Honor God First
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Dave and Ann WilsonDave and Ann Wilson are hosts of FamilyLife Today®, FamilyLife’s nationally-syndicated radio program. Dave and Ann have been married for more than 38 years and have spent the last 33 teaching and mentoring couples and parents across the country. They have been featured speakers at FamilyLife’s Weekend to Remember® marriage getaway since 1993 and have also hosted their own marriage conferences across the country. Cofounders of Kensington Church—a national, multicampus churc...more
What do your family values look like? Dave and Ann Wilson talk about honoring God first, so that we might then honor others.
Honor God First
Dave: So every family has priorities—like even like a vibe or an atmosphere—
Ann: —in their home.
Dave: —in their home; yes—everyone. It’s interesting to think: “Okay, what is the vibe or what matters to the Wilson home?”
Ann: —like: “What are their values?”
Dave: Yes; “What do we live for?”
Welcome to FamilyLife Today, where we want to help you pursue the relationships that matter most. I’m Ann Wilson.
Dave: And I’m Dave Wilson, and you can find us at FamilyLifeToday.com or on our FamilyLife® app.
Ann: This is FamilyLife Today!
Dave: Do you remember when we asked our kids?
Ann: I remember when I asked them.
Dave: By the way, this is a great way to find out, if you have kids that are middle school or teenagers,—
Ann: Even elementary school kids could answer this; like a first grader could answer this.
Dave: Yes, you asked them.
Ann: Yes, and this was pretty common for me. I would ask our kids/I just was always curious: “Ooh, I wonder what they think about this topic”; or the day that I asked them, I thought, “Now, I want my friends in my accountability group to ask their kids the same question.” Here is the question: “What do you think is important to the Wilson family? What are our values? What do you feel like, ‘This is what we live for’?”
Dave: What were we thinking they were going to say?
Ann: I wanted them to say, “Jesus!” I wanted them to say, “Oh, man, we’re focused on the lost; we want to disciple people,”—that’s what I’m thinking—“Oh, yes; they are going to say it.”
Dave: The scary thing is they answered it pretty quickly; it wasn’t even like they had to think.
Ann: So quickly, like horribly; and here is the answer: “Sports.”
Dave: “Sports.” [Laughter]
Ann: That is embarrassing; I’m blaming you for that.
Dave: I was just going to say, “That’s your fault. I don’t know where they got that idea.”
Ann: Oh, yes!
Dave: So why do you think they said that, actually?
Ann: I mean, we have three sons—they were all in sports—and I think, time-wise, that was taking most of our time; we’d go from one event to the other event.
But after they [answered] that question, I remember being in bed that night, thinking, “We need to change that; [Laughter] we need to change that.” I don’t want to force an answer upon them, but our kids usually have a vibe of like: “This is who we are,” and “This is what we are about.”
Dave: Obviously, some of that was their dad was the chaplain for an NFL football team—a really good NFL football team—[Laughter]—the Detroit Lions. I think some of that was the fact that I was around the sports world a lot; and maybe,—
Ann: And you love it; you’re playing sports all the time.
Dave: I was going to say, “Maybe, I played a little too much sports.” Then, like you said, they were involved from peewee football, and baseball, and basketball all the way up through high school.
Ann: They said some other things, too; they said, “Well, not just sports.” They had some good answers as well. I think one of the things—they did talk about Jesus—and they talked about having fun; that was a priority.
Dave: I think it’s a great question for every family to ask:—
Dave: —“What do you think we’re about?”—even more importantly—“What do we want to be about?
Dave: “What do we want to be about? What are we hoping to create in terms of…” You’re an atmosphere mom; you try to create a culture.
Ann: We, as moms, create that whether we know it or not; we create an atmosphere in our home. The question is: “What is it?”
Dave: What did you want?
Ann: I wanted Jesus to be a part of everything that we did—and not in a legalistic way—but in a relationship way, where we are about Him: we talk about Him, and we want people to know Him. God’s Word: I think that was really important to us.
Most of that is caught rather than taught.
Dave: Yes; so one of the things we thought we would talk about today is a word that, when we were first married, we heard a teacher named Gary Smalley, who wrote a book called The Blessing; remember that?
Dave: I mean, back in the ‘80s, he wrote a book with John Trent, called The Blessing, where he looked at: “What was the blessing that a Hebrew father would give to his firstborn?” He walked through the elements of that. There was term in that book that we’ve never forgotten called “honor.” So we wanted honor: to honor God, to honor each other in our family, and even to honor our neighbors.
We were hoping that’s what our kids would say: “This family is about honoring God and honoring others,”—which is the most important commandment. When Jesus was asked: “Rabbi, of all the commandments which is the most important?” He literally quoted Deuteronomy 6; and He said, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and mind;”—and He added—“and love your neighbor as yourself.” That was sort of our bar; it’s like: “Man, if our home could be a home that honored God, and honored each other, and honored others, that would be an aroma; that would be a mission worth hitting.”
