I definitely consider myself more a team “member” than a “leader” when it comes to ministry. So it’s natural for the question to arise: “What could I have to share that could possibly be helpful to those who are leading in ministry?”
As I was praying, the phrase the Lord brought to my mind was “first things.”
If you’ve ever read Stephen Covey’s “7 Habits of Highly Effective People” – or probably any one of a host of other books on vision, goals, and the like – you’ve come across the principle of “putting first things first.”
Both in leadership and in personal habit and relationships, this means organizing priorities around the values that are most important.
And truly everything we do reveals our values:
How we spend our time
How we spend our money
Where we invest our affections
How we conduct ministry
Yes, even that last one: how we conduct ministry. Simply being in ministry or even fervently prioritizing ministry doesn’t mean we are putting “first things first”.
In Revelation 2:1-4, we read God’s admonition to the Church at Ephesus.
First, the Lord takes note of their works and their ministry. Verses 2-3 read: “I know your works, your labor, your patience, and that you cannot bear those who are evil. And you have tested those who say they are apostles and are not, and have found them liars; and you have persevered and have patience, and have labored for My name’s sake and have not become weary.”
Labor, patience, perseverance, zeal for truth. All wonderful things!
But then, in verse 4, God says, “Nevertheless I have this against you, that you have left your first love.”
The word translated “first” here is protos, and it means foremost—in time, place, or order of importance. And “love” here is agape, often used in Scripture to refer to the love that comes from and IS God. (It’s the same word translated “love” in 1 John 4:8 – “God is love”.)
What a sobering admonition.
Particularly in light of 1 Corinthians 13:1-3, that familiar passage. If I have tongues, prophecy, faith to move mountains, boundless generosity—but have not love, it’s of no use.
Is everything we do driven by love? God’s love in and for us; God’s love for others; our love for God, and our love for others?
In my own life the answer has often been no.
I’ve often found myself wanting to do the right thing, but with wrong motives.
Wanting to speak truth to someone, but not because I love them and care for their souls but because I’m angry
Wanting to write and minister but not because God’s love compels me but because I like the attention it brings
Wanting to give, but not altruistically but for the appreciation someone will offer in return
Every time I’ve acted with these motives, I’ve lost sight of my first love.
The wonderful news is it’s not too late to return to our first love. But to do so, we must put first things first.
Only as we determine to seek the Lord wholeheartedly—above all else (even above the “good” things like ministry, jobs, and family)—will we come to experience Him more intimately, know His love for us, and allow Him to love others through us.
God bless you!
About the Author:
A New Jersey native, Gina has a work background in the governmental and political arenas, but her greatest passion is the truth of God’s Word. She loves diving into Scripture, particularly looking at the original Hebrew and Greek word origins to discover deeper meanings, and then sharing those meanings with others. She can be found online at www.ginadiorio.com