November 21, 2017

Are You Putting Jesus First?

By Norman E. Sewell

Perhaps it's just that I'm getting older, but life truly seems to get busier every year. My children are grown and on their own so if my life is busy, then the lives of those with children at home and in school must really be chaotic. There is so much to do and so little time to get it all done and some things just have to be put off until tomorrow. Our lives are filled with legitimate concerns that we wrestle with each day often leaving little time for thinking of spiritual things, and that is precisely the problem.

Because every person has a different set of priorities it's difficult to place these concerns in any order of priority. God demands that we work with our hands in order to provide for ourselves and for the needs of others (1 Thess. 4:11-12; Eph. 4:28). And Paul told Timothy that "if any-one does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his own household, he has denied the faith, and is worse than an unbeliever" (1 Tim. 5:8). Then there is the raising of our children; not only being sure that they have clean clothes and good food, but bringing them up "in the training and admonition of the Lord" (Eph. 6:4). Sometimes we fathers neglect this part expecting our wives to handle it, but the instruction is directed to us! This is a serious job that cannot be put off until tomorrow. And beside this most of us sometimes need a break from work to simply relax or get some kind of recreation  just have fun. All of these things take up our time and somehow we must find time to give to each thing in keeping with its importance.

One of the problems that develops is that we over-react to these legitimate concerns. Rather than trusting in God to keep his word we begin to be anxious and worried about material things. We suddenly realize that we have such a few years left to work and earn and provide for retirement and we begin to take the earning of money as our highest goal becoming covetous to earn more and more to the detriment of our families or our spiritual lives. Or we are so caught up in sports that there is never any time for family or for the Lord. And some are so family oriented that everything else comes second compared to our idea of the importance of family. What was a God-given responsibility and a legitimate concern just became a problem because we haven't learned to set our priorities properly.

Think with me for a moment about an incident in which Jesus came to the home of Martha and Mary. While Mary sat at Jesus' feet listening, the text says, "but Martha was distracted with much serving, and she approached Him and said, Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Therefore tell her to help me. And Jesus answered and said to her, Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled about many things. But one thing is needful, and Mary has chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her" (Luke 10:40-42). Was it wrong of Martha to want to serve Jesus a good meal in comfort-able surroundings? Surely none of us thinks that. Thousands of sisters do this with great regularity when guests come, or when the visiting preacher is invited. What better way to show hospitality than to open your home and provide the comforts of your house and kitchen to your guests? Martha was doing a good thing. But what Mary was doing was even better! Somehow we must all learn to fulfill all of our areas of responsibility by putting each thing in its proper place of priority.

Some things are just not as important as others. And yet many consistently set their work or their family obligation on a higher level than gathering with the saints to worship God. How many have stayed home on Sunday morning because the weather was bad, but the same weather or worse on Monday morning did not keep them from going to work? How many have forbidden their children to watch any TV or go outside to play until their homework from school is done, but think little of making them study their Bible lesson? How many let the children stay up too late on Saturday night so they are just too tired to get up and go to worship on the Lord's day? How many have moved their family hundreds of miles to a new job only to discover after they have moved there, there is no assembly of faithful Christians in that town? Are these the right priorities?

I believe Jesus was serious when he said, "But seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added to you" (Matt. 6:33). God does not expect more from you than you are able to do. He does expect you to be a good father or mother, husband or wife, a good employee or employer, a good citizen in your community, and still put him first in all things. And when that balance gets messed up, things that are good things, in and of themselves, become stumbling blocks for us and our hope of an eternal home in heaven. Take a look at your life and what your highest priorities are. Are you putting Jesus first? Or does any little thing that comes along distract you and hinder your service to him? At least be honest with yourself, and if your priorities are set wrong then have the courage to reset them in keeping with God's word.

Guardian of Truth XL: No. 24, p. 18-19
December 19, 1996

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