“You can’t get second things by putting them first; you can get second things only by putting first things first.”
True spiritual success is all about motives. It’s all about not putting the cart in front of the horse. We want God’s blessings so much at times we go after them, all the while forgetting how they’re got.
It’s the heart after God—first and foremost—that gets us there... the focus is on process, not outcome. And, still, it is far too tempting to forget this and go after the riches when our hearts and minds aren’t true to the vision that God’s placed within us.
The Way of Religion – Our Control
I lived a ‘double life’ for over a decade. I watched people trust me as a respectable person and Christian whilst I watched myself, from within, capitulate under the falsehood of cart-in-front-of-the-horse spirituality—in short, I was religious. I was putting second things before first things. At the deepest level, probably well underneath my consciousness, I hated myself for it; I was so incongruent.
Religious people just don’t get it.
They know all the biblical commands and they’re incisively moral, but they don’t live it. They can’t live it. They, like me in that past double life of mine, have to be in control. The reality is they’re driven by fear. They, unfortunately, don’t get the biblically spiritual paradox of surrender.
The Way of the Spirit – Our Surrender
Process-mindedness is always a better premise for living life than worrying unnecessarily about the outcomes. This is simply putting one spiritual foot in front of the other. It’s minute-by-minute obedience, with a focus on why we obey.
When we can surrender our desire to control the outcomes we find out something quite serendipitously. Being ‘right’ is no longer important. We take all the pressure off ourselves and we’re suddenly freer than ever; we can simply focus on doing the first things that produce the second things. The second things—the blessings—look after themselves that way. We’re not doing the first things for the second things. That’s not our motive.
Here we’re blessed by simplicity.
Simplicity is our key because it’s focused on our reality; we’re not preoccupied with spiritual fruit. The ‘fruits of the Spirit’ are a ‘second thing’ we’re destined to receive only when we’ve first trusted and obeyed.
And this builds us back to the motive of all our being. Do we truly want to please God or do we only want to look especially good?
What do we really want?
© 2010 S. J. Wickham.
Acknowledgement: Larry Crabb, SoulTalk – the Language God Longs for Us to Speak (Nashville, Tennessee: Integrity Publishers, 2003), pp. 87-104. Crabb cites Lewis’ work, “First and Second Things,” in God in the Dock (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Eerdmans, 2002), p. 280.