We live in a world where many things compete for our time, energy and attention. Without a clear understanding of where our priorities should lie, it's easy to get sucked into a situation where what's important becomes secondary to what's urgent. Jesus Himself understood the importance of #priorities, reminding us to "seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness" (Matt 6:33 NKJV).
What does that means for us as spouses and as parents? What are the "firsts" we need to seek and pour our energy into above everything else? For my wife and I, we believe that the spiritual health of our home is an important "first". When I am a spiritually healthy man, then I can be a spiritually healthy husband. When my wife and I are a spiritually healthy couple, then we can be spiritually healthy parents. When we are spiritually healthy parents, then our children can grow up in a spiritually healthy environment where they, too, can learn to be spiritually healthy kids.
We've broken down this important "first" into 3 sub-areas to make it even clearer. I hope this helps you to re-think your #priorities and reconsider where you should focus your greatest energies on!
• F I R S T C H U R C H •
We are all called to belong and contribute to a local church. God’s plan is for believers to be planted and to grow in Christian communities where they can learn to be more like Jesus, and where they can be equipped and commissioned to share the Gospel with others.
While we should endeavour to serve well and find ways to lead and influence others to do the same in church, we must bear in mind Paul’s charge to young Timothy:
“For if a man cannot manage his own household, how can he take care of God’s church?”
1 Timothy 3:5 NLT
It’s easy to mistake busy-ness in church and ministry as being spiritual. What’s worse - there is a great temptation for many to give so much time, energy, heart and soul in church, that they have little or none left for their spouse and children.
Paul says in verse 1 of the same chapter that being a leader in church is a noble and honourable thing. But he also makes it clear that this should not be at the expense of family. In fact, he tells Timothy that a healthy, whole family is a prerequisite for church leadership.
Let’s remember that our families are our first churches - and that God has placed our spouse and kids in our lives for us to steward. When we begin to lead our families intentionally and grow them in the ways of God, it becomes a testimony to many others in church. As a result, our level of influence and ministry will grow too!
Let’s commit today to put first things first - let’s first pastor our families, before we think about pastoring God’s church.
• F I R S T M I N I S T R Y •
“As the Scriptures say, “A man leaves his father and mother and is joined to his wife, and the two are united into one.” This is a great mystery, but it is an illustration of the way Christ and the church are one.”
Ephesians 5:31-32 NLT
God’s original design for marriage is for a husband and a wife to be joined together - not just physically, but also mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. The two are to become one - they still retain their distinct identities and personalities - but together, they receive a new dream and a new mandate from God, to “be fruitful and multiply” - not just in the sense of having physical children, but also growth and expansion in terms of Kingdom influence and power.
It is striking that God chooses to use marriage to illustrate Christ’s relationship with the church. It reflects His passion and His belief not just in the institution of marriage, but more so in the blessing and authority that comes when husbands learn to love their wives sacrificially, just like Christ did; and when wives learn to submit to their husband’s leadership, just as every believer is to submit to Christ’s Lordship.
So let’s remember today that God’s plan is not for us to be joined to anything or anyone else other than our spouse - not our careers; not our children; not our church ministry; not our parents; and certainly not any of the possessions we have on this earth. God’s intention is for us to minister first to our spouse, because in doing so, we minister to Him as well, and we become a testament of Christ’s fierce, radical, and sacrificial love for His church.
• F I R S T D I S C I P L E S •
“Train up a child in the way he should go, And when he is old he will not depart from it.”
Proverbs 22:6 NKJV
Children, the Bible tells us, are a reward from the Lord (Psalm 127:3-5). Our job as parents is to steward them and help them to grow in the ways of God.
Part of stewarding them is understanding the enormous power and potential that children possess - Psalm 8:2 tells us that praise from the lips of children and infants have the ability to silence the enemy! That’s powerful indeed!
The question then is, what are we doing to help our kids develop in faith and strength of character, so that they can live up to the potential that God has placed in each of their lives? Shall we leave it to chance? Outsource it to Sunday School? Or just pray and hope that they’ll encounter God on their own when they’re older?
Let’s take ownership of the awesome responsibility that God has placed in our hands, to disciple our children to become more like Jesus! When we start to grow our kids intentionally - not just in terms of academics or CCA, but also their spiritual and emotional development - we’ll see them do incredible things for God!