Craig Smith - Choices That Lighten the Load
Well, hey, welcome to Mission Hills. So good to have you here. Hey, before I get into the message for this week, I just wanna do a little bit of an unsolicited shout-out. One of the greatest privileges that I have as a lead pastor is I work with incredible staff team, and several of the people in our staff team are producing resources that are benefiting the kingdom outside of our walls. And one of those is Danny Oertli, our boy Danny. That song you just heard, he wrote that song, and it’s part of a new album that he’s releasing. And I got a sneak preview of it. It’s awesome. And it was a blessing in my life. And so, I’m really excited to see how God’s gonna use that. We’re celebrating the release of that album tonight with a free concert here at Mission Hills in the Littleton Campus, 6:30. Love to have you come out and join us. I guarantee you’re gonna be really encouraged. Danny’s one of the best singer/songwriter/storytellers that I’ve ever met, and his album is just a really powerful encouragement. So, love to have you join us today.
Well, hey, so good to have you with us. We are in week number two of our “Travel Light” series. And what we’re doing in this series is we are looking at a teaching from Jesus about how to get free from some of the extra weight that a lot of us are carrying in life because we got burdens that really were never ours to bear. Last week, we talked about the burden of money or earthly treasure, not because money’s bad, but because it’s a dangerous blessing. It’s temporary, and yet it tends to draw our trust to itself, leaving us really exposed when it ultimately fails. And we saw that God’s plan for dealing with that potentially dangerous power of money is generosity, that we use earthly treasure for heaven’s purposes, and so we stay free from that particular burden.
Today, we’re gonna talk about the burden of bad bosses. I don’t know if you’ve ever had a bad boss, but let me tell you, if you’ve ever had a bad boss, then you know that there’s very little that can add weight to your life faster than trying to be loyal to a bad boss. How many of you have had a bad boss? I’m looking around to make sure none of the staff have their hands up right now. I think we’re okay. I think there’s probably three kinds of bad bosses, in my experience.
So, there’s the Michael Scott bad boss, all right? This is the guy, he thinks he’s everybody’s best friend, but he’s no good at his job, right? And so, he’s always adding on to his employees’ burdens because they have to either do the work he didn’t do or fix the messes that he made. Some of you may have had that kind of bad boss. Then, there’s the Gordon Ramsay bad boss. He’s really good at his job, but he’s really hard on his people, right? Maybe you’ve had one of those bad bosses. Or then, probably, though, the worst of them would be the Bill Lumbergh bad boss. This is the guy from the movie “Office Space.” This is the worst of the bad bosses. He’s a micromanaging sort of, you know, passive-aggressive, insincere soul-crusher of a boss. The guy when you see him come and you’re just like, “I wanna die. How do I get out of this?” right?
And so, if you’ve had any of those kinds of bosses or another kind, then you know that having a bad boss and trying to be loyal to a bad boss can really weigh you down and wear you out. Now, the bad news is, unfortunately, none of us have the luxury of being bossless. In the immortal words of Bob Dylan, “You’re gonna have to serve somebody.” Well, we all serve somebody. The question is do we serve somebody who will lessen our load, who will lighten the load or somebody who’s just gonna add to it? And the good news is that by our choices, we can actually ultimately choose to give our loyalty to someone who can, in fact, take our loyalty, and with our loyalty, start to lighten our load.
Let me show you what I’m talking about. I’d love to have you join me. We’re gonna be in the Gospel of Matthew 6 today. If you’re new to the Bible, let me just say that Matthew is one of the four gospels in the Bible. The word gospel means good news. These are the four books that tell the story of the life of Jesus. And the life of Jesus himself is good news because he’s the only boss that we can serve who takes our loyalty, and with our loyalty, he begins to take away a lot of the burden that we’re carrying. He begins to lighten our load. And so, it’s really important that we be looking to Jesus. And this looking business is really important.
In Matthew 6:22, Jesus says this, he says, “The eye is the lamp of the body.” “The eye is the lamp of the body,” meaning couple things. Number one, he simply means that, you know, without the eye, the body goes blundering around in the darkness, right? The eye’s what allows us to make our way in the world. But the eye also sort of sets our direction in the world, right? The lamp, you know, you carry a lamp out in front of you, it’s lighting your way as you’re moving forward in where you’re heading. And so, really what happens is the eye kind of sets the direction that we’re going. In fact, we might even say it this way, that where we’re headed has a lot to do with what we’re looking at. Does that make sense? Where we’re headed has a lot to do with what we’re looking at. That’s true in a very literal way, by the way, not just in a spiritual. It’s true very literally.
