This week I have been struck with my own limitations. It’s not just that I can’t get everything done – even the things I do get done will be done imperfectly and many more will simply be dropped.
God knows though that there is not enough time for everything. He knows that some things must give. He leaves me with choices but also with guidance, guidance about what must be chosen first and what other things may be dropped.
We must give ourselves first to Him
and this, not as we expected, but they gave themselves first to the Lord and then by the will of God to us ~ 2 Corinthians 8:5
I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect ~ Romans 12:1-2
If I do not give all of myself to the Lord, then nothing else matters. There’s no such thing as a part time sacrifice. Think of the Old Testament and what happened to the animal sacrifices. They were burned – consumed. So, we too must give ourselves fully in surrender to Him. But linked to that absolute giving of ourselves is something else:
“then by the will of God”
“By testing you may discern what is the will of God”
If we give ourselves to Him first, then we can trust we will be living in His will.
Seek His kingdom and His righteousness first
Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. ~ Matthew 6:31-33
In my daily life, do I strive for the physical or the spiritual? God knows what we need – and He tells me I must develop my thirst for the things of His kingdom first and the rest will follow.
So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift. ~ Matthew 5:23-24
Here Jesus tells us to first go and be reconciled. Please note what this does not say: It does not say to go and tell your brother what his most annoying characteristics are. It says instead to go if “your brother has something against YOU” (Capitals added). You mean, I’m not the most perfect and wonderfully charming person to be around all the time?
Clearly, I have a responsibility to do my part to try to make things right with those around me. Because I am human, I will need to seek forgiveness, to humble myself and to make sure that I am pouring efforts not into stuff but into souls. (Of course, we know that we are not in control of the other person and their part of reconciliation – but we are responsible for our part)
Take care of my own sin
You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye. ~ Matthew 7:5
You blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and the plate, that the outside also may be clean. ~ Matthew 23:26
I have a great need for humble, honest introspection. Though it may sometimes be “easy” to see the mistakes and sins of others, I am responsible for myself. In taking care of “cleaning up” my own bad habits, sinful thoughts, and unchristian characteristics, I in turn can see how to better help others. And I will also be able to deal with them not just with truth but with grace and love because I know what it is like to be in need of God’s great forgiveness too.
Let go of my need to be first
It shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant,and whoever would be first among you must be your slave,even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” ~ Matthew 20:26-28
In the “opposite” ways of spirituality, I must let go of the worldly clamor to constantly be first. I can do this because of Christ’s example. He “came not to be served but to serve” and in seeing His example I realize that there are much more important things to gain than “being first” in a worldly sense.
But, in following His example of service I also begin to see exactly how much I should not be first. Someone else already is – and there is no one else who can compare.
But he laid his right hand on me, saying, “Fear not, I am the first and the last, and the living one. I died, and behold I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of Death and Hades. ~ Revelation 1:17-18
Thus says the Lord, the King of Israel
and his Redeemer, the Lord of hosts:
“I am the first and I am the last;
besides me there is no god. ~ Isaiah 44:6
Today, may we all seek to put Him first and trust that the rest will follow.