First and Best
Midland SDA Church
March 24, 2018
I want you to think for a moment about a famous person that you would like to meet. Now, let’s pretend that you were given the opportunity to meet that person. Maybe it’s the president of the United States, maybe it’s a famous singer or movie star, or maybe it’s someone else. What would you do to prepare to meet them?
No matter who it is, I am sure you would probably go out and buy a new outfit and maybe even get a haircut. For weeks, you would be telling your friends about how excited you were to meet them. You would put it on your calendar and you wouldn’t let anything get in the way of keeping the appointment. You would give that person your first and your best.
LET’S GET REAL
So, what priority do you make in spending time with your Redeemer? Are you giving Him your first and best? Do you start your day with Him or does He get pushed aside? Do you tell your friends about what He’s done for you or are you ashamed to talk about your faith? Let’s look at a few texts that talk about giving God our first priority and our very best effort.
Matthew 6:33 But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.
1 Corinthians 10:31 Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.
Colossians 3:23 And whatever you do, do it heartily as to the Lord and not to men.
Ecclesiastes 9:10 Whatever your hand finds to do, do with your might.
MARY AND MARTHA
Are you giving God your first and your best? The last Sabbath I preached, my sermon was about the seed among thorns in Matthew 13:7. Near the end of the message, I gave a personal testimony of things that I was struggling with. Instead of devoting my time to the things that have true value, too often I was giving priority to the things that don’t matter as much. I’m reminded of the story In Luke 10:38-42. Martha is busy serving guests and Mary can be found sitting at Jesus’ feet, not willing that she should miss anything He has to say.
Luke 10:38-42 Now it happened as they went that He entered a certain village; and a certain woman named Martha welcomed Him into her house. 39 And she had a sister called Mary, who also sat at Jesus’ feet and heard His word. 40 But Martha was distracted with much serving, and she approached Him and said, “Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Therefore tell her to help me.” 41 And Jesus answered and said to her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled about many things.” 42 “But one thing is needed, and Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken away from her.”
Ellen White tells us in the Desire of Ages on page 525, that “The “one thing” that Martha needed was a calm, devotional spirit, a deeper anxiety for knowledge concerning the future, immortal life, and the graces necessary for spiritual advancement. The cause of Christ needs careful, energetic workers. There is a wide field for Marthas, with their zeal in active religious work. But let them first sit with Mary at the feet of Jesus. Let diligence, promptness, and energy be sanctified by the grace of Christ; then the life will be an unconquerable power for good.”
CHANGES IN MY LIFE
Recently, God has convicted me that I need to give Him my first and best. There have been so many times that I intended to have time for prayer and Bible study, but it either received very little time or got pushed aside completely. Even though I desired quality time with the Lord, it wasn’t consistent and I felt the impact of not making time for Him. On the days that this would happen, I would tell myself that even though I hadn’t had my time with God or maybe it just wasn’t quality time with God, that He knew my heart and my intentions and He still loved me. Now, all of those things are true. But, I felt God telling me that He wanted more than my good intentions. He wanted me to take action. I’m sure many of you can relate to the feeling of being consumed by your to do lists. Do we need to do the laundry? Yes, but first sit at the feet of Jesus. Do we have to go to work or study for school? Yes, but first sit at the feet of Jesus. Do we have church responsibilities that we need to fulfill? Yes, but first sit at the feet of Jesus. It is so easy to get caught up with the things that we need to do. Unfortunately, sometimes we give them priority over the One who deserves our first and our best.
HOW TO GIVE GOD OUR BEST-WHERE IT ALL STARTS
Giving God our first and best starts in the heart and mind. It starts with the choices we make based on the desires that we cherish, and the things we choose to let run our lives. We must cultivate in our minds a stronger desire to spend time with the Lord. Once our priorities are in order and God truly holds first place in our lives, we will want to give Him our best.
CULTIVATING OUR DESIRE FOR GOD
There are many things that we can do to strengthen our desire for God. If we take time to do these things on a daily basis, we will find that our cup is overflowing with love for Him.
SPEND TIME IN NATURE
One of the first things we can do is to spend time in nature. Step outside and listen to the birds. Lay on a blanket at night and look up at the stars. His handiwork is all around us. When we are wrapped up in our jobs and our to-dos, we don’t take the time to slow down and see the beauty around us. When you’re out in nature, you feel closer to God and you’re easily reminded of His power and His goodness toward us. Ellen White reminds us in the book Adventist Home on page 144.
“God has surrounded us with nature’s beautiful scenery to attract and interest the mind. It is His design
that we should associate the glories of nature with His character. If we faithfully study the book of
nature, we shall find it a fruitful source for contemplating the infinite love and power of God.”
