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Listen while you read: "Praise The Lord His Glories Show"1 (Lyrics)
Mark 9:35b – Whoever wants to be first must take last place and be the servant of everyone else. (NLT)
On November 21, 2015, I experienced another first.
Firsts are important. On this day, two of my cousins brought a mahogany china cabinet to our home. The reason that it was a first is not because it's the first one that I've ever owned but because it was the first piece of furniture that my mom ever bought with her own money. She purchased it to hold the china that she was getting for her upcoming marriage to my dad. After marrying Dad and Uncle Sam calling him up, she gave it to her sister to hold for her because she had no room for it. Recently, my aunt died, and her children returned the piece. Ironically, Mom doesn't have room for it now. We have less room than she does, but because it was a "first", we squeezed it in.
Knowing the human heart's tendency toward selfishness, Jesus spoke several times about firsts. When asked what the greatest commandment was, He said to put God first. On this occasion, He was correcting His disciples, who were arguing about which one of them was the greatest. Jesus said that it was the one who was willing to become a servant.
My most important first was on August 31, 1960, the day when I sucked my first breath of outside air and entered this world. The second was nine years later when I was born again — the day when I recognized that I was a sinner and needed Jesus' forgiveness.
Putting first things first entails recognizing our sinful bent, asking Jesus to forgive our sins, and committing our lives to Him. Without this first, other firsts will be of little if any value. This first first should lead to a second first: humility. Jesus' disciples wanted to rule, but Jesus reminded them that firstness comes from serving, not lording. Pride gets us nowhere with God — or others. Humility, on the other hand, is praised by God and normally others.
When we love God above all other people and things, serving becomes much easier. Jesus says that we'll be rewarded if we offer a mere cup of cold water to someone in His name. We serve God by adopting a servant mindset. We achieve firstness by serving, even though it might appear that we're not first at all.
Amid the many things that clamour for our attention, let's ask God to help us put first things first.
Prayer: Father, as we set priorities in life, guide us to put first things first: You, our families, our churches, and others. Amen.