“Put God first and you’ll never be last.”
Fr. C. Joseph, Counsellor
St. Joseph’s College, Jakhama
How would your life be different today if every decision you ever made was done with the advice and consent of God? It is impossible to tell, but you can be certain that when you put God first in your life, your choices are more apparent, your mind is more focused and your path is more evident. Putting God first, when you make decisions, begins with the recognition of your true identity, your spiritual self.
When you are aware that you are a spiritual being living in a physical world with a divine purpose, putting God first becomes natural for you. Every decision you make, every relationship you engage in, and every goal you pursue is seen from a spiritual perspective, its higher purpose. The appealing, sensational and exciting things of the world are seen for what they are, trivial in the context of eternity. Wealth, notoriety and material possessions are also recognized for what they are, props in the play you call life.
How do you, in this day and age, with the necessity to earn a living, pay your bills and save for retirement, put God first? Is it even practical, in the modern era, to put the will of God before your own needs? The answer lies in the fact that the fear of God is the beginning, not the end, of wisdom.
Eventually you will discover that your needs and the will of God are not in conflict, they are the same. To experience this truth for yourself you must be willing to trust God, in all situations, and believe He always has your highest interest in mind. For many, this realization comes only when you mature, after much trial and error. Even Jesus waited nearly thirty years to begin his ministry.
Putting God first in your life requires a two-way communication. For you to know what God wants you to do, (in addition to following the Golden Rule), you must first listen to His voice. God speaks to you – in the silence of your mind. However, because you have been endowed with the power of free will, God will not force you to listen to Him. You must be willing to listen and receptive to His message.
You speak to God through prayer. Like a high-speed Internet connection, prayer is a direct link to the Almighty. Prayer is the method by which you reinforce your commitment to your spiritual path and the means by which you make your needs known to God. Prayer also calms your mind, soothes your soul and lifts your spirit. Prayer is one of the greatest success secret in the world.
Putting God first means, above all else, surrendering to His will. Jesus did this in the garden of Gethsemane, after initially resisting God, going so far as asking to be spared from the crucifixion not once, but three times. You know you are following God’s will when you feel, despite any external chaos, His peace inside you. The presence of this peace is the affirmation you seek when you ask God for confirmation you have chosen wisely. Even if circumstances surrounding you seem chaotic, the peace of God is the success you see.
Life sometimes gives you little choice but to surrender your fate to the will of God. Losses, sickness and even death are part of life. Being “good” exempts no one from hardships. Oftentimes struggling against the inevitable only prolongs your suffering. When you are faced with the inevitable only prolongs your suffering. When you are faced with the inevitable, learn from Jesus and surrender to the will of God. Let His angels strengthen you.
Jesus did not relish the idea of experiencing the pain, agony and humiliation he would have to endure on the cross. The gospels say that in the garden of Gethsemane Jesus began to “be sorrowful and very heavy.” Because of his initial resistance, Jesus’ suffering was mental as well as physical. Distraught, Jesus prays and asks God to spare him from the ordeal three times. Each time Jesus asks, “Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me.” Yet each time he finishes by saying, “Not my will but yours be done.” (Mt 26: 32-44)
Like Jesus, there are times in your life when you may have to endure physical, emotional or psychological pain. It is natural if you feel a sense of disappointment, shock and even betrayal when you dedicate your life to God and discover you are not exempt from sorrows, trouble or heartache. You may lead a religious life, follow all of God’s commandments and even accept Jesus as your Lord and Saviour only to discover all your prayers are not answered, your deepest desires go unfulfilled. You may feel abandoned by God and question your faith. Doubts about whether your life is worth living may seep into your mind. When this occurs, you have entered into the “dark night of the soul.”
There is a way out: surrender! Do not struggle against the inevitable. Accept your fate. Do not fear for your life or the life of others. Go through your ordeal with the dignity the Christ exhibited during his time of tribulation. Seek only the will of God. Find the peace inside you despite the storm that brews outside. Only when you fully surrender does God’s plan become clear to you. You will discover, like the passion of the Christ, there was a purpose for your ordeal. On the road to success, you will be tested. Accept the will of God and know that “this too shall pass.”