Editor's Note: The following is a report on the practical applications of Stovall Weems’ new book The God-First Life: Set the Right Priorities and Unlock the Secret to Blessing and Freedom (Zondervan, 2014).
Want to make your life better? It may seem like you can do so by simply getting more of what you want – such as an exciting job, a loving spouse and children, strong health, or the money to buy a bigger home or newer car. Enjoying the best life possible isn’t about what you can get, however; it’s about what directs your life. That’s because whatever force has first place in your life will drive your decisions and shape your future.
If you decide to make your relationship with God first in your life, everything else will naturally fall into place in the right order, creating the fulfilling life you hope to enjoy. Here’s how you can make your relationship with God your top priority:
Take an honest look at your current priorities. Reflect on your life right now to consider what factors most determine how you choose to live. Where are you investing most of your time, money, and energy? Which relationships and activities do you devote yourself to every day? Where do you currently place God on your list of priorities? If your relationship with God isn’t your top priority right now, what specific changes do you need to make in your life to devote yourself to God first?
Recognize that stress of chaos versus the blessings of order. The more you try to make your life better by pursuing your own desires, the more your desires will spin out of control, creating stressful and frustrating chaos in your life. But the more you pursue a closer relationship with God above all else, the better you’ll be able to distinguish between what’s truly important and what’s merely urgent, freeing yourself up to receive more of the blessings God wants to send you.
Trust God’s promises in Matthew 6:33. In this famous Bible verse, Jesus encourages people to put God first in their lives, saying: “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” This single verse reveals three key promises from God to those who make their relationships with him their top priority: membership in a new family (the body of Christ), a new life (a fulfilling life in which you reach your highest potential), and new freedom (power over sin so you can live free of its burdens and enjoy the life God intended you to live).
Make a sacred commitment to placing God first in your life. Choose to make an irrevocable decision to make your relationship with God your highest priority, over everyone and everything else in your life. No matter what happens from this point on, remind yourself of your decision, and then you’ll avoid wasting time and energy on what doesn’t really matter, while experiencing the fullness of God’s blessings for you.
Participate in a local church. Participating in a local church is a necessary part of fully developing your relationship with God. Ask God to lead you to a healthy church in your area, where you can mature in the context of relationships with caring and trustworthy people who are also seeking closer relationships with God. Look for a place where truth and love meet to create a safe place for you to change and reach your fullest potential.
Grow to become more like Jesus through community. As you connect with other believers in your church community, God will teach you how to love in deeper ways, which will transform you into a holier person with a character that keeps growing more like that modeled by Jesus. Invest in your relationships with others in your church beyond just the weekend worship services. Get together regularly to build close friendships through small group meetings, service projects, fun outings, or simply to chat. Listen to each other’s stories, encourage each other to grow spiritually, pray for each other, hold each other accountable, and give each other practical support when needed.
Ask the Holy Spirit to fill your soul, to empower you to live God’s way. Make a daily practice of asking the Holy Spirit to align your priorities with God’s priorities, so you will value what God values and want what God wants for you. Invite the Spirit to renew your mind and give you fresh doses of the faith and power you need to live a holy life. Every time you face a significant decision, ask the Spirit to help you see it from God’s perspective, and then decide according to how God leads you.
Celebrate God by worshipping him often. While it’s important to worship God in church, it’s also vital to worship God throughout your everyday life. Engage God by choosing to focus on His presence with you in the midst of your circumstances. Encounter God by communicating with Him, thanking him for who he is and what he does for you. Experience God in your soul by abandoning yourself fully to him and enjoying the transcendent joy and peace that come to you as a result.
Get to know God better through his Word and prayer. Cultivate your relationship with God through personal devotions. Every day, schedule some time to focus on reading and meditating on God’s Word, the Bible. Then pray about how God wants you to apply the passages you’ve read to your life, listen for the Spirit’s responses in your mind, and pray about anything else you’d like, too. Keep a journal in which you can record the biblical insights God gives you, as well as how he answers your prayers.
Serve and give as God leads you. Use your time, talents, and treasure to the fullest to join God’s redemptive work in the world, maximizing your impact in God’s kingdom. Be prepared to say “yes” to God whenever he calls you into action by: meeting people’s physical needs, sharing the Gospel message, or building up your local church. Don’t withhold your time, energy, money, skills, or any other resource that God asks you to give in specific ways – be generous, as God is generous with you.
Enjoy the freedom that comes from trusting God. As the Holy Spirit progressively transforms you, you’ll experience deeper layers of freedom from sinful attitudes and behaviors that had previously controlled you. Keep choosing to trust God and surrender your fears to Him – the more you do, the more you’ll notice His work in your life, which will strengthen your faith and inspire you to keep making your relationship with God first in your life.
Adapted from The God-First Life: Set the Right Priorities and Unlock the Secret to Blessing and Freedom, copyright 2014 by Stovall Weems. Published by Zondervan, Grand Rapids, Mich., www.zondervan.com.
Stovall Weems is the founder and lead pastor of Celebration Church in Jacksonville, Florida. Celebration is a global, diverse, growing multisite church, with more than 12,000 people in weekly attendance. As a pastor, teacher, writer and sought-after conference speaker, his ministry focuses on building the local church, reaching people with the gospel, and developing passionate followers of Christ. Stovall and his wife, Kerri have three children, Kaylan, Stovie, and Annabelle. Visit his website at: www.stovallweems.com.
Whitney Hopler, who has served as a Crosswalk.com contributing writer for many years, is author of the Christian novel Dream Factory, which is set during Hollywood's golden age. Her Twitter handle is @WhitneyHopler.
Publication date: April 18, 2014