Above All Else
God and His Will are the most important things in all of the universe for you.
Alright, thank you very much. And hello again, radio friends. How in the world are you? You doing alright today? Oh, I trust so. This is your good friend, Bob Cook. I’m glad to be back with you. I’ve been praying that God would put His truth in my heart and His love in my voice so that somehow you might get blessing and inspiration and help and encouragement out of these few moments that we invest together in looking at God’s Word. What I try to do is to put a handle on it so that you can get hold of it for yourself, something practical that you can get hold of as you go on through the days and nights that lie ahead.
We’re in John chapter 12. And we were just remarking about these people who believed on Christ, verse 42, the rulers, “Many among the rulers believed on Him. But because of the Pharisees, they did not confess Him lest they should be put out of the synagogue, for they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God.” Peer pressure can really be tremendous. My heart goes out to young people growing up in their pre-teens and teenage years and early 20s. Peer pressure is tremendous. Pressure along the line of experimenting with mind-altering drugs, pressure along the line of extra curricular sex, pressure along the line of rebellion against established authority, “Come on, let’s do it.” Oh, the pressure there is. “If you wanna be accepted, give in.” That’s the dictum of the crowd. “If you love me, prove it. If you wanna be popular, prove it, by doing what we’re doing.” Peer pressure. “They loved the praise of men more than the praise of God.” Because of the Pharisees.
See, the Pharisees were the fundamentalists of their day, I suppose you might say. They were extremely powerful. They were not only the religious right, they were the religious right in control, so far as culture was concerned and religion was concerned. And so these people who were in the position of being rulers, they didn’t want folk who had political clout to criticize them. See, in politics, you wanna stay out of a situation where you get needless criticism from people who have political clout. You get it anyway, but you don’t wanna court it. So they said, “Why should we open our mouths and get in trouble?” That was the background of their attitude at that point. And you can understand that, of course. Happens every day, doesn’t it? I won’t do this so I won’t get criticized. Well, what… If we admit that peer pressure is real and sometimes can be a terrible pressure on you, what then? Well, really, it depends upon what you really want. It said, “They loved the praise of men more than the praise of God.” They would rather have people approve them than have God approve them. That is an indictment that is pretty scary. They would rather have people’s approval than God’s approval. “They loved the praise of men more than the praise of God.”
Somebody asked an old man why he didn’t pay his bills, and know why he didn’t tithe. Tithe his income, that’s how it was, he didn’t tithe his income. And, “Oh,” he said, “I don’t know.” The conversation went on. Said, “You pay your bills, your bills come in, and you pay them.” And the old man thought a minute, he said, “Yeah, but God isn’t… He isn’t bothering me like my other creditors.” [chuckle] See, the temptation is to say, “Well, God’s in heaven, and I’m down here. And hunger is a reality and bills are a reality and peer pressure is real and… See, and so God, He can wait because He’s not that near and not that real, and He isn’t bothering me.” That’s the philosophy of the human heart. Have you ever felt that way? I bet you have. These pressures are real, and I’d better take care of them first and get around to God later. Now, the problem is that that’s based on a mistaken awareness of the facts.
See, God is more real, if you wanna put it that way. God is more real than anything else you and I have to experience. “Whither shall I go from Thy presence? If I dwell in the midst of the sea or take the wings of the morning, and the darkness doesn’t hide from You, and You’re always there. I can’t get away from You. And boy, when I fall asleep, when I wake up, I’m still with Thee,” said the Psalmist. God’s presence and God’s will are the greatest and most important realities in your life. And only through understanding His Word and the enlightenment of the indwelling Holy Spirit can you come to that position where you reckon on that, where you fulfill Matthew 6:33, “Seek ye first the Kingdom of God.” Where you fulfill Proverbs 3:5 and 6, “In all thy ways, acknowledge Him, all Thy ways, acknowledge Him, and He shall direct thy paths.” Or where, go to the Colossians passage that I had in mind, Colossians 3:23, “Whatsoever you do, do it heartily as for the Lord and not just for people, knowing that of the Lord ye shall receive the reward of the inheritance, for ye serve the Lord Christ.”
