Serving God TOGETHER: Part 2 – Keeping Him First in Your Life – A Couple’s Bible Study

How often do you think about your own life–your interests, your desires, your needs? It’s before you all the time. It’s our human nature to think about ourselves first. But serving God together means we must move beyond ourselves.

Sharing your life as husband and wife is a beautiful blessing. This is especially true when you follow God’s plan for marriage. This Couple’s Bible Study series will encourage you with instructions and promises from God’s Word as you seek opportunities to bless the lives of others and honor the Lord together.

Last week we began a study about the fact that if we are two believers that God has brought together in marriage, He brought us together to serve Him and others. He brought us together to do the good works He designed for us. Isn’t it great to know He has plans for us and wants us to know what those plans are? By His grace He has equipped us and will empower us to carry them out together. This is a great blessing.

This week we will continue our study by discussing how we can discover those ways to serve God together as husband and wife.

Not About You, But About God

The first thing we must do is to accept that our lives are not about us, but about God. Until we do that, we will think about everything in terms of how it impacts us and makes life better for us and our family. At best we might consider how we can use the excess after our needs are met for the Lord’s work.

God doesn’t want our leftovers. The truth is He doesn’t need anything from us. He is God. He desires us. He wants us. He wants us to want to give everything to Him–our money and material things, our time, our gifts and talents, our families, our children–everything. Everything is about God, not us. Our lives are about serving Him, and serving Him by serving others.

God has had to teach me this over and over again throughout my life. Most recently was when I had to stop teaching at the seminary due to the results of my illness. I began to feel sorry for myself. I felt God had stopped me from teaching when I was in my prime.

At this time, our pastor began a sermon series on the book of Joshua. His first sermon was on how God passed the leadership of his people from Moses to Joshua. This man who had led God’s people for over 40 years through hardship would not lead the people into the Promised Land. We find this description in Deuteronomy 34:1-4:

“Then Moses climbed Mount Nebo from the plains of Moab to the top of Pisgah, across from Jericho. There the Lord showed him the whole land—from Gilead to Dan, all of Naphtali, the territory of Ephraim and Manasseh, all the land of Judah as far as the Mediterranean Sea, the Negev and the whole region from the Valley of Jericho, the City of Palms, as far as Zoar. Then the Lord said to him, ‘This is the land I promised on oath to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob when I said, ‘I will give it to your descendants.’ I have let you see it with your eyes, but you will not cross over into it.’”

Then came these very final, concise words in Deuteronomy 34:5: “And Moses the servant of the Lord died there in Moab, as the Lord had said.” This seemed cruel.

Of course, God had a good reason, as He always does. You can read about that in Numbers 20:1-12. But the fact was that Moses was never the center of the story. God’s people would carry on with Joshua leading them.

God was and still is the center of every story.

God spoke to me as I listened to our pastor preach about this. I am not the important one. God is the important one. I am here to serve Him by serving Sabra as her husband and serving others He will bring into my life.

When I begin to think this life is all about me, that is when I get into trouble.

Matthew 22-37-40 (2)
Put God First

Jesus also taught this truth. Early in His ministry as He prepared His disciples for their future work, He sent them in teams of two to minister to others. He gave them instructions before He sent them out. This entire passage is found in Matthew 10:1-42, and would be good for all of us to read as we seek to serve Him.

In the midst of His instructions we find these words in Matthew 10:37: “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.”

Later in His ministry, as Jesus was teaching, His earthly family arrived. He was told that they were there and wanted to speak with Him. And this is what He said: “‘Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?’ Pointing to his disciples, he said, ‘Here are my mother and my brothers. For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother’” (Matthew 12:48-50).

We find even stronger words used by Jesus as He was teaching the crowds in Luke 14:26: “If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even their own life—such a person cannot be my disciple.”  These sound like harsh words coming from the mouth of God incarnate Himself.

What about this commandment in Exodus 20:12?: “Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you.” Paul even repeats this in his teaching to children of all ages in Ephesians 6:1-3: “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. ‘Honor your father and mother’—which is the first commandment with a promise—‘so that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth.’”

