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What Lies Beneath

What Lies Beneath

When Amy and I were first married, we purchased a really small home built in 1910. The only two closets in the entire house were shoebox size. We moved in and hung a few shirts and pants in each closet. That was it. No more room. We put a couple of pairs of shoes in each closet, which maxed out the floor space. Uh-oh. What about our big bag of dog food, board games, photo albums, VHS tapes (this was the early 1990s), rollerblades (again, early ’90s), toilet plunger, winter clothes, and coats?

No problem. Our little house had a little basement, which we used as storage for everything.

It worked great!
Until our first big rainstorm.

You’ve heard the expression “It was raining cats and dogs”? Well, it was raining Great Danes and bobcats. (Not really, but my incident from the driveway causes me to see bobcats everywhere.)

We’d been out for the evening, and after a cautious drive through torrential rain, we made it home. When we walked into the house, we found our basement flooded with three feet of water. Our real estate agent had neglected to mention that the basement flooded several times a year. We looked and saw, to our dismay, floating dog food and board games and photo albums and rollerblades.

I leaped into the torrent and found myself standing waist deep in water. Our toilet plunger floated by. I considered grabbing it so I could start plunging, but I didn’t know where to start. That’s when Amy, peering safely from four steps up, reminded me that the previous owners had left a sump pump in the basement. I felt around until I found it. I pulled it out of the water and looked around for an outlet. I noticed the end of an extension cord dangling from a rafter directly overhead.

Hmm. I needed the sump pump to work. The sump pump required power to work. As I was still standing waist deep in the water, I knew this could be problematic, but the connection had to happen.

Had. To.

I thought, If I plug this in really, really quickly, maybe I won’t get shocked.

So I said a quick, wet prayer and pressed the two metal prongs of the pump cord into the corresponding slits in the extension cord.

When they connected, power happened. I know power happened because my body became the pathway for billions and billions of teeny-tiny electrons. Electric power surged through the cords and into my body. Apparently the piercing shock triggered certain neurons in the language center of my brain where a long-unused word — a very bad word — was stored.

Milliseconds later, the sheer force of the electric current pushed the foul word toward the front of my face and out of my mouth. Unfortunately, it did not come out quickly. Probably because of the gazillion volts of electricity surging through my body, it came out at an unusually increased volume and seemed to last as long as an episode of The Bachelor.

I looked up and saw the horror on my new wife’s face. Her preacher-husband had just shouted the mother of all bad words. I also saw fear — I think she believed I was about to die, and that word would be the last thing I ever said.

Part-Time Follower

You know how my house had an issue under the surface that the real estate agent hadn’t acknowledged? Well, I had an issue under the surface that I hadn’t acknowledged.

To be very clear  — the bad word was not the problem. It was just embarrassing, outward evidence of the real, inward problem. Deep down, like in my basement, I knew there was something seeping into my heart and starting a flood that could create an even bigger issue sooner than later if I didn’t deal with it. In that shocking moment, I got a wake-up call.

I realized that when it came to my devotion to God, I was simply “going through the motions.”

As followers of Jesus we know we’re supposed to prioritize Him. You may have seen it on your friend’s Instagram bio:

God first.

But it’s not just a cool thing we put on social media and T-shirts, it’s in Scripture. It doesn’t just appear in the Bible, it’s a major theme. In the book of Matthew alone, we find Jesus saying:

  • “No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money” (Matthew 6:24).
  • “But seek first His Kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well” (Matthew 6:33).
  • “Jesus replied: ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind’ ” (Matthew 22:37).
  • “Anyone who loves their father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me; anyone who loves their son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. Whoever does not take up their cross and follow me is not worthy of Me” (Matthew 10:37–38).

Why should we put God first? Well, it’s kind of like a car. The manufacturer tells you to put gas in the gas tank. We don’t question, “What’s your problem? Why do you insist on my putting gas in the gas tank?!” We understand that’s the way a car works.

How you work is to have God at the center of your life. You put God “in your gas tank” by putting Him first. If you don’t, you will always feel empty. And always seek more.

If you don’t put God first, nothing else will work right. Have you ever buttoned a shirt and by mistake put the first button in the second buttonhole? You keep buttoning, then get to the end and realize, Wait a second. Everything is wrong. Your shirt is totally screwed up. Why? Because if you put the first button in the second buttonhole, every button thereafter is in the wrong place. And if we don’t put God first — if we put something else in that top spot — everything else ends up wrong and you find yourself wondering why your life feels screwed up.

If you don’t put God first, you’ll put something else first, and nothing else can handle the pressure of being the most important thing in your life.

  • If you make your job the most important thing, your job will always disappoint you.
  • If you make your marriage the most important, your marriage will struggle.
  • If you put your kids and their success first, they’ll be burdened by the weight of that pressure and will probably disappoint you.
  • If you prioritize being happy, you will forever be disappointed, because you won’t be able to achieve true, lasting happiness without God.

First is too much pressure to put on anything else. God knows that, so he invites you to put Him first.

And I wasn’t putting God first.

Yes, I was a Christian. And yes, I was a pastor. But somehow, somewhere along the way, instead of being faithfully devoted to pursuing Jesus, my devotion devolved to duty.

I still read the Bible, but only to prepare sermons.
I still prayed, but mostly in public during church services.

While I was waist deep in electrified water, God revealed something to me that stopped me in my tracks. He didn’t speak audibly. But what I felt seemed louder than audible. God showed me this:

I had become a full-time pastor and a part-time follower of Christ.

Instead of being devoted to Jesus, I was devoted to pleasing people and looking “spiritual” and being a “good pastor.” I was devoted to doing what I wanted to do.

But I wasn’t fully devoted to Jesus.

Can we pause here?

I’d like to give you a moment to reflect on and honestly answer this question:

  • Are you faithfully, passionately pursuing Jesus?

Are you seeking Him first? Are you pursuing Him with whole-hearted devotion? Or are you a bit more like I was?

You might realize that you are a full-time mom and a part-time follower of Christ. Or a full-time student but only partially devoted to Jesus. You could be fully invested in your business, your fitness routine, your YouTube channel, or your freakishly stylish appearance, but you are not fully devoted to the one who is fully devoted to you.

In this moment of honesty, you may discover that you are not as committed, not as close, not as intimate with God as you once were. Or you might acknowledge that you’ve never really walked closely with Him, sensing His loving presence, His ongoing guidance, and His supernatural power.

Why do we want to be devoted but find it so challenging?

When you think about it, the answer may seem obvious. No one ever gets close to Jesus by accident. Right? Has anyone ever said this:

  • I didn’t mean to, but somehow I’m stronger spiritually today than ever before.
  • I’m not sure what happened, but all of a sudden I know God’s Word and sense His presence.
  • I was just doing my own thing, minding my own business, and suddenly I’ve become full of spiritual power and confidence in Christ.

We will never accidentally get close to Jesus, so instead we will choose to think ahead and pre-decide:

I will be devoted.

Because of who God is and what He has done for me, I am willing to do anything and give up everything for Him. God is first.

God deserves that. Because God is God.

When you understand who God is, nothing else makes sense but to put Him first.

I. Will. Be. Devoted.

Excerpted with permission from Think Ahead by Craig Groeschel, copyright Craig Groeschel.

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Your Turn

What about you? Are you putting God first in your life? Take a good look today and ask yourself what might be ahead of Him. Is it work? Family? Friends? Money? God deserves first place and He’s also your source of true happiness and wholeness. What’s stopping you from putting Him first? ~ Devotionals Daily