I was in Columbus, Ohio a couple of weeks ago, I was visiting my parents. And as I was headed back to the airport, I was on the highway, guys, like, I was being the best driver. Like, I was being so good, you all, I had exactly the right amount of space in my lane on both sides of me, right amount of space in front of me, between me and the next car and behind me, probably because I had declined all the additional coverage on the rental car, right? Like, I cannot afford for anything to go wrong here. So, I was doing really well. And then, I passed a billboard that I had never seen before. And the billboard said something like, “Without Jesus, you’re going burn in hell.” And I’d never seen a billboard…I was like, “That is a bold choice for an evangelistic method. I don’t know how effective that’s gonna be.” But it was covered in flames.
And so, I found my gaze kind of drawn to the billboard for just a few seconds. But when I looked away and I looked back into my lane, I realize I had started to drift. And maybe you’ve had a similar kind of experience, right? Maybe you’d been driving down the highway, you’re doing just fine, and then you see something like, “Is that another Chick-fil-A” Right? You know, something grabbed your attention and you started to drift.
And here’s the interesting thing about drifting, you always drift in the direction you’re looking. You’ve never seen something and accidentally drifted the other direction. It doesn’t work that way because where we’re headed has a lot to do with where we’re looking at. It’s true in highway situations, but it’s also true in life. And so, Jesus is the eye, is the lamp of the body. It’s setting the tone. What we’re looking at matters a lot, in part because it’s setting where we’re going, but also because what we’re looking at determines a lot of what’s going into us.
And so, Jesus says this, he says, “If your eyes,” or we could even say focus, “If your focus is healthy, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eyes, or if your focus, is unhealthy, your whole body will be full of darkness.” And what Jesus is just basically saying is what we look at kind of determines what’s going into us, and what goes into us determines on some level what kind of a load we’re gonna carry in life, are we letting light into our lives or are we letting darkness into our lives. And darkness can be really heavy, right? We even say that all the times, we say, “I was in a really dark period of my life. My heart was really heavy” as a strong association.
So, we could even say this, at the risk of making a really, really bad pastor pun, “The less light into your life, the heavier your load,” right? The less light that we let into our lives, the heavier our hearts, the heavier our load. And a lot of what determines what goes into our hearts and what kind of load we’re carrying is what we’re looking at and how healthy our focus is.
By the way, this is another one of those things that’s literally true as well as spiritually true. Couple of years ago, I had the opportunity to work with a young man. He did a student ministries internship with me. He’s just a great kid. He loved Jesus, he loved people, people loved him. He had a great career in vocational ministry in front of him. But the internship ended. He went back east to his hometown. And about a year later, I heard through the grapevine that he dropped out of ministry, he dropped out of the church, he’d broken off all his relationships with other Christians. And I called him, and I said, “Hey, what’s going on?”
And he told me just the saddest story. I mean, the upshot of it is basically he got addicted to pornography. What he was looking at began to crush him. And he told me the saddest part of it, I think was, he said, “It got to the point where I realized that because of what I’ve been looking at,” he says, “It crushed me. It crushed my ability to give and receive love.” He said, “It’s like it burned it out on me. It crushed it to dust.” That’s the power of the eye, it’s the power of what we’re looking at to either lighten our load or, in some cases, weigh us down.
And, by the way, in a room this size and with all the people watching online, I just need to say, some of you are in exactly that place. You might be in that place where what you’re looking at, whether it’s pornography or something else like that, is dark, and what it’s doing is it is adding weight to your life and it is crushing you, and you gotta do something about that, you gotta change your focus. We have a great counseling ministry here at Mission Hills. Call, make an appointment. They’d love to talk to you about how to get free from that burden that you’re bearing because of what you’re looking at. But the crazy thing is that it doesn’t even have to be something really bad that we’re looking at that has this ability to add to our load.
The truth of the matter is that we can get weighed down by focusing on too many good things. If we’re looking at a lot of different good things, we can find the same kind of thing happening. And the reason for that is actually something Jesus says here. It doesn’t come across real well in English. As some of you may know, the Bible wasn’t originally written in English, it was originally written in Greek, which was the main language in the Middle East in this time period that it was written. And in Greek, what Jesus says is a little interesting. So, in English, it says, “If your eyes are healthy, your whole body would be full of light, but if your eyes are unhealthy, your whole body will be full of darkness.” Healthy and unhealthy, that’s what those words mean, but they mean it figuratively.
