If asked, most pastors and other ministers would not need to think long before we would be able to state the specific circumstances around our decision to enter into our area of ministry. The call to do ministry is very valid and strong. But there is a call that supercedes our call to ministry. That is a call to be holy. Ephesians 1:4 says that he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In speaking of the marital relationship, Paul says “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word” (Ephesians 5:25-26). Peter, quoting God from Leviticus 11:44 tells us to “Be holy, because I am holy” (1 Peter 1:16). And a few verses later he states “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light” (1 Peter 2:9). Our Lord does want us to respond to the great needs around us, He does want us to minister His life to others, but Jesus did not bring us to Himself simply so He would have more troops to accomplish His purposes. He brought us into His family as sons and daughters. He purchased us so that we would have a relationship with Him. He sought us out because He wanted us to spend time with Him. A critical aspect being holy is spending time in the presence of a holy God! Apart from anything we may do for Him, He longs that we would spend time with Him. This is our first call.
Consider the following 13 Scriptures encouraging us to make time with the Lord our first call.
Before sin invaded our world, Adam, Eve and God enjoyed time going on walks together. (Gen 3:8).
What Moses coveted, and didn’t want to be without was God’s presence (Ex 33:15).
David longed to do that “one thing” of being in His presence (Ps 27:4).
Ministering to the people without being able to minister to God was the consequence of disobedient priests. Being able to minister to God was the reward for the priests of Zadok (Ez 44:10-16).
Hezekiah sought his God before He worked wholeheartedly (2 Chron 31:21).
Before Jesus called his disciples to preach, He called them to be with Him (Mark 3:14).
The command to love God comes before the command to love our neighbors (Matt 22:37-39). The first command is still the first command.
Mary was not rebuked by Jesus for sitting at His feet when Martha wanted her to be. Rather Jesus told Martha that she was the one who was distracted (Luke 10:38-42).
The religious leaders recognized that the disciples’ boldness and power came not from their education or occupation, but from the fact that they had been with Jesus (Acts 4:13).
It was while the leaders in Antioch were worshiping and fasting in God’s presence that God spoke to them about what His missions plan was (Acts 13:1-3).
Paul’s challenge to the early church leaders who would soon have to drive away “savage wolves” was to take heed first to themselves, then to the flock of God (Acts 20:28).
Hebrews tell us that we should stimulate one another to love (I would read this as love for both God and my neighbor) and also good works (Heb 10 24).
A major activity of the elders in the book of Revelation is worshiping God in His presence. (Rev 4:9-10, 5:8-14, 11:16, 19:4)
We can easily think that our first call is to do things for Him, rather than to spend time with Him. But it is not. Ministering to others must be secondary to ministering to Him. This is our first and highest calling. Here is the amazing and wonderful thing! As we spend time with Him, we not only bless Him, we also minister much more effectively.
All effective ministry flows out of our response to our first call.