Ann: And I’m just going to say, “In our culture today, that’s something that is missing it feels like. We misunderstand one another. I feel like we have a hard time hearing others; let alone honoring them.” So let’s talk about this: “How can we do it?”
Dave: Well, I’m going to read you from Smalley’s book, The Blessing, of how he described honor; and then let’s talk about how we applied that or tried to apply that in our own home.
The first idea contained in the Hebrew word for “bless” is that of bowing the knee. Bowing before someone is a graphic picture of valuing that person.
I thought this was just insightful. He said:
Most Americans have never actually seen one person bow before another; but in Biblical times, and in many cultures today, you bow before someone of great value: a king, a queen, a prophet, someone considered important and of high worth. When you bless someone, you are really saying, “I choose to treat you as someone incredibly valuable in my life.” Of course, we say, “Bless the Lord.” We are saying that, as well: “Lord, You are incredibly valuable; You are worthy of our bowing our knee before You.”
Along with this first picture comes a second biblical word picture. The word for “bless” and a similar word for “honor” also carries the idea of adding weight or value to someone. Literally, it’s a picture of adding coins to a scale.
Smalley ends by saying this:
Let’s put these two pictures together now to gain a sharper focus on what it means to bless or honor someone. You are basically saying, “You are of such great value to me, I choose to add to your life.”
Man, when you look at that sort of definition of honor—I’ll never forget; and, again, this was almost 40 years ago when we heard this teaching—it’s this idea of honor is to bow the knee. Again, in our culture, we don’t walk around, bowing the knee; but it is to attach high value to another person.
We actually do that in our culture. We call a judge “the Honorable Judge.” It’s not something that we attach to somebody, because we love them or even like them; it’s a position, and so they get honor. It’s this sense of—obviously, we don’t literally walk around bending the knee/bowing—but think about this. I’ll never forget Smalley saying this; it’s like: “When you honor someone—when you bend the knee, when you attach value to somebody—it’s almost like your jaw drops; it’s like, ‘Ah! I’m in the presence of somebody extremely valuable.’ That’s just a normal reaction: your jaw drops, and you sort of have this ‘Ah!’ sense”; right?
Ann: Yes, my picture is of a wedding day—because of our wedding—but also seeing our three sons get married. They each had that posture, and also their expression on their face of the jaw drop, like, “You are amazing.” You could just see the love, and honor, and blessing oozing out of them. But then, you get married. [Laughter] And you start to see your spouse’s flaws, and you see the weaknesses. Sometimes, it’s hard to bend the knee and to honor someone.
Dave: Well, it’s interesting: when you propose, you usually bend the knee.
Dave: You get down on one knee. It would be interesting to think about a marriage being/attaching high value every day, which we don’t often do.
I’ll never forget—that I was at our church—and I had just finished a sermon. We had some Detroit Lion players come that day, because we were talking about what we would do in our Bible study. After the sermon, this guy walks up to me; and as he is walking up to me, he literally gasped, right as he got up to me, like, “Ah!” I was like, “Wow; this dude thinks like I’m really important.” I looked at him like, “Why are you acting like, ‘Ah!’?”
Ann: You’re saying this didn’t happen at church often?
Dave: Oh, never happened. [Laughter] But I felt like, “Wow; he sees me.”
He gets close, and it’s like, “Ahh!” And then I turn around, and standing behind me is/one of our football players was standing behind me. He wasn’t showing honor to me; he was—literally, his jaw dropped; he gasped—because he considers an NFL player highly valuable. We do that in our culture; we value certain positions and different people/celebrities.
But anyway, the whole idea of: “What would it look like in our homes if we honored God, our family members, and our neighbor the same way?” So that was one of the things we tried to do in our home. Let’s talk about this: “How did we honor God in our home? What would you say we did?”
Ann: I think the most important thing was that we have always—and still do—we honor Him with the sacrifice of our lives. I’m thinking of Romans 12:1-2. That we really have laid our lives on the altar of Him, to say, “God, I give You everything.” I think our kids have heard us say it; I think they’ve heard us pray it. That’s the first thing.
I would even ask our listeners: “Have you done that? Have you surrendered everything in your life to Him?”
Dave: Yes; I mean, the first priority in life is: “Honor God,”—before even your spouse, before your kids, before anything in your life—it’s like: “He is number one.” That’s what going vertical, in Vertical Marriage, is about/is the priority of setting God as the One who gets our highest honor.
Ann: I’m not sure I could honor you that well if I did not honor God first, because He gives me the ability to see you through His eyes.