The literal words he uses probably are more like this, “If your eye is single, your whole body would be full of light, and if your eye is divided, your whole body would be full of darkness.” And what he’s saying is basically that the more we divide something, then, well, we diminish it, right? So, I mean, if you’ve ever had one of those experiences where you’re in the shower and then somebody else got in another shower in your house, what happened to the pressure? It gets diminished. When we divide the pressure, it diminishes. Or maybe you’ve been on the Wi-Fi, right? And everything is going along great, and then all of a sudden, like, your speed just tanked, and it turns out somebody else was on the Wi-Fi, right? When we divide the Wi-Fi, this speed diminishes.
And he’s kind of saying the same thing is true in life. He says that when the light coming in is divided, it’s diminished, and when you have less light, you have more what? More darkness. That’s the way it works. Now, the question is, “Yeah, but how does our eye get divided?” And the answer is because we’re focusing on too many things. We’re focusing on too many things. And some of them may even be good things. They don’t have to all be bad things. But the more divided our focus, the less light is getting in. And that begins to have an impact on us.
And so, Jesus says this, he says, “If then the light within you is darkness,” or, “If the light coming into you is so divided, so diminished that it’s darkened, how great is that darkness in you?” And understand that that’s not a judgment. Jesus isn’t saying, “Hey, I’m looking at you guys, and I’m seeing you’re divided in your focus, right? You wanna serve God, but you’re also thinking, “But maybe I could also work on getting a little bit more money, and I’d really like to buy that car, and I’d like to get that new iPhone, and I’d like to get a few more Instagram followers, I’d like a little more popularity. And maybe I could get that girl to notice me.”
If your focus is divided, he’s not looking at that going, “Oh, I’m so disappointed in you. What he does is he looks at it and he says, “My heart breaks for you.” Because what you’re doing by dividing your focus is you’re diminishing the light coming in and you’re increasing the load that you’re bearing in life. Because what’s happening, is an incredibly important truth, is that our loyalty follows our focus. Our loyalty follows our focus. What we’re focusing on, ultimately, our hearts go after, they move towards it, and we begin to give loyalty. So, it’s not just a question of dividing our time, it’s really about our hearts. And the problem is you really can’t divide your heart. It just doesn’t work that way. Our hearts always seek wholeness. And so, when by our divided focus, our loyalty is trying to be divided.
Ultimately, what’s gonna happen is it’s always just gonna find the one thing. It’s gonna find the thing that we focus the most on, and that’s where our heart’s gonna go. And that’s why Jesus says this, he says, “No one can serve two masters. Either you’ll hate the one and love the other or you’ll be devoted to the one and despise the other.” And notice that that’s all heart language, right? It’s love and hate, it’s devoted and despised. That’s all heart stuff. It’s loyalty stuff. He’s not saying you can’t divide your time, he’s saying you can’t divide your heart. Our hearts always seek wholeness. And because our loyalty and our heart follow our focus, whatever we’re focusing the most on will ultimately be the thing that we’re most loyal too.
And he gives an example. he says this, he says, “You cannot serve both God and money.” And I think he talks about money for a couple of reasons. One, because he just taught a little bit on money, so that’s sort of fresh in everybody’s mind. But also, because money is a great example of something that really isn’t…it’s not worthy of our trust. It can’t hold us up. It can only actually add to our load. And yet, it has this tremendous capacity to draw our attention to it.
And so, he says, “Let me give you an example. You can’t serve, you can’t be loyal to both God and money.” But it’s true for a lot of things, honestly. You cannot serve both God and achievements. You cannot serve both God and popularity. You can’t serve both God and that relationship. You can’t serve both God and whatever it is. He says, “You can’t do it. Our hearts seek wholeness, but our loyalty follows our focus.”
So, he says, “You gotta be really careful or you’re gonna find yourself in a place that you’ve become loyal to something that, honestly, it’s gonna crush you.” This is such an important question we have to ask ourselves. And we actually have to ask ourselves on a regular basis, “Am I focusing on something that will lighten my load or add to it?” Such an important question. What are you focusing on right now, and is what you’re focusing on right now something that will lighten your load or is it something that will ultimately, inevitably add to it?
