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What are your Priorities?

Your very salvation depends upon the priorities
you set in your life as a Christian.


Do you know how to set priorities? When several things need to be done, are you able to decide which ones should come first in order of importance?

Suppose you're sitting peacefully in your living room watching the news on television. Suddenly you notice that the room is filling with smoke. Your house is on fire!

What do you do first? Do you get down on your knees and ask God for His help in stopping the fire? Do you call the fire department? Do you dash through the other rooms of your house to see if some other member of your family is caught in the fire? Do you run outside to get the hose and try to put the fire out?

All of those things may be necessary, but what do you do first? That is the big question!

Let's take another example. One evening, you are in the middle of housecleaning. Your rooms are in disorder and neither you nor the other members of your family look presentable. The phone rings. It is your employer. He tells you that he will be over in a few minutes because he has something important to tell you.

What is the first thing you should do? Do you hurriedly put the house in order? Do you change your clothes and put on something more appropriate for the occasion? Do you check the kitchen to see if there is something you can offer your boss when he arrives?

Once again, all these things may be necessary, but what must you do first? It's a question of setting right priorities.

Priorities play a major role in our lives. We all have good intentions, at least most of the time. But what really counts is executing an intention at the appropriate moment — doing the right thing at the right time. As Solomon wrote, there's a time for everything under heaven (Eccl. 3:1-8, Revised Standard Version throughout). Growth results from learning to put first things first.


Right and wrong priorities

Remember the story of Martha and Mary, the two sisters Christ visited? Both sisters liked and respected Christ very much; both of them did what they thought was most important when He came to see them.

"Now as they went on their way, he [Christ] entered a village; and a woman named Martha received him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord's feet and listened to his teaching. But Martha was distracted with much serving" (Luke 10:38-40).

There is nothing wrong with "much serving," is there? All of us are called to serve — Christ Himself was the greatest servant of all. However, in this instance, priorities were at stake.

"Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone?" Martha asked Christ. "Tell her then to help me."

Christ answered: "Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things; one thing is needful [at this moment]. Mary has chosen the good portion, which shall not be taken away from her" (verses 40-42). Just then, the most important thing Mary and Martha could do was listen to Christ's teaching.

When Christ called His disciples, some of them hesitated. Others followed Him right away because they had their priorities straight. Simon Peter, for instance, "fell down at Jesus' knees, saying, 'Depart from me, for I am a sinful man'" (Luke 5:8).

Why did Peter say that? Because he and his fishermen friends had witnessed, a few moments before, an astonishing miracle Christ had performed (verses 4-7). Simon Peter and his companions had their priorities right. Upon hearing Christ tell them, "'Do not be afraid; henceforth you will be catching men.' . . . they left everything and followed him" (verses 10-11). No wonder James, John and Simon later became apostles!

However, not everyone reacted the way these three men did. Not everyone had the right sense of priorities. For instance, a man who had expressed a desire to follow Christ turned away from Him when he heard Him say, "Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man has nowhere to lay his head" (Luke 9:58).

Another man turned Christ's offer down, arguing that he first had to bury his father (verse 59). Now what's wrong with that? Nothing! But Christ set the man's priorities straight. He told him, "Leave the dead to bury their own dead; but as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God" (verse 60).

Yet another man, upon being called, told Christ, "I will follow you, Lord; but let me first say farewell to those at my home" (verse 61).

Again, there is nothing wrong with saying farewell to those dear to you. But much more was involved in this particular case. First, God didn't come first on this man's list of priorities. Second, you can almost detect a feeling of sorrow in his answer. He seemed to regret being called there and then and perhaps hoped his loved ones would convince him not to leave them for the sake of the Gospel! That's why Christ told him, "No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God" (verse 62).


Priorities and your calling

Do you remember the circumstances of your calling? How did you first react? Did you perhaps want to bury someone or something before deciding to really follow Christ? Did you hesitate to turn away from the world, finding it hard to choose between those of your household and Christ? What was your attitude then— and what is it now?

