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When Jesus was preparing His disciples for His imminent death, He reassured them with these words: “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him” (John 14:23). When you invite Jesus into your life, He comes into your heart spiritually and takes up residence in your heart.
We were all lost in our sins before Jesus found us and rescued us in His love. “While we were still sinners, Christ died for us … so that you may belong to another, to Him (Jesus) who has been raised from the dead” (Romans 5:8, 7:4). The Bible expresses this love of God for the people He saves using a marital metaphor: “As the bridegroom rejoices over the bride, so shall your God rejoice over you” (Isaiah 62:5). Such love! No wonder the Apostle John wrote that “we love Him because He first loved us” (1 John 4:19).
But sadly, just as the initial vibrant love in which many marriages are born cools off after a while until the relationship becomes a routine formality, so it sometimes happens with Christians. They forget how much the Lord has done for them, and that first wonderful love they had for Him gradually fades. They neglect to make their relationship with God and His kingdom their first priority, as Jesus taught His followers to do (Matthew 6:33).
Jesus taught His followers how important it was to honor God first and foremost in their lives. He knows that only by putting Him first in our lives are we going to have the strength and conviction to help other people to find Him. He knows that we won’t be committed, strong and fruitful Christians if we are not placing Him at the center of our lives.
What practical steps can we take to not only put Jesus first in our lives, but also to keep Him in that place? It starts with our daily walk with Him. We can commit our day, our time, and our lives to the Lord in prayer and ask Him to guide us in His will. This prayer principle holds true in our everyday work as well. When faced with pressing deadlines, the temptation is often to crowd the Lord out of our lives and concentrate solely on our work. But relegating our relationship with the Lord to a place of lesser priority is not the solution.
The successful inventor and industrialist, Robert G. LeTourneau (1888–1969), was a committed Christian who gave 90% of his income to God and missions, while he and his family lived off the remaining 10%. He is well known for saying, “Put God first, and he’ll take care of everything else.” He once wrote:
“By accepting God as your partner, no limit can be placed on what can be achieved. But God is no remote partner, satisfied if you go to church on Sunday and drop some religious money—the small change that goes to church—on the platter. He isn’t overwhelmed if you read the Bible once in a while and obey the Golden Rule. That isn’t active Christianity, but just a half-hearted way of getting along. When you go into partnership with God, you’ve got a Partner closer and more active than any human partner you can ever get. He participates fully in everything you let Him do” (Movers of Men and Mountains).
Another famous Christian who gave God first place in his life and everyday decisions was William Gladstone, who was England’s prime minister four times and was one of the most famous British political leaders of the 1800s. The story is told of how every day as he went up the steps of the parliament building, he would stop and share the Good News with the little newsboy there.
But one day as he and his secretary were going into parliament, another little newsboy rushed up to them, exclaiming, “Please, sir, you know the boy who sells you papers here? Yesterday he was run over by a carriage, and he’s badly hurt. He’s going to die, and he’s asking for you to come and get him in.” The prime minister questioned, “What do you mean, ‘get him in’?” The lad replied, “You know, get him in to heaven!”
His secretary, however, protested, “You don’t have time to go see a dying newsboy! You know how important your speech today is. It could change the course of history!”
Gladstone hesitated only a moment, then said, “One immortal soul is worth more than my speech in parliament.” So off to the little garret he went, where the newsboy lay crushed and dying on a rough mat in the corner. With tears streaming down his face, Gladstone led the boy in a prayer to receive Jesus as his Lord and Savior. The newsboy looked up into the great man’s face and whispered, “I knew you’d come. Thank you for getting me in.” Then he closed his eyes and went to be with Jesus.
Great Christians are great not only because of their service to God, but also because of their close relationship and fellowship with Him. The more they grow in their faith and walk with the Lord, the more like Him they become. Unfortunately, a common mistake we can make as Christians is to become so engrossed in the work of the Lord that we neglect the Lord of the work! Jesus says, “He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing” (John 15:5).
We cannot do the Master’s work without the Master’s power, and to receive His power, we must spend time with the Master. Sometimes we get so busy serving Him, we forget to love Him! God appreciates the service we offer Him and He needs it, but He wants our attention and adoration and intimate communication too.
The Bible tells us the story of two sisters, Mary and Martha. When Jesus came to visit, Mary “sat at Jesus’ feet and heard His word. But Martha was cumbered about with much serving.” Martha was weighed down, so busy serving the Lord that she didn’t have time to listen to the Lord. So Jesus gently chided her and said, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled about many things. But one thing is needed, and Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken away from her” (Luke 10:39–42).
To neglect your fellowship with the King of kings can be disastrous to your spiritual life and walk with the Lord. Placing Jesus first in our lives not only involves His work in sharing the gospel with others and leading people to Him, but also putting His Word first in our life. In fact, the Bible says that Jesus is the Word. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God. And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us” (John 1:1, 14). What’s more, Jesus said, “The words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life” (John 6:63). God’s Word is food for the soul, and it’s essential to our spiritual growth.
We also put Jesus first in our lives through prayer. We can do so by taking prayer time every morning to start the day off right. When you first wake up, before talking to anybody, talk to Jesus first. Commit your day to Him, cast all your cares on Him, and ask Him to direct your path that day.
Take the time to read His Word in the Bible and seek His guidance to strengthen your faith for the day. We all need a daily dose of God’s Word and prayer to be prepared for whatever we may face in a day. On the one hand, Jesus says, “Without Me you can do nothing,” but on the other hand, the Bible says, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13). That strength starts by seeking God through prayer and the reading of His Word.
Do you have Jesus and His Word and prayer in the proper perspective in your life? Do you give them first place? Or do you let other things crowd God and His Word into second or third place? In every area of our lives, we are called to put God in first place and to commit all things to Him in prayer and worship (Philippians 4:6–7). The Bible tells us to “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (1 Thessalonians 5:16–18).
Jesus said, “Do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ Your heavenly Father knows that you need these things.” And He went on to say: “But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you” (Matthew 6:31–33). To “seek first” means to put God and His kingdom first and foremost in our lives, above everything else.
Are you seeking the kingdom of God first and doing your part to share the gospel or to support others who do so? You’ll never lose by seeking first the kingdom of God!
Only one life, ’twill soon be past.
Only what’s done for Christ will last.
—C. T. Studd (1860–1931)
From an article in Treasures, published by the Family International in 1987. Adapted and republished November 2023. Read by Reuben Ruchevsky.