Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Prioritizing the Important Things

It has been a long time since I have written anything for my blog.  Life is busy and at points quite overwhelming.  Lately I have been looking at my life trying to decide what needs to give.  It is becoming increasingly obvious that if some activities are not cut out of my life any giving that may happen will involve my sanity!!

God has purpose for us.  Our first purpose is to get to know Him.  God wants a relationship with His creation.  There is debate over whether He truly needs a relationship with us or not.  A debate I do not wish to get in at this time.  Whether He needs it or not, the fact is He desires for us to know Him and not just to know of Him but to really know Him.  The kind of relationship He wants with us is something akin to a good parent/child relationship.  He wants us to know Him and in that knowing to know that only He offers salvation, help in living and eternal life.

After we come to know Him He gives us the privilege to tell others about the kind of relationship He offers.  The most important thing, aside from knowing God, is to tell others that they can know God as well.  Nothing else is as important.  That isn't to say there are no other important things in life.  Our culture tells us that if one thing is the most important we can assume that nothing else is important, but this is complete wrong thinking.

It is important to provide for oneself and family.  A person must work to provide a roof, clothing and food.  No work makes provision rather difficult.  So one's work is important, but it is not the most important thing.  Unfortunately what our culture says about important things tends to reek havoc on our understanding and emotions.  Work is important and as a result it sometimes becomes the most important thing without us even realizing it.

It happens to everyone.  It doesn't necessarily have to be work though.  For me it definitely is, and in part this is due to the nature of my work.  My work is ministry.  My work is the most important thing!!  Right?! Yet when I step back and look at my work I realize that a lot of my work doesn't involve me doing the most important thing.

What is my work exactly?  Actually, my work is equipping teenagers to go out and tell others of the relationship God offers.  My "work" is helping teens learn how to do the most important thing!!  How much of my time is actually spent in doing this (and that is adding in the prep time)?  I have found that what I spend most of my time doing is not what I have been called to do.  So the fact of the matter is, I have somehow fooled myself into thinking that I am doing the most important thing when in reality I am not.  To top it off, a majority of my time in "work" is not spent doing the work I am supposed to be doing!!!  Wow!! I am messed up!!

Then comes the other important things.  I am supposed to be a loving, supportive husband to my wife.  I am supposed to be a loving, encouraging, trainer to my children.  So I carve out time in my schedule so that I may do these important things only to fail at doing them because I am too overwhelmed with doing the most important thing and doing "work."  Why?  Because another important thing that I fail to do is rest!!!  I'm too busy trying to do all the other important things!!  Is this getting confusing?  It should be!!

It should be confusing.  In fact, I think a majority of people feel the way I do.  It doesn't matter what vocation you are in.  Christians are conflicted and divided when it comes to what is important.  I am setting out to simplify my life, and in doing so I am trying to make the priorities the priorities.  I've already given a list of "important things."  My relationship with God comes first.  Here is where I am going to diverge.  I think all the other things I listed are equally important, and this includes sharing the Gospel.  Sharing the good news is not the "second most important thing."  How can I say this?  I say this because I understand that if I am not taking care of these other important things then my witness is really nothing.

So this is the way I am starting to see things.  I've created this little diagram to help illustrate the prioritizing of important things.

As can be seen from this diagram.  The most important thing is one's relationship with God.  Time has to be carved out of the day to ensure that this "most important thing" remains the priority for the Christian.  This doesn't mean that the other important things don't get done.  It means that that time with God is primary in the life of the Christian.

As you can see the second "important thing" really encompasses three other important things.  Why?  I think many Christians are conflicted because they view sharing the good news as being priority number two with everything else underneath it, but taking a deeper look at Jesus' commission to us reveals that Jesus didn't have this in mind.  What is normally translated as "Therefore go and make disciples" should properly be translated "Therefore as you go, make disciples."  The implication is "As you live your life understand that disciple making is an ever occurring process."  A very important Old Testament passage backs this up.  In Deuteronomy 6:4ff we find what is known as the Shema.  It says "Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.  Love the Lord your God will all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.  These commandments that I give you today are to upon your heartsImpress them on your children.  Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.  Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads.  Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates."  Basically, whatever you do be constantly aware of what God has spoken.  In the same way we should understand our call to tell the world about Christ.  We are to make disciples and this means doing within our family, within our work environment and even within our rest (to a certain extent). 

A little side note about rest.  I am seeing that rest is very important.  There was a reason why God commanded His people to rest on the sabbath.  Our bodies need rest.  Our minds need rest.  Our emotions need rest.  WE NEED REST!!!  Without rest we are sabotage the rest of our lives.  It is very important that we set aside time to rest.  The very least that should be done is one day a week.  The cool thing is, even in rest we can tell others about Jesus.

Notice that I put ministry as a third priority.  Some people will disagree with me in doing so, but let me reiterate myself.  Just because something is not the most important or the top priority doesn't mean that it isn't important at all!!!  Ministry is very important.  In fact, I can say that ministry is a must for the Christian, but ministry will never be effective if we are not sharing the Good news with others throughout the daily routine of our lives.  In fact I am going to put a spin on the definition of ministry.  Ministry comes from the word minister which means to serve.  When one is "in the ministry" they are in essence in service of some kind.  We use the word ministry in reference to a lot of different things, but I am going to say this.  For the average Christian who is not in "vocational ministry" ministry is simply serving the church.  Serving the church is important.  Everyone should be serving the church in some way, but the level of service is dependent on how much time a person is putting into the two top priorities.

Let me wrap this up.  Knowing God is our top priority, but this does not negate other important things.  Our family, our work and our rest are very important things that need to be given their due consideration.  They are in essence equal.  One should never come before the other.  With this goes the knowledge that sharing our faith is also a priority.  Fortunately we can share our faith while taking care of our family, working and resting.  Another important thing is ministry, the serving of others within the body of Christ.  It is third on the priority list but it is still important.  Every person should be serving their church in some way.  The amount of time given to the first two priorities dictate how much time is given to the church.  Nonetheless, there is no excuse for not serving the church in some way even if it is a small way.

The three priorities need to be given their due consideration.  If we are not spending time with God then we need to rearrange our schedules where daily time with God is never sacrificed.  This may involve the sacrificing of other things, but never sacrifice the other two priorities.  If we are not spending enough time with our families (spouse and children) then we need to sacrifice something that is not a priority.  If we are not accomplishing our work the way we should be then sacrifices of non-priority things have to be made.  If we are not getting at least one day a week of rest then non-priority things have got to be sacrificed in order to get that rest.  If we are not serving our church even in the smallest way then we need to sacrifice...you get the picture, and just as a side note, sacrifice is one of the ways we worship God.  So when you sacrifice the non-priority things in order to make the important things important you are worshiping God.

1 comment:

Tammy said...

Well said Brian!