- First: Right Priorities for 2021
- Matthew 6:33
- Lyndol Loyd January 5, 2021
First: Right Priorities for 2021
As we focus our minds on the New Year I want to start by looking backward and ask you a question that will hopefully set the tone for this new year. The questions is this: What kind of year was last year, 2020, for you spiritually? I understand all about the pandemic and having to quarantine and the impact that has had on all of us. If there is anything that is important for us to do it is to put God first in our lives. So it is very important that we are honest with ourselves and ask, “How was 2020 for me spiritually?”
I’m going to give you three categories and I would like for you to commit and to put yourself in one of the three categories.
SPIRITUALLY APATHETIC: The first would be to say that “You were spiritually apathetic last year.” Some of you may not be Christians. You may have been spiritually apathetic. I didn’t really care about the things of God.
Some of you may be Christians and you started off with some really great intentions last year, but you just got sidetracked. Life just started happening. Maybe it was a tough year financially? Maybe you had some challenges? Or maybe it was just a good year in all, but you just didn’t really give God a lot of thought?
SPIRITUALLY INCONSISTENT: There were some times when you really were seeking God. Maybe his word was a priority to you? He would lead you in various ways and you would find yourself sharing your faith with other people. He would convict you of sin and you would try to do the right thing. But there were other times where quite honestly the Bible wasn’t a priority to you, you prayer life was flat. You find yourself having some good days and then on other days maybe you found yourself yelling at your kids or even cussing. And then you’d think “Oh, no! I shouldn’t have said that.” You were on again and off again. You had some good days spiritually, but others not so much.
SPIRITUALLY CONSUMED: You found yourself consumed with God. For you the word of God was a daily priority. You were in it and every day God is speaking to you and your feeding off of it. You had a very active prayer life. You were putting God first in your day. You could sense throughout the day that God would lead you to do certain things and to reach out to people. You certainly weren’t perfect, but when you’d do something wrong you would confess your sin quickly. You’d make adjustments. You’d really sense that every single day you were on a mission for God and from God. You were consumed with living in order to please God.
Where were you last year spiritually? Now let me ask and I want all of you to think about this. How many of you would say that you fell in one of the first two categories? Apathetic or Inconsistent?
I’m not going to ask you hold up your hands, but if I did here would be my hunch. I think you would be able to look around the room and it would become pretty clear very quickly that we have a SPIRITUAL ENEMY whose goal is to DISTRACT us in everything that we do. Don’t you think so?
Because if you call yourself a Christian surely you want to honor God. You want to say, I had a year spiritually consumed, but the reality is that many of us have good intentions, but it is so easy to get sidetracked.
Here’s what scripture says to us this morning, Matthew 6:33, “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” (NIV)
Here’s what I want to do this morning. I want to make you a GUARANTEE like I never have before. Are you ready for this? Here it is: I promise you that if you put God first in these three areas that I’m going to lay out for us this morning that you will have a year like you’ve never had before spiritually. I promise you.
Notice what I didn’t say. I didn’t say you will have a perfect year. I didn’t say that you’ll always be healthy or that you’ll make a lot of money or that your kids will never disobey you. I didn’t say that. But I promise you that if you put God first is these areas you will have the best year SPIRITUALLY you have ever had.
FIRST OF THE DAY SEEK GOD: Now as we talk about these ways to put God first in the new year I want to be very clear that I’m not being LEGALISTIC. In other words, like I’m going to talk about waking up and seeking God by praying and reading his word first, but you think, “Oh man, but I’ve really got to go to the bathroom.” I’m not talking about that. Okay.
It might even be that there is a reason why it is better for you to do so at lunch or at the end of your day, but I will say this. I do believe that for a great many of us that there is something spiritually that takes place when you open up your heart and open up your hands and say, “God speak to me through your word. Guide me today.” There’s something that aligns you to the will of God and to his direction if you commit to seek God first.
Those of you that would say you were apathetic or inconsistent. I can promise you that you weren’t consistently seeking God first. Because if you do it will ALIGN you to the heart of God.
In fact, David in Psalm 63:1 said, “O God, you are my God; early I search for you. My soul thirsts for you; my whole body longs for you in this parched and weary land where there is no water.”
In Mark 1:35 speaking of Jesus it reads, “35 Before daybreak the next morning, Jesus got up and went out to an isolated place to pray.”
Think about this, if Jesus the Son of God, made time with God a priority don’t you think it would be a good idea for us as well? What I want to encourage you to do is to take the first part of the day and devote it to seeking God.
Now what does that mean? It could mean different things. I would guess for you that some TIME IN PRAYER would be very important. Maybe you want to lift your hands toward heaven and say, “God my hands are yours, my eyes are yours, my feet are yours direct me toward what you want me to do this day.”
You probably want to open up GOD’S WORD and make it a priority. Just to give you some very practical examples, there is one friend I have who keeps his phone right beside the bed and as soon as he wakes up in the morning he opens up his Bible App and reads some from God’s word to get his day started. I know for Joni that she has her Bible on her dressing table counter there in the bathroom and she takes a moment to read from the Bible while she is blow drying her hair in the mornings.
Now think about this. You’ll have good intentions that you will start, but you will not follow because you do have NO PLAN. If you fail to plan people have said you what? You plan to fail.