I love what Paul, who wrote so much of the New Testament, said to Timothy, a man he was mentoring as a pastor. We talked about this briefly last week but listen to this again. This is 1 Timothy 6:10, “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. For loyalty to money is the root of all kinds of evil. Some people eager for money, focusing on money, have wandered away from the faith,” and check this out, “and pierced themselves with many griefs.” It’s such a powerful statement. He says, “That’s not just they’ve wandered away from the faith, they have pierced themselves with many griefs. They’ve added to their burden because money can’t lighten the load, it can only add to it.”
I love what’s Proverbs 15:16 says, “Better a little with fear of the Lord than great wealth with turmoil.” It’s better to have nothing and have a fear where we could say, “A loyalty to the Lord. Our focus is on him. Our hearts are with him.” It’s better to have nothing in the world’s eyes but have that loyalty with God than it is to have all of this worldly wealth and yet live in constant turmoil where we might say crossed under the weight. And what’s interesting is that this kind of a play on words is going on I think because, you know, having money, not only does it not reduce the burden that we bear, but it actually adds to it. Do you know that? As soon as we have this idea, “If I just had a little bit more money, all my problems would go away.” You’ve ever thought that? On the words of the prophet Notorious B.I.G., “Mo’ money, mo’ problems.”
See, it adds weight to our lives. It’s not only incapable of holding us up and bearing our weight in our trust, but it actually adds to our load rather than lightening it. But Jesus, Jesus says this, “Come to me all you who are weary and burdened,” and maybe that’s some of you today. Maybe you feel the weight of a divided focus and trying to keep that master happy and that boss okay. He says, “Come to me all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Give your loyalty to me,” he says, “and learn from me for I am gentle and humble at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. My yoke, it’s easy, and my burden is light.”
See, Jesus says, “You give me your loyalty, and I’ll lighten your load.” And, understand, he didn’t just say it, right? He did it. He lightened the load in a way that only he could. He came, he lived a perfect life, but he died on the cross for our sins. The greatest burden we’ll ever bear is the sin that we have committed, the wrongs that we’ve done, the guilt and the shame. And, ultimately, because of our sin, we’re separated from God for all eternity. “That’s the wages of sin,” the Bible says, it’s just the way that it works.
But Jesus came, he lived a perfect life, he didn’t have any sin to pay for, so he said, “I’ll pay for yours.” He paid for mine. He went to the cross. He died on the cross to pay for our sin. Three days later, he rose from the dead to prove he had defeated sin, he had defeated guilt, he had defeated shame, and he offers us freedom from all of that by faith. He offers us freedom from all of that by giving our loyalty to him. Listen to me, our loyalty determines our load. Do you hear me, church? Our loyalty determines our load. Who or what we are loyal to determines what kind of a load that we’re going to carry in life. We give it to anything other than Jesus, and they’re gonna add to it. Give it to Jesus, and he’ll take from us not only our loyalty, but so much of that load that we find ourselves going through life trying to bear. Our loyalty determines our load.
But let me tell you something about loyalty. This is so important. Loyalty is all about our daily choices. Loyalty is all about our daily choice. Remember we said loyalty follows our focus? Focus, it’s an everyday thing, it’s an every moment of every day thing. And then, we forget this. Because sometimes we have this idea that loyalty is something we swear in pivotal moments of our lives, right? Today, we’re gonna get to celebrate some people that are swearing in public, their loyalty to Jesus, through baptism. And that’s awesome. That’s such a powerful moment. But it’s a monument. Its significance comes to the fact that we have these pivotal moments where we swear loyalty to Jesus or whatever, and we can look back on those throughout the course of our lives and go, “Am I continuing to travel true? Am I still staying in line with that thing that I swore loyalty to?” And that’s powerful.
But it’s actually our daily choices that really determine where our loyalty lies. You know, 27 years ago, I stood in front of a congregation, and in front of a pasture, and before God. And I looked at Coletta, and I said, “I swear loyalty to you and you only.” I even use the old-fashioned line, I said, “Forsaking all others,” meaning you get my only loyalty outside of Jesus. And that was a powerful moment, it was an important moment. But you need to understand that loyalty is all about our daily choices.
