- These five guidelines have remained etched in my
mind since I first heard them on the radio nearly a decade ago on the
way to a business meeting. At the time, I had no intention of
remembering them; evidently, the Holy Spirit had other plans because
they've played an integral role in my spiritual development. They've
helped to strengthen my spiritual walk, and they may help others in
their ongoing spiritual journey and sanctification.
No. 1 - GIVE GOD THE FIRST HOUR OF EVERY DAY
I find that the quietest part of my day is in the morning while I'm
getting ready for work and while I'm traveling to work. This is time
that I spend in prayer with God, confessing my many shortcomings from
the previous day & seeking His forgiveness, and outlining what the day
ahead looks like. But most importantly, it affords me the opportunity to
listen for His guidance and direction. I cannot tell you how often
during these morning devotionals that the Lord has given me comfort and
led me to understand the particular path I need to take with regard to a
specific problem or concern.
- Whenever I neglect to take the time to "pray my
way through the day", inevitably things go wrong. It's hard to put into
words, but my fellowship with God suffers. The relationship remains the
same: God is still my Heavenly Father and I, His child. I suppose it's
not unlike when spouses fight and one doesn't speak to the other for a
time. You're still married - your relationship is unaffected; but the
fellowship shared between the two of you most definitely is affected.
- That's 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. But 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 confidence and security.
- No. 2 - GIVE GOD THE FIRST DAY OF EVERY
And I don't mean the few hours spent in church on Sunday
mornings. For me, I've come to believe that my observance of the Sabbath
shouldn't end the moment I walk out of church. I'm sorry to say too
often I’ve spent more time watching sports on Sunday than observing the
For a long time that 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 devotionals that I first came to sense this. Once again the
work of the Holy Spirit was present in these early morning devotionals
leading me in the path I should go.
But how should I observe the Sabbath? 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's the
bottom line when it comes to observing the Sabbath: however we choose to
spend the Lord's day, 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 wasn’t
glorifying my Savior.
- No. 3 - GIVE GOD THE FIRST CONSIDERATION IN
Too often people wait until there's an emergency before they
seek God's counsel in their lives. Not until there's a problem with
their medical test; an anomaly in the sonogram; an accident; a death.
Hopefully, this isn't 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've never
regretted any decision made after first consulting the Lord and
following His counsel. Now, that doesn't mean every decision has had the
outcome I desired. But it does mean they've had the outcome God desired.
And that's what matters.
One other fact I've 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 and parcel of the Christmas
story but we often overlook it. 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 trip down to Egypt.
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's 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 weren't for God's grace and mercy in the first place, we
wouldn't have any of the things we do.
- Once again thanks to His abiding presence in
those morning devotionals, He caused me to radically change my selfish
way of thinking and get my priorities in a better order. 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's always been enough. Interesting fact: we’re now a one-income
family with my wife staying home full-time with our daughters and by
God’s grace we’re able to give more to the Lord now than ever before.
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's 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 I spend reading and studying the scriptures, the more blessings God
seems to shower upon me and the easier it becomes for me to know what
path God wants me to take in a given situation.
- † † †
- These five guidelines have made an important
difference in my spiritual walk and maturity. I wouldn't be honest if I
said I keep them all the time. 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's 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 amazes me how much my Lord and Savior really cares about me, about
every aspect of my life. That wintry morning nearly a decade ago while I
was on my way to a business meeting, I had no intention of remembering
those five guidelines I heard on the radio. But thank God that He had
other ideas. Those guidelines have both blessed me and served me well,
and perhaps they will for you too.