First Things First
By Benjamin H. Liles
Those who try to hold on to their lives will give up true life. Those who give up their lives for me will hold on to true life. ~ Matthew 10:39, Expanded
Commitment. What does it mean when we say we will commit to doing something? I go back to the day I married my wife Tanya.
It was just us, the judge, and a couple of other witnesses to see our marriage of commitment to one another. We struggle at times to maintain our relationship, but we keep going on, loving one another, lifting each other up, and encouraging as well. But what does Jesus mean when He talks about laying things down and following Him? Is He talking expressly about giving up our obligations to those we have commitments to?
Well, let's go ahead and see what Jesus says, both before and after: "Those who love their father or mother more than they love me are not worthy to be my followers. Those who love their son or daughter more than they love me are not worthy to be my followers. Whoever is not willing to carry the cross and follow me is not worthy of me" (Matthew 10:37-38, Expanded). At first glance, it looks like Jesus is saying, literally, that we have to give up those we love to follow Him. But if you look carefully at the way Jesus is saying that, He's saying, "If you're unwilling to make me first, and to follow me, you're unfit to come." I don't believe Jesus is saying, "Give up this life with your family."
It seems up to verse thirty-nine that Jesus is talking about laying down our priorities, to examine what truly needs to come first. Are we willing, in the ability to follow Him, to make Him first in all things, even in our relationships? When I came to Him, shortly after I got married, I did my best to give the message of the gospel to my parents. I still do my best to do so as I love my parents and sister. I believe that's what Jesus is getting at. But if I do that it means death for me. This is what Jesus is talking about. Where are your priorities? Do you love and value your life so much you don't care about Him or even others? This is what Jesus is talking about when He says, "Those who give up their lives for me will hold on to true life."
Paul said to the church at Philippi, "But even if I am being poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrifice and service of your faith, I rejoice and share my joy with you all" (Philippians 2:17, New American Standard). These are the same words he gave to his protege, Timothy, "For I am already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time of my departure is at hand" (2 Timothy 4:6, Berean Study). Who do we fear more, in other words? If we say we fear man and what man can do to us, we're saying, basically, "I want to please others. God can take a backseat." This is the Messiah's plea with us when we say we want to follow Him.
Are we only so willing to follow Him so that we're satisfied and content in doing? And if that's the case, do we want to lose our full reward in Heaven? The early disciples of Jesus, those who became apostles and built up churches, laying their lives down to the final day of their last breath made sure to let it be seen what they believed. They never once had a harsh word toward those who sought their lives, to put an end to them. No, they loved others so much they gave up their lives. Today, we only give lip service and put no action into what we say we believe.
I have this challenge, however. Do you love Jesus the Messiah, to trust Him fully with your life? Do you realize that no matter what happens He will be before you, by your side, regardless the outcome? The men who wrote the Bible did this same thing. They gave themselves up so we could have the right to be children of the Most High God; the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (his name was changed by God to Israel).
Ever day I find myself struggling as to how much I love my Lord and Savior, Jesus. Does He come first in my life? If He does, then regardless what happens I need to be willing to put those things which are a part of me aside for the sake of others. My ego, my sins, my personality don't come first before others. Other people come before me. I write what I do daily, as much as I can, about how I live my life. It is a transparent life.
My final thoughts on making the Messiah first come from another of Paul's letters: "That I should be the minister of Jesus Christ to the Gentiles, ministering the gospel of God, that the offering up of the Gentiles might be acceptable, being sanctified [continually being made holy] by the Holy Spirit" (Romans 15:16, King James 2000).He's saying that those he ministers to that they are found acceptable, pleasing, and always being covered by His Spirit. Paul and the other apostles loved God and others so much that they gave up everything they had so His kingdom would come. It has yet to be here. And to that end, we won't know until He appears in the Heavens when that day comes.
Father, I ask that You show yourself to those who want to put you first in their lives. Help them to overcome anything that is in their path. Lead Your people, who humble themselves, seeking You and Your will in their lives to laying down of who they are for Your kingdom. Show them Your love and power so they may endure to the end. Allow them to be as bold and courageous in living their lives for You. Give them the courage they need. Cover them in Your Spirit, as well as in Your grace. Show them what it means to live their lives as a sacrifice for You. Above all, Lord, show them You are still high and lifted up, daily, so they have the heart to keep going. Thank You, Father, too for allowing me to help them, and to be an available and willing teacher in Your ways. In Jesus' name. Amen.