I’m not first. I’m not most important. Neither is my wife, nor my kids, nor any others in my family, nor any of my friends. My job isn’t first, though admittedly there was a period in my life that it was. My ministry isn’t my highest priority, either.
We are surrounded by cliches of worldly wisdom which emphasize all of those things. “You have to take care of yourself first.” “Family is most important.” “We stay together for the kids.” “You have to follow your passion.” “What we’re doing for people is the greatest thing I can do.” I’m sure you can fill in plenty more. If the cliche doesn’t agree with Scripture, it’s wrong.
Let me be clear. All of these are priorities. They are all important. It’s just that none of them belong in first place. This verse, part of Jesus’ last words to His disciples, makes it clear He is first:
Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours. – John 15:20, ESV
We are the servants. Jesus is the Master. Too often we say and promote a message where this relationship is reversed. How we talk about prayer is a good example. We talk about prayer as if God owes us something. God honors His promises, but not because He owes us. He honors them because of who He is. For instance, there is a right way and wrong way to approach Him. There’s plenty of guidance in Scripture as to what those ways are. Yet we talk about “praying about it,” and “God will provide,” and our use of those terms don’t match up with Scripture. Most of the time it’s because we are relegating God to “butler status,” even if that’s not what we meant to do.
You want a strong faith? Then you must have Jesus as the first priority. This will cause conflict. You will lose friends. You will have family members who don’t understand. And you will be expected to sacrifice. I don’t just mean a tithe sacrifice. Time, talent, those relationships, promotions at work, happiness, even life itself.
Happiness – doesn’t God want us to be happy? No. Scripture doesn’t support that view. God promises us joy, which we find in Him. Joy, in a Biblical sense, is not a synonym for happiness. Joy is lasting, fulfilling, and can sustain us regardless of how we are feeling. Happiness is a feeling. Happiness can be replaced by sorrow in a second. Yet we can still have joy in that sorrow. See how joy is superior? Our goal should be joy, not happiness. That only comes when Jesus is first. If He’s not already, make Him your first priority.