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Is God Really First?

Years ago, I remember reading an article written by an atheist who was sympathetic to Christianity and giving pointers to those trying to befriend or explain Christian ideals to an atheist.

One of the things I remember was something to the effect of “stop saying I have to love God more than I love my family, that’s just crazy.”

I agree. In the realm of human wisdom and understanding, it’s crazy, but there is a method to God’s madness.

When the things (as Tozer describes) grow down into our hearts, it encompasses not only material possessions, but people as well.

We may readily or more easily comply with the giving up of possessions, but when it comes to our family and those we love, we want to hang on for dear life. We want to protect and envelope them.

Nothing wrong with loving and caring for people, Jesus was certainly for that! The problem is when the people take the place of God like the things did. He will call us to lay them down, but it’s not vengeful or spiteful.

Tozer puts it this way,

We are often hindered from giving up our treasures to the Lord out of fear for their safety; this is especially true when those treasures are loved relatives and friends… Everything is safe which we commit to Him, and nothing is really safe which is not so committed. –A.W. Tozer, the Pursuit of God (chapter 2)

When it comes down to it, we are afraid that God won’t take care of them the way we will, but we are actually hindering their progress and the safety of our relationships.

When I am the sole protector and provider, I wear myself out and can’t do half of what my Father can do. He watches over my marriage as I entrust it to Him. He watched over my kids as I turn them over. He watches over the situations and lives of the people in my congregation that I’m praying for and standing with.

I still have the responsibility to respond and move with the Holy Spirit as I relate to them, but it’s not all on me.

Nothing is to take the place of God, and crazy-sounding or not, He orders it that way so that we stay connected to and abiding in His love, grace, and fellowship. By hanging on, we run ragged and may end up losing the relationship anyway.

You shall have no other gods before Me. –Exodus 20:3

We listen and follow His voice, we are blessed. The test comes many times, but there is never any reason to let the devil lead us away from God’s perfect rest.

Have you ever been particularly stubborn about a relationship you were trying to ‘help’? What was the outcome? What helps you keep your relationships in the proper perspective?


Welcome to week 4 of our book club discussion of the Pursuit of God (disclosure) by A.W. Tozer. We are taking a sentence, paragraph, or passage that inspires, encourages, or challenges and writing about it, and to fully digest this book, we’re spending two weeks on each chapter. If you have a response on your blog, add it in the link widget below and be sure to check out the other entries. Also head over to my friend and co-facilitator, Sarah Salter’s blog for another great take. Whether you’ve read the selection or not, please share your thoughts! We always appreciate a vibrant conversation.

18 Comments

  1. Once again, you and I are on the same page! Glad you hit the other side of the coin with relationships. It’s hard to surrender family, friends, even hurts and forgiveness to Christ. It’s much more personal then just things. Great post, Jason.

    • I don’t know whether to be excited or afraid for you that we’re on the same page! HA! Thanks Frank. I’m with you--the more personal and more difficult is submitting all our relationships to Him, but it’s a beautiful thing when we can enjoy them and not be possessed by them.

  2. Being in right relationship with God means holding God above all else. It does not mean we do not love and cherish our families dearly… it just means we love God more and we trust Him with everything and everyone else in our lives.
    Dusty Rayburn recently posted..In Relation to GodMy Profile

    • That sums it up nicely. We love God and from that abundance we love people. When we are IN the love of God, we can more readily live out that love to those around us. Thank you, Dusty.

  3. Putting God above our families must look absolutely insane to someone who hasn’t experience the truth of giving God their whole life. Heck- it looks crazy to me! But I agree with your thoughts here, and I know that not only is my family much safer in the care of God, but I know God wants NO gods, not even people, before Him. Challenging post, Jason.
    Stephen Haggerty recently posted..Dear The 80′s…My Profile

    • Without some understanding and the Holy Spirit there, I totally agree--it does look crazy! But in all these things, He keeps providing the way of freedom and wholeness. Amazing. Thanks so much for coming by, Stephen. I appreciate your thoughts.

