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October 12, 2014, 5:34 AM

Laying The Groundwork for Growth and Change Part One


What are Your Priorities?

This is a photo of one of my finer moments a few years back; involving many I.V. antibiotics. A common infection that I had acquired through my kidney had spread, because of nervous system damage to my immune system, and dispersed through my body and blood system causing a potentially fatal condition. It ended up taking years of treatment because although most of it could be eliminated within a few weeks, some small remnants hid in places that antibiotics could not easily reach.

But, say, after a few weeks the doctor looked at my tests and said, “We got 80% of it. Let’s just stop treatment and move on. Things are better. And as a doctor, I have people that are sicker than you are now. Make an appointment for 6 months”

I would have been upset. I almost died. I wanted it all gone. If not, it would just come back, probably worse. It had impacted my life and become a priority to me. I needed it to be a priority to him, too!

He did make it a priority and still does to this day!  We have spent a lot of time and effort; years now, making sure it is contained, if not eliminated. My life will be spent on the couch, suffering, until I die, if I do not. It has to be one of my priorities, every day. It is always lurking, just under the surface. But, as long as I make dealing with it a priority, I can do many other things and enjoy life.

You could say this about cancer and a lot of other medical conditions. You could say this about marriage, raising children or even relating to the people God has placed in your life. For these things to be successful, they have to be a priority.

Your spiritual life is much the same. We all have sin lurking just under the surface. We have all had a “sinfection” flare up to the point where we had to devote extra time and effort to fix the problem. But, many times, we just work on it enough to make our lives tolerable again and then we walk away from it. God gives us, freely, the cures for them, but sometimes we do not make them a priority. There are then consequences. Sometimes these consequences do not emerge right away. But they will, eventually emerge.

 

True change is about changing priorities.  If you really want things to change, you have to change your priorities. Temporarily having a prayer life, or, connecting a few weeks of Bible study is similar to a small dose of antibiotics for a severe infection. We must make our relationships; with God and family and those people around us a top priority.

We put a tremendous amount of effort into material things. We put a tremendous amount of energy, sometimes, into how we appear to others through social media, the activities we participate in, the way we look, etc. But if our first priority is not God, we will, at some point, begin to experience a serious sinfection. Sometimes, we begin that vicious cycle where the same sin just keeps coming back.  We treat part of it and then we quit because we are “out of trouble,” so it returns, many times worse than before.

Changing priorities involves changing where we invest most of our effort. Serious Bible study and prayer on a daily basis must be a top priority. There is no substitute. You cannot have a relationship with God when you refuse to communicate with Him.

We all have those “must do’s.” We all like to take our technology time. We all want to be successful at what we do.  True change and growth occurs when we stop using God as window dressing to make us look religious or feel religious and start using Him as a filter through which we view everything else in life.

It doesn’t happen overnight. For most of us, it takes 18-25 years, if not longer, just to barely survive on our own in the world. Yet we think we are good Christians and expect to master the mysteries of the Living God in just an hour or two a week on a good week. Many people, who go to church on Wednesday and Sunday, have a lot of problems because of that very reason; the only real contact they have with God is on Wednesdays and Sundays. If my 13 year old daughter only came to stay with my wife and I for an hour or two twice a week and then just ran around the world on her own, it wouldn’t take long for her to run into serious trouble. And yet, as much more immature spiritual children, we want to just make contact with our  heavenly father in brief moments and wonder why our life is stressful at best or a wreck at worst and we just can’t seem to grow in our Christian life?

But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.                                                                                          Matthew 6:33

 
9  And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding,
10  so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God.
11  May you be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy,                                                                         
Colossians 1:9-11

 

 Christ is the perfect foundation that true change and growth is built upon. Your long term relationship with the Father through Christ is where the building process takes place. Sometimes it’s slow….and messy. It takes a lifetime. When we are moved out of our comfort zone, we naturally resist. But, from my experience, moving through life and growing from good as well as bad experiences isn’t near the mystery we make it out to be sometimes. Sure we don't know all of the "why's" all of the time. But, many times, we just do not make God the priority He needs to be. The time you spend with Him today may provide the direction for tomorrow. It may provide the direction for 6 months or even 6 years from now. Not spending that time with Him only opens us up for confusion, doubt or even a sinfection when that moment arrives.

 

Do you want real change or real growth? That is the first “must do.” How do you accomplish this? Your priorities may need to be examined. I can’t do everything I want to do. I can’t be everything to everyone that I want to be. When I try, it is a disaster. I have a priority list. I stick to it, for the most part. Otherwise, Everything gets done halfway, which lays the groundwork for problems, later on. I lay aside time according to those priorities and when I run out of time, I stop.

 

For example, when my wife and I committed to college ministry, one of the things we decided to do was to spend Friday night’s available to those people; to eat a meal, visit with them about their lives, how they are doing and then do a small Bible study. Very rarely do we cancel. Very rarely do I look at my smartphone when they are in our home. We don't mind if they can't make it every week. We don't mind if they use their phones while we visit. This is their time. We want them to know they are a priority to us. It doesn’t mean we are better Christians than anyone else. We are not. They are just a priority to us. And God has blessed us tremendously through them.

What are your priorities? Are they in the right order? Do you have too many priorities? Do the people close to you feel like a priority when you are with them? Is God your top priority? Maybe there are too many distractions in your life to devote the proper attention to your priorities. True change for you might involve changing priorities and eliminating some of the extras to make available the time needed to devote to your priorities.

My challenge to you this next week is to honestly track your time. Don’t be biased. We all deal with it. I'm doing it now myself. Go through a normal week. Sometimes, when you see it on paper, it will surprise you. It always does me. Look at what you pour your time into. Those are your priorities. Then see what your relationship with God looks like through that filter. If you want growth and change there is where the rubber meets the road.


“No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other….. Matthew 6:24

Blessings!


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