Yesterday I promised to offer you my best counter to Walt Disney’s quote from Saving Mr. Banks that “imagination restores order and inspires hope again and again.” I also promised a free copy of the book containing the answer to the first person who asks me. So, if you’d like a copy, respond first and read this second!
Author Stovall Weems is pastor of Celebration Church is Jacksonville, Florida, a ministry that Weems began in 1998 and God has multiplied in 15 years to nearly 12,000 members. I believe this tremendous growth is largely due to Weems following the simple principle of this book: Put God first in your life, and everything else will fall into place.
I was hooked by his first sentence: “My favorite thing in the world is introducing people to my favorite person in the world—Jesus.” Amen! Me too. (Ah, a kindred spirit!) Weems then explained why: “Jesus shows us a new and better way to be human.” Never thought of it quite like that, but it’s certainly true in my life, so—Amen again. Finally: “Most of our problems come from disorder.” Hmmm. Not so sure…but I was ready to hear him out.
Weems does a masterful job of keying in on my son Michael’s life verse: “Seek ye first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you” (Matthew 6:33). (Michael, BTW, is one of the happiest people I know!!) With clear thinking and memorable illustrations, Weems helps us explore the simplicity and beauty of making God our first priority in life, seeking His kingdom and His righteousness and letting God take care of all the rest. Why? Lots of reasons: “We don’t have to carry the weight of our life alone.” “God’s way for your life is the best possible way you can live.” “We all want a satisfying and productive life…financial security, meaningful relationships with friends and family, freedom from worry and fear, and some kind of legacy to leave behind. Most of all, perhaps, we want love…In your search for happiness, God is your greatest ally.” “A life of anxiety is never an issue of unmet need but always an issue of disordered priorities…When order is restored, blessing is released.”
Weems also has some very practical ways of fleshing out what Matthew 6:33 means. How do we seek His kingdom? By “playing our role in God’s family,” which is the Church. He points out the difference between our “position” in the family of God (which is secure: once born into God’s family, He will never leave us or forsake us) and our “function” in the family. Just as you can be a member of the team but sit on the bench, so you can be a member of the Church and do nothing, but all the growth, excitement, and blessing flow from the interchange and love that comes from church community. Find one, and get involved! This spoke to my heart, because Alan and I have become much less active in church recently. We need to be serving, not just soaking!
Weems offers that we “seek God’s righteousness—his right and healthy way of doing things—by reordering our lives around his priorities.””…ordering our lives according to his patterns so that our priorities reflect his priorities.” “God is not working an angle; he just knows what will make us happy and fulfilled.”
The God First Life is full of pithy truths: “The God- first life is not based on something as fickle as a daily choice. It is based on something much more permanent—decisions. Decisions are more final, even once and for all…These one-time decisions are not to be re-decided daily but are to be managed and protected for the rest of our life….Making right decisions will develop healthy practices, which will eventually lead to a new life of joy and blessing.”
One of the most important take-homes for me was his explanation of the role of worship. “Whatever it is that weighs you down, sets you back, or keeps you up at night, set it down and come…I’ve never seen people consumed with worry, anxiety, depression, or despair when they are in the presence of God. All of this grows still before the throne of God…God truly does inhabit the praises of his people…It will just be for that moment, but at that moment, God says, I want to give you a break. You’ve been out there on the battlefield…But when you come into my presence, you’re my son; you’re my daughter. I love you. And at this moment, I want you to get a reprieve. No flesh will be able to stand in my presence. Worship is an at-that-moment experience. It’s a gift from God, and it’s available to every believer.” Isn’t that beautiful? And, so true?! I need to worship more!
Well, it would take me pages to try to share everything I learned, and this is already too long, but you get the point. This is one book that I appreciated from beginning to end, and I believe Stovall Weems offers the true key to restoring “disorder and inspiring hope again and again.”
“When you choose to live the God-first life, you are making the choice to restore order…As long as you rule your world, the weight of it will fall on your shoulders, but when you step aside and let God step into his rightful place, the weight of your world falls on his shoulders. In the end, he is the only one who is truly able to hold it in place. Everything around us and within us tells us that the secret to happiness is a world where it’s all about me. But Jesus consistently says the opposite. True success is not a world where I am at the center but a world where God is at the center and my life is in proper order. First place belongs to God alone.”
And you know what? Weems is absolutely right! After reading the book, I began noticing areas where I’ve grown careless and done things “my” way instead of asking God what He wants. Thankfully, I’ve also noticed that God is more than willing to help guide me when I ask.
“Seek ye first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you” (Matthew 6:33)