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First Things First 19 June 2011 Dr Paul Ferguson

I was watching a news clip this week on the BBC of Zong Qinghou, who is said to be Chinas richest man. He is 67 years old and lives to work. Every day he comes to a simple office before 7am and rarely leaves before 11pm. Zong stated that he has no hobbies or interests outside of work. He lives on $20 a day and says if he did not have work I feel there is no meaning in life. Despite his wealth and power, this man has not discovered yet the true purpose of his creation. The older we get the more conscious we are of the impermanence and brevity of life. The limited time we have can be wasted or it can be invested wisely. Moses wrote thousands of years ago, So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom (Psalm 90:12). The world is keen to instruct us how we may spend our days. The television, newspaper, internet etc. are awash with theories and suggestions how to have a meaningful life. As a result of such competing ideas many believers are confused and anxious about their lives. In Matthew 6:25-33, the Lord Jesus Christ deals with how to handle these anxieties in respect of material things and the cares of this world. In verse 33, Christ gives us the divine formula how to make the most of our lives when He instructs, But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you. To seek the kingdom of God is to seek the rule and the reign of God over your entire life. It is to seek the King of that Kingdom. So our lifelong pursuit is not for material things but the presence, pleasure and Person of our King, Jesus Christ. What should our priority be? If our priorities are not in order, our lives will not be in order. Now, no believer has to pray about or debate on what his or her priority should be. We have an unambiguous command here from Christ Himself, But seek ye first the kingdom of God. The verb seek here is a present imperative indicating that it is a continuous command. It means to search by thinking, meditating, reasoning, enquiring into. This requires time, effort and sacrifice. Christianity is more than simply accepting Jesus Christ as our Saviour, but a lifetime of seeking after God. The Greek word first means first in time, place, order, importance. This statement is not a mere suggestion but the command of the great Head of the Church who has .all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge (Colossians 2:3). We are to be habitually seeking the spiritual treasures that have far greater significance in this life and the life to come. It is not that we are not to consider material things on this earth, but they should not be our aim, our goal, and our master. The Apostle Paul echoes this truth when he informed us, in all things He (Christ) might have the preeminence (Colossians 1:18). The verb here is in the present tense again signifying that Christ must continually have first place. He demands the first place each day and the first day in each week! An English preacher, John Henry Jowett commented on this, Naturally we love and respect our families, friends, associates, and those who serve the Lord. But the Lord Jesus must have the preeminence! Our devotion is always to be centered on Him. Paul also advises, Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth (Colossians 3:2). How can we do this? Remember, every command of God always includes His enabling power. The only practical way to be seeking Gods Kingdom, righteousness, and setting our affection on heavenly things is by putting first in our lives and families: (1) Study of the Word of God (2) Prayer (3) Christian Service (4) Fellowship of the Saints As Christians we know and believe that God is Sovereign. He is always faithful to His promises. We just need to do our part in seeking first His kingdom and He will ensure that, all these things

