Finding Your Priorities
Posted on 02/13/2011 by Rev. Benjamin R. Faust D.D.
TRANSCRIPT: (does not contain everything found in the audio above)
*** listen to the audio for introduction and prayer ***
Public Prayer Requests:
Some of my Christian family have distanced themselves from my gay brother. Please pray that they will see their mistake and that they will ask the Lord and my brother for forgiveness.
The hurt that has been caused throughout our families has been immense. Jesus free them from their hateful prejudice. Amen.
Please turn around and click one of the offering plates by the doors, and give as the Lord leads.
WHAT A MIGHTY GOD
What a mighty God we serve
what a mighty God we serve
Angels bow before Him
heaven and earth adore Him
What a mighty God we serve!
HE IS THE KING OF KINGS
He is the King of Kings
He is the Lord of Lords
His name is Jesus, Jesus,
O, He is the King!
His name is Jesus, Jesus
sad hearts we've no more
He can heal the broken hearted
open wide the prison door
And He's able to deliver evermore!
JESUS I ADORE YOU
Father, I adore you
Lay my life before you
How I love you
*** listen to the audio for the message introduction ***
We would like to start off by thanking all of you for your generous donations the past couple of weeks to help cover the Second Life fees for this island. You can be sure that whether we pray for or financially support a ministry, we share in the reward for the lives that are touched as a result.
Today, let's spend the next few minutes together examining a very important part of our lives; in fact, this is something that steers our lives, determines how we spend our time, and affects everyone around us in ways we can't even imagine.
And the title of today's message is, "Finding Your Priorities."
Now, the reason I didn't title this "Setting Your Priorities" or something of that nature is two-fold.
First of all, the priorities we have in our heads are usually not our true priorities. For example, we might know that our priorities should be in an order such as God, Spouse, Family, Church, Ministry, and Occupation. But many people who have these intellectual priorities have very different REAL priorities.
Proverbs 4:23 tells us this: "Keep watch over your heart with all diligence, for out of it flow the springs of life." It doesn't say that the springs of life flow out of our heads, but out of our hearts. So while having a Biblical list of priorities in our heads is a very good place to start, it doesn't really matter what's in our heads if it doesn't get into our hearts.
An example would be the person who says they love God, and yet they are living a disobedient lifestyle. Jesus said if we love him, we'll obey him. So that love comes from the head's interpretation of "feelings" in the heart, but the springs of their life expose a lack of true love.
Another example might be people who hate war and push for world peace, but will tear you to shreds with their mouths if you suggest that sometimes war is the only right thing to do.
They think with their heads that they are peace makers, and they interpret their feelings about certain things as being feelings of peace, but they are constantly at war with the world full of warmongers, capitolists, corporations, and all the other groups of people upon whom they have waged war in their hearts.
Yes, what we think we believe, what we think we value, and what we think our priorities are, often are far from the truth. And the only way we can see where we truly stand is by watching what we do.
A few weeks ago, I woke up and got in the shower as usual. But unlike usual, I started seeing my daily actions. I realized my priorities weren't nearly as "in line" as I had thought they were.
We tend to look at our intentions, don't we? "Well, I intend to seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness; I intend to pray and read the Bible and have times of devotion at the beginning and end of every day; I intend to hate everything God hates and love only what he loves;"
But I saw that many days I would wake up late and rush to work; I would do things and have attitudes that God didn't like; I would complain about this or that, instead of giving thanks in and for all things.
And then I realized that my priorities weren't what I thought they were. I had one set of priorities in my head, and a completely different set of priorities in my heart.
To see what's really in your heart, just take a completely objective look at what you do every day.
And this isn't as easy as you might think. Completely objective? If you think you're completely objective about your life, just consider the average parent, who thinks their child is innocent even if they just took a chain saw to a preschool full of kids. And then consider that you might not be that much more objective about your own actions and intentions.
But I encourage you, and I challenge you if need be, to write down what you do every day. Do this for a week. Write down what you actually do, what you actually think, every hour of every day. And then, one week from today, review your journal.
Unless I'm much more carnal and unspiritual than you are, you will probably have painted a very humbling portrait of yourself. This is what is REALLY in your heart. And it's not what you think in your head.
Paul said it like this, in Romans 7:19-24 (NKJV)
19 For the good that I will to do, I do not do; but the evil I will not to do, that I practice.
20 Now if I do what I will not to do, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me.
21 I find then a law, that evil is present with me, the one who wills to do good.
22 For I delight in the law of God according to the inward man.
23 But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members.
24 O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?
Paul was encountering the vast chasm between his head and his heart. He knew in his head what he should do, and he wanted to do what was right. But what he WANTED to do and what he actually did were two very different things.
His heart, just like your heart and mine, had corruption in it. It still had that old nature of sin and death. The evidence wasn't in what he knew to do, or even in what he wanted to do, but in what he actually did.
And THAT is how you can know what's really in your heart, by objectively watching and keeping record of what you do.
And that is how you can find your true priorities. Is seeking first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness really at the top of your list of priorities like the Bible says it should be? If so, your actions will bear it out. If not, you'll get pulled away again and again by other things. And the things that pull you away the most, are the things that are at the top of your TRUE list of priorities.
So how can we raise the important things in the priorities of our heart? How can we make the things we know in our head are important, really important in our hearts so that our actions testify that our priorities are really in the right place after all?
Well, one approach we can take is the approach of presentation. And what I mean by that is this...
