Does God Occupy the First Place in Our Lives?

We need to ask ourselves this crucial question: Does God occupy the first place in my life?

As Creator, Sustainer and Source of all good, God deserves the first place in our lives.

Many are willing to serve God as long as it doesn’t cost them too much time or effort. They give God the crumbs of their lives, and - as far as they are concerned - He’ll just have to be satisfied with that. But He isn’t.

God never asks for more than we can give, but He does ask for the best we can give.

Under the old covenant, when people brought sacrifices to God, they were to offer Him only the very best. God did not accept a sacrifice that was second-rate or had flaws.

“When you offer the blind as a sacrifice, is it not evil? And when you offer the lame and sick, is it not evil? Offer it then to your governor! Would he be pleased with you? Would he accept you favorably? ... You also say, ‘Oh, what a weariness!’ ... And you bring the stolen, the lame, and the sick; thus you bring an offering! Should I accept this from your hand?” (Malachi 1:8, 13). They kept the best for themselves and gave God what they wanted to be rid of anyway!

It was bad enough that they brought inferior offers, but they also complained: “What a drudgery!”

If serving God is a “weariness” to you, maybe you are just giving God the crumbs of your life, possibly from a sense of obligation or fear. But God is not pleased with scraps any more than you are. Giving God the plate-scrapings of your life can never bring the “joy of the Holy Spirit” (1 Thessalonians 1:6).

We must put God first in our hearts!

Jesus tells us: “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and great commandment” (Matthew 22:37, 38).

When we give God the place of highest honor in our hearts, we will also put Him first in our lives. We will offer Him the very best we have. And we will find joy in serving the Lord, instead of experiencing it as drudgery.

We must love God even more than family and friends.

Jesus said: “He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me” (Matthew 10:37).

Sometimes we are forced to choose between Christ and others. What if relatives or friends drop in as we are preparing to go to the assembly? Do we say: “We are going to worship God now. You are welcome to come along, or if you do not wish to do so, make yourself at home. We will be back in an hour or so.” Or do we think, “Too bad. Now I can’t go.”

How we react in such situations, shows who ranks highest in our hearts.

We must love God rather than the world.

“Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him” (1 John 2:15).

To love the world does not necessarily mean that we love bad things. It can simply be that we love the things of this world, that “the cares of this world and the deceitfulness of riches” are choking the word (Matthew 13:22).

Among other things, this means that our love for God must be greater than our love for ourselves and our own enjoyment.

What if there is an exceptional opportunity to serve the Lord on a day we were planning to do something for our own enjoyment? Do we say: “I’m thankful for this great opportunity to serve the Lord.” Or do we say: “You know, I really feel bad about it, but I have a previous appointment.”

Is our free time so filled with “enjoying ourselves” that we have little time left for the Lord? If so, we are just giving God the crumbs. We love ourselves with all our heart, not God. And God is not pleased.

What if someone we know is in the hospital, but visiting hours are the same time as one of our favorite TV programs? Do we say: “I’m going to visit him this evening. He might need cheering up.” Or do we think: “What a shame that visiting hours are at such an inconvenient time! I’ll try to visit him tomorrow, or maybe next week.”

How does our Bible study time compare with our entertainment time?

Once when visiting a congregation, a brother took me to meet another brother in the Lord. After we knocked, he came nervously to the door and said: “Come on in. We’re watching such and such on TV.”

So we sat for about an hour watching TV. Finally, the brother I was with said: “Well, it’s getting late. I guess we need to be going.” Our “host” looked away from the TV just long enough to say: “Glad you dropped in. Come back anytime.” He didn’t even go with us to the door.

What do you think of the spiritual condition of someone like that?

That rest and recreation are needed, is not being denied. We are discussing priorities and the difference between self-love and love for God and fellow man.

Once when Jesus’ disciples had just returned from a preaching trip, He told them: “Come aside by yourselves to a deserted place and rest a while” (Mark 6:31).

