What Comes First in Our Relationship with God?

If Jesus told us He had a criticism for us, we’d pull out our checklist and start down it.

  • “Should I go on a mission trip, Lord?”
  • “Should I pray more?”
  • “Maybe memorize the book of Romans?”

“You just name it, Lord, and I’ll do it!”

The most important part of your relationship with God

(Photo: By Almonroth, via Wikimedia Commons)

I have discovered that slips in our relationship with God never start with the big things. They begin with the basics.

We would never consider waffling in our morality or our theology.

And yet, how often we betray a more basic element.

Doing Great Things but Missing the Best Thing

For more than two years, the Apostle Paul lived in Ephesus and ministered to the church in that city. Later, he wrote the letter of Ephesians to them, and later still he penned two letters to their pastor, Timothy.

The Ephesian church received incredible instruction!

Ephesus theater and Arcadian Way

(Photo: Ephesus theater and Arcadian Way; see Acts 19)

Thirty years later, the Holy Spirit inspired John to write yet another letter to the Ephesians within the book of Revelation.

Jesus commended them highly. Just look at their checklist:

  • They were stellar in both their deeds and their doctrine (Revelation 2:2).
  • They labored even to the point of suffering for Christ’s name (Revelation 2:3).
  • They put people to the test, preserving sound doctrine (Revelation 2:2).

What a church! But Jesus added, “I have this against you . . .” (Revelation 2:4). A complaint? Really?

Jesus told the Ephesians, “You have left your first love.” Their relationship with God had grown cold.

Ephesus main street

(Photo: Ruins of Ephesus main street; Paul would have walked here.)

The Most Important Part

Although we feverishly serve the Lord and remain firm in our doctrine, like the Ephesians, we can let our devotion slip–or at least, take a back seat.

  • Remember what Christ asked Peter three times after the resurrection? “Do you love Me?” (John 21:17).
  • Keep in mind what Jesus told a frantic Martha about her sister Mary, who sat at His feet? “Mary has chosen what is better” (Luke 10:42).
  • Remember what the Lord said is the greatest commandment: “You shall love the Lord your God will all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind” (Matthew 22:37).

All these cause us to evaluate our relationship with God.

Our serving God should never replace our devotion to Him (John 15:5). Instead, our devotion should fuel our serving. The Lord Jesus points to our first love for Him as the hub from which every other activity should flow.

Our First Love

Have we grown so much in knowledge and service that our love for Jesus has grown cold? Has the Great Commission replaced the great commandment (Matthew 22:36-38)?

Our deeds and our doctrine should form the wake behind our devotion to God. Our first love comes first.

Question: What helps you to remember that loving God is most important part of your life? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

Adapted from Wayne Stiles, Going Places with God: A Devotional Journey Through the Lands of the Bible (Ventura, CA: Regal, 2006), p. 128. Used by permission.

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  • Daniel White

    Very good post Wayne, I was just talking to someone about this, but had a hard time trying to phrase it.
    This post came at the perfect time. God uses you greatly indeed my friend.

  • Nancy Smith

    Wayne, I was in a period in my life where I was doing all the right things; I taught sunday school, I mentored young women, I volunteered in the church library, I was involved in Bible Study outside my church, my husband was involved in church, my kids were involved. I’ve loved the Lord since I was a child, you get the picture. But things were going wrong all over the place and I felt like, as my husband says, I was putting out forest fires. Long story short, the crisis point came where in the middle of all of this I felt abandoned by God.
    Yeah, it’s that “but”. God did something amazing and miraculous  to show me just how much he loved me. Me, just Me. And from that point on it has been so easy to love Him, and put that “stuff” back in the order it belongs in. There are times, where it could get grey if I let other things try to take precedence, but that moment is etched on my heart . I am so very grateful to a Good God who gives good gifts and Who knows better than I do exactly what those good gifts are for me. He is the reason I love him: We love him because He loved us first. Thanks for the nudge!

    • http://www.waynestiles.com/ Wayne Stiles

      Thank you, Nancy, for including your story. It’s amazing how the issues of Ephesus are our struggles today as well. Thank the Lord for the “buts” He invades our lives with!

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  • Magdalena

    A big Amen to this devotional Wayne. The thing that remind me always that loving God is the most important part of my life is His love to me showed on the cross of Calvary. Also that everything I do I have to do as for Him. Also the fact that He desire us to see Him as our friend. Amazing friend indeed He is to me. As Paul stated we can do everything but if it is not motivated by love it is worth nothing. And as you stated in one of your devotionals, God is love we are not, so if we don’t spend time with Him we can not learn the virtue of love. Thank you Wayne Keep up the good work.

    • http://www.waynestiles.com/ Wayne Stiles

      Yes, loving God sounds so obvious we take it got granted and assume it’s occurring. But it’s very intentional. I have found He can’t be an afterthought.

      • Magdalena

        It sound obvious indeed Wayne but you know what. for me it is something that we have to work on every day just as we have to grow in our faith I believe we have to grow in love. It does not come out naturally at least not the kind of love that God instilled in us. Human so called love has allot of selfishness in it but God’s love is sacrificial. And sacrificial love only the Holy Spirit can help us with it. When I pray I always ask God to help me to increase in my love for Him, but I know that He always will love me more, but I think when I am home with Him may be it will be the same. I thank Him to be able to practice the small seed of love now. Magdalena

    • http://www.waynestiles.com/ Wayne Stiles

      I like your reminder that without love our actions are worthless. Super reminder; thank you.

  • Jokys05

    Remembering that GOD FIRST LOVED ME is what helps me remember that loving God is most important! Thanks for the timely encouragement brother!

    • http://www.waynestiles.com/ Wayne Stiles

      You are welcome, and thanks for the reminder that God first loving us is our motivation for our “first love” toward Him.


    I’ve always seen the apostle Paul as pre-eminently a man of action — always on the move, often being persecuted, constantly burdened by concern for the lost and for the churches he served, the men he mentored, etc. But I realized from this post that he must have been first and foremost a man of private devotion. How else could he have been so effective?

    BTW – what fuels my devotion to Him most is going to Mass as often as possible. There I hear His Word, sing His praises and commune with Him as I “participate in” His body and blood.

    • http://www.waynestiles.com/ Wayne Stiles

      That’s a tremendous insight about Paul’s devotion. I’d never put that together before. I’ve been thinking all morning about glimpses of Paul’s devotion as recorded in the Bible, but they seem scant in Acts. In his letters though, he talks about how often he prays for others. Also, I think of Peter and John going to the temple to pray in Acts 3-4. What tremendous models these guys were. We never outgrow the basics. Thanks again for the insight.

    • Magdalena

      I love Apostel Paul He is one of my Bible Heros. And he sure is a man of action you have that right JFKAR. Magdalena

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