A few years ago, we attended a youth camp in Tennessee where the spiritual theme of the week was the word "first." The main Scripture was Matthew 6:33. (It's like saving 15 percent on car insurance with Geico—everybody knows it!) It reads, "But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be given to you.:" Simply put, God wants to be first in our lives, not an afterthought. God desires and deserves our best, not our leftovers!
Too often, we give God our leftover time, attention, energy and money. But He should be our first resource not our last resort. Many people treat God like the paramedics—they only call Him when they have an emergency. Perhaps if we called on Him regularly, we'd have fewer emergencies. The New English Translation (NET) of Matthew 6:33a reads, "But above all pursue his kingdom."
So the question is, what are we pursuing? The word "pursue" means "to follow after in order to overtake, to chase, to strive to gain or to seek to attain." TV shows feature people pursuing nearly everything under the sun. Some are chasing Bigfoot; others are chasing storms, UFOs, sharks, antiques, sunken treasure, true love and so on. Others are chasing dreams of a career in sports, music, real estate or fortune and fame in some other field. Friend, whatever you are chasing today? Be sure that above all else you are chasing after God.
Psalms 63:1 (NKJV) expresses it this way, "O God, You are my God; Early will I seek You; My soul thirsts for You; My flesh longs for You In a dry and thirsty land Where there is no water." Verse 8a (KJV) is the clincher, "My soul followeth hard after thee." "My soul pursues You" (NET). Of all the vain and valid pursuits in life, we need to pursue God above all else. We should be, to borrow author Tommy Tenney's term, "God chasers." Putting God first is all about setting proper priorities so we don't get our lives out of balance spiritually. Sometimes we must let go of some less important things so we can focus on the most important things.
Luke 10 tells the story of two sisters who served Jesus supper. I call them scatterbrained Martha and single-minded Mary. Martha was obsessive-compulsive about all the details involved in being a perfect hostess. Meanwhile, Mary chose to sit at Jesus' feet and feast on His words. Frustrated, Martha had the audacity to interrupt Jesus and complained that Mary wasn't helping her like a good sister should. Jesus' response was classic: "Jesus answered her, "Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things. But one thing is needed. And Mary has chosen the good part, which shall not be taken from her" (Luke 10:41-42, MEV). In other words, "Mary is putting Me first, and she will be rewarded for it."
God expressed His desire to be first in Old Testament times too—"You shall have no other gods before Me" (Ex. 20:3). Notice the positioning of the ark of the covenant, the golden icon of God's presence and favor in ancient Israel. The ark was carried on the priest's shoulders and went out in front of the camp of Israel when they traveled or waged war (Num. 10:33-36). God intervened by rolling back the Jordan River, toppling the walls of Jericho and defeating their enemies, along with other supernatural feats. He only asked that they put Him first and hold Him up high for the world to see His glory.
The location of Moses' tabernacle was also symbolic. It was placed in the center of the Israeli camp (the 12 tribes camped around the tabernacle, three tribes on each side). This was similar to how Bedouin sheiks would thrust their spears in the ground and camp would be set up around the chief with his tent in the middle. God was symbolically saying, "I want to be the centerpiece of your life. Every part of your life should revolve around Me." As long as Israel put Jehovah first and kept Him front and center, they were invincible. God fought their battles for them, no enemy could stand before them and no weapon formed against them could prosper.
Then there was the law of the firstfruits. "Honor the Lord with your possessions, And with the firstfruits of all your increase; So your barns will be filled with plenty, And your vats will overflow with new wine" (Prov. 3:9-10, NKJV). God set up the tithing system so His people would give back to Him the first 10 percent of their crops, flocks or incomes and, in return, He promised to prosper them. A church sign said it well, "Give God what is right, not what is left!"
A desperate, destitute widow gathered sticks to build a fire. She only had a handful of meal left in her barrel and a tiny bit of oil. She planned to make a little cake for herself and her son, eat their last meal together and then, due to drought, starve to death. Providentially, the prophet Elijah came by her house. Then he asked for something that on the surface seemed rather selfish, "Do not fear; go and do as you have said, but make a little cake for me first, and bring it to me, and afterward, make some for your son and you, for thus says the Lord God of Israel: The barrel of meal will not run out, nor will the jar of oil empty, until the day that the Lord sends rain upon the earth'" (1 Kings 17:13-14, MEV). Because she put God first, He gave her a supernatural supply and turned her shortage into a surplus.
Friend, are you pursuing after God? Is He first in your life? Does your life revolve around His will? Every other love and pursuit must be secondary to Him or it becomes an idol. He is either Lord of all or not Lord at all. Let's make sure to give God our best ... not our leftovers!
Ben Godwin is the author of four books and pastors the Goodsprings Full Gospel Church. To read more articles, visit his website at bengodwin.org and take advantage of his four-book bundle for $25.
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