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Change- What are your priorities? Mathew 6

                               

I have to deal with having an IV port sometimes. Everyone has burdens they have to carry…this is one of mine. Common infections that I frequently acquire through my kidneys, spread because of nervous system damage to my immune system and sometimes disperse through my body and blood system causing a potentially serious blood infection. Sometimes it takes weeks of treatment to defeat the infection flareup. I am fortunate, because I can get this port and administer the IV myself daily, under medical supervision, which allows me to keep up a fairly normal routine outside of the hospital and continue to live a fairly normal life and serve.

But let’s say, after a few days the doctor looked at my tests and said, “We got most of it. Let’s just stop the treatment and move on. You look better. You don’t feel so bad. And as a doctor, I have people that are sicker than you are now. You’ll probably be fine. Make an appointment later if you need to.”

I would be upset. I was seriously ill. I want it ALL gone. If not, it would just come back, probably worse. It has impacted my life and in doing so has become a priority.

They never said that though.  My medical team have spent a lot of time and effort; years now, making sure the problem stays contained, if not eliminated. I will spend most of my time on the couch, suffering until I die, if both me and they 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 live 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 are humans. We have weaknesses. We all have certain sin lurking just under the surface. We have all had a “sin-fection” flare up to the point where we should have spent 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 means to deal with 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 want things to change, you have to change 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 our priorities. Many times, it’s material things. We put a tremendous amount of energy into how we appear to others. We will make sure we have our multimedia entertainment. We might be overrun with events and other things. 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. At some point, we have to reflect on our priorities and possibly do some rearranging.

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 and grow as a Christian 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 more just to learn to survive on our own in the world. So how can we think we are good Christians and expect to understand the mysteries of the Living God in just an hour or two service 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 to 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. It is the same with us. When we build ourselves and our family’s relationship with God as our first priority it then helps us to properly set up priorities for the rest of our life. It should be like our work and shelter.

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. When we are moved out of our comfort zone, we naturally resist. But, through 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. Many times, we just do not want to 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, things start getting 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 do a 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 and how they were going and to do a small Bible study. Very rarely did we cancel. Very rarely did we look at our smartphones when they were in our home. That was their time. We made them a priority. It didn’t mean we were better Christians than anyone else. We are not. It was just a priority. And God blessed us tremendously during our time doing it.

 

But in exchange, we had to rearrange some of what we thought was a priority. Giving up a Friday night is not easy. Cutting through the practices and events and relaxation or even some of what we consider work never is. We tend to be busy people; many times, centered around our wants and needs as a first priority. When those are challenged, we want to push back. But just like a cancer, not making God a priority in our life always has dire consequences that only become obvious when it becomes a much more serious problem.

 

My challenge to you this next week is to honestly track your time. Don’t be biased. 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 that is where the rubber meets the road. It can take some time to reprioritize your life, but the peace and security it provides is always worth it.


“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

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