Nearly every minute of life on planet Earth involves either running toward or running from something. We’re incessantly consumed with pursuing what we don’t have or fearing what we don’t want. We alternate between being the hunter chasing and the hunted worrying.
Yet unless what you’re seeking is the Kingdom and what you’re evading is sin, be careful what you wish for – nothing else ends well. Quests for anything the world has to offer are shiny lures – attractive but hiding a hook few can get off once they take the bait. Nor does anyone get out of this life alive – all our anxiety can accomplish is to make that last day arrive a bit sooner.
Fight or flight, dog eat dog and survival of the fittest are apt descriptions of worldly impulses and instincts but have little to do with our intended purpose in this life. That’s not to say wealth, popularity, possessions, security and accolades are inherently bad. Likewise, acting like a “Christian” and doing nice things for others aren’t inherently good. The question is what we seek “first” – the world or the Lord. Which comes first in our lives is a matter of both priority and sequence – what’s above all else and before all else. In other words, what do we value most and what motives fuel our actions?
Above All Else…
Who do we trust? Where are we storing up treasures? When times get tough, how do we respond? Where do we turn? Where does our allegiance lie? Christians in America are part of a Kingdom and a democracy. We have dual citizenship. Our nationality is not solely determined by where we live but by where we’re headed. This is not our home or destination. Therefore, seeking God first is about placing our faith primarily in God rather than in…
- Government – America looks to parties and politics primarily for money and (im)morality. Many voters flocked to the polls in 2020 in search of financial security and authorization to do as they please.
- Ourselves – Our nation’s state-sponsored religion, Selfism, redefines who we are and whose we are. Its manifesto contends that each adherent has an inalienable and unassailable right to determine what truth is, despite facts or evidence to the contrary.
- Happiness – Media and advertisers promise to fill our “God-shaped hole” with profit-generating products and services that will provide the fulfilment we’ve never found but so richly “deserve”.
- Mankind – At first, fears over COVID-19 drove many non-believers toward the Lord, but now they celebrate the triumph of the human spirit and medical science with the advent of a vaccine.
- Money – Jesus spoke so often of finances knowing how few choose worship over wealth when presented with those options, faithful enough to turn down fame and fortune when opportunities conflict with biblical principles.
None of those are reliable. They’re temporal and deeply flawed. “We are not human beings having a spiritual experience. We are spiritual beings having a human experience.” (Pierre Teilhard de Chardin) Even this “earth suit” we live in and the brain it houses are on loan and fragile. We are not the sum of our bodies, intelligence, actions and words – we are eternal beings longing to be reunited with an eternal companion, the Holy Spirit. “You’ve never met a mere mortal.” (CS Lewis) Seeking God first means acknowledging He is our only trustworthy Provider for today and Savior for tomorrow.
Before All Else…
Knowing, being and doing are sequential. We are changed from the inside out, not the outside in. Many know about the Lord without knowing the Lord. Obedience should follow from understanding who Jesus is and surrendering to Him. Being a Christian is not the same as acting like one. Our Father desires relationship, not religion. Jesus is not part of our lives – He is life.
Bypassing the study of Scripture risks an emotion-based faith that may not survive when confronted with tough questions or circumstances. Jumping from knowledge to actions bring motives into question. Yes, faith without works is dead but so are works without faith – bandaids on gaping wounds; lipstick on a pig. Seeking God first means pursuing more than surface-level cosmetics, but an extreme home makeover in the following areas…
- Heart – What comes out when we’re squeezed? Recent studies reveal most Christians aren’t distinguishable from their non-Christian neighbors. Only genuine transformation produces countercultural behaviors like joy during trials, faith over fear, and love in response to hatred.
- Character – Suffering like we endured in 2020 builds character, which can be defined as what we do when no one is watching. True love for the Lord is best observed behind closed doors. True compassion is best demonstrated without any witnesses for someone who can’t possibly repay the favor.
- Schedule – Recommit in 2021 to investing time with the Lord, pressing on in sanctification through Bible study, prayer and journaling. Our hectic pace makes us forget we’re “too busy not to pray”. Our haste to serve can make us forget why we serve – growing in our love for God and others.
- Prayer – Interactions with the Lord should transform from intermittent requests for help to continual conversations of thankfulness and praise. It’s rude to ignore a guest in our home, yet isn’t that what we do if we neglect the Spirit living inside of us?
- Mission – Is it possible to believe Hell actually exists but have no sense of urgency about seeing people come to Christ? Jesus gave us a Prayer/Care/Share mandate and model for evangelism – to demonstrate His love (#ReimagineCompassion) to open ears to hear the Gospel.
Millions of churchgoers don’t seek God first (i.e. “doing” without “being”) because they lost their first love. The thankfulness they felt for God’s grace when initially coming to faith gradually waned as they became less “sinful” and hung around “good” people at church. Living externally like a Christian diminishes consciousness of our depravity and need for Jesus. Consequently, commitments to the foundational practices of discipleship like memorizing Scripture, prayer and evangelism slowly fade away. Most don’t realize the impact on their heart and character until they face the next crisis, shocked by their knee-jerk reactions of fear and anger.