Unfortunately, some in the Church are still burying their dead fathers! Some are still looking back and trying to pursue their personal ambitions before deciding to follow Christ!

Time is running short. Rearrange your priorities before it's too late!

If you put first things first, God will always take care of your needs. This doesn't mean you should neglect your part and stop taking care of your household. It simply means that you are to put first things first — be filled with God and His Work. You must endeavor to please Him with your attitude and growth.

As Christ said, "But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things [all that you need] shall be yours as well" (Matt. 6:33). Do you believe this promise of God? If so, live by it!

Your baptism was symbolic of your decision to put God first in your life, no matter what the circumstances. Do you still feel the same way today? You accepted the condition to love God more than anyone or anything else, "with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind" (Matt. 22:37). This is the greatest commandment of all. Does it have first priority in your life? And after that, does the second great commandment — loving your neighbor as yourself — have all priority in your life (verses 38-39)?

As you can see, even love has priorities! First, you must love God, and then love your neighbor. This doesn't mean you should neglect loving your neighbor because you love God first. It's just a matter of priority. Actually, if you really love God — if you obey His commandments and do His will — you automatically love your neighbor, because you cannot love God without loving your neighbor (I John 4:20). Remember not to neglect anything on your list of priorities.


God came first in Abraham's life

If you had a child whom you loved with all your being — if he was your only child, and you had eagerly waited and prayed for years for him — would you be willing to give him up?

Abraham was put to such a test. Humanly speaking, it didn't make much sense. Why did clod give Abraham such a seemingly cruel order, saying, "Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering" (Gen. 22:2).

Abraham must have spent a sleepless night struggling with his thoughts, wondering why God demanded of him such a sacrifice. He loved God, for sure. But he also loved his son Isaac very much. He had to choose between his love toward God and his love toward his son. The choice was all the more difficult since he did not understand its purpose.

Nevertheless, whatever his thoughts and concern, he set his priorities right. He "rose early in the morning, saddled his ass, and took two of his young men with him, and his son Isaac . . . and went to the place of which God had told him" (verse 3).

Would you have done this? Would you have obeyed God to the point of being willing to sacrifice your only son, whom you loved? Abraham passed the test.

How about you? Does God come first in your life, before anyone else, even members of your family? If you cannot put God first in your life today, how can you put Him first tomorrow, when things will get tougher?


David's priorities

Kings David and Saul had totally different attitudes. David's attitude made him a man after God's own heart, whereas Saul's caused him to be rejected. Have you ever considered that one of David's most important qualities, far outweighing his mistakes, was his sense of priorities?

Saul was jealous of David and had gathered 3,000 men out of all of Israel to seek David and kill him. Strangely enough, the circumstances changed, offering David a unique chance to capture and kill Saul when the latter was resting in a cave. What an exceptional opportunity! After all, the two men were at war with each other — Saul had proved himself to be merciless.

"And the men of David said to him, 'Here is the day of which the Lord said to you, "Behold, I will give your enemy into your hand, and you shall do to him as it shall seem good to you" ' " (I Sam. 24:4).

It would have been only natural, humanly, for David to kill Saul and justify himself by saying that God had promised to make his enemies fall into his hands. But David didn't reason that way. He "arose and stealthily cut off the skirt of Saul's robe. And afterward David's heart smote him, because he had cut off Saul's skirt" (verses 4-5).

Why? Why should David's heart smite him? He didn't commit any crime! No, but on his list of priorities obedience to God came first. "He said to his men, 'The Lord forbid that I should do this thing to my lord, the Lord's anointed, to put forth my hand against him, seeing he is the Lord's anointed' " (verse 6).

There you are! Even though Saul wanted to kill him, David refused to do any injury to the king. Respecting God's anointed came before fighting for his own life. David's tremendous attitude is an example to all of us today. Is there any wonder why he will be a king in the soon-coming Kingdom of God? As for Saul, he carnally sought his own selfish interests, going after power and personal exaltation. That's why God rejected him.