Although they needed rest, as it turned out, something else became more important. “So they departed to a deserted place in the boat by themselves. But the multitudes saw them departing, and many knew Him and ran there on foot from all the cities. They arrived before them and came together to Him. And Jesus, when He came out, saw a great multitude and was moved with compassion for them, because they were like sheep not having a shepherd. So He began to teach them many things” (Mark 6:32-34).

Notice that Jesus was moved with compassion. He had intended to have some time alone with His disciples for rest. But because He loved His fellow men, He put their welfare above His own comfort. He is, of course, the perfect example of how a man ought to put God first in his life.

There is only one first place.

We cannot give God, plus something else, first place in our lives. That is not possible. Jesus said: “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon” (Matthew 6:24).

If we think we can have two things in first place, we are deceiving ourselves. One or the other ultimately takes precedence in our lives.

Mammon is the god of money. We can’t serve God and money. Is serving God more important to you than earning money? The headache, or the fatigue, that keeps you from the assembly, would it also keep you from going to work? What if you are offered a job that pays much more money, but one that would keep you so busy you would have little time to serve the Lord?

How you make such decisions shows what is most important in your heart.

Are we like the little girl who received two coins, one for herself and one for the collection. After she accidentally dropped one of the coins down the storm drain, she said: “Oh no, there goes the Lord’s money!”

For God, lukewarm is not warm enough!

“These things says the Amen, the Faithful and True Witness the Beginning of the creation of God: ‘I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I could wish you were cold or hot. So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spew you out of My mouth’” (Revelation 3:14-16).

The danger of being lukewarm is that it is easy to believe you are all right. A lukewarm person thinks: “Well, at least I’m not cold.” But lukewarm isn’t warm enough for God. He will spew us out of His mouth unless we repent.

A Christian must be dedicated.

Being dedicated means to be fully committed.

“I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service” (Romans 12:1).

Christianity is not certain things you do, it is a way of doing everything. The Christian gives himself fully in service to God and his fellow man. God occupies the first place in his heart and in his actions.

Does this mean that we should be fanatics?

No. In Ecclesiastes 7:16 we are warned: “Do not be overly righteous, nor be overly wise: why should you destroy yourself?”

There is a great difference between being fanatical and being dedicated. You want your family doctor to be dedicated, but not fanatical!

A fanatic is someone who has a blind, unreasoning and exaggerated zeal for something, accompanied by intolerance of others. Fanaticism is a form of arrogance. A fanatic exalts his own ideas, and will not even listen to the ideas of others.

A Christian must be patient, humble and caring. A fanatic is none of these. He is impatient, haughty and self-centered.

We must be dedicated, but not fanatical.

Christ expects us to be zealous in good works.

“For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself His own special people, zealous for good works” (Titus 2:11-14).

Christ came to save us from sin. But it is not enough to avoid evil. We must be zealous in doing good.

Jesus said: “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:16).

How do we put God first in our lives?

Because of our devotion, we are steadfast in Christian activities: “And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers” (Acts 2:42). Steadfast means resolute and unwavering.

To continue steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine we must both know the Scriptures and put them into practice. To continue steadfastly in fellowship we must attend the services of the church and seek fellowship with other Christians. Each Sunday we must feast at the table of the Lord. We must continue steadfastly in prayer. All these activities are involved in putting the Lord first in our lives.

We put God first by serving others. Jesus came to serve, not to be served (Matthew 20:28). We want to be like Him. Jesus told His disciples: “If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet” (John 13:14).

The church is one body with each member’s function contributing to the well-being of the whole. Depending on our ability, we can visit the sick, help the poor, teach the gospel, help maintain the meeting place, or through other good works exalt God by serving others.

Does God occupy the first place in our lives? Do we give Him our best? Do we put Him first in our heart? Is our love for Him greater than our love for any other person or any thing? Is our love for Him greater than our love for ourselves and our own enjoyment? Are we dedicated, and zealous in good works? Do we give ourselves fully in service to God and man? Let us give God the highest position in our lives. Amen.

Roy Davison

The Scripture quotations in this article are from
The New King James Version. ©1979,1980,1982,
Thomas Nelson Inc., Publishers unless indicated otherwise.
Permission for reference use has been granted.

Published in The Old Paths Archive