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Keeping First Things First

Laura Curran of Kellogg, Idaho, overheard this conversation at a fair between a mother and her small daughter. Mom: "You can have some cotton candy after you eat something healthy." Little girl: "I want cotton candy now!" Mom: "I said no, you're going to have something healthy. How about a corn dog?" (rd.com) Now there's a mom who had her priorities straight! A great challenge for Christians is keeping first things first. The Bible is pregnant with teaching that some things are more important than others, and unless we are careful first things get shoved out of first place in our lives. That simple but sobering reality is behind Jesus' famous statement in Matthew 6:33 - But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you." The "things" Jesus referred to are the very things the world rabidly seeks — food, drink, and clothing (see verses 25ff). The Lord never taught these things are not important (He promised they will be provided). He did teach they are not most important, and that seeking them must not be allowed to push pursuit of God and His kingdom out of first place! When that happens, first things are no longer first, and the life and health of the soul are imperilled. The devil is out to choke God and His priorities out of our lives, and he is an expert at the choke-hold. In the parable of the sower, Jesus said some seed "fell among thorns, and the thorns sprang up with it and choked it" (Luke 8:7). And, "The ones that fell among thorns are those who, when they have heard, go out and are choked with cares, riches, and pleasures of life, and bring no fruit to perfection" (Luke 8:14). In other words, some people have too much stuff going on in their lives to keep God first! Like a catch-all kitchen drawer or closet stuffed full of junk, some people's lives are stuffed full, not necessarily with bad things, but secondary things. Things that crowd out time for prayer, Bible study, worship assemblies, etc. There is no end to things, good and bad, the devil uses to choke God's priorities out of our lives. From TV to computers to cell phones and all the stuff that comes with them, from school to athletic and community activities to hobbies, etc. — these may be good things, but they can, if allowed, choke us to death spiritually.

"A weakness of all human beings," Henry Ford said, "is trying to do too many things at once. That scatters effort and destroys direction. It makes for haste, and haste makes waste. So we do things all the wrong ways possible before we come to the right one. Then we think it is the best way because it works, and it was the only way left that we could see. Every now and then I wake up in the morning . . . .with a dozen things I want to do. I know I can't do them all at once." When asked what he did about that, Ford replied, "I go out and trot around the house. While I'm running off the excess energy that wants to do too much, my mind clears and I see what can be done and should be done first" (Bits and Pieces, 9/19/91, p. 18). Jesus did not stutter about what can and should be done first — "seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness." From His birth in a crib to His death on a cross, that priority guided Jesus' own life on this earth_ Like a heat-seeking missile, Jesus stayed fixed and focused on God and His will (John 4134: 6:38; 8:29;1 17:4). A tight grip on that priority will assure us we keep first things first. Seek God first!

Dan Gulley
Smithville church of Christ