Dave: Yes, we’ve talked about it many times here. Deuteronomy 6 is a picture of what honor looks like; he says: “Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts.” He is writing that to parents. I think as parents—and as a husband and wife—that’s where we start; it’s like: “We can’t pass this on to our kids if we don’t first possess it.”
I know, in our home—starting the first day we got married—we set a routine, which we were doing even before we got married, of saying, “The first thing I’m going to do every day is sit with God. I’m going to dig into His Word and start there.”
Dave: Talk about that practice in your own life.
Ann: Well, I was thinking about when we first got married; and we both had these great times with God. And then we had kids; I was thinking, “I don’t even know how to do this anymore.” I do remember thinking, “I’m just going to have to figure out what this looks like with little kids all around me.”
Our kids got up pretty early. I’m not a morning person, so it was hard for me to get up in the morning. But when they were little, what I would end up doing was like, “Hey, guys, I’m going to have my time with Jesus now.” I would have my Bible out; and sometimes, I would even read it out loud. I gave them little notebooks themselves they could scribble in or play.
I didn’t get the time that I wanted/that I used to get—that I have now—but I think it’s good for our kids to see that that is a regular rhythm in our lives/that time with God is important. Now, I think all my kids know; and they’ve seen my Bible on the table, because I go through it every year. Man, that is my sustenance; it’s my food; it’s what gets me through every day: is God’s Word.
Dave: I know, when I came to Christ in college, that was the first thing my discipler/my mentor taught me was daily time in the Word. I remember him saying to me—who, really, I didn’t grow up much in the church—but he says, “A man of God is a man of God’s Word.” It’s been a daily discipline of my life to spend time in His Word.
Another part for me that helps me honor God is worship music—
Ann: Me too.
Dave: —either listening to it or—you [Ann] know me; I’m going to grab my guitar and sing it. I remember, during COVID, I was up in our little studio. I grabbed my guitar, and I’m singing. And you come running up the stairs, like, “Oh, is this what we’re doing right now?!”
Ann: “Are we worshipping? Let’s do this!”
Dave: I mean, there is nobody else in the house; I was sort of having my private little time with God. [Laughter] You know, you come running in there; and we start singing.
Again, it’s that foundation that I think, as husbands and wives—and often, as moms and dads—we push that aside, not because we don’t want to do it, but our life gets so hectic. It’s like it’s [worship time] written in pencil on our calendar rather than pen; the kids or the schedules can become so urgent that we miss the most important.
Ann: You know, what I’ve been a little bit convicted of lately—is that it tells you on your phone—it tells me on my phone how much screen time I’ve had for the week. Is anyone else depressed by that number when they see it? If you haven’t checked it, you need to check it; because it will say: “Seven hours.” I’m thinking, “When have I spent seven hours with God? Just in a day, what would that look like?”
Dave: Mine only says four hours; yours says seven hours?
Ann: You are 6:20. [Laughter]
Dave: Well, here is the thing—I read the Bible, often, on YouVersion on my phone—so all of those hours are: I’m in the Word.
Ann: Oh, no!
Dave: That’s what I’m doing. No; I wish it was; I wish it was.
Ann: But you do—do that—and I think, today, we have some really easy tools to make it easier to listen to the Word. Even if you are driving, you can listen to the Word in your car.
Dave: Yes; you know, we’ve talked about this before; but when our oldest son, CJ, was born, I started that Friday fast to pray all day and fast from food on Fridays for the boys, and their wives, and [our] grandkids—even that routine—as a way to say, “Every week, I honor God first. I bend the knee to say, ‘You, God, are the most valuable person and relationship in my whole life.’”
I think, I would say to a dad listening right now: “That is the way to lead and walk with God.” It’s got to show up on your calendar.
Ann: There is one more thing that you do that I really like. You have always been really good at memorizing Scripture; I think you started doing it in college—so did I—I just don’t remember it the way you do. I remember our boys always saying, “Dad knows so much Scripture,” because you had it memorized. I could tell that they thought that was amazing. I used to say, “Oh, yes; he knows so much.” They were kind of impressed by that; but I love that you memorize that. I did, too; but you could memorize it way quicker than I could. I think that’s important to have God’s Word on our hearts.
Dave: I’ve often felt like—and I’ve even asked NFL players—“What would happen if you didn’t know the playbook?” Every guy looks at me, like: “I’m cut; I’m cut that day. If I walked into a meeting, or I walked into a season, and I didn’t know a play call/I didn’t know what my responsibility was, because I hadn’t studied my book,”—they just look at you like—“This is what every NFL player”—any athlete in any sport has to know—“you have to know the playbook, or you can’t be in the game. You won’t be on this team anymore.”
