These five guidelines have remained etched in my mind since I first heard them on the radio nearly 15 years ago on my way to a business meeting. At the time, I had no intention of remembering them; evidently, the Holy Spirit had other plans. As they have been for me, perhaps they can be an aide for others to strengthen their spiritual walk.
No 1. GIVE GOD THE FIRST HOUR OF EVERY DAY
I find the quietest part of my day is in the morning while getting ready for and traveling to work. Much of this time is spent in prayer with God. It affords me the opportunity to listen for His guidance and direction. Frequently during these morning prayer times the Lord has comforted me and led me to understand the particular path I need to take with regard to a particular problem or concern.
Whenever I neglect to take the time to “pray my way through the day”, inevitably things go wrong. It is difficult to put into words, but my fellowship with God suffers. The relationship remains the same: God is still my Heavenly Father and I am His child. I suppose it is similar to when spouses fight and they stop speaking for a time. You are still married – your relationship is unaffected; but the fellowship you share most definitely is affected.
That is perhaps the best way to summarize what happens when I neglect to give God the first hour of every day. My fellowship with Him is affected. However, when I do give Him the first hour of every day, my fellowship is strengthened and I feel empowered to face the day ahead with more confidence and security.
No 2. GIVE GOD THE FIRST DAY OF EVERY WEEK
This does not mean the few hours spent in church on Sunday mornings. For me, I have come to believe that my observance of the Lord’s Day should not end the moment I walk out of church. I must confess that too often I have spent more time watching sports on Sunday than observing the Sabbath.
For a long time this never bothered me. Frankly, I never gave it much thought. But God slowly convicted me that I was not spending my Sunday’s — correction, His Sunday’s – the way He wanted me to. And it was through my morning prayer time that I first came to sense this. Once again the Holy Spirit was active during these morning prayer time leading me in the path I should go.
But how should I observe the Lord’s Day? Do I need to immerse myself in Bible study all day long? That would be good, but there are many other activities I can be engaged in that exalt God. And I believe that is the key when it comes to observing the Lord’s Day: however we choose to spend it, we ought to ask ourselves whether we are exalting the name of Jesus Christ or satisfying our own selfish desires. For me, spending the entire day watching auto racing or football games was not glorifying my Savior.
No 3. GIVE GOD THE FIRST CONSIDERATION IN EVERY DECISION
Too often people wait until there is an emergency before they seek God’s counsel in their lives. Not until there is a problem with their medical test; an anomaly in the sonogram; an accident; a death. Hopefully, this is not the case with those who are truly God’s children. We all should recognize the importance, the necessity, of always seeking His guidance and direction in our lives no matter how important or seemingly trivial the decision.
The Bible teaches us that God desires to be involved in all our activities and consulted in all our decisions. That means going to Him in prayer for His counsel on decisions we face in business — before we hire anyone and definitely before we fire anyone; on decisions we face in our family — from life changing ones such as taking that promotion and moving to another state to seemingly mundane ones like where to spend summer vacation.
In my own life I can honestly say that I have never regretted any decision made after first consulting the Lord and following His counsel. Now, that does not mean every decision has had the outcome I desired. But it does mean they have had the outcome God desired. And that is what matters.
One other fact I have become convinced of is this: if we earnestly seek God’s advice on a given subject, and then diligently seek to be obedient to His leading and do what He wants us to do, then God will also provide the necessary resources to accomplish that task.
This truth is part of the Christmas story but it is often overlooked. When Herod sought to murder Christ, God came to Joseph in a dream and told him to take his family immediately to Egypt and to stay there indefinitely until He told them to return. Have you ever wondered how this dirt-poor family could afford to make such a long journey? God told them to go, but did He also provide the wherewithal to accomplish the journey? You bet He did! Because He had sent the Magi bearing the gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh and this allowed Joseph and his family to make that journey down to Egypt. Just something to consider.
No 4. GIVE GOD THE FIRST PORTION OF ALL YOUR INCOME
For many years I would “pay myself first” and then give God whatever was left over. God was getting my dregs rather than my first fruits. I had let others convince me that spending our income on ourselves preparing for our future retirement years was the prudent thing to do. And fiscally speaking, it was; but, spiritually speaking, it was not. It has been said that one’s checkbook says much about where one’s priorities are. When I examined our checkbook and looked where our money was going, I received a loud wake-up call. Our priorities were entirely centered on our family and us when instead they should have been focused first on the Lord and His work. After all, if the truth be known, if it were not for God’s grace and mercy in the first place, we would not have any of the things we do.
Once again thanks to His abiding presence in those morning prayers, He enabled me to radically change my selfish way of thinking and realign my priorities. God has brought us now to the point where we look for ways to increase our giving. At long last, He is finally getting our first fruits.
When I put God first, He has never forsaken me — there has always been enough. God is ever faithful in providing the necessary resources.
No 5. GIVE GOD’S SON JESUS CHRIST THE FIRST PLACE IN YOUR HEART
The motivation for doing any of these things should be to give glory and honor to Christ; not to make us look holier-than-thou before others, as the Pharisees did. Christ ought to be number one in our hearts, even before our families. That was difficult for me at first, but He has helped me to see the proper ordering of my priorities.
We should be moved by an earnest desire to obey Christ in all situations — and not so we can earn a spot in Heaven, but out of love for Jesus for the sacrifice He made on the cross becoming sin for us. And how do we know what it is that Christ would have us do? Where can we find out what paths we should take? The Bible! The more time spent reading and studying the scriptures, the more the Holy Spirit enables us to discern God’s will in a given situation.
These five guidelines have helped me. I would not be honest if I said I keep them all the time because I certainly do not. But one thing is certain: whenever I have failed to start my day off in prayer and communion with God, whenever I put sports or other selfish things ahead of God, whenever I fail to solicit His guidance first and follow through with His leading, whenever I selfishly give myself the first fruits and give God whatever is left over, whenever I put my own desires first in my heart and relegate Christ to the background — things go terribly wrong. My fellowship with Christ is affected.
It is amazing how much our Lord and Savior really cares about every aspect of our lives. That wintry morning 15 years ago while on my way to a business meeting, I had no intention of remembering those five guidelines I heard on the radio. But praise God that He had other plans. Those guidelines have blessed me, and perhaps they will you too.
To God Be The Glory!