The real question of whether or not my wife has my loyalty isn’t in that moment where I swore it, it’s in every single choice that I make. It’s in that moment when I see another woman and I have the opportunity, in my mind, nobody else would know, in my mind alone, I could entertain attraction to that woman. I could play that out in my mind. But when I choose to refuse to do that, when I refuse to entertain loyalty to anybody but my wife, that’s where my loyalty really comes out. It’s when I choose to refuse to take a second look or to let a look linger on another woman. That’s really what determines my loyalty.
Listen, the big decisions might determine our direction, but it is the everyday choices that determine our destination, where we’re actually gonna end up. They’re gonna determine where our loyalty really lies. It’s all about our daily choices. So, if God’s the only one who can lighten our load by our loyalty, here’s what we have to do, right? We need to have a single-minded focus on honoring God with every choice we make because every choice we make ultimately determine something about what we’re trying to do with our loyalty. So, if we’re gonna keep our eyes on God, if we wanna keep our focus on Jesus, who can lighten our load when we give him our loyalty, we have to make a single-minded focus on every choice we make. We’re gonna honor God with every choice.
Can I just ask us to be honest? Does anybody find that a little overwhelming? It’s okay if you do because the reality is that we make 100 choices every day, and every one of them is important. But a lot of them, we make without even being aware of them. A lot of them we make without having any idea whether or not this is moving our loyalty towards Jesus or towards something else. So, how on earth can we have that single-minded focus? Remember, that’s what he said, right? He said, “If your eye is single, it’s gonna be healthy, but if it’s divided, if it’s split up in its focus, it’s not gonna be healthy, and you’re not gonna be healthy. You’re gonna be bearing a load you were never meant to carry.” But how on earth can we have that kind of single-minded focus on every choice?
Fortunately, there’s a life hack. Okay, can I share a life hack with you? This is such a ridiculously powerful life hack, it almost feels like cheating. But check this out. I call it the Law of First. Here’s the Law of First. Our first choice directs those that follow. The first choice that we make in any situation actually has a huge, a disproportionately large impact on the rest of the choices that we’ll make in that situation. It’s crazy. I mean, it’s a little bit like imagine, you know, there’s the line of dominoes set up, instead of starting here or here, you go to the middle, and you get to make a decision, “Do I topple the first domino that way, in which case all of the dominoes fall in that direction or do I go that way and all of them fall that way?” That’s kinda like our choices. The first choice you make actually determines, directs, sets the stage for every other choice, even a lot of the ones that we make unconsciously. The world recognizes the truth of this.
Justin Adams, our worship pastor was telling me this week that at his gym, they have a big banner and they pound the table constantly, “The most important workout of the week is Monday,” because if you work out on Monday, you’re so much more likely to work out the rest of the days of the week. But if you don’t work out on Monday, I can tell you from experience… Like, I wish this weren’t true, but I’ve seen the power of this on the other direction. I’ve tried to get in four workouts a week. That’s kinda my goal. Three would be, like, bare minimum for me.
But what I’ve discovered is that whether or not I work out on Monday has a gigantic impact on whether or not I make that goal. Like, if I work out on Monday, there’s a pretty good chance I’m gonna hit my four. When I don’t work out on Monday, probably not gonna hit four, might not hit three. Sometimes I don’t even make it to two. And, occasionally, last week, I didn’t even get the first one in. What we do on the first day of the week actually has a tremendous influence on the rest of the days of the week. It’s crazy. I’m not sure exactly why this works, but I have a suspicion that it’s something to do with the way God has built our brains. Because this isn’t a self-help technique, this is actually a deeply biblical principle.
Throughout the Bible, God speaks to his people, and he says, “If you wanna honor me…and it’s a really good idea to honor me, because when you honor me, what happens is I lighten your load rather than adding to it. So, if you wanna honor me, what you need to do is you need to give to me your firsts.” And so, people gave him the first fruits of their harvests. They set aside the firstborn of their flocks to God in a special way. They set aside their firstborn children to serve God in a unique way. They gave God the first portion of all of their income. We call it a tithe. But it was always a call for the firsts.
And I think there’s a couple of things going on there. One of them is it’s much more honoring to God to give him the first rather than it is to give him some other portion. Because the reality is, think about this, when you invite somebody in your home and you wanna honor them, do you serve them leftovers? Of course not. You serve them the first time that meal has been come out of the oven, right? There’s something honoring about that. In the same way, why would we think that we’re truly honoring God if we give him time, talent, and treasure that’s left over after something else has had its first say? So, God says, “No, if you wanna honor me and be lighter for it, honor me with your firsts.”
