Put God First
One day a doctor called one of his patients into his office to deliver some very important news. “I have received the results of your tests and I have some bad news and some good news.” The patient was quiet for a moment, sensing the gravity of the announcement, “Let me have the good news first, Doc,” said the patient. The doctor took a deep breath and said, “You only have 24 hours to live!”
“Oh my goodness,” shouted the patient, “If that’s the good news what could the bad news possibly be?”
The doctor replied, “I was supposed to tell you the good news yesterday.” Very few of us live as if there is no tomorrow. Most of us live as if there will be many tomorrows.
Like the popular musical song from Annie – “The sun will come out, Tomorrow…Tomorrow, tomorrow, I love ya’ tomorrow; you’re only a day away.” And don’t get me wrong, in some respects living as if there will be many tomorrows is good, but in other respects it can be very bad.
If we look forward to tomorrow with hope, then that is a fine perspective. But if we look forward to tomorrow with a haughty spirit, then we are in danger.
This is where we are in our sermon series through the book of James on Practical Christian Living. James deals again with the issue of pride. Here we see that in issues of life God becomes second fiddle. He’s pushed aside in how we treat each other and our attitudes.
Gaither Vocal Band song called Second fiddle. It talks about how God won’t be put aside. The chorus says; It’s not a bill that’s up to be voted on, it became a law when He wrote it in stone, Number 1 on the list of His big 10, He came to earth and He said it again, it’s been the same since the beginning of time, don’t be fooled in thinking that it’s not a crime, it’s not a rhyme or a riddle—God don’t play second fiddle.
When we do what we want, when we want, when we say what we want, about whoever we want, we are saying to God I know what is best and God by the way, I’ll get back to you tomorrow, or better yet, Sunday.
God says to us here that dog won’t hunt. I have to be first today. It matters today what we are for God. So how do we Put God First? Let me give you four practical truths we must follow to overcome our pride that James shows us we have in this scripture passage.
I. The Words We Use (v.11) Here the Bible issues a command. “Do not speak evil of one another, brethren.” This is speaking about brothers and sisters in Christ. Wednesday night in 1Peter, the Bible used the same word and commanded us to not speak evil of one another. This word means to backbit, complain, censor, grumble, or gossip, to lower a person’s reputation in the eyes of another.
James preached more about the words we use and our motives behind the words than any other book of the Bible. We all know that malicious gossip is sin and complaining or grumbling is wrong but let me take this a step farther. Too many times we speak evil without ever noticing we are doing it.
For example, someone says pastor we really need to pray for so and so. She and then they tell me the whole story, how I should pray, what they think so and so should do, and the reason so and so is in this situation. They conclude with; “I’m telling you all this so you know how to pray for them.”
In Numbers 12:2 we are first introduced to gossip. It was a family affair. Moses was leading God’s people and his sister Miriam thought she should be in charge.
In the book, Why Churches Die, Mac Brunson and Ergun Caner make the following statement; “Gossip is never isolated. First Moses leadership was questioned, and then his leadership was attacked. Even if gossip begins in innocence, it becomes malicious. Gossip divides. One can hear Miriam’s rationale that she could lead just as easily as Moses. How did she implant that belief in the hearts of the Israelites? By gossip. Gossip builds up the perpetrator by tearing down the victim. Miriam questioned Moses leadership and implicitly placed herself on equal ground with Moses.”
But let’s remember Miriam was the first child and Moses was the baby of the family. Being the baby and having a big sister I can relate.
But God’s word takes it farther. The Bible says if we speak this way, we speak evil of the law of God and we become a judge of the law of God. What God is saying here is when we do this we become a substitute for God’s Word. Pride sets in and we become a critic of the Bible itself.
But there is more. We then aren’t fulfilling the law of God in our lives and because of our pride are caught in sin. We aren’t following God’s Word we are judging God’s Word in how it applies to everyone else.
What’s the answer? Do what Jesus said about judging in Matthew 7:3-4, “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother's eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, 'Let me take the speck out of your eye,' when all the time there is a plank in your own eye?”
(NIV) Jesus is saying make sure your right with God and let God be first in your life. When we do that we realize God is big enough to straighten out everyone else—He doesn’t need our help.
II. The People We Choose (v.12) the word judge in v.12 means to distinguish, or decide, to esteem one above another. It also means to condemn or punish and I know we know we shouldn’t do that. So let’s stick with the idea of preferring one above another.
James introduced this to us In James chapter two. We were told we are not to prefer a rich man, someone we can benefit from above a poor person or someone with lesser means.
But let’s go deeper. The truth is we do decide or distinguish one over another all the time. We do that in two different ways:
A. By Their Behavior—We choose our friends that think, like we do about certain things, or talk like we do about those things. We choose by the way a person behaves or responds in situations. We do this type of choosing all the time. That’s only natural and by the way there is nothing wrong with that.
B. By the Way they Look—Israel chose king Saul, a tall, dark and handsome king head and shoulders above the rest, stood out in a crowd. God chooses differently and He even said that to the Prophet Samuel as Samuel looked for the new king, king David. God said, “But the LORD said to Samuel, ‘Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The LORD does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.’” 1 Samuel 16:7 (NIV)
This doesn’t condemn us from looking at outward appearance it is simply God stating the fact that we do look at outward appearance. God uses physical attraction to draw a man to a woman. We do choose people by the way we look.
