Sometimes we just need to turn the world off and spend time with Jesus. He is, after all, our first priority and the answer to everything.
Our world addicted to busy. We live constantly on the go, flying here and flying there to accomplish a self-imposed to-do list. In the process, unfortunately, we put attending sports games over church attendance. We place vacation spending above tithing. We spend our time listening to the news rather than reading our Bibles. We give more attention to our latest hobby than serving in our church and community. We forego our prayer time to spend more time at the office. Even house work and parenting (my personal challenge!) can take the place of spending time with Jesus.
While “doing things” and “making money” can all produce good results, when put in the wrong order of life’s priorities, it can lead to putting Jesus second . . . or very last. This grieves the heart of God as He has spent all His time and energy on us.
One of the most well-known examples of “too busy” is the story of Mary and Martha found in Luke 10:38-42:
Now it happened as they went that He entered a certain village; and a certain woman named Martha welcomed Him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, who also sat at Jesus’ feet and heard His word. But Martha was distracted with much serving, and she approached Him and said, “Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Therefore tell her to help me.” And Jesus answered and said to her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled about many things. But one thing is needed, and Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken away from her.”
Hospitality is a godly character trait. We are all called to serve others in many ways. But Martha suffered from something our culture knows very well: over-working while leaving out what’s most important. Jesus, however, stressed that all her scurrying about wasn’t the greatest priority, as much of a good deed serving was. It was time with Him that held the most value. Martha didn’t understand that the “good part” of having Jesus in her home wasn’t what she could do for Him, but what she could do with Him.
Another example of misplaced priorities is found in Luke 9:59-62:
Then He said to another, “Follow Me.” But he said, “Lord, let me first go and bury my father.” Jesus said to him, “Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and preach the kingdom of God.” And another also said, “Lord, I will follow You, but let me first go and bid them farewell who are at my house.” But Jesus said to him, “No one, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.”
Again, Jesus is not opposed to honoring our deceased family. This potential disciple, however, wanted to fulfill his obligations before following Jesus. He hesitated, or “looked back.” His priority was a good deed, not a relationship. He desired to put something first before Jesus.
Nothing these two people were doing was wrong. Their error was that they were putting everything but Jesus first. They were more concerned with the temporary needs of the present to see and act on what was the highest priority.
An example of putting possessions first is found in Matthew 19:16-22:
Now behold, one came and said to Him, “Good Teacher, what good thing shall I do that I may have eternal life?” So He said to him, “Why do you call Me good? No one is good but One, that is, God. But if you want to enter into life, keep the commandments.” He said to Him, “Which ones?” Jesus said, “‘You shall not murder,’ ‘You shall not commit adultery,’ ‘You shall not steal,’ ‘You shall not bear false witness,’ ‘Honor your father and your mother,’ and, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ ” The young man said to Him, “All these things I have kept from my youth. What do I still lack?” Jesus said to him, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.” But when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.
Once again, having wealth and many possessions is not wrong. One of God’s desires is that we prosper for the sake of the Gospel (3 John 2, 2 Corinthians 9:8). However, the heart of this man’s priorities was greed. He loved his possessions more than he loved Jesus. Those “things” possessed him more than he possessed them.
When we look at the priority choices in these stories, the repetitive motivation for their error was a focus on “me.” It seemed like Martha’s priority was focused on others, when it was focused what she thought was most important at the time. The man wishing to bury his father still had his focus on his own personal concerns. The rich young ruler was obviously focused on pleasuring himself with money.
Sometimes we prioritize based on worry because we don’t think we’ll succeed, or selfishness because we want our way first. Even worry is an indication that our priority is in the situation, not in a Person. The focus is still on ourselves because we’re concerned about what will happen to us if something doesn’t go as it should. We may think we’ve got the proper order of priorities, when the first Priority we have has been choked out by the “cares of life”, “deceitfulness of riches,” and the “lust for other things” (Mark 4:15-19).
To be continued…
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My husband is a history buff. He could be perfectly happy to spend all day watching documentaries and reading about every kind of historical event imaginable. If you sit down and discuss periods of history with him, you are sure to get an earful of facts. I have never been able to fathom how a person’s mind could retain so much detail. While I am doing good to remember a person’s birthday and last name, Michael can rattle of specific dates and historical figures like he was there and knew the people personally. He’s an electrician, but I often think he missed his calling as historian.
While my husband claims that the Madrids date back to 1603 in Spain, one branch of my family dates back to the reign of Queen Elizabeth of England in the 1500s. A very distant relative, the knight Sir Richard Lowther, held Queen Mary of Scotland in custody when she claimed England belonged to Scotland. There is a castle in England under renovation that bears his last name. Perhaps I’ll one day be able to visit Lowther Castle and imagine myself during the reign of noble kings and queens.
Though history dating back into to the era of lords, knights, and noblemen is interesting and inspiring, our heritage as Christians goes back even further. As we read Hebrews 11, we have reason to stand in awe of our lineage of faith. These patriarchs did not fight simply for the freedom of their homeland, but for a greater cause – the cause of Christ.
Over and over again, we see examples of people who obeyed God, even when they could not see the end result with their physical eyes. Abel, despite his brother’s rebellion, gave his best sacrifice. Known for pleasing a God he could not see, Enoch was taken from this earth without dying. Noah built an ark having never seen rain before. Wealthy Abraham packed his bags and moved his household without knowing where he was going.
The list goes on to include many familiar characters. Hebrews 11:33 – 34 says they did mighty acts and miracles as God was with them. Some include defeating kingdoms, stopping mouths of lions, quenching fire, and raising people from the dead.
But then as we read through verse 38, we see another set of people whom God honored. These people, faced with persecution for their faith, did not accept deliverance because they wanted to “obtain a greater resurrection” (v. 35). They went through everything from verbal mocking to being sawn in half for what they believed. They wandered in the wilderness, poor and destitute, living in caves and dens.
If this isn’t inspiring enough, verse 39 says that they “did not receive the promise.” What? How could they, after going through such hardship, not receive the full reward of what God had promised? The answer is in verse 40: “God having provided something better for us, that they should not be made perfect apart from us.”
This is what true faith looks like – standing for something that we cannot see. These heroes of the faith had their sights set on the promise of God, a redemption that they would not see in their lifetime. Jesus would not die on the cross until thousands of years later, yet they believed in His righteous cause. And though they did not receive redemption through the blood of Jesus at that time, that new covenant will be enjoyed by us from now on.
In a culture filled with freedoms and conveniences, it’s often easy to forget where we came from. We forget about our forefathers and what they did to give us what we have now. But beyond our national heritage, we even forget about our spiritual forefathers and mothers who set such an honorable example of endurance and patience, faith and dedication – at all costs. Greater than a knight in a queen’s court, or a European countryman fighting for his freedom, we have a lineage based on the eternal. Like castle ruins, what we see around us will soon decay and disappear. But our spiritual patriarchs and all they believed in will last forever. It should be enough to inspire us to rise up and be like them. We may never have to go to war, face the fierce jaw of a lion, or feel the heat of a fiery furnace; but we can continue that eternal lineage by giving all we have for our King.
“Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith who, for the joy that was set before Him, endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” Hebrews 12:1,2
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