“But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.”
Jesus said to him, “‘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)
I’m writing on the first day of 2019, and I want to begin the year by putting first things first, and by honoring the LORD in the way HE deserves. The first and great commandment is to love the LORD your God with all we have. Part of this for us is to ask God first about the things we are considering doing. We need to include God as LORD in our decision making – about what to do and how to do it. We would do this because we love God. But how can we begin to truly love God?
It is hard to love someone we don’t know. The first thing we need to do if we want to love God is to find out who He is really is! We have read or heard that He loves us – but what does that look like? Well for one thing, God has provided us with food, clothing, shelter, a mind and many other things. But more than all these natural blessings, what I think God’s love looks like is Jesus dying on the cross for us to take away every barrier of sin and guilt between us and Himself. This was indeed a love that cost God something great. It was done because of God’s great desire that we would connect with Him again and that we would receive His love as well as love and worship Him. He has this desire to hear from us, to receive worship (for He is truly worthy) and to reveal Himself to us. So much so that the Father would give up his Son to death for us to bridge the gulf between us and God, and so much so that the Son would give up His life and even be tortured for us in many ways so that we could experience freedom, peace and blessing! That is love.
In order that we love God first, we must first know God. Reading the Bible and hearing biblical preaching are two important things that can help us to truly know God. This website also has a lot of resources which can guide you in how to draw near to God (for example in prayer) and experience Him. The Bible says that as we draw near to God, He will draw near to us (James 4:8). As we draw near, we also need to wait for God to respond and speak. This is part of the relationship God desires.
There are also times when God takes the initiative to draw near to us first! The Bible says, “We love Him because He first loved us.” (1 John 4:19). I think this happens more often when people are praying for us, but God is Sovereign and is free to do it for anyone at any time. We do need to be receptive and open though at the times when God seems to be drawing near to us. We must not close off our hearts, or allow ourselves to be quickly distracted and run to some other activity. Otherwise we are likely to miss the most important thing – which is closeness and an awareness of the love and goodness of the LORD God. And that lack goes on to affect everything else – the kinds of decisions we make, the type of worship we engage in (whether idolatrous or not) and all the issues of life that flow out of our heart condition.
Ask God First About All the Major Decisions in Life
As we learn to love God, we still have to make many practical decisions in life. Decisions like, “What job should I take?”, “What should I study?”, “Should I start this business?”, “Should I invest time or money in this project?”, “Should I marry or not?”, “With whom?”, “Which Christians should I fellowship with?”, “Where should I live?”, “How should I serve God?” or even “What is the strategy to defeat the devil here?” We are confronted with the need to make decisions of different types at different times in our lives. God wants to be involved in guiding us, teaching us and leading us. But He does this on His terms. So then, how does loving God influence how we make our decisions?
The Bible says, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will direct your paths” (Proverbs 3:5,6). What this means is that we should not, we ought not, we must not rely solely on our own brains for the big decisions of life. God is much bigger than our brains. He knows more than we know. He sees the bigger picture. He has way more information. He has a better plan. He knows what we should do and how to do it. Even if we think we know how to do something because we have done something very similar before, we need to ASK GOD FIRST how we should tackle the major things of life. I can say that my failure to do this at various times in my life has cost me and cost the Kingdom of God seriously. Like many, I have experienced at times wealth and success – even in ministry. But if you or I or anyone else that belongs to Jesus starts trusting either in wealth (“it can keep me financially safe and give me options”) or one’s own understanding (“I know what to do here – I can work it out myself”) we are on a collision course with disaster. Pride comes before a fall. The problem with both of these forms of trust is that they leave God out. Trusting wealth is a form of idolatry. Trusting or leaning on one’s own understanding is also a form of idolatry. In order to hear God and walk in God’s blessing, we need to truly worship God, trust God, inquire of God and wait for God to speak.