I want to encourage you to get an App called the You Version Bible App. It’s free. There are all kinds of Bible reading plans on there. I want to encourage you to select one to use and make it a part of your plan for this year. You can read through the whole bible in a year or you can read through the NT in 30 days. There are all kinds of plans there. I encourage you to pick a plan and do it.
Now here is what is going to happen. At some point you are going to miss a day. You are going to be traveling or you’re going to be tired or whatever. And there is going to be a little voice that says, “Now you’ve blown it. You’re no good.” So here’s what you do. Tell that little voice to “Shut up!” and then pick your Bible back up the next day and continue on the plan. Seek God first with the first part of your day.
FIRST OF THE WEEK WORSHIP GOD: Take the first of the week to set aside time for corporate worship of God in the church as a priority. Acts 20:7 says, “7 On the first day of the week, we gathered with the local believers to share in the Lord’s Supper.” When they got together like this thy shared in food, they prayed for one another, they spent time in the Word of God. They corporately joined to seek God, to hear his Word and build each other up.
According to a recent study of American church goers, 48% of regular church goers go to church once a month. Almost half of regular church goers go to church once a month. I heard this statistic and as a pastor I have to tell you that I thought that’s about right. I’ve certainly seen it.
But why is this the case? Well, the football god is living and reigning. Because their kids are in dance recitals. Because they are tired or Because they have yard work or Because they want to sleep in or Because they are working or Because this is the weekend for my girlfriend get-a-way or golf buddy outing.
I’m telling you that if you want to have a great year spiritually that you want to COMMIT to corporately worshipping together. There is something that happens. You will be different this week because you’ve heard the word of God today. But it requires you to make it a priority.
Hebrews 10:25 says, “25 And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near.”
I would challenge you to COMMIT. If we are in town and we are well, we make the priority of worship real in our lives. If you are out of town, guess what there are some great churches out there. Pick one and go worship there. Just because you are out of town doesn’t mean that you need to miss out on the opportunity to worship.
THE FIRST OF THE DAY WE ARE GOING TO SEEK GOD.
THE FIRST OF THE WEEK WE ARE GOING TO WORSHIP GOD.
THE FIRST OF THE MONTH WE ARE GOING TO TITHE TO GOD: Now you may say, “But I get paid twice a month.” Again, I’m not being legalistic. “But I work on commission.” Whenever God gives you an increase of resources we determine our heart of worship by returning what belongs to God – the Tithe.
Let’s look at the Old Testament and New Testament. Leviticus 27:30 says, “One-tenth of the produce of the land, whether grain from the fields or fruit from the trees, belongs to the Lord and must be set apart to him as holy.” What we do is that we worship God. The Bible says that we bring the tithe, not we give it, because it is already his. We BRING it as our act of worship.
Now a lot of people say, “Churches always talk about money all of the time.” Why? Because we don’t want to give what belongs to us, it’s ours, we are AFRAID That’s only in the Old Testament.
Well, let’s look at what Jesus said in the New Testament. Matthew 23:23, He was hammering the Pharisees because they were being hypocritical. What they were doing is they were tithing, but they didn’t have love for other people and he go onto them. He said, “23 “What sorrow awaits you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! For you are careful to tithe even the tiniest income from your herb gardens, but you ignore the more important aspects of the law—justice, mercy, and faith. You should tithe, yes, but do not neglect the more important things.”
You should tithe Jesus says. What this does is every time we receive an increase, every time our job pays us, every time we get something, we acknowledge that God is MY SOURCE and we return to God what belongs to him.
A lot of people would say, “You have no idea. I would have to totally rearrange my life to do this. I would have to make significant changes.” Yes, yes you would. This is a way for us to consistently put God in the place of priority as we return the tithe to His church.
Now, enough said about that.
- God we are going to put you first in our day.
- First in our week through worship.
- First whenever you bless us with increase which is quite often the first of every month.
Here’s the deal. I don’t want to claim Christ and not know his power. I don’t want to call myself a Christian and not see the fruits of his Spirit living through me. I don’t want to go through 2021 with half-hearted spirituality. I don’t want to go through a year with a mediocre marriage or with my kids not following God. I don’t want to limp along financially always worried, always uptight. I don’t want to see people I love suffering, I want to seek God and believe that his healing power can touch them. I want to put God first in every single way in my life.
THINK ABOUT IT, think about last year. How was last year for you spiritually? If you said last year was spiritually apathetic or inconsistent do you think that’s the standard of God? Do you think that God sent us his son Jesus on that first Christmas, sent us his love, his power so that we could limp along inconsistently or apathetically? NO.
What happens? Our SPIRITUAL ENEMY lures us in to putting God second, third, fourth, fifth, or giving God our lousy leftovers. God wants to be first. Seek first his kingdom. Put him first in the day. Put him first in my week. Put him first in my month. Put him first in 2021.
The BOTTOM LINE is this. If you want what you had last year do what you did. If you want another year to go by and your kind of apathetic or kind of inconsistent, do what you did.
But if you want something that you’ve never had, you’ve got to do what you’ve never done. And although none of us will be perfect in all of these ways, you can sincerely seek God first – and when you do all of these things will be added unto you.
And a YEAR FROM NOW if someone ask you “How was 2021 for you spiritually?”, you’ll be able to answer, “I’ve never known God like I do now. I’ve never sensed his presence. I’ve never experienced his provision. I’ve never seen the power of God like I did this past year.”
When they ask you why you can say, “BECAUSE I PUT HIM FIRST.”