Here in Michigan, we are blessed to experience distinct seasons. Even in winter, we can appreciate the beauty of the snow. Now, I know that there are many activities that can be done outside during winter. However, it seems that there is a tendency to stay indoors during the months of December through March. If you haven’t been outside much lately, I thought I would take a moment to remind you of the beauty that He has created for us to enjoy.
LISTEN TO HEAVENLY MUSIC
While you work, play or relax at home, you can listen to heavenly music. Music that uplifts the soul and sets our minds on Him. There are few things that make me long for Heaven more than a beautiful song. God has created music for our enjoyment and for His worship. I think we can all agree that we have already been blessed through music today. When used to glorify Him, music can touch the hearts of those that would otherwise be unreached. Here are a few verses that remind us the importance of music and how it is a powerful part of worship.
Psalm 89:1 I will sing of the mercies of the Lord forever; With my mouth will I make known Your faithfulness to all generations.
Ephesians 5:18-19 18 But be filled with the Spirit, 19 Speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord.
COUNT YOUR BLESSINGS
The next thing we need to do is to get in the habit of recognizing the many things that God has done for us. Each of us have been abundantly blessed. Blessings come in many forms. Things such as health, family, finances, freedom to worship, and talents that God has given us to use for His glory. We need to take time to appreciate these things and remember that it is all from God. There is nothing in us that is good, except what He has done in us and for us.
Psalm 77:11-12 I will remember the works of the Lord; surely I will remember Your wonders of old. 12 I will also meditate on all Your work and talk of Your deeds.
Deuteronomy 8:11-19 11 “Beware that you do not forget the Lord your God by not keeping His commandments, His judgments, and His statutes which I command you today.
Verses 12-16 is a reminder about how God provided for them during their time in the wilderness and
then goes on to mention the many blessings that He was going to provide for them in the land that He
promised. God knew that His people would forget. He goes on to say in verse 17.
17 then you say in your heart, ‘My power and the might of my hand have gained me this wealth.’ 18 “And you shall remember the Lord your God, for it is He who gives you power to get wealth, that He may establish His covenant which He swore to your fathers, as it is this day.
REMEMBER HIS SACRIFICE FOR US
If you are not already doing this, take time out of your day to reflect on the precious sacrifice that Christ made on our behalf. The Almighty Creator actually came to this earth and took on the form of humanity, so that He could give us the opportunity of eternal life with Him. The fact that we even have the opportunity of salvation is the biggest blessing that we could ever receive. We must make sure that we do not take it for granted. Christ gave us His best. He not only wants us to give Him our best, He actually deserves it from us.
John 3:16-17 16 For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. 17 For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.
Romans 5:8 But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
Mark 12:30-31 30 And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength. This is the first commandment. 31 And the second, like it, is this: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” There is no other commandment greater than these.
IT’S OKAY TO BE SAD
Now the next one I am going to mention is a little uncomfortable to think about. I have intentionally saved it for last because it’s not something that any of us would like to hear. I firmly believe that we need to allow ourselves to experience pain. I’m not saying that we should do this intentionally, but we should allow ourselves to feel the pain that comes from seeing all of the suffering that is around us. Suffering is so common that we can get calloused to it and go about our day as if it’s not a big deal. Some people don’t really let it affect them, unless it really affects them. But, this is not what Christ wants us to do. Sin is bad. The effects of sin have permeated every facet of our lives. Just when you thought that it couldn’t get any worse, it does.
I work in finance at MidMichigan Health. Part of my job requires analyzing patient data based on specific criteria, that is requested by leadership. Recently, I was working on a particular request. As I started looking down through a short list of diagnoses that I was going to prepare a report on, I started thinking about how glad I was, that I didn’t have any of those conditions. Then it dawned on me that this was a sample of Satan’s plan for us. This was not God’s plan. God never wanted His children to experience any of these things.
Now, you may be in your personal valley of the shadow of death, or you may not. Seeing and hearing about others suffering is just one more thing that points us to Christ and makes us long for Him. Don’t you long for suffering to end?
1 Corinthians 12:25-26 25 That there should be no schism in the body, but that the members should have the same care for one another. 26 And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; or if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it.
Galatians 6:2 Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.
Philippians 2:4 4 Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.
1 John 4:7-8 7 Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. 8 He who does not love does not know God, for God is love.
OUR GREATEST DESIRE IS TO BE IN HIS PRESENCE
If we take time each day to do these things, to spend time in nature, to listen to heavenly music, to reflect on His blessings, to remember His sacrifice for us, and to allow ourselves to be touched by the suffering around us, we will be able to say with David in Psalm 27:6:
Psalm 27:6 One thing I have desired of the Lord, that will I seek; that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to inquire in His temple.
THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING FIRST (LET NOTHING DISTRACT YOU)
So far, we have spent time this afternoon increasing our desire for God. So, how do we take action to give God our first and best? The key is to start your day right with Bible study and prayer. Make a commitment to begin your day with God and you will always have time for Him, no matter what the rest of the day holds for you.