But also honoring God with our firsts sets the stage for all the other things that happens. There’s this crazy story back at the very beginning of the Bible, Genesis 4. Adam and Eve, the first man and woman God makes, and Adam and Eve sin, they fall, but they begin to have kids. And they have two kids, Cain and Abel. And Cain and Abel both came to God with an offering. They both independently decided they were gonna give God some of their stuff. Now, Cain came with some, the Bible says, some of the fruits of his harvest. He brought God some of it. Abel brought him the firstborn of his flocks. And it says that God looked on Abel and his firstborn offering with favor. But on Cain and his some offering, He did not look with favor.
Why? It’s not because God’s a carnivore, okay? It’s because the honoring of God with your firsts said something about his heart and it set the stage for everything’s gonna come. But for Cain, just giving God some, maybe even some leftovers, it said a lot about his heart, and it set the stage. And so, maybe you know the story when Cain saw that God didn’t look on his offering with favor, he murdered his brother, which gets dark really quick, right? Like, that’s crazy. But it says a lot about what the first choice says about who we are and where our loyalty lies, but it also sets the course for all those other things.
So, let’s review. The more divided our focus, the more divided our loyalty. The more divided our focus, the more we’re trying to give our hearts to lots of different things, and our loyalty ultimately determines our load. What we’re loyal to determines whether or not we’re gonna travel light or travel heavy-burdened. Our loyalty is all about our daily choices, not just the big pivotal decisions, but the daily choice of what to focus on, the daily choice. But because there’s so many daily choices, we pay attention to the first. Our first choice directs those that follow, the Law of First. Listen, if you want a travel light, here’s the key. You keep your loyalty on God. You give your loyalty to Jesus, and Jesus alone, because he’s the only one that will take your loyalty and lighten your load with it. So, the key is we keep our loyalty with God by having a single focus of honoring him with as many firsts as possible.
Let me just ask you a couple of questions. Let’s push into this practically. First question is what are the main things that threaten to divide my focus? I think it’s important we identify those. Forewarned is forearmed. Recognize that, “Hey, yeah, I wanna honor God, I wanna keep my focus on God, but there’s this other thing that draws my attention. There’s this other thing over here that I find myself kind of drawing and divided between.” Identify those upfront because then you can begin to recognize when that temptation is happening. So, what are the main things that divide my focus or at least threaten to?
And then, the second question is just this, how can I honor God with my time, talent, and treasure, and how can I do it first? How can I honor God first with my time, talent, and treasure? Your time, talent, and treasure, that’s all you’re ever gonna have. So, how can you honor God first with each of those things? And, by the way, when I say first, there’s a whole lot of first that we can pay attention to.
We can talk about the first part of the day. We can talk about the first time that we’re making a decision with what something that comes in. But we can also talk about, you know, the first day of the week. We can talk about the first day of the month. We can talk about the first day of the year. We can talk about the first day that you are parents. We can talk about the first day that you’re married. We can talk about the first time that you go out on a date with somebody new, the first time that you’re new on campus, or the first day of a new semester at school. There’s a whole lot of firsts, and every one of them provides an opportunity to determine or to direct all the ones that will follow, all the choices that will follow.
So, how can we honor God first with our time, talent, and treasure? In terms of time, one of the things that I find so powerful in my own life is I try to give God a little bit of my time at the very first part of every single day. So much so, I actually have realized the power of this. Recently, I made a change because I realized I wasn’t actually giving him the first. I would just get into the office and go, “First thing I’m gonna do, I’m gonna spend some time in the Word and spend some time in prayer.” But I realized, like, I’m an hour into my day at that point. I’ve actually already made a bunch of choices.
So, I needed to change that, so I started making this little decision that every time I wake up, first thing I do, like everybody else, is I reach for my phone. Come on, we do. And then, you know, what I use is I’ll check the weather, which usually put me in a bad mood, honestly, right? So, it’s like, “I gotta stop doing this.” So, now, I reach for my phone. First thing I do is I pull up a Bible app and I just read a Psalm. It may only be 60 seconds of time, but I’m giving God that first moment of my day, literally the first time that my eyes are open, I’m putting them on his word.