I thought, “Man, if we are going to honor God with our lives, and we don’t know His Word, it’s greater than a playbook; it’s more than a playbook. It is His Word that reveals who He is, who we are, and what He has called us to do.” Memorizing that is an extension of: “I am going to honor Him first and then live that out.” It’s one thing to be hearers of the Word and another to be doers.
I’ve shared on here before—but remember the story of when one of [our] sons was asked about his faith—what I had done to stoke that in him—like: “Hey, what did your dad do to create that fire that we see in you?” Long story short—I don’t need to go into the details—but hearing him say, “The only thing I remember my dad doing is he lived it.” When I was thinking he would remember Bible studies or trips we took, all he did was say, “I watched him be a man of God.” I thought, “That’s what our kids are looking for; they are watching us 24/7.”
Again, it’s not a legalistic thing to say, “I’m going to get in the Word every morning because [reluctantly] I have to.” It’s because [eagerness] I have to/I want to. If I have to get up early, before the kids are up, at 4 am—I’m kidding; maybe, 5 am—[Laughter]—I’m going to get up early. I’m going to do whatever it takes to make sure my connection with God is saying, “You are the most valuable person/relationship in my life.”
Ann: Let me just add a quick little footnote to this. I’ve had a lot of women ask me: “What can I do to get my husband to be more spiritually hungry?” or “…spend time in the Word?” or “…disciple our children?” I can’t tell you how often I have women coming up and asking me those questions. I can tell you it doesn’t work; it doesn’t work when you compare your husband to someone else.
Dave: Oh, you never did that.
Ann: I did it all the time. [Laughter] Or when you slide a book over to them—
Dave: Oh, you never did that. [Laughter]
Ann: I’m telling you all the things not to do, because I did them. [Laughter]
I think for you to pray. Let his walk be his walk; but model—you’re not modeling for him to do it, because you are doing it as a form of manipulation—but just love Jesus; talk to Him about it. He hears every prayer that you are praying.
Dave: Your walk with God inspired me.
Dave: Your critique [Laughter]—and putting a book by the toilet; because you knew I’d sit there and read it—
Ann: —because you didn’t.
Dave: —never worked; it didn’t inspire at all.
But man, when I would walk in the kitchen and see you on the deck, on your knees with your hands up, praising God; when I’d walk through and see you outlining, again, in your one-year Bible, it just made me go—
Ann: Does that mean I can read the Bible out loud to you when I want?
Dave: Oh, you do it every time we get in the car. [Laughter] You did it yesterday when we were driving here.
Ann: I did it this morning.
Dave: Yes, this morning; that’s when it was! She’s going to read her one-year Bible out loud; you love to do that.
But I mean, I would just say to the wives listening: “That is motivating to us, as men, to watch your walk with God—not in a condemning way, but in an inspiring way—inspires us.”
Ann: How would you encourage men? Do you think that is important?
Dave: I know, for me and every man I know, we want to do better in this area; but the bottom line is I need His power; I need His presence; I need His peace. The only way you get that is to meet with Him—honor Him first; bend the knee first to God—and that will create an atmosphere of honor in your home. It starts with mom and dad. For me, it starts with me—and if it is not happening in me, good luck that it is going to flow into the family—but if it is happening in me, there is a great chance that it is going to flow and create an environment and a home of honor.
What would it be like, if the neighbor kids came over to our home—because they couldn’t even explain why—they just felt honored; they felt valuable; they felt seen? That’s what honor does.
Ann: I think it’s where our homes become a magnet to everyone who walks in: that they feel loved; they feel seen; they feel heard; and they feel honored.
Bob: I’m thinking that, maybe, some of us need to post in our home Romans 12:10, which says, “Outdo one another in showing honor.” I mean, how would our homes be different if that was the goal if, as parents and as siblings, we and our children were working to outdo one another in showing honor to each other? It’s such a powerful concept that Dave and Ann Wilson have been talking about today.
Dave mentioned a book called The Blessing: Giving the Gift of Unconditional Love and Acceptance. It’s a book we’ve got in our FamilyLife Today Resource Center. You might want to consider this as a book to read together—as a family or as moms and dads—to think about how you can bless your children and how honor can be more a part of your family dynamic. Go to FamilyLifeToday.com for more information on the book, The Blessing. You can order it from us online at FamilyLifeToday.com, or call to order at 1-800-FL-TODAY; that’s 1-800-358-6329; 1-800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word, “TODAY.”
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Now, tomorrow, Dave and Ann Wilson are going to talk about how honor in a home is a lot like a thermostat. It really sets the emotional temperature of our homes. They’ll continue the conversation about honor tomorrow; I hope you can be with us for that.
On behalf of our hosts, Dave and Ann Wilson, I’m Bob Lepine. We will see you next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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