It’s taken me a long time to fully grasp the idea of putting God first. Maybe my confusion came from the church worker who used to guilt me into working church functions by saying I needed to “put God first.” At the time I just kept thinking: no I need to spend more time with my family; I don’t have any more time to spend “at church.”
Unfortunately though, she was communicating the wrong idea of “putting God first.” While God calls us to “serve,” volunteering or working at church doesn’t necessarily mean we have a relationship with God or that we are putting God first in our lives. The concept of putting God first clicked again last night when the comment was made at our couples of faith date night — “You can’t pull someone UP, unless you are firmly anchored yourself.” God First!
This past Sunday’s Gospel told the story about how the Apostles put God first by leaving their profession as fishermen and immediately following Christ. “He said to them, “Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men.” At once they left their nets and followed him (Matt. 4:12-23). They realized Jesus was the true prophet and by following Him first, they were making the choice to be with Him first.
I have asked God for many things this week: For healing for friends and family who are taking cancer treatments; for peace and comfort of the family who just found out their mother has terminal cancer and less than 6 months to live; for healing and comfort for young friends who have recently lost loved ones who were also young; for a friend who’s father was in a serious car accident; and for the couples who we coach that their marriages would be strengthened by allowing God to be at the center of their marriages.
My first response is no longer “What can I do?” it is “What can God do?”. I know that while it is helpful to be a caring friend, it is more important to offer prayers and then trust that God will heal them in His own way. Of course each of these requests asks for healing and strength for those involved. But more importantly, my prayers are that those involved would be able to see God first in their sufferings, and then for His strength and comfort to move them forward. I am asking that God be first in their lives.
Just as we talked last night at date night, God is the ultimate hook that holds us up. What are we hooked to? What are the things we’re hooked to that are pulling us up . . . or down? What pulls us closer to or farther from our goal? What pulls us nearer to or away from Christ? These are the questions we must ask ourselves when we make decisions, when we try to take control of our lives.
By hooking ourselves to someone or something other than God, do we pull down our spouse and others because our weight and problems are much too heavy for them to bear? Do we place undue burdens and pressures on our spouse because we haven’t put God first and entrusted Him with our burdens? At the top of the hook, holding us up and pulling us up is God because we have put God first in our lives.
When I realized that it wasn’t my spouse, family, or friends that pulled me up, when I realized how God was always there for me when I asked Him first, then I made the change that I was no longer doing it for myself or depending on others for strength. Rather, my service was for God, and my strength was in Jesus Christ. Not only was God first, but God was always and would always be with me.
Putting God first is the hook that keeps me up. And God first is what pulls me up when I feel grief, loneliness, confusion, or despair. Without God first, without God at the top, I don’t have the strength to do it myself, and unless my spouse and friends are firmly anchored in God themselves, neither can they have the strength to help pull me up. God must be our anchor and we must be willing to follow Him FIRST.
How are you hooked up? Ask yourself if you are putting God first, immediately, like the Apostles did when God called on them to follow Him. Or are you hooked on your own strength, the strength of a friend or spouse and only calling on God when nothing else is working? Hook up to God first!
Come Holy Spirit fill my life with your grace. Rescue me when I am sad, lonely, hurt, or depressed. Fill my life with the knowledge that God is my strength. Help me to see the hope that You offer me every minute, every hour, every day of my life. Amen.