Summary: God first, then must come others.
Last week, we talked about that as we respond to God’s call to go and change the world that we need to have a relationship with God as our first priority in whatever we do.
We first talked about what it looked like. We said that it starts by putting in the time and effort to get to know God. By reading the Bible, praying, going to church or youth group, or hanging out with people who are more experienced than us.
We said the next step is admitting that we need God in our lives more and more. We all make mistakes and mess up and turn our backs on God. Those mistakes are called sin and because of them we deserve nothing else but death and are separated from God. But Christ died in our place to make it possible for us to have a relationship with God. Without Jesus, we can not come close to God and we can’t make Him a priority in our lives.
The third step, we said was to repeat those steps. It is not easy to follow Jesus and it is a lifelong battle to make Jesus a priority. But we need to keep getting to know Him more and more and we need to constantly humble ourselves and admit our need for Him.
Lastly, we talked about why it was even important to have God as a priority in our lives. We considered a man like Donald Trump and said, “He has changed the world without God, why can’t I?” The difference there is that Trump may have money, power, cars, women, and all these others things that scream “success” but the fact is that these things will all be destroyed some day and will not last. A relationship with God though, can never and will never be taken away from us. When we make Him a priority in our lives, we will have true lasting success that will be experienced for eternity in paradise.
Tonight I want to look at the next priority that we should have in our lives as Christians who are trying to change the world around them. In a lot of ways, this second priority is an area where we don’t often get much help, encouragement, or instruction on how to maintain it in our lives. As we looked at what Jesus said was the first and greatest commandment last week, keeping a relationship with God first in our lives, he goes on in Matthew 22:39 to say that, “The second is like it, ‘Love you neighbor as yourself.” In other words, God should be first, putting others before ourselves should be second.
Some people could possibly argue that this is almost more difficult than keeping God at number one in our lives. We live in an insanely busy world today. We have school and then we have sports practices and games, for sometimes more than one sport. We have math team or DECA or some other club. Then we have homework, eating, and that thing called sleep. By the time all of those things are done we barely have time to hang out with others but more often than not we only do so because we need a chance to relax or vent to our friend. It seems to be rare that we make a priority of putting other people before ourselves.
No matter how difficult it may be, when we go out to try and change the world around us, we must place people above ourselves. To help us with this, I would like you all to open your Bibles to Nehemiah 2:1-6 where I think there are three important things that we can learn about how to put other people around us before ourselves.
***Read Nehemiah 2:1-6***
The first thing that we can learn from Nehemiah is that in order to place people above ourselves is that he tried hard to feel the emotions that the people around him were feeling. This is called sympathy. We see this by how upset he was about the Israelites not being safe and right with God. Verse two says that Nehemiah was so sad and upset that he looked ill. The king could see it all over his face. Surely Nehemiah was not having these emotions about himself. He was safe in a citadel, which specifically was a stronghold or shelter with extra protection. He had no reason to be scared for his life. Nehemiah had these emotions for the people of Israel. He got into their heads and put their needs so far above his own that he felt and had the emotions that they did.
It can be a very difficult task, to sympathize with others. I found this out last night. Around 2:00am this morning, I woke up to Melissa crying. She was sitting up in bed and holding her right ear and just sobbing. I sat up, began to rub her back and asked her what was wrong. She proceeded to tell me that her ear was infected and swollen and really hurt. Instead of really trying to comfort her or care for her, I instead got annoyed and tried to fix the problem as fast as I could so I could go back to sleep. Then I asked her how it happened and she said it was because she has sensitive ears and isn’t supposed to use q-tips but did anyways. “You idiot,” was the initial thought that went through my head. Thank God I didn’t actually say it! After I woke up a little and came to my senses I, remembering my ear aches I used to get as a kid, where I too, would wake up crying, held her and felt her pain with her. As we work to put others before ourselves we need to start by understanding and taking to heart their emotions.