  4. I know as a father and husband the conflict/tension between being sole provider and solely depending on the Father to cover those areas is huge. Remembering that for me, and well as those entrusted to my care, are required to love God with all that we are…is actually freeing for me. I Know that when I love Him first I am able to love my family the way they need to be loved. That’s the part that frees me.

    I know that the Father cares for them far greater than I can…why wouldn’t I plug into that kind of love?

    • Phew, yeah. It’s easy in theory and much harder in practice. I think it’s harder too because He hardwired us to be providers for our families, but everything He has given--talent, gift, anything else--it has to be submitted to Him before we get the full effectiveness of it. Once we do, He can bless and that blessing is incredibly freeing! Thanks so much for your wisdom, Jay.

  5. You’re absolutely right, as soon as we understand that He’s not calling us to place things into His hands as a detriment but as a protection we would willing hand those relationships over more easily. Thanks for another great reminder.
    Philip recently posted..My Imaginary BandsMy Profile

    • Our emotions, the whispers of the enemy, the wisdom of the world--they all get in the way of us handing it over quickly (which would help us tremendously!). We do have victory though and as we fight through (with the weapons He gave us), it’s a great freedom. Thanks so much, Philip.

  6. In reference to giving up possessions and putting God in His proper place, including family as you are referring to here, these words Tozer wrote really stuck out to me; “Whoever defends himself will have himself for his defense.” The implications of those words are huge!

    For those who place their thoughts and idealistic actions above the God of the cosmos, they will have taken the reins from God, essentially placing themselves in the role as God… I write and speak often of this type of thought process relating to the non-Christian in their defense of how they perceive is a rightful entrance into heaven as if they created it. If they take on the role of God and are intelligent enough to judge what is “good enough” to gain entrance into heaven, then they are a god, and as such should be able then to speak themselves an eternal life.

    This same principle apply to Christians as Tozer points out. If we justify our actions that don’t square with the word of God then we too have put ourselves above God’s word and take responsibility as if we were a god… We will be our only defense… Scary…

    The lost can’t comprehend that being human is something we all have in common and that means we live with our designed instincts. The instincts of one who knows the Creator of life, know that we no longer have the same instincts of an non believer who only have their instincts to rely on. The lost see with only senses and often dismiss the hand of God that is evident to them as unexplained phenomenon or pass it off with unmerited theory of science…

    Did I say, “Don’t get me started?” … I probably should have…

    • That’s excellent, Floyd. And that phrase stuck out to me too. I don’t want to be my own defense. Truly scary! Thanks for sharing your thoughts--really good stuff.

  7. This past year God has really been speaking to me about this.
    He has shown me that when I worry over my family (while I do it out of love) it means I’m not trusting God with the things/people most important to me.
    And who better to entrust my loved ones to than God? Only He can control the planet. I can’t even guarantee I will take my next breath.

    • It’s so true. Taking it from the mental agreement to the experiential level is a wonderful act of His grace. Wonderfully said, TC. Thank you.

  8. I used to hold onto relationships in a way that definitely put them above God. Didn’t turn out too well. None of those people are still in my life. When we try to hold something back from God, it will eventually be taken away.
    Jason Vana recently posted..Fueling Your FaithMy Profile

    • And that’s just it, everything that we commit to Him is blessed for a greater purpose. It may not be ‘smooth sailing’ at all times, but you can trust He’ll work it all for good. We’ve all had to learn from those failed relationships. Thanks for sharing, Jason.

  9. I have to laugh, Jason, because just as you almost went the same direction I did with your post, I almost went the same direction as you did. Maybe that means God wanted to emphasize both things to us. ;-)

    Because I generally treasure people more than things, this hits me very close to home. And as I’ve shared before, I am very much like my namesake in that I often try to “help” God, yet only manage to get in His way and make a huge mess. I’m thankful for these reminders — though sometimes painful — that He HAS to be first and that He does NOT need my help.
    Sarah Salter recently posted..Keeping Up With the Family: The Job EditionMy Profile

    • When He needs our help, I’m sure He’ll just ask us. Ha! He does give us His compassion and wisdom to love and care, but it all flows from that right relationship with Him.

      And that is funny that we swapped posts, so to speak. :) I think you may be right--He was reinforcing both ideas to us! Thanks so much, Sarah.