Me First? Really?
By Mary Toepfer
Here’s the truth …
“Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and He will give you everything you need” (Matthew 6:33 NLT).
I sometimes wake up to a day with little on the agenda. Before I know it, though, I see my day take shape for me just a few texts and phone calls later. And what happens if I allow those things to keep me from working on my own relationship with God that day? Several days of that in a row and I'm a mess, not fit to help others at all! I have learned that if I don’t take care of me—which includes proper rest, diet, exercise, as well as communication with God—all those around me will get the worst of me and certainly will not see the best that I have to offer.
I see that idea of taking care of yourself first play out in other areas as well. When I fly, the flight attendant tells me that I need to take care of my own oxygen and life jacket in the event of an emergency before I try to assist others with theirs. As a mother, that is so hard for me because I think my responsibility is to sacrifice myself for my child. What I often don’t consider is what my child’s life would be like if all my fussing with her caused my own death!
Even Jesus knew that it was important to put Himself first whenever possible. We learn in the Gospel of Luke that “Jesus often withdrew to the wilderness for prayer” (Luke 5:16 NLT). And why did He do that? Because “the vast crowds came to hear him preach and to be healed of their diseases” (Luke 5:15 NLT). Once His power was made known, there was no reprieve for Him. The New Testament is replete with examples of people who found Him because they had needs, yet He understood the need to take care of His own relationship with God instead of tending to others at certain times. I’d venture to say that in order for Him to be able to meet their needs, He needed to fill Himself up with fellowship time with the Father!
For many of us, too, there will always people who will need us. But I have chosen to live according to this verse: “Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and He will give you everything you need” (Matthew 6:33 NLT).
I see the “everything you need” to be like the manna from heaven that He provided for the Israelites so that they wouldn’t even have to worry about how they would eat as they trekked through the desert enroute to the Promised Land. People will find us. But if we don’t give ourselves access to the Kingdom of God, we won’t be ready to help them. We simply won’t have the godly advice, the right verse on our tongues, or the patience in our hearts to help us properly handle what gets placed before us.
An example of this came just last week. After I had completed my morning Bible study, I was driving to work and took a peek at a few podcasts that I could listen to before pulling out of the garage. Tony Evans was talking about Heaven and I love listening to what Heaven will be like. I read books about it, I dream about it, and I make requests to God about it throughout each day. For example, I say, “See that house, God? Can you make my mansion in Heaven look like that?”
My church pastors, though, had just posted a podcast about whether or not you could be gay and still be a Christian. Although I really wanted to listen to the podcast about Heaven, I felt a nudge to listen to the other one. Lo and behold, fast forward a few hours to that evening: I found myself in a car with a teenager who was questioning her identity. Because I had just been listening to a podcast about a topic of that nature that morning, and because I had communed with God before I did so, I was able to respond with examples and information that I wouldn't have had if I had chosen to satisfy my desire to hear all about Heaven.
God was much more able to use me because my relationship with Him made me choose wisely what I needed for that day that only He alone could have possibly known. If we don't take the time to obey His nudges and fill ourselves with as much of Him as possible, we will be ill-equipped to serve Him later. In other words, we need to put first our relationship with Him. If that means ignoring phone calls so that we can spend quality time with Him (which I did twice today, in fact), then we must do that. If that means saying “no” to certain activities that we know will pull us away from our time with Him, then just say “no.” If that means that we need to deny ourselves TV time or something that we crave, like extra sleep in the morning, so that we can seek His companionship instead, then deny!
And forget about making ourselves ready just for others. What about making ourselves ready for what might come our way that we didn’t see coming—like a deer running in front of our car, an unexpected trip to the emergency room, a mistake at work that adds hours to our day, or a letter in the mail that stops us in our tracks? We need to put on our spiritual armor every morning (Ephesians 6:11), because we need to assume that a battle is only around the corner awaiting us!
Let’s take care of us first. As a result, God will take care of bringing things to us that He prepared us to receive when we have communed with Him. It’s not selfish. It’s actually the most caring thing we can do.
... and that’s the truth as I know it!