“FIRST THINGS FIRST”                              By Pastor YAU

Text: Matthew 5:24-34                                   February 14, 2010.

 

INTRODUCTION:

1)   A lesson from a leader: A seminar leader wanted to make an important point, so he took a wide-mouth jar and filled it with rocks. “Is the jar full?” he asked. “Yes,” came a reply. “Really?” he said. Then he poured small marbles into the jar to fill the spaces between the rocks. “Is it full now?” “Yes,” another answer. “Really?” Then he filled the remaining spaces between the rocks and marbles with sand. “Is it full now?” he asked.  “Probably not,” said another. Then he took a pitcher of water and poured it into the jar. “What is the lesson we learn from this?” he asked again. An eager participant spoke up, “No matter how full the jar is, there’s always room for more.” “Not quite,” said the leader. “The lesson is: to get everything into the jar, you must always put the big things in first.”

2)   A lesson from the Lord: In the middle his famous “Sermon on the Mount,” (Matthew 5-7) in which Jesus gave teachings on giving, prayer, fasting and wealth. Then he turned his teaching to the way most people spent the time of their life in worrying their everyday needs: their drinks, foods and clothing. He made comparison on the needs of the flowers in the field and the birds in the sky and how God provided them without their worry. On top of all the needs of life, Jesus pointed out that the first thing we need to care of: seeking the kingdom of God then He will provide all our needs without our worry.

 

SOME FIRST THINGS FOR CHRISTIANS: (Too many to list)

1)   Love the Lord your God: “Jesus said: Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and the greatest commandment.” (Matt. 22:37-38) Some may see this as the most important commandment because Jesus said so. I also want to see this from the practical perspective: if God is not the first, nothing else is the first. Imagine what may a Christian seek, live or do without God being the center of his life? On whom or what may he build his live in this life and in the life to come without the love, grace, power and promise of God? So, to place God as the first in our life is more than just obeying a commandment, but He is the only one we need in our life. We are nothing without Him.

2)   Love neighbor as yourself: “And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself.” (Matt. 22:39) Jesus didn’t said we should not love ourselves, but He did say we also need to love our neighbors, family, friends and those whom we don’t know, the way we love ourselves. Most of us may think this is really difficult and is a stretch too far we cannot do. We know that God did just that in sending His Son to die on the cross to save not His neighbors but us, sinners. Today, we see people love everything like money, house, cars, pretty clothing, fame, power and many other things except love people, even people in their own family, schools, work places and even in their churches. Question: if there were no love in our hearts for people, what does all the love of things mean?

3)   Love justice and mercy: “He (God) has showed you, O man, what is good.  And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy.” (Micah 6:8) In a time of spiritual darkness, prophet Micah delivered a message of God to his people: to act justly and love mercy to their fellowmen. Injustice and merciless are both sides of the evil in this world since the day of Micah, but is much worse today. Injustice in the society, the economy, laws, politics, race and religion around the world is getting worse each day. We see a trend of ridiculing Christian faith, Christian symbols and Christians in particular is becoming acceptable even in this country. But drawing a cartoon to mock prophet Mohammed of the Islam faith is a just cause to have a world wide pursue of murdering the artist and is seen as an act of honor to protect the Islam faith. Where is justice and mercy?

4)   Love the word of God: “Listen, my son, accept what I say, and the years of your life will be many. I will guide you in the way of wisdom and lead you along straight paths.” (Proverbs 4:10-11)There are two purposes in our life long learning efforts: learn skills to make a living and learn to make living meaningful with purpose. Learning skills is much easier than learning how to live our lives with meaning and purpose. Lots of people have learned so much in doing things but few people want to learn how to live their life the right way. God’s word in the Bible is the best place to learn how to live and be blessed by the Lord. Spend time and efforts learning the Bible is more useful than learning a skill of trade. The word of God will bring you wisdom and lead you in straight paths so you will live long and productive life.

 

PROBLEMS IN HUMAN PRIORITIZING:

1)     They have a darkened soul: “Since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature have been clearly seen, being understand from what has been made so men are without excuse. But although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened.” (Romans 1:20-21) Since the Great Fall, no human hearts has the capacity to see things the right way. No human wisdom has the ability to choose what is good in God’s eyes. Again, the Bible says, “There is no one who understands, no one who seeks God. All have turned away, they have together become worthless (useless).” (Romans 3:12)

2)     They have a blinded mind: “The god of this world has blinded the mind of the unbelievers so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ.” (2 Corinthians 4:4) Human hearts are not just darkened, human mind is also blinded by the god of this world, the trend, the culture, the value system, all have captured and darkened the hearts and the minds of men so they cannot make right choices. Human hearts and mind are conditioned by the god of the world to choose evil, wrong, bad and selfish decisions. No one can see the light without God in his heart. A new heart is needed to make new choices.

3)     They don’t know the value: “And I will say to myself: you have plenty of good things laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat drink and be happy. But God said to him: You fool. This very night, your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?” (Luke 12:19-20)No one may argue that material things have value. But that is not the most important value. Life and soul are much more valuable than possessions on earth. Many people spent all their life to accumulate wealth which they have no time or health to enjoy them. What is the use to have and can’t enjoy?

4)     They forget God is in control: “But it is God who judges: He brings one down, he exalts another.” (Psalm 75:7)We see many people try hard to promote themselves through many venues or methods. Some may make it to where they aim for. But if you look at the history or life of anyone, God is behind the scene in control of the outcome. God has full control of events of the world and of the life of each individual. He has the wisdom and power to make things happen to promote or to crumble human plans. As James said: “You should say if God wills I could live and can do this and that.” (James 4:15) Do not assume that God will always make you succeed in your plans.

 

WHAT WOULD JESUS WANT US DO?: (Matthew 6:24-34)

1)   Adhere to absolute loyalty: “No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate one and love the other or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You can not serve both God and Money.” (6:24) God never wants to share His throne in our hearts with someone else, be it money or anything else. He hates idols and won’t tolerate it in our hearts. We can either serve God or serve another, but not both.

2)   Setting proper priority: “Therefore I tell you: do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life is more important than food, and the body more important than the clothes?” (6:25) We should care about life and the body more than food and clothes. Proper priority is needed in meeting our needs. What does it matter about food if we don’t live, and what matters about clothes if we are sick? Setting proper value on things when we set priorities.

3)   Tracking God’s records: “Look at the birds of the air, they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?” (6:26) If God have a good track record in feeding the birds which don’t sow, reap or store, can we trust that God will do more for our needs since we are far more valuable than birds? If God didn’t spare His only Son to die for us, won’t he care for our physical needs more than that?

4)   Worry is not a good choice: “Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?” (6:27) No amounts of time we spend in sincere worry may change anything either for good or for bad. It is useless and meaningless for us to place our priority in things we have no control at all. Worry gets no one anywhere.

5)   Act as a true believer: “For the unbelievers run after all these thing and your heavenly Father knows that you need them.” (6:32) If we truly believe our Father knows our needs and is able to provide, we should not put these things as priority of our lives. We need to focus on better things as priority.

6)   Seek first thing first: “But first seek his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” (6:33) Jesus used the word “given” to you. When we seek God’s kingdom, he will give us or needs. If we seek our needs, we will miss God’s kingdom. We need to see the proper sequence.

7)   No excess baggage: “Each day has enough burden of its own.” (6:34) Even as Christians, we all have our cares, burdens and things we need to handle. Putting our daily needs as priority is not a good choice. Our life is to seek God and His kingdom. If we can put the first as first, He will do the rest. Worry about our daily needs is like carrying excessive baggage we don’t need when we travel. It can only bring us trouble and slow us down.

 

CONCLUSION:

1)    No room for big think: If we fill our jar in our hearts with all the small things first, we end up have no room for the big thing, the really important thing. Seek God and ask Him for wisdom to choose what is really important in your life. You will see that all the small things will fall into the right places because God knows your needs and he will always provide.

2)    Save room for the big thing: The big thing is salvation of your soul. This is the real big thing you should seek. If you seek and get all the small things that your heart is too full to receive God’s grace to save your soul, you will suffer the most loss of your life. Clear the clutter of your heart and ask Jesus to come into your heart o become your Lord and Savior. Then you will have all your need for your life.