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Pastor Scott Richards, First United Methodist Church, Post

Priorities

Published April 26, 2012 @ midnight

These days when you receive an unexpected knock on the door it is most likely someone asking you to support a particular candidate in an election.  I do not remember a campaign season with more door-to-door calls than this one has had.  The most hotly contested race appears to be for state representative.  When each one comes to the door I want to know their philosophy of government and what their priorities are.  This is not a difficult question and they seem to have a practiced and standard answer.  However, I have a series of specific questions that I ask to find out if their priorities and my priorities are any kind of a relative match. 

Realizing the correct priorities is one of the most important keys to success in any endeavor.  I have attended a number of weekends serving on teams for a spiritual renewal retreat called “Walk to Emmaus.”  While listening to other’s talks on these retreats I have often heard that that our god can be easily distinguished by; what we spend our time on, what we spend our money on, what we think about, and where we place our hope.  That saying is talking about priorities.  All of us have priorities.  All of us have a god.  The key to living a great life is to have the right priority.

Our priority is not necessarily what we tell others our priorities are.  When I was in clinical pastoral education they often talked about the difference between proclaimed belief and possessed belief.  Many people claim to have faith in God.  Few actually possess faith in God.  If you believe in God then God will be your priority.  But if you worship God when you don’t have something else to do God is not your priority and God is not where your faith is.  If God exists and Jesus really did die for our sins and really is risen from the dead and if we truly believe that in Jesus Christ we have eternal life serving the Lord will always be our top priority.  If serving the Lord isn’t what we spend our time on, our money on, or our thought life on then our possessed belief has nothing to do with what we proclaim.  And the reason our proclamation doesn’t fit our living is because we don’t actually possess our proclaimed faith in God.

My experience is that those people who have made serving the Lord a priority are a rather rare breed.  Also, I have found that those who do make serving the Lord a priority live happier lives, more fulfilling lives, and more meaningful lives.  It is worthwhile making serving the Lord the top priority in our lives.  But how can this be accomplished?

I know the pressures most of us are under.  We have jobs, families, and responsibilities.  How can we make God a priority when those people and things have to be a priority if we are going to make it?  After all, isn’t serving the children the most important thing that we as adults do?  And the answer, surprisingly enough, is “no.”  In fact, when we make our children and their activities the priority in our lives we are doing them a disservice.  We are condemning them to a life of setting poor priorities. 

Not long ago I heard someone say that the difference between energy and power is that energy does little by itself.  But when energy is applied in a particular direction it accomplishes work.  We know this from watching medical shows.  When they show someone who is having a heart attack they show paramedics shocking them.  The problem they are imagining is that the heart is in fibrillation which is to say that the heart muscle is moving but it’s just sitting there shaking in a spasm.  It is expending lots of energy but it isn’t able to do any work pumping blood.  The shock actually stops the heart with the hope that it will start back up without the spasms.  That’s why the machine that is doing the shocking is called a “defibrillator.”  (Paramedics can also “pace” a heart that is totally stopped using the electrical impulse as well.) 

Many people, who learned to live frenetic lives, are living lives expending lots of energy but without much to show for it.  They have poor priorities that center around themselves and they have long since gone into fibrillation.  What we need to do is stop and reorder our priorities.  When we make our children’s activities the top priority in our lives we are teaching our children to live their lives in fibrillation.

Jesus teaches us all we need to know about priorities when He says, “Seek first the kingdom of God and its righteousness and all these things will be added to you.”  When you make serving the Lord your top priority your life will gain direction.  When you teach your children to serve the Lord first, their lives will gain direction.  And then, when energy is applied in that one direction you will find that your life and the lives of your children will gain power and accomplish great things. 

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