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At the beginning of each year I tend to think more about priorities than at any other time. Starting off “right” just seems like the proper thing to do. But, as the year wears on and obligations come up, my priorities tend to become a little fuzzy. I am apt to forget my true calling and focus on lesser things that have somehow invaded my life. I know that priorities are a great guideline for me, but I sometimes leave them behind when making a seemingly insignificant decision. So, I’ve decided to re-evaluate my thinking, put the fences back up and allow the priorities that God has given me to guide my steps daily.
What should our priorities look like, anyway?
Our first priority should always be to seek the Lord. Matthew 6:33 says, “But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added to you.” Jesus was very direct. God is first. He is not co-priority. He is the priority. Everything revolves around Him.
Our God shouldn’t just be first, He should be everything. Exodus 20:3 says, “You shall have no other gods before Me.” Nothing else is more important than God…ever. Deuteronomy 6:5 says that we are to love the Lord with ALL of our heart, soul, mind and strength. Every other priority always centers on our love for God and His work in our lives. We are always, in every area, to be about our Father’s business which is to go and make disciples (Matthew 28:19-20).
Priority one is obvious, but easier said than done. We can only make Him front and center when we are in full surrender to His Holy Spirit. This means that every minute of every day we are aware of His presence in us, listening for His leading and submitting to that still small voice He has placed inside of us.
Other priorities are sometimes not as clear-cut. I personally believe that after God the next priority should be marriage (if you are married). Matthew 4b-6 says, “He who created them from the beginning created them male and female, and said, ‘For this cause a man shall leave his father and mother, and cleave to his wife; and the two shall become one flesh.’ Consequently they are no longer two, but one flesh….” That’s some pretty tight quarters. One flesh means my husband and I are constantly communicating with each other. Just as my brain, heart, respiratory system, et cetera within my own physical body is in constant communication with each other to function as a whole, so must a relationship with our spouse be in constant communication to function as a whole. We are working as one because we are one.
Ephesians 5 goes on to tell us that wives are under the authority of the husband and the husband is to love his wife as his own flesh. That’s a clear case for marriage being a major priority.
The third priority for me personally is my children. Many Scriptures talk about the teaching and training of our children. Deuteronomy 6 is a great example, but the one that really stood out to me this week was out of First Timothy. In chapter 3 verse 5, it says, “(but if a man does not know how to manage his own household, how will he take care of the church of God?)” This is talking about the qualifications for overseers and deacons, but it is a great checkpoint for me as well, especially as a pastor’s wife. If the needs of my family members are not being met (spiritually, emotionally and physically) why would I think that another’s needs are more important?
God has given me these children for a few, very short years. What could be more important than their well-being? To drive the point even further, First Timothy 5:8 says, “But if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith, and is worse than an unbeliever.” OUCH!
For me, the fourth priority used to be the local Body of Christ. (In this season, God has shifted my priorities slightly, so always be open to God’s leading.) Here are some verses to consider if you believe the local Body needs to be a high priority in your life, (or if you think it’s no big deal to leave the Church out). Hebrews 10: 24-25 says, “…let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another;…” First Thessalonians 5:11 says, “Therefore encourage one another, and build up one another…” Galatians 5:13 says through love to serve one another.
Church is important to our Lord. After all, He established it and is coming back for His Bride, His Church. So, it needs to be high on all of our lists of priorities.
Work could be your next priority. I could go on and on, but I think you get the idea. Priorities are guidelines for us, but why are they important? Why am I choosing to place these seemingly severe restrictions on myself? Why does it matter if I decide which things are more important than others?
The answer for me is simple…stress relief. When I remember my priorities, my decisions are often already made for me. Does volunteering at the food bank interfere with my husband? Guess what? No more food bank. Would teaching a Sunday School class interfere with work? No problem, my priority is church. Are my kids sick and need me to stay home from my obligations at church? The decision is already made. I make the call to get a replacement and serve the Lord at home that day.
So many worries are alleviated because we have sought the Lord in advance and he has shown us the priorities that He wants placed in our lives. We should not set the priorities that we want. They must be His priorities over our lives. I Kings 22:5 says, “Moreover, Jehoshaphat said to the king of Israel, “Please inquire first for the word of the LORD.” This needs to be us. Before we set any standard in our life, we must inquire of the Lord. Then, Matthew 6:33 is true in us and not just a verse that sounds good.
At times, during a particularly unique season, we may have to adjust our priorities. For example, when a child has to have surgery or, a loved one is terminally ill. During those times, seek the Lord’s answer and communicate with those who need to know that during this season, this is what the Lord is requiring.
Most of the time though, the issues rage when an ordinary occurrence pops up and we are focused on the wrong thing. James 4:1-2 says that quarrels are caused with our lusts, our passions fighting among us. When I want to be at work, but my children need me at an event, that’s where the “rubber meets the road”. If we are truly depending on the Lord in us though and He has clearly told us what our priorities are to be, the decision has already been made. The decision is hard unless we have been with God and know that our priorities are the guidelines He has given, not our feelings.
I really encourage you to get with God this weekend and seek His face for your priorities. There are many specifics that were not addressed like extended family, neighbors, community involvement, et cetera. That’s why I encourage you to get alone with God and listen UNTIL you hear His voice. Ask Him to be specific so that you can rest fully in Him knowing that many decisions have already been made. His yoke is easy and His burden is light. May we quit heaping loads on ourselves that are not ours to carry.