Let me illustrate: Let’s say I decide to let my hair grow out, 3 months, okay 6 months, it’s down to my shoulder blades. I put it in a pony tail, Easter Sunday Brenda braids it for me. I take a big can of dippity-do and grease her back to cover up my sparse acreage. Let’s examine possible comments among the body of Christ:
1) It’s his hair, he can do what he wants—3 people
2) He’s trying to look younger.
3) He looks horrible!
4) He’s going through his middle age crisis. I have already had mine. One time Brenda let me eat a bowl of boiled peanuts, sitting in the living room, watching a football game. She said that was it.
5) He’s found more hair BUT he’s lost his mind—His butter done slipped off his biscuit.
The truth of the matter is we do this all the time and it slides up and down a scale of importance. Some just wear make-up, some color their hair, some get one procedure done and some get a complete makeover. What God is telling us is don’t judge them for what they do love them even if we disagree with what they do. **v.13-16**
III. The Plans We Make (v.13-16) The Bible here says “Come now.” It means come on or now look here. James is leading them by saying get real about whose plan you follow. It’s like he’s saying do you really think you can live your life, plan what you want to do without any thought of God?
This is addressed to the wealthy merchants of Jerusalem. Who traveled around and sold their stuff in the major trade centers. Their business could have them gone about a year. Their failure is that they were counting on the future without counting on the one who controls the future.
Notice this business plan men. Ladies listen to their plan in v.13.
Ladies see if you find holes in these husbands plans:
1. When you going honey—today or tomorrow.
2. Where you going—this city or that one.
3. How long will you be gone—about a year.
4. What are you going to do—business.
5. Why are you going—to make money!
Their plan had holes because they forgot the most important part who! God was nowhere in their plan.
That is why v.14 asks the question: What is your life? We don’t know what the rest of the day really holds for us let alone tomorrow. It’s okay to plan for tomorrow but if we fail to Put God First in the plan we are presuming God’s just going to tag along.
When we are presumptuous about the plans for our life, we deny who God is and that we are His children. We forget that we need God day by day.
In v.16 we see the end result of this presumption this pride of boasting a self confidence without any regard for God. The word boast is the same word in 1 John 2:16. There the word is translated “pride of life.” This means a person will believe that they can do whatever they want because what they want to do is right. It also means they think right all the time and if anyone disagrees with them they are wrong, or sinful.
James is asking in v.15 change your attitude. Say this is what I think I’m doing tomorrow but if God changes the plan, God is in control not me. Matter of fact let’s try that turn to your neighbors and say, God is in control, not me.
Believe that say Amen! Now why are the plans we make important? Our last point, spells it out.
IV. The Purpose We Forsake **(v.17)** When I am on the throne of my life instead of God then I can’t do what is right. James has shown us earlier in James 1:22 that we must, “be doers of the world and not hearers only,” because we only wind up deceiving ourselves. We are self-deceived. We don’t know what God wants us to do because we have decided to do what we want. We forget who we are and what our purpose is.
The Bible says if we know to do what is right and don’t do it we have sinned.
This is the sin of omission. Know we should do it but don’t do it. Pride hinders us from doing what we know God wants us to do because we have been deceived into thinking we are in charge.
Then our purpose becomes the glorification and promotion of self. That erodes the very fabric of Jesus finished work on the cross and His continuing work in us. See Jesus saved you and I for a new purpose and that purpose is to glorify God.
In the book The Art of Being A Big Shot, the author writes, “It is my pride that makes me independent from God. It’s appealing to me to feel that I am the master of my fate, that I run my own life, call my own shots, go it alone. But that feeling is my basic dishonesty. I can’t go it alone. I have to get help from other people, and I can’t ultimately rely on myself. I’m dependent on God for my next breath. It is dishonest of me to pretend that I’m anything but a man, small, weak, and limited. So, living independent of God is self-delusion. It is not just a matter of pride being an unfortunate little trait and humility being an attractive little virtue; it is my inner psychological integrity at stake. When I am conceited, I am lying to myself about what I am. I am pretending to be God, and not a man. My pride is the idolatrous worship of myself.
And that is the national religion of Hell.”
James said in chapter 3:14-15, that self-seeking is wisdom that comes from the devil. That is the enemy’s purpose to cause us to promote ourselves, rather than glorify God.
Conclusion: There is a story about two swans talking to a bullfrog. The frog asks them if they want to see the hidden beauties of the swamp. So the frog takes them on a sightseeing tour. The swans wanted to return the favor. They asked the frog if he would like to see the beauty of the countryside. The frog said by I can’t fly. They all thought for a moment and then the frog said, “I got it.” He put a stick in his mouth and the swans grabbed each end with their beaks and up they flew.
After a few minutes they all flew by a farmer and his wife out in the field. The farmer saw what was going on and the farmer said to his wife, “Isn’t that clever.” She said, “I wonder who thought of that?”
The frog said, “I did,” and instantly drooped to the ground.
Proverbs 29:23 says, “Pride comes before a fall.” God doesn’t want us to fall or fail, but He knows what is best for us. If we think we can do what we want, make no mistake we will eventually fail. God will discipline His children.
If we become critical of others and judge them, and begin to judge God’s Word, if we fail to love all people, if we plan what we want to do without God, we will forget our purpose of glorifying God by putting Him first. God won’t allow a Christian or a church to lose sight that He is the one that blesses them. Is He first in your life today?