Put God First

Keith Knight

“Remain in me, and I will remain in you. For a branch cannot produce fruit if it is severed from the vine, and you cannot be fruitful apart from me. Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me, and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” John 15: 4-5

During this time of the year, we acknowledge graduates, those individuals earning degrees from high school, trade school, bachelors, masters and doctorates. And during this graduation celebration, commencement speeches are given to encourage, inspire and motivate the graduating class. Commencement speeches come in a variety of styles, lengths, and content. And while many of the speakers giving the commencement speech desire to stir and stimulate us, they can become a platform to promote a cause. The speeches become politically and socially motivated. But we trust that most graduates, their families and followers of Jesus Christ would appreciate any speaker who communicated the hope of the gospel and “Put God First!”

I recently read that these three words, “Put God First” rang out from the microphone as Denzel Washington challenged the graduates of Dillard University early this month. The audience erupted in applause at many points throughout his short, yet eloquent, speech including his statement that “the most important thing that stayed with me since is that I’ve been protected, I’ve been directed, and I’ve been corrected. I’ve kept God in my life, and it’s kept me humble.”

This perspective is rare for a Hollywood actor to defend, and even rarer to promote at a commencement ceremony. However, the idea of putting God first is easy to say, but much tougher to do during the trials of life. Many times Christians spend months, even years, praying for sick loved ones, a new job or a prodigal child, while God has another plan. For many believers, the paths we walk with God are far from straight. More often than not, temptations and the challenges of life interfere and become a disruption. The bumps and curves on the road we travel are real. As Washington continued his address, he acknowledged and said, “I have not always stuck with Him, but He has always stuck with me. Stick with Him in everything you do.”

How can a Christian put God first?
What is the key to putting God first?

As Washington continued to share, he reflects on his mother and when he first started to make it big as an actor. He said, “Ma, did you ever think that I would get so big and have all of this money, and I would be able to take care of everybody, and I can do this, and I can do that?’ She replied, ‘Boy, stop it right there, stop it right there. If you only knew how many people have been praying for you?” Washington’s mother is a wise woman. In John 15, Jesus said, “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me, and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.”

It’s interesting to note that fruit rarely grows in isolation. But when the fruit is connected with others, tethered by the vine that gives it life, it can truly grow on to bear fruitfulness. Putting God first can be a difficult task. It simply means to realize that we can do nothing by ourselves. We need to have the attitude of Jesus Christ. We are to walk in humility (Phil. 2:5-11) everyday not only with God, but with our brothers and sisters in Christ. Then and only then can our paths become straight. We will then be encouraged, inspired, motivated and compelled by the love of Christ to make a difference in this world.

So today, pause and remember to get on your knees in prayer. Thank God for His grace, His understanding and placing people He has put in your life so you don’t have to walk this journey of life alone.

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