3 For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures. – 1 Corinthians 15:3-4
When Paul spoke these words, you may get the impression that all Paul spoke about to the Corinthians was Jesus, but you would be sorely mistaken. If you read both Corinthian books, you will find that Paul spoke to the Corinthians about a great number of things.
What Paul is speaking of here is that at the core of everything he spoke about in priority was the entire gospel. But like an onion, this good news had many layers and facets in which it unfolded, ranging from church discipline, how we are to live in a world with non-Christians, and also how we are to rear our children, and even finances. All of these unfolded from a priority to live a life pleasing to God every minute of every day because of a relationship with Jesus.
Many of us have budgets in regards to our finances that we keep. And if not, i recommend for you to check our Dave Ramsey’s financial workshop. Very few of us will budget our time and our schedules. Even fewer of us will budget our energy. Even fewer may even budget or know how to budget our spiritual lives. When it comes to matters which are intangible such as our spiritual lives, we often throw up our hands and say, “only God knows.”
What Paul is saying is that there are commands we are to obey, but they flow from a place of the Good News of God saving us. With that at our core, how does that inform our treatment of others or our treatment of our spiritual lives? Like a monetary budget, we put first what needs to be put first. We pay our rent, then our electricity, then our givings to church, and on and on it goes. We do this until we run out of money, and then we begin to cut costs where we don’t see the necessity for it. By doing this, we make a budget in which we seek to spend within our means so that we are not irresponsible with our finances.
With our spiritual lives, it’s much the same, except less tangible. And therein lies the problem. What do we do that can be pleasing to God? Is it simply more service? Is it simply attending church more? Is it giving more finances to the church or to a worthy cause that is charitable? We all have our own metrics. These are all secondary things to what is most needed. What is that you say? In Revelations 2- there is a warning to the church in Ephesus-
4 Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken the love you had at first.5 Consider how far you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first. If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place.
This is nothing new, but the challenge may be. Like in my marriage, if i do many good things but forsake my love of my wife, then it is ceases to be a marriage of love and honoring to God. I may do all the duties required of me as a husband, but maintaining my duties is not the goal of marriage. It is ultimately to be in love with God and with my wife to bring attention to the goodness of God.
If we neglect what needs to be first in our love for God, then our joy and our love towards God will slowly grow cold. This leads to burnout, bitterness, anger, jealousy, and all sorts of maladies of the soul that come from being disconnected from God. We may not see the importance of prayer, or reading the bible, or being with others for encouragement to seek the Lord.
Before I offer some suggestions, let me confess. There are times, in the worst of places, in ministry and in the midst of serving the Lord at church, that i have found my love for the Lord fading. There are times where I neglect prayer and the reading of the Bible. I may only pray as a formality or even read the Bible because it’s “my job” to dispense spiritual wisdom. It is a constant reminder to me to not “do my job,” but that I can only give what I have first received from the Lord. How can I preach the love of God, when I have not received it recently? How can I love people, when I have not received from Him personally?
How are you doing those things? Please reflect on that? Some of us need to serve. Some of us need to receive first. Some of us may need to return to remembering that we are loved once again. Is your joy and fervor fading? Are you experiencing those signs of burnout or weariness? It may mean that we need to evaluate our spiritual budgets and again put first things first. For some, it may mean that we need to budget our own quiet moments with God again. For some, it may mean that we need to make coming to church a priority. For others, it may mean that we have too long neglected the company of friends who will encourage us to love the Lord, and help us in that endeavor. And yet for others, it may mean that we need to return as the Scriptures tell us- to “doing the things you did at first.” It is in all our natures to stray like sheep. It is the Lord’s nature to always seek to gather us back to Him.
– Pastor Gabe