See? It rests, beloved, with you to decide who is really the most important in life, and I’m praying that as you think about this and pray about it, you will come to that realization as well, that God and His will are the most important things in all of the universe for you, and that they have to come first. It is a dreadful mistake to put anything else ahead of God, it constitutes idolatry. It’s a practical idolatry if you put anything ahead of God, “Thou shalt have no other gods before me,” the Commandment said. If God isn’t absolutely God, He isn’t God at all. And so I want you to think about that, if you will, and pray about it, “Where does God show up in my plans? Where does He show up in my priorities? Where does He show up in my consideration of things that must be done?” “Well, how do you implement that?” somebody’s asking. “What shall I do about it? It’s all right for you to talk about it, Brother Cook, but what shall I do about it?”
There are two things you can do. Number one is, get in the Word, and let God speak to you through His written Word, the Bible. Inerrant, infallible, eternal Word of God, the Bible. Second, pray your way through the day. Form the habit of praying before you enter in to the various segments of life. I used to tell the young people at the college, I would mention this to them three or four times a year when I spoke in Chapel, “Pray your way through the day, pray when you first wake up. ‘Good morning Lord,’ pray before you greet your family or your roommate.” It’s hard to act like a Christian if you’re putting on an act, but if you’re praying, even those early contacts in the day when you’re drowsy and not quite awake can be blessed. Pray before you start your first task of the day, whether it’s a class, or whether it’s a business task, or whether you’re a homemaker and have a million things to do at home there, things for which nobody ever thanks you, but, boy, do they complain if you don’t do them, right? [chuckle] Oh, yeah. Pray before you start your first task of the day, pray before you answer the phone, you don’t know who’s there, why don’t you whisper a prayer, God will get you ready for whoever it is… For ‘whomever,’ I’ll change that for you school teachers. Pray before you open a letter, you don’t know if it’s a check or a bill, there is a difference.
Pray before you make a decision, pray before you sign a contract, pray before you go on a date, pray before you enter into a conversation. I have never regretted things I’ve said if I have prayed before I entered upon a conversation. I have often regretted speaking out of turn when I forgot to pray before entering upon a conversation. There’s a little sign that you’ll see sometimes in the card shops, “Be sure brain is engaged before putting mouth in gear.” And I would add to that, “Be sure that you have contacted God before starting to run your mouth,” very important. Pray before you hire someone if you’re in management, or pray certainly before you fire or transfer someone, pray before you consider taking a job or leaving one, pray before you start a journey rather than waiting until you are in a jam somewhere. Pray your way through the day, pray when you feel like getting angry, before you blow your top, you know you’re going to, isn’t that true? And so when you feel the pressure mounting inside, and you’re about to be angry about something, whisper a prayer, say, “Lord, control me.” He’ll diffuse that anger and keep you under His control. Pray when you’re tempted, before you fall. See, most of us have prayed after we fall as a result of temptation, “Lord I blew it, forgive me.” And He will forgive you, “There is forgiveness with Thee that Thou mayest be feared,” the Bible says.
But why don’t we pray before, when you feel the onset of temptation, either to do something wrong or tempted not to do something right, as the case may be? Pray then and say, “Lord, control me now.” Pray at the onset of temptation. Pray when you have the blues, God will lift your mood. See? Well, these are just a few things, and that will make a difference in bringing your awareness. We’re talking about an awareness of the importance of God, aren’t we? It will bring God into the business of living for you.
Now, I can’t do this for you. I’ve long since learned that things I say will not make a difference in the way people feel unless they themselves start doing something about it. So unless you start this process of looking into God’s Word for direction and then praying your way through the day, you won’t really know what I’ve been talking about in these past few moments. You’ll be among that company of people who love the praise of men more than the praise of God, and you’ll collapse under the pressure of your peers when they say, “Come on, everybody’s doing it.” And you’ll collapse. Why don’t you do it the other way? Why don’t you bring God into the very center of your life? Why don’t you call up Heaven with that whispered prayer at the turning of all of the corners of everyday living? Pray your way through the day. And then when the day is over, you can turn out that pocketful of memories and say, “Thank you, Jesus, You led me all the way.” Good idea? You try it on for size.
Father God today, may we put Thee first in everything. In Jesus’ name I pray this, Amen.
Till I meet you once again by way of radio, walk with the King today and be a blessing!
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