shall be added unto you. Or to put it another way, you mind His business, and He will mind yours.
What is a wrong priority? The problem in this area of our lives is not that we dont understand what the Bible says. Our problem is that we do and just dont want to do it! Frankly, so many of us are satisfied with a mediocre and stunted Christian life and as a result we dont seek God. Too many just seek personal happiness and hope to have God thrown in as a bonus. People, possessions, power, prestige, pleasure, and other carnal desires compete for our priority. Often they win our affections over God. Our true priorities can simply be discovered in listing what we think about the most and on what we spend the greatest amount of our time and money. That will objectively uncover what we are truly seeking after. Martyn Lloyd Jones is very pointed, If you know people whom you think are Christians, and who themselves think they are Christians, but who do not want the preaching of the Word, and do not revel in it, and rejoice in it, and want as much as they can possible get of it, I suggest that the right question to ask about them is, Are these people Christians? This behaviour is contrary to nature. They do not conform to what we are told about Christians in the New Testament. They revelled in it, they gloried in it; and they were a praising people. They did not attend their meetings mechanically, they did not do so as a matter of duty, they did not do it merely because it was the expected thing, saying to themselves, Well, I have been to the service, I have done my duty, and now I can write my family letters and spend the rest of the day reading and doing various other things which I enjoy. Not at all. They could not get enough of it. In a church like ours, it is extremely doubtful whether any member would dare to openly declare that any text of the Bible is untrue. Yet, by our conduct many demonstrate that we do not believe the truth of Matthew 6:33. By doing so, we set ourselves as judges of Gods perfect Word. It is effectively an attempt to dethrone God and place ourselves above Him. Such behaviour should never be as it is sinful and emulates the spirit of the devil (Isaiah 14:13-14). At Tengah it is also doubtful whether any member would place a metal or stone idol in their home and fall down and worship it. Yet, in reality we worship other gods by placing so many things above our Heavenly Father. God is not interested in second place in your life. As someone once wrote, He who offers God second place offers Him no place. Even more tragically for many of us, He does not even get second place in our lives! Our career, our satisfaction, our recreation, our family, our security claim the leading places in our affections. Just a few illustrations should suffice to show that this is very evident in Calvary Tengah: (1) Few members are interested in attending Prayer Meeting. Even though God commanded us to pray and promises that we will find at His throne ....grace to help in time of need (Hebrews 4:16) many of our church family would rather be otherwise engaged with things of lesser worth! Some would rather sit at home filling their minds with the debased entertainment of the television or movies. Others put their career prospects first and work late on Prayer Meeting night hoping to climb the corporate ladder, albeit only to discover at the end that all is vanity and vexation of spirit (Ecclesiastes 1:14, 17, 2:11, 17, 26; 4:4, 16). (2) Our SBC classes, YF, and YAF meetings are poorly attended. Despite the fact that they only last a few hours once in a 168-hour week, so many would rather be involved in studies and social activities than sitting under the instruction of the Word of God. What is especially tragic about this is that many of our youths absent themselves with the encouragement of Christian parents. Such behaviour not only affects the spiritual life of the absentee individual but sets the wrong example - it stumbles weaker brethren; it discourages those who faithfully attend and those who prayerfully spend many hours preparing teaching materials for these ministries. Crucially, it gives a poor testimony to unsaved visitors who attend these meetings of the value of Christianity in the lives

of our own members. Both parents and their children need to grasp the truth of Jeremiah 9:23-24, Thus saith the LORD, Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, neither let the mighty man glory in his might, let not the rich man glory in his riches: But let him that glorieth glory in this, that he understandeth and knoweth me, that I am the LORD which exercise lovingkindness, judgment, and righteousness, in the earth: for in these things I delight, saith the LORD. Conclusion I prayerfully ask each member of our church: Does the promises of Matthew 6:33 not cover our secular work, University/Polytechnic examinations, A Levels and O Levels? Does God give an opt-out in Matthew 6:33 for those living in the work and education pressures of Singapore in 2011? By our actions, many of us imply that we believe Jesus Christ is wrong in what He has said in Matthew 6:33. Yet we claim to be His disciples and we claim that we believe every Word of Scripture is infallible and inerrant! However, to be consistent, we should remove passages like Matthew 6:33 from our Bibles or change it to read, but seek ye second or third the kingdom of God... In our church we love to sing this hymn, Nothing between my soul and the Saviour, So that His blessed face may be seen; Nothing preventing the least of His favour, Keep the way clear! Let nothing between. Yet, so many go out and elevate all kinds of things above Christ who is the Head of the church. It is exactly this attitude that cuts off the true blessings of God from us. How it must grieve the heart of our blessed Master to see us so indifferent or regard Him as merely incidental to our well-being. However, anything that distracts us from Christ as the preeminent One must go. He alone must be the supreme focus of our lives. For if we truly put the Lord first in our lives, everything will be in order and nothing will be out of order! You are either being faithful or you are not. There are 168 hours in a 7-day week. What are you doing with yours? Are you a God-seeking Christian? Does Christ have priority in your life? What evidence in your life points in this direction? If there is not, then rearrange your priorities and put first His kingdom and His righteousness. If you are tired of the life you have been living, you can always make a new start for He is a God ready to pardon, gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness. (Nehemiah 9:17).