First Things?

They're basic to life, so let's get them right.

The first word I say
In the morning when I arise:
May Christ’s cross be my armor about me.

  - Anonymous, Early Welsh[1]

O God, You are my God;
Early will I seek You;
My soul thirsts for You;
My flesh longs for You
In a dry and thirsty land
Where there is no water.

  - Psalm 63.1

“First things first.” We’ve heard that since we were kids. No, we can’t eat our dessert first. Yes, we must clean up our room before we go out to play. No TV, not until you’ve finished your homework. All the other things we might have wanted more had to wait until the first things were finished.

The problem, it seems, was that what we regarded as first things weren’t the same as what our parents did. And today, we are happy to admit that they were usually right.

We still conduct our lives on the basis of first things. Each of us, every day of our lives, does what we consider to be the “first things” for our wellbeing before we do anything else. How you begin your day, and how you take up each activity of your day, are determined by what you consider the “first things” for the moment. And this is very important, because the first thing you do in the morning, and every first thing of your day, will determine the character and direction of your day, and all the work of it.

What is the first thing on your mind when you wake up in the morning? To what do you devote the first hour of the morning? Is it in seeking the Lord Jesus Christ? And if not, then when does He figure into the list of your most important priorities?

What about in all the other situations or activities of your life? Are Christ and His Kingdom and glory the first things that guide your choices, words, and deeds throughout the day? Or do other values and priorities intervene – personal advancement, making a good impression, just having a little fun?

Over the years I’ve met many pastors and church leaders who confess that they have but little time for prayer, Bible reading, and meditation. The day just breaks in upon them too fast. Too many distractions, too much to do, too easy simply to elide time with the Lord into the work of pastoral ministry – hopefully.

As a result, many of us don’t seem to bring much of Scripture and prayer into our work or daily lives, either. The first things that guide our lives each day are determined by something other than regular and intimate communion with the living God, and seeking His Kingdom and righteousness.

The day breaking in too fast, the distractions coming from every direction, all the work that everyone else expects to be done in a timely manner – these are not the problem. Making these the first things of our lives are symptoms of the problem.

The problem is one of priorities – first things. And the symptoms, the first things we follow rather than following Jesus, are a sign of spiritual sickness. What we hold as the first things in our lives reveal what we love, and what we love is what we will devote ourselves to – time, energy, and effort.

A wise friend once explained to me that we will do in our lives only and exactly what we want to do, and nothing else. The problem, for so many of us, is that what we want to do – what keeps showing up as the first things in our lives – seem to have very little to do with Jesus Christ and His Kingdom. We keep doing what we regard as the first things, but we aren’t growing in the Lord, we aren’t increasing in love for others, we aren’t fulfilling our calling as disciples and witnesses, and we don’t really seem to care all that much.

Time to get some new first things.

Try meeting with God first thing each day, reading and meditating in His Word, waiting on Him in prayer, bringing your day before Him for preview, counsel, and guidance. Then work at the discipline of prayer without ceasing in everything you do each day. See if this doesn’t begin to bring your priorities more into line with God’s good and perfect plan for your life.

For Reflection
1. What does the way you use your time each day indicate about the “first things” in your life?

2. What can you do, beginning now, to make time with Jesus the continuous “first thing” of your life?

Psalm 63.1, 2 (Nun Danken: Now Thank We All Our God)
O God, You are my God, and earnestly I seek You!
My soul thirsts and my flesh in weariness now greets You!
Thus I would see Your face, with glory and pow’r arrayed,
In this Your holy place – Your beautry here displayed.

Lord, help me to have time with You as my first thing at every moment, so that I…

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T. M. Moore, Principal
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All psalms for singing are from The Ailbe Psalter. Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.


[1] Davies, p. 274.

T.M. Moore

T. M. Moore is principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, a spiritual fellowship in the Celtic Christian tradition. He and his wife, Susie, make their home in Essex Junction, VT.
Books by T. M. Moore