Firstfruits

My church has this saying: “When we give our best, the rest is blessed.” It’s usually said in regards to tithing, but it recently had me thinking about how this idea translates into the whole of our lives. It affects our time, talents, skills, resources, attention, passions, devotion, etc. You name it; I think it’s affected.

I often have conversations with co-workers about the life that I live. I am labeled a “holy roller.” It used to bother me, but the more I grow in my faith, the more I embrace it and am proud that I am viewed that way. I am by no means perfect, but God has done such a work in me that I want it reflected in every aspect of my life.

“Bring the full tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. And thereby put me to the test, says the Lord of hosts, if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you a blessing until there is no more need.” Malachi 3:10

I’m a tither, and no one can convince me otherwise. I used to tithe only on my paycheck, but then I heard a sermon by Pastor Robert Morris. He told story after story of how God enabled him and his wife to give away countless cars, houses and planes to people. He told of how he and his wife tithe on everything. I want to be able to do that! I began to see any and all increase as from God. He is the one that owns the cattle on a thousand hills, and then He is the owner of those hills. What?! How could I ever want to hold on to any resources that come my way? Yes, the 10 percent was alive and well in the Old Testament, but that principle still holds true in Christ’s fulfillment of the law. When I can look at my earthly treasure and hold it loosely, I believe that God knows He can trust me with little or with much.

A few years ago, I was laid off and without a job for about four months. Sadly, I lived a paycheck-to-paycheck life. Unemployment was taking forever to come in. I did odd jobs. I babysat. I cleaned a few houses. I tithed on all of it. It wasn’t by any means a lot. But God showed up in miraculous ways. Friends stepped forward and bought me groceries and even paid my rent. When I got a job at the end of that time, I had never missed a beat in paying any bill. Only God! So, why wouldn’t I want to return what belongs to God anyway?

And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” Hebrews 10:24-25

No, going to church every Sunday is not a law. You won’t go to hell if you don’t. But I have come to realize that for something to make it into the Bible, it must be significant. God must want us to take notice. There is much growth that comes from time alone with the Lord, but there is a next level in our relationship with Him that comes within being a part of a local church. This verse mentions stirring one another to love and good works and encouraging one another. How does that happen if we live isolated lives? The enemy loves nothing more than when we are disconnected from the Body.

There is a flourishing that only happens in the context of community. Honestly, I don’t know where I’d be without the local church. Doing life with people is not easy. It can be hard and messy, but I have found some of the deepest friendships there. I have found friends who are more like family. I have grown in my gifting and skills. I have been encouraged and corrected. I have been challenged and equipped for leadership. I have grown in God’s Word and been poured into by some of the most amazing leadership. When I look at an upcoming week with all of its unknown challenges, why wouldn’t I want to start it off in worship, prayer and studying the Scriptures with God’s children?

O Lord, in the morning you hear my voice; in the morning I prepare a sacrifice for you and watch.” Psalm 5:3

When I was younger, I could wake at the crack of dawn. In my late 30s, yeah, not so much. My church has early morning prayer throughout different parts of the year. It used to be no problem for me to attend. Over the past couple of years, the struggle has been all too real. My spirit wants to attend, but my flesh is so weak.

In the New International Version, the second half of the above verse says, “…in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait expectantly.” This makes so much sense to me. My time with God fluctuates. Sometimes, it’s in the afternoon. Sometimes at night. Other times the morning. There is something about going to God in the morning before the voices of the world clamor for our attention, before the attacks of the enemy come, before the daily pressures weigh on us. Jesus often prayed in the early morning, before anyone needed something from Him. He understood that He needed to be filled up with the Word of God and the Spirit of God in order to overflow into the lives He would come in contact with throughout His day.

The same is true for us. There are many people who need truth or encouragement from us.  They will need a touch from God and He wants to use us to accomplish this. Why wouldn’t I want to intentionally spend time with the Father and commit my day to Him so that I can easily hear His voice and follow His leading?

There is a blessing that comes only when we live wholly devoted to the Lord, when we love Him above all else. So I want to live a firstfruits lifestyle, where I not only put Him first, but I give Him my best.

In what areas do you find it difficult to put God first and give Him your best?

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