And God tells husbands in Ephesians 5:25: “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.” He commands fathers (and mothers as they follow their husband’s leading) in Ephesians 6:4: “Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.” It certainly doesn’t sound like Jesus really wants us to hate our family members or anyone else.

So what is Jesus teaching here? He is saying that He must come first in our lives, every aspect of our lives, and that includes our marriages. Of course we are not to hate our spouse and other family members, or anyone else. That would contradict everything He is and everything He taught. But we must love Him, and desire to serve Him so much, that in comparison everything else seems like hate. Jesus is using exaggeration to make His point. This is why it is so important for us to read the entire Bible and not take things out of the context of all of God’s Word.

God Will Take Care of The Rest

When Jesus is first in everything in our lives, He will take care of the rest. Jesus teaches in Matthew 6:33: “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” These things that Jesus speaks about here are everything we need to live, and to love and to serve Him and others.

Sabra told me that before I became ill, she depended on me for too much in her life, and not enough upon God. Then she had to face the fact that there was a good chance that I would die. God used this to help turn her dependence from me to God where it belongs. Does she love me less now that she loves God and depends on Him more? I can tell you that it is quite the opposite.

The more we love God and serve Him first, the more we will be able to love and serve each other. We must all come to this place if we are to truly serve Him.

Immediately after Jesus’ teaching to His disciples that I quoted earlier from Matthew 10:37, He says to them: “Whoever does not take up their cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for my sake will find it” (vv. 38-39). And immediately after His teaching that I quoted above from Luke 14:26, He says in verse 27: “And whoever does not carry their cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.”

We live in a society that tells us that we must love ourselves first, and then we can love others. This is a heinous lie from Satan. It leads us directly away from loving God and others, which is the order God gives us. Read again what Jesus taught in Matthew 6:33. Read also what Jesus said was the greatest commandment: Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments” (Matthew 22:37-40).

Many use this passage to argue that Jesus tells us in these verses that we must love ourselves if we are going to love others. But again, do not take Scripture out of its context, and make sure your interpretation is in agreement with all of God’s Word. Jesus is saying that we already love ourselves – that’s our natural, fleshly, sinful way. We need to love others at least as much as we already love ourselves. Then the world will be a much better place.

So we must love and serve God first. We must realize He is what matters most. And in doing so, we will be able to love and serve each other as husband and wife, and to serve others together.

Here are some questions to ask yourself to see how you are doing in this area as you strive to serve God together:

        • Are my needs really needs or are they desires?
        • Do I really consider everything I have to be from God, to be used as He leads so they bring honor and glory to Him?
        • Is my life about serving God first, or am I first concerned about myself, my husband or wife, my children, or my other family members?
        • Do I really understand, believe, and trust that if I put Him first, He will take care of those I love and care about, even better than I can?
        • Are we, as a couple, seeking together how we can use the talents, gifts, and resources He has given us to serve Him by serving others?

Questions for Discussion

        • Re-read this week’s teaching, and discuss specific things the Lord spoke to you about from it, and how it can impact your marriage.
        • Read and answer together the questions at the end of this week’s study. How does doing this help you better understand how God wants you to serve Him and others together?
        • Continue your discussion from last week or begin a discussion about how the Lord might want you to serve Him together. Be as specific as possible.
        • Pray together asking God to reveal to you ways He wants you to serve Him together.

Next week we will continue to discuss ways we can discover and put into practice how we can serve the Lord together in our marriages.

Until then, may God bless you in all His wonderful ways,
David

Other posts in the SERVING GOD TOGETHER series:
Part 1–Made for Good Works
Part 3–Using Your Spiritual Gifts
Part 4–Learning from a Bible Couple
Part 5–Finding Ways to Serve
Part 6–An Inspiring Example

Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture taken from THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Photo by Sabra Penley.
Serving God together won't happen if we don't take this essential first step. | Serving God TOGETHER: Part 2 - Keeping Him First in Your Life - A Couple's Bible Study | Simply One in Marriage.

About David Penley

A devoted husband and father, former pastor and seminary professor, who longs to grow closer to the likeness of Christ each day and share God's love and truth with everyone.