You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.
I was raised in a nominal Catholic home, but there are a few theological points my mom would make that actually make sense. One of those was the saying, “God first, family second, career third.” I would like to spend the next three posts discussing how we can apply this little mantra to our lives as seminary students and ministers.
Jewish children would learn Deut. 6:4-9 as one unit. Verse 4 was known as the Shema, “Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one.” With that massive theological statement as the foundation for all of Jewish Law, Moses instructed them to love God with everything: heart, mind, and soul. Later when Jesus Christ was asked what the greatest commandment was in all of Jewish Law, He quotes Deut. 6:5 to which the lawyer replied that Jesus was correct.
What does this exactly mean and how do we apply it to our seminary education and ministry lives not to mention our lives in general? Obviously, every thought we have should be of giving glory to God. Every act we do should be to give God glory. Even more obvious, we fail every day in following just this one command! Oh! the grace and mercy of our Lord and Savior!
As a seminary student, a husband, a father, and a minister I have discovered that putting God first is extremely difficult. I lose focus on God sometimes as a student. I certainly lose focus on God as a husband and father. Even as a minister, I have been fleshly in my approach to ministry on occasion. I would like to specifically look at our seminary studies and putting God first.
Putting God first is perhaps the easiest thing to do even though it is the hardest. It is so easy to get wrapped up in reading and writing and studying and lose God even though you are studying about God! I have discovered that keeping up with devotional reading of my Bible to be extremely helpful in maintaining my true focus as to why I am in seminary. Sure, during my devotional reading, I will think to some homework assignment, but is not that the way our devotional life should be? Why can’t the rest of our life be affected by our conversations with God in our devotions?
Secondly, praying helps me to focus on God and His will for my life. Do I take that class or do I drop this one? I continue to discipline my heart and mind to only make decisions regarding seminary studies after bringing it before the Lord. Once I get a particular leading, I will discuss with my wife what she thinks. Hopefully, by that time, I know what God will have me do.
Finally, talking with other godly men in my life. It is so easy to think that you are the only one in a crisis or needing to make a major decision, but the more you talk with others, the more you realize you are just one of many. Talk to those men in your life who have been there and done that. They have more wisdom in that area than you know. Who knows, maybe they will save you from making a major mistake!
In conclusion, strive to make sure God is first in everything you do. As Christ said, “for apart from me you can do nothing.”