And I found that it makes a difference. And then, I get into work. And I do, I sit down, and I read a chapter from the Book of Proverbs, I spend some time praying. And I’m asking God, “Hey God, what would a win look like today? What are the two or three things that you want me to make sure get accomplished today?” And I’ll write those down. At the end of the day, I’ll look back and go, “Hey, did I focus on those?” And when I do that at the beginning of the day, I almost always find that I get a whole lot further down the path of honoring God with a whole bunch of decisions along the way that I wasn’t even really kinda conscious of. That’s the power of those first moments of the day.
Same thing’s true of our talent. A lot of times, we end up honoring God with kind of the talent after we’ve given our best talent to, you know, our work or whatever. What would it look like to honor God first with your talent or your treasure? We have a phrase at Mission Hills that follows the Law of First. We say this, we say, “Giving first honors God.” Because you don’t honor God as much when you’re giving him out of the leftovers. Giving first honors God, but it also sets the stage and everything else begins to fall into line. So, giving first honors God, saving second practices wisdom, and living on the rest builds contentment. Very powerful biblical model of thinking about how to deal with our finances.
But it’s time, talent, and treasure, how we honor God first with your time, talent, and treasure. And just to make it super practical, let’s ask this question. What’s the first thing that I will do tomorrow morning to honor God in a new way? Do you wanna travel lighter? Jesus is the only one who can take our loyalty and lighten our load. Everything else is gonna add to it. In fact, the more loyalty we give to anything else, the heavier the burden that we will go through life bearing. If you wanna travel light, you have a single-minded focus on honoring God with as many firsts as possible. So, tomorrow morning is a great opportunity.
So, what are you gonna do? Maybe you heard earlier, we’ve got a new 30-day challenge. If you text the word 30days to 888111, you’ll get back a…well, you won’t get anything right then other than just a welcome. But for the next 30 days leading up to Easter, you’re gonna get a challenge first thing every day, a practical thing you can do that day to be on mission with Jesus as we move towards the Easter celebration. So, maybe that’s something. We’ve already had over 600 people sign up by text. There’s a few calendars. If you’re rocking a flip phone and texting is not part of your world, there’s some, like, old-fashioned paper calendars on the way out. Grab one of those. But maybe that’s a way to begin taking a step. But if it’s not that something, what are you gonna do tomorrow morning to honor God in a new way? Because that’s the only way to travel light, to give your loyalty to the only one who will take your loyalty and your burdens with it. Will you pray with me?
God, thank you so much for your kindness and your goodness, your mercy, and your grace. We confess to you as followers of Jesus that we often find our eye divided, we find our focus divided, we find our loyalty divided. It’s so easy for our eye to be drawn to other things that cannot sustain us, that cannot lighten our load. And so, we ask for your forgiveness for the way that happens. When we ask that, by the power of your Spirit, you’d give us a new single-minded focus on being loyal to you and you alone so that everything else falls into line after that and that we can travel free of burdens we were never meant to bear.
If you’re a follower of Jesus, would you just spend a few moments right now? Would you just pray with me for the people that are seated around you, all the people that are watching online that are joining us at our campuses this weekend? Because I believe that there’s some people, and maybe this is you, that, like, you’re traveling through life still under the burden of your sin, and you probably even feel it. You feel the guilt, you feel the shame of the wrong that you’ve done. Nobody needs to make you feel guilty because you feel plenty of that yourself. You feel the weight of it, you’re worn down by it. You’re weighed down by it. And maybe today, for the first time, when I was talking about the fact that Jesus, he didn’t just talk a good game about taking your burdens, he did something about it. He died in your place to pay for your sin, and he offers to set you free. Maybe the light came on. I hope it did.
Because if you’re here today and you don’t have a relationship with God through faith in Jesus and what he did for you, then you’re heavy-laden, you are bearing a burden that is too great for any of us to carry. But you don’t have to carry it. Jesus came, he died, he rose again, and he offers you freedom from all that. And if you’ve never experienced that freedom that comes from giving him your loyalty, you can do it right here, right now. And if you’re ready, let me just tell you what to do. You’re just gonna have a conversation with God in your heart. I’ll tell you what to say, and you just say this and mean it to him. Right now, just say this to him in your heart:
So, God, I’ve done wrong. I’m guilty. I know it, I feel it. I feel the weight. Jesus, thank you for dying in my place. I believe that you rose from the dead to prove that you really have forgiveness to offer. Jesus, I’m ready to give you my loyalty. I’m ready to put my faith in you, to give my trust to you, and you alone because of what you did for me. Jesus, come into my life. Take away my sin. Set me free for this relationship with you. I’m yours for now and forever. Amen.