studying His Word, getting to know His leading and voice and understanding the world around me. Are there times I think I’m not doing enough? Absolutely. Are there times I believe I’m doing the wrong thing? When I entered this season of my life I had people close to me tell me that I was wrong and that I should be doing either this or that with my life so there definitely were times I doubted. But now? There’s not a doubt in my mind. I’ve seen how important it is to put God’s needs in my life first and waiting, no, resting in Him is how He’s done it.
We often tend to think that once we are saved we are immediately ready to serve God and preach to the lost. The truth is God’s needs have to be met in our own lives before we can realize it in another’s and sometimes that takes some time. It is during that time that we learn to know Him, trust Him, and allow Him to mould us into the people He wants us to become.
We can also put God first by learning to trust His love and provision for us. Are we willing to allow the Holy Spirit to move in our lives and transform us from the inside out or do we believe He isn’t enough? Do we believe we need something more? If we find the answer to that question we’ll be well on our way to understanding what it means to put God first in our lives.