Summary: God must come first in our lives!
***As a leader, what needs to be your top priority to have success?*** On screen
If you went out and asked different people who are considered leaders this question, what would be the responses you would get?
Depending on who you asked, you would get different answers.
***Profit, Relationships, Delegating, Politics, Vision, etc.***
As we continue to talk about God’s call to “go and change the world around us,” and being Christian leaders, there is a much different priority that we must make in our lives in order to have real success. That priority is the stereotypical, Sunday School answer which is….Jesus. In Matthew 22:37, Jesus says that the first and greatest commandment we have is to, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.”
Whether you have grown up in the church or not, you have no doubt come across this statement in your life. “Jesus needs to be number one in your life!” or “Jesus is the answer!” Some of you have heard it from the church since you were little. Some of you have heard it all the time from your parents. Maybe some of you have heard it from friends at school. And still other, maybe you have heard it as you were channel surfing and landed on the religious channel or saw it posted on a sign around a man’s neck in Boston on a weekend.
There are two questions that I want us to consider tonight about this claim.
First, “What does this look like?” Perhaps, you have thought about this before. You think, “What the heck does that mean? Jesus needs to be first? What does that look like and how is that possible?” It is an important question that often times we don’t think about or try to find the answer. Too often we just want to leave the answer at the regurgitated Sunday School answer.
The second question that I want to look at tonight is bluntly, “Why? Why should Jesus be the first priority in my life?” Maybe you have asked this question before and gotten an unsatisfying answer. “Well, because the Bible says so,” or “Because that’s what Pastor Jake says.” You think, “Look at people like Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton! They most likely don’t have Jesus as a priority in their life but look at where they are and how they are changing the world around them. So, why do I need Jesus?”
I would like to continue to look at the prophet Nehemiah tonight as we try to answer these two questions. To do so, I want to look closely as his prayer written in Nehemiah 1:5-11 (pg. 469 in the pew Bibles).
***Read Nehemiah 1:5-11***
So, what does it look like to have Jesus as the first priority in your life? First it starts with just simply getting to know who He is. Look at how Nehemiah addresses God in verses 5 and 6. “O Lord, God of heaven, the great and awesome God, who keeps his covenant of love with those who love him and obey his commands, let your ear be attentive and your eyes open to hear the prayer your servant is praying before you day and night for your servants, the people of Israel.”
Nehemiah says things here about God that he can only say because he took the time to get to know Him. He starts by calling God, “Lord,” or Yahweh which is the divine name that the Israelites called Him. Then he gets more specific and calls Him the “God of heaven.” He is not just any Lord or divine being but the “God of heaven. Then, he gets even more specific and calls Him the “great and awesome God.” This is solely because Nehemiah knew God personally and saw Him work in his life. There is no way you could call someone you didn’t know great and awesome. Nehemiah without a doubt knew God for who He was! He knew how God worked and he made a point to talk with Him day and night!
Today there are a number of ways that we can get to know who God is. We can read the Bible which has stories, poems, biographies and more about who God is. We can pray to God, which is just having a conversation with Him. We can talk to people who know him already who can tell us their own stories and experiences. We can go to church or youth group and learn more about God there as well. Whichever ways we choose, the fact remains, to have God in your life as a top priority we have to take the time to get to know Him more and more.
Having God as a top priority goes deeper than just knowing who is. The next step is acknowledging that you need Him in your life. This is what Nehemiah claims in verses 6-11. Nehemiah admits that he and the Israelite people are sinners. He admits that he and the people have been wicked and disobedient to the “commands, decrees and laws” that God gave them. Because of this wickedness and disobedience the people have been scattered and separated. No longer were they protected by God because they had rejected Him and said they didn’t need Him. The people were open to attacks, which no doubt left the walls of Jerusalem in shambles. Nehemiah then pleads with God to remember His promise that if the people turned back to Him and admitted their need, then God would gather them up in His arms and bring them to paradise.