Part of Jesus’ mission to this earth was to give us a perfect example of how we are to live our lives. He
showed us how to love God and how to love each other. He also reminded us of the things that we can
do to prepare ourselves for our daily battle against our enemy, Satan.
Matthew 14:23 And when He had sent the multitudes away, He went up on the mountain by Himself to pray. Now when evening came, He was alone there.
Mark 1:35 Now in the morning, having risen a long while before daylight, He went out and departed to a solitary place; and there He prayed.
Luke 5:16 So He Himself often withdrew into the wilderness and prayed.
Luke 6:12 Now it came to pass in those days that He went out to the mountain to pray, and continued all night in prayer to God.
BIBLE STUDY AND SCRIPTURE MEMORIZATION
Matthew 4:1-11 records the story of Jesus being tempted by Satan in the wilderness. In verse 3, Satan
tempts Him to prove that He was the Son of God by turning stones to bread.
4 But He answered and said, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.’”
In verses 5-6, Satan tempts Jesus to prove He is the Son of God by jumping off the top of the temple and seeing if God would send angels to keep Him safe.
7 Jesus said to him, “It is written again, ‘You shall not tempt the Lord your God.’”
In verse 8-9, Satan offers to give Jesus the kingdoms of the world if He would worship him.
10 Then Jesus said to him, “Away with you, Satan! For it is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God, and Him only you shall serve.’’”
After this, Satan leaves in defeat. Do you think that Jesus would’ve been able to withstand the devil if He had not been so connected with His Father and had spent time studying scripture and committing it to memory?
THE IMPORTANCE OF GIVING OUR BEST (OUR HEALTH MAKES A DIFFERENCE)
It is so important to give God not only our first, but our best. Getting up early to spend time in prayer and Bible study does not do much good if we are too tired to stay awake or pay attention. Giving God our best relies heavily on us making healthy choices. These include getting the rest that we need, drinking plenty of water and eating healthy foods.
1 Corinthians 6:19-20 19 Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own. 20 For you were bought at a price; therefore, glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s.
What about getting distracted? I’m sure that all of us have experienced distractions during our prayer and Bible study time. Maybe your distractions come in the form of a 2-year old girl, with a beautiful smile and a tug on your hand to come play with her. It is so hard to say no to spending time with the ones we love. That is why it is important to make time for God before they wake up and choose a location where you can be alone.
Distractions can take on less worthy forms such as a thinking about a song you heard, a movie you watched, or even something that you need to do later on in the day. One thing I’ve found that helps guard against this is talking out loud when you pray and reading out loud when you study the Bible. It is much easier to focus when you are hearing the words and not just thinking them. Another thing you can try is praying while you walk. Some of the best prayer time I’ve had is when I’m walking my dog during the early morning hours. I’m sure there are many other ways to combat distraction. But one of the best I’ve found is asking God to keep your mind focused during your time with Him. Let Him know that it is important to you to spend quality time with Him and ask for His help.
SATAN IS A ROARING LION
Now, with all of the plans we make to start the day right, Satan may still have small victories. Emergencies happen. You may wake up to a child that has a high fever or the flu. You may come downstairs in the morning, like I did a few weeks ago, and discover that your upstairs bathroom is leaking water into a downstairs bedroom. Believe me, I know things can happen. I don’t want you to beat yourself up because it’s been awhile since you’ve had a consistent time each day with the Lord. Believe me, I know what that feels like. The important thing is that we commit that with the Lord’s help, we will press on and not let these things discourage us or knock us off track.
GOD’S PROMISES TO US
As I wrap up my sermon today, I would like to leave you with a few promises that God has given us regarding those who give Him their first and best.
Psalm 37:4 Delight yourself also in the Lord, and He shall give you the desires of your heart.
Proverbs 15:29 The Lord is far from the wicked, but He hears the prayer of the righteous.
Jeremiah 29:11-13 11 For I know the thought that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of
peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope. 12 Then you will call upon Me and go and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. 13 And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart.
Luke 11:9 So I say to you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.
John 14:13-14 13 And whatever you ask in My name, that I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14 If you ask anything in My name, I will do it.
Mark 11:24 24 Therefore I say to you, whatever things you ask when you pray, believe that you receive them, and you will have them.
Thoughts From the Mount of Blessing, page 85
“The soul that turns to God for its help, its support, its power, by daily earnest prayer, will have noble
aspirations, clear perceptions of truth and duty, lofty purposes of action, and a continual hungering and
thirsting after righteousness. By maintaining a connection with God, we shall be enabled to diffuse to
others, through our association with them, the light, the peace, the serenity, that rule in our hearts. The
strength acquired in prayer to God, united with persevering effort in training the mind in thoughtfulness
and caretaking, prepares one for daily duties and keeps the spirit in peace under all circumstances.”
1 Thessalonians 4:16-17 For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord.