“But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” Matthew 6:33
Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you. Psalm 73:25
Ah, our sweet, wonderful summertime is fading into our rearview mirrors and now autumn is upon us. It’s not like all the beauty of Summer is vanished, as fall certainly has its virtues albeit a bit more crisp in temperature. The colors of God’s creation will soon be upon us like an artist’s canvas and the crops that spent the summer growing are now ready for harvest. We’ll exchange longer daylight hours for earlier evenings and harvest moons, lemonade for apple cider, and baseball afternoons for football Friday nights. Even though anniversaries occur throughout the entire year, it always seems like June, July, and August are particularly so. My wife Jody and I celebrated our 35th anniversary this past July and three of our four children were married in June and July. Several couples here in the Barryton church have celebrated 50 years and more of marriage together! What terrific examples of what God has intended for the marriage relationship! It’s a demonstration of love and commitment to one another. But to love and commitment must also be added devotion and honor, in order for two individuals to abandon their own individual pursuits and ambitions in favor of the needs and ambitions of each other, as the “two become one” (Eph 5:31-33). The inward becomes outward. What better description of the Kingdom of God, the body of Christ, than this outward caring for another as we would care for ourselves (Mt. 23:39), or as Paul describes in Ephesians 5, 25Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her… 28…husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies.
Not long ago I was feeling convicted that my prayer life was not as it should be. As can often happen when we question why a relationship is not working as it should, or isn’t quite as you expect it to be, the answer is no further away than the mirror. “Hey, what’s wrong? You never come over to see me anymore.” To which the reply comes, “I’ve been home. Why don’t you come to see me?” Clearly, the problem was mine, not God’s. None the less, God was making me aware of my negligence. But this revealed to me yet another problem. When I would make myself pray it seemed legalistic and hollow. My prayers seemed to always consist of a list of needs (or wants, mostly my own) and a few boilerplate thank-you’s. I really wanted to spend quality time with God in prayer but we just didn’t have that much to talk about. Certainly God wants us to lift up one another in prayer and He wants us to come to Him with all our problems, questions, and needs, but I wanted our time together to draw us closer; to build on our relationship. See, just as in the marriage relationship – our relationship with God takes love, commitment, devotion, and honor.
So I turned to Matthew 6, where Jesus is teaching about prayer, and I read through the Lord’s Prayer. Now, I realize this is no magical, approved set of words, ‘the official prayer’ to be used if you ‘really want God to listen’, but Jesus’ prayer models for us a reverent, non-selfish, petition to God. It begins with first things first, priority #1: give honor to God. Before anything else, God is addressed, “Our Father, who is in heaven, hallowed (holy) is your name…” Then, the first request, or petition, is that God’s purposes, His will, be accomplished. At first I thought, “What if His will is not the same as my will?” But then it occurred to me; I’m the one with the problem. I need to get my will in line with God’s will, not the other way around. Because God’s will is perfect, and it always has my best interest at heart. So if I desire God’s will to “be done on earth as it is in heaven”, that is what’s best for me. It’s a matter of priority; putting God and His interest first; loving Him; glorifying Him; honoring Him, because He first loved me.
But it’s not a pay-back deal. ‘You did something good for me, so I need to do something just as good for you.’ Let’s face it. Any amount of love, or glory, we might be able to conjure up is going to fall embarrassingly short of what He deserves from us. What’s the perfect gift for the guy who has everything? Technically, nothing. So how do we glorify God. . . adequately? Technically, you can’t. We glorify God through honoring Him. Now honoring God is not one of those, ‘did we, or did we not, adequately honor God’ things. You either honor God or you don’t, through various means, not the least of which is placing Him first in all aspects of our lives; “priority”.
Some time back, I preached a message on “Honoring Christ”, in which I identified three key areas where we can honor Christ in our lives:
- We can honor Christ through obedience. Jesus said, 15“If you love me, you will obey what I command.” John 14:15
- We honor Christ by glorifying His name. 14”Sacrifice thank offerings to God, fulfill your vows to the Most High, 15and call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you will honor me.” Psalm 50:14-15
- We give honor to the Lord when we trust His perfect judgment. Paul says in his letter to Timothy, “…because I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him for that day.” 1 Timothy 1:12
These are by no means an exhaustive list of “ways in which we honor Christ”. We also honor Him with our prayers, with our thanksgiving, our tithes and offerings. We can honor with our integrity. We can honor Christ by, in every way, trying to be like Him. However, the pattern that we see demonstrated is that God, our father, our creator, our redeemer, our Lord must be the pinnacle of our affections. He will not play second fiddle to anyone or anything. We must place our relationship with God above all else. So ask yourself daily, ‘Is there anything in my life that I desire more than Jesus?’ Do you ever find yourself being prompted to pray about something, or for someone, and it’s so fresh at the time you just want to stop what you’re doing and pray? But, you’re kinda busy at the moment, so you tell God (in so many words), ‘Let me finish what I’m doing, and I’ll get back to you on that.’ I have. I’ve had times when I was driving down the road alone, and I so much felt that God “wanted to talk” and I thought, ‘Lord. As soon as this inning is over on the radio, I’ll shut it off and we’ll talk.’ Or, ‘Just let me finish checking my emails, or reading the sports, or watching a program on t.v……’; you fill in the blank. Here’s the bottom line; if the relationship is important to you, if it carries great value, it must be of highest priority. It must be honored.