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God still wants first place - Gabriel Stovall

Gabriel Stovall

Gabriel Stovall

God chastised me yesterday.

He did it when He noticed that I was beginning to worry. With so many things going on and seemingly converging on my little life at one time, I found my prayer time turning into more of a “gripe session.”

“Lord,” I said. “How in the world am I going to get everything done?” I’m planting a church from nothing, and people constantly look to me for leadership. The needs of the people I care for don’t stop just because I’m personally busy.

I’m working on growing a devotional ministry that has become way more widespread than I ever imagined. In addition to full-time ministry, I’m also a full-time journalist who’s preparing to begin work on a Masters of Divinity Degree.

I am a husband and father of a 19-month-old son, which means I can no longer focus on myself and my needs alone.

“Then God,” I continued, “What about money? I don’t seem to have enough money. What about time? Not enough of that either. What about resources, what about good help? That’s coming up short, too. God, what about ...”

He stopped me right in the middle of my laundry list.

He spoke softly to my spirit. He said: “Matthew 6:32-33.” Of course, I tried to talk back to God. “I already know those verses, Lord. I’ve preached it, I’ve taught it, but I ... ” He stopped me again. “Now live it,” He said.

I finally shut up (because arguing with God is pointless anyway), grabbed my Bible and flipped to the passage of Scripture that was so familiar to me.

But this time when I read verse 32, the Holy Spirit brought it to life: “For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things.” Immediately, I was convicted. Why am I rattling off this long list of items to God as if I was informing Him of something He didn’t already know?

He said to me, “I know you’re tired. I know you’re worn out. I know you and your family are trying to figure out how to make it all fit together. Remember, I’m the one that gave you these things in the first place. Keep reading.”

I read aloud: “But seek ye FIRST the Kingdom of God and ...” He interrupted me again: “Stop right there,” He said.

God then began to show me how I have been allowing my life’s concerns to be the “FIRST” things in my life.

He showed me all the places where I had put other things before my times in His presence. He flashed before me the times where I ignored prayer just because I wasn’t “feeling” it.

He reminded me that feelings are not always the same as faithfulness and that faith must trump feelings at all times.

He told me that the first step to being worry free is to continuously commit myself to a growing, intimate knowledge of who He is.

“Don’t ever let my Word become common, Gabriel,” He said to me. “No matter how much you THINK you know it or me.” I apologized and asked Him if I could continue reading. He said, “Yes.”

“But seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness.”

Once again, He stopped me. Holy Spirit showed me recent times when I should’ve done one thing but ended up doing another.

He reminded me of some unconfessed sin that I hadn’t even thought about. He comforted me in my guilt and reminded me that I was forgiven and the slate wiped clean. He taught me, through these examples, how to avoid sin in these areas again.

Then God said, “Continue reading.”

“And all these things shall be added to you.”

“See, My son,” God said. “You’re not even the one responsible for adding anything to your life. You are not capable of providing for yourself. You are not capable of making ends meet. You are not capable of fitting everything into your schedule. In fact, if you noticed, I didn’t even ask you to be.”

Tears came to my eyes as I listened to Him set me straight. “The only thing I want you to do in life is seek my Presence and seek after My Righteousness. Know Me and know My will. I’ll take care of the rest. I’ve got you covered.”

I emerged from my time with the Lord, humming and then softly singing the lyrics to an old hymn:

“ ’Tis so sweet to trust in Jesus!

Just to take Him at His Word.

Just to rest upon His promise.

Just to know, ‘Thus saith the Lord!’

Jesus, Jesus, how I trust Him!

How I’ve proved Him o’er and o’er.

Jesus, Jesus, Precious Jesus!

O for grace to trust Him more!” 

Gabriel Stovall covers sports for the Clayton News Daily and Henry Daily Herald newspapers. He is founder and lead pastor of NewLife Church. NewLife is a new ministry which currently meets each Sunday at 10:30 a.m. in the Forest Park Middle School cafeteria. Follow him on Twitter @gabrielcstovall.