People could go to a restaurant with peeling paint on the wall and an old juke box scratching out yesterday's music, and eat the same food as is served in another restaurant with the finest architecture, live classy music, and the most sophisticated waitors; One pays $30 bucks for a party of two, and the other pays $300 dollars, not including wine and tip.
What makes the food worth so much more in one place than it is in the other? It is the presentation.
How you present something, how you frame something, defines that thing's value.
How do you frame your time of prayer? Is it something you SHOULD do, something you really need to do if you're ever going to get your priorities in order? Or is it the sweetest part of your day, something you look forward to, something that you can hardly wait to get all the other unimportant things out of the way so you can spend that sweet hour in prayer?
You may have seen the painting with the three men tasting vinegar. They each have a very different expression on their faces. The first has a sour look, and second wears a bitter expression, and the third is smiling.
Of course this is used to contrast different Chinese teachings; but the concept applies to everything else in life. The three Chinese teachers were looking at the same thing -- life. One saw life as sour, one as bitter, and the other as something beautiful.
For everything in your life to take its proper priority, you need to frame the most important things as most important indeed. Not as something you HAVE to do, or as something you should want to do; but as something beautiful, wonderful; as something you can't get to quickly enough.
If you've ever been in love, you know exactly what I mean. Nothing else mattered. You would have been willing to give up everything else to be with that person. You thought about him or her first thing in the morning, all though the day, at night as you drifted off to sleep, and then you dreamed about them.
Your heart was fully engaged in propelling that person to the top of your priorities. And even the most important thing in your life up 'til then, took second place.
Maybe that's what Jesus was talking about in Revelation chapter two, when he warned the church to return to their first love; that love to which everything else in life took the back seat. Nothing else mattered, at least not compared to their love for God.
And what happened? Did God change? No, their mental setting of God changed. And he started sinking on their heart's list of priorities.
Consider what it is that catches your affections. How does that feel? And how can you surround the most important things in that feeling? How can you "re-frame" their portraits so those things catch your eye first thing in the morning, all throughout the day, in the evening as you drift off to sleep, and sprinkles all throughout your dreams?
It's going to take some cooperation from your conscious mind. You're going to have to take some time and effort, day after day, to make it happen. But just as it's possible for anyone to change their taste so that something they previously didn't like to eat becomes their favorite food, so those things that you once had to struggle to do at all become the things you look forward to the most.
Now this obviously isn't a "how to do" message, but rather "how to find out how to do."
I think sometimes if we're given a clear path to where we want to go, we'll go through the steps ritualisticaly, only to find out that, for some reason, our soul didn't get to the same destination as our mind.
Sometimes we must walk with our hearts. Thinking about how to move your legs and your feet and how to swing your arms isn't the best way to get somewhere, but rather to look at where your going and just do whatever you need to do to get there.
And if you re-frame those things you know you should do, until you perceive them as you would perceive spending time with someone with whom you are deeply in love, then your actions are going to automatically follow.
Just maybe we could approach the priorities list in our head a little bit differently. Maybe we could see it as a beauty list. A framing list. A list of how we should perceive the things in our lives. And then we can focus on changing how we look at things.
It's been said, maybe way over-said, that where there's a will, there's a way. Just focus on the end result, and the details will take care of themselves.
Well, that same principle holds true for this, too. You get the idea. You know how you look at the things that get all your effort and attention. And you know deep down that you can see other things in your life differently, through those same eyes that see only beauty. That see only desire. That see nothing else besides that one thing. And your priorities will change. And then, your life will change.
"Seek first the kingdom of God." Seek first. What does it mean to seek first? Well, to find the answer to that question, we should narrow it down a little: what does it mean to seek?
Does it mean to practice some sort of ritual that's associated with seeking? Or does it mean to desire something so much that you find yourself looking for it everywhere, and giving up other less important things to do so?
You've found your priorities, or at least you will have before this coming week is over. Then comes the rearranging of love. Of desire. Of mental framing, or the perceptions of your heart.
And we know that God is completely on our side here, so you have all the support you could ever need. After all, it's not God's will for you to keep failing, to never be able to move forward, to keep repeating the same old ways over and over again. So ask for his help, and then thank him for it, and believe that he has already pointed you in the right direction, and he has already given you the power to see through brand new eyes; and it is already done.
In closing, let's take a look at one way we can start changing our priorities. And that is with daily times of worship. Find your way into the presence of God. For many, that is by singing from your heart to the Lord. If you are stirred deep within, and if you even start crying; if everything else fades away and becomes unimportant in that moment, then you've found that secret place with God. And let me tell you, that will start changing your priorities like nothing else.
You see, all those things that should be high priorities, those things that glorify God, all those things are acts of worship. And when you experience that sweet, breath-taking, passionate encounter with God, re-frame all those other priorities in that, for they too are acts of worship, acts of love, and just like your time of worship, doing those things can bring you in to the glorious presence of God.
That's just one example, but I think it's a very good one, and that is something we should be doing every day anyway. If we start our day in the presence of God and spread that Godly passion into everything else, our life will take on new meaning, and the priorities of our heart will start to change.
And as you consider the various things that should be higher priorities for you, attach that feeling of being in love, of a majestic beauty that takes your breath away, of a day full of wonder; frame that thing in those -- see it through those eyes. And your life not only will start to change, but at that moment, your life will have changed already.
Let's go ahead and close today's service. This altar is open, and if you want to spend some time in prayer and worship, you're invited to get out of your seat and come gather at the front.
You are dismissed whenever you need to go, and if you can stay, you're invited to hang out with us in the Fellowship Room to your left after this time at the altar.
*** listen to audio for closing and prayer ***