First Things First   

Introduction:

We have all experienced a lot of firsts in our life. Those include first day of school, first time riding a bike, first crush, first job, just to name a few. Matthew 6:33 gives us a first: “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”  While each of our “firsts” is unique, there are more firsts on the horizon in our journey as followers of Jesus Christ. In this message we look at some firsts we should consider as we move into the new year. 

Something To Talk About:

We live in a world that consists of a multitude of things that are constantly competing for our time, attention and devotion. Every day we must prioritize our lives, striving to keep first things first because “first” things are important. It is common to hear people say, “God first, family second, work third.” But what does it really mean to put God first? What does it mean to “…love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your strength.” (Deuteronomy 6:5)? Here are a few firsts to think about as we prepare for 2017. 

  1. First of the day – seek God: The history of the church is filled with men and women who put “first things first” by starting their day with God. This shouldn’t be that surprising given that Jesus himself did exactly that: “Before daybreak the next morning, Jesus got up and went out to an isolated place to pray.” (Mark 1:35) What if we gave God our very first thoughts? Instead of sleeping to the last possible second, what if we set our alarm for just a few minutes earlier? What if we opened our eyes, shut off the alarm and began thanking God for all of our blessings? We could begin with “Thank you, God that I woke up this morning, the house is still quiet and I have this opportunity to thank You and praise You for all You have done.” We could take a few minutes and express our gratitude to our creator.  What if we slid out of bed, grabbed our devotional and our Bible, started the coffee and sat quietly reading His word and desiring to know Him more?
  2. First of the week – worship: Hebrews 10:25 tells us. “And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near.” Acts 20:7 says, “On the first day of the week, we gathered with the local believers to share in the Lord’s Supper….”  From that time, we find Christians meeting to worship upon the first day of the week which is Sunday. So on the first of the week we should be in church. We should never miss an opportunity to be in God’s presence, hear His word, fellowship with His people, and praise Him for His goodness.
  3. First of the month – tithe: God wants our firsts. What if we gave them to Him? What if we decided to bring God our very first fruits? In the Bible, God asked believers to bring their first crops to Him. What if we did that today? What if as soon as we received our income we brought our tithe to Him? That would mean tithing before we bought anything for ourselves or paid any of our bills. We “bring our tithe” because how can you not give someone something that belongs to them anyway? God wants our firsts. Over the last few years we have talked about first fruits. First fruits is the principle of dedicating our “first things” to the Lord, so that everything else can fall into their proper position. It’s about giving our first 10 percent to the Lord and living on the remainder.  The LORD your God will then make you successful in everything you do. He will give you many children and numerous livestock, and he will cause your fields to produce abundant harvests, for the LORD will again delight in being good to you as he was to your ancestors” (Deuteronomy 30:9)
  4. First of the year- fast: Over the last few years we have started the new year with a 21 day fast. We believe starting the year with a fast sets the course for the rest of the year. There are three reasons starting the year with a fast is a good practice. First, by doing so, you set the course for the rest of the year. Just as beginning your day with prayer and a quiet time sets the course for the rest of the day and covers anything that may happen, the same is true of beginning the year with a fast. As a reminder, Biblical fasting is refraining from food for a spiritual purpose. As expressed by the impassioned plea of David in Psalm 42, fasting brings one into a deeper, more intimate and powerful relationship with God. Jesus said, “When you give” and “When you pray” and “When you fast.” He made it clear that fasting, like giving and praying, was a normal part of Christian life. 

Questions:

  1. Which of the four firsts would make the biggest difference in your 2017? Why did you pick that one?
  2. What’s your greatest barrier to starting your day with God? Have you put God first in your day for a consistent period of time? What differences did you notice?
  3. Why do you start your week with church? How can you bring church into the rest of your week?
  4. How does giving God the first 10% affect the other 90%?
  5. Have you ever fasted? What happened?
  6. What does “seek first His kingdom and His righteousness” mean to you? How does that change your perspective on firsts?
  7. What’s your first step to put God first in your life? What specifically will you commit to this week? What help do you need from the group?

Take One Thing Home with You:

My prayer is that this message encourages you to learn and practice the wisdom of firsts in your life. The formula is simple, give God the first of everything in your life. The first 10th of every dollar should go to God.  The first moments of every day should be reserved for time alone with God.  The first one we should go to when we are in need is God.  The first day of the week should be set aside to honor the Lord and fellowship with His people in church. The new year is a time of fasting and introspection. And on and on the list goes. 

The four firsts are not the total list. For example, what if our first pleas for help were to God? Where do we go today to get a question answered? Google perhaps, or maybe a parent or friend or someone in your small group. Think about how many times a crisis arises and we run to grab our phone. We call whoever we believe can best answer the question. Here’s the problem. We are seeking counsel and advice and answers from people who are just as flawed as we are. God  wants to be our first cry for help, our first consideration for counsel, and our first application for answers. He is our answer. He is our all. When we have a need, what if we ran to Him first?  That may be a new “first” but one that could change your life.