It is better to move too slowly than to move too fast and be in a place where we are no longer really following Jesus. The Bible says that those who wait on the Lord will not be put to shame. “My sheep hear My voice and I know them – and they follow Me,” said Jesus in John 10:27. We need to be humble enough to follow Jesus. This means we need at times to just wait for Him to lead. We need to ask Him what we should do. If He is not replying to us quickly we need to wait. And while we wait, we can meditate on the Word of God, and praise God, and pray in the Holy Spirit. We can repent with God’s help. When God is ready to direct us, He will speak again.
The Bible has examples of people who waited for God – like King David – and his life is contrasted with the life of people like King Saul who did not – who got impatient and were driven by other personal motivations. There is a big lesson for us here. We need to be patient and trust in the Lord until He comes and speaks. Sometimes when we think we have a lot of knowledge and understanding we don’t want to do this. But what is our Christianity and what is our relationship with God if we push on without God?
David was a mighty warrior with plenty of experience in defeating Philistines. Yet when he heard that the Philistines were raiding the people of Israel he inquired of the Lord, “Should I go up against the Philistines?” He didn’t presume to do it apart from the Lord’s direction, even though it might have seemed like the obvious and only thing to do.
So David asked the LORD, “Should I go out to fight the Philistines? Will you hand them over to me?” The LORD replied to David, “Yes, go ahead. I will certainly hand them over to you.” (2 Samuel 5:19)
This wasn’t the first time David had enquired of the Lord in a similar situation.
So David inquired of the LORD, “Should I go and attack these Philistines?” And the LORD said to David, “Go and attack the Philistines and deliver Keilah.” (1 Samuel 23:2)
After saving the people of Keilah, David might have assumed that the people there would be grateful to him. But David did not go by human reasoning. When he learned that Saul was going after him, David asked the LORD if the people of Keilah would hand him over to Saul – and the Lord told him that they would.
And David said, “O LORD, God of Israel, Your servant has heard that Saul intends to come to Keilah and destroy the city on my account. Will the citizens of Keilah surrender me into his hand? Will Saul come down, as Your servant has heard? O LORD, God of Israel, please tell Your servant.”
“He will,” said the LORD.
So David asked, “Will the citizens of Keilah surrender me and my men into the hand of Saul?”
“They will,” answered the LORD.
Then David and his men, about six hundred strong, set out and departed from Keilah, moving from place to place. When it was reported to Saul that David had escaped from Keilah, he declined to go forth.
David’s life was saved because he inquired of the Lord rather than just assuming that all would be well and that people could be trusted to return a favor. How much better it would be if we would learn to do the same. The reality is that in these last days, the love of many is growing cold (see Matthew 24:12), and many would betray us for a temporary advantage!
There were times the Lord gave specific instructions to David to vary his battle strategy. The Lord doesn’t just rubber stamp David’s decisions.
Once more the Philistines came up and spread out in the Valley of Rephaim; so David inquired of the Lord, and he answered, “Do not go straight up, but circle around behind them and attack them in front of the poplar trees. As soon as you hear the sound of marching in the tops of the poplar trees, move quickly, because that will mean the Lord has gone out in front of you to strike the Philistine army.”So David did as the Lord commanded him, and he struck down the Philistines all the way from Gibeon to Gezer. (2 Samuel 5:22-25)
I think it is exciting that even in the Old Covenant, God could and would speak specific instructions to His people.
We need to develop a genuine relationship with God where we can receive instructions from the Lord that differ from what we were thinking to do in the first place, and even from what God told us to do on previous occasions. This is really important for genuine worshipers of God. It demonstrates the need we have for continual dependence on God. It demonstrates that we must NOT lean on our own understanding.
So we are to put God first in our decision making. The more important the decision, the more important it is to make sure we are including God and actually following God. We don’t need to talk to God about really trivial matters like which shirt to wear – we can if we want to, but we need to be real. However, when it comes to decisions of some importance, we certainly must wait upon the Lord if we want God to bless us. And it is true also that the closer we are to the Lord and the more responsibility we have, the more important it is to seek to be guided and led by God in matters where we might easily assume that the way we would normally do things is just fine. God may have better ideas. This is why it is also good for us to pray for ourselves and one another that we be filled with the knowledge of God’s will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding (Colossians 1:9). We have a lot to learn from the Lord every day if we are willing.