(Living life beyond your circumstances)
READ: PHILIPPIANS CHAPTER 3
As we study in the book of Philippians, one thing continues to become evident – Paul knew what really mattered, he had his priorities in order. We’ve seen how Paul was committed to his Lord, his friends and his ministry, even at the expense of his own well being and finally his life. In this week’s lessons, we’re going to take a closer look at Paul’s priorities and how we can use his teaching to order our own lives.
Words to Remember-
“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. (Matthew 6:19-20)
I think failing to have an awareness of our priorities and lacking the ability to set our priorities have the potential to be the greatest hindrances to our joy. There can be many reasons we fail in setting our priorities. Let’s identify some of the most common reasons and see if we can find ways to overcome them.
Reason #1 “I’m too busy.”
Look at a piece of notebook paper. You will notice there are vertical lines down each side of the paper. As you know, the space to the outside of each of those lines are the margins. On that same sheet of paper, we are given top and bottom margins. In grammar school we were taught that when we write, we are to stay inside those margins. Have you ever wondered why? Let’s suppose you were reading a book and the author ignored the margins and wrote the words without any top, bottom or side margins. Suppose he writing completely covered the page, that there was not even any space between the lines. It would be very hard, if not impossible to read because there would be no white space, no place to rest your eyes.
Isn’t that what we tend do in our lives? We crowd as much as we can into each 24 hour day then wonder why we don’t get everything done. We look back at the uncompleted parts of our day and feel like we failed. We don’t leave ourselves any white space.
I will be honest with you, if you’re a wife and/or a mother, I don’t know how you do it. Between the house, the husband and the kids, where is there time for you? And on top of that, many of you have a job outside the home. And on top of that, some of you are, on some level, taking care of aging parents. And on top of that, there is your church work. And on top of that ……….. Are you tired yet? The women I’ve met through my years of ministry often tell me that there is just no time to be alone with the Lord. The only choice is to stay up late at night or get up extra early in the morning, and the fact is they’re just too tired. Sound familiar? It is no wonder when someone (like me) lectures them about how they just have to make more of an effort to have their quiet time, they want to smack us; come to think of it, I want to smack us too.
Reason #2 “I don’t know how.”
One reason we have such a hard time setting priorities is that we haven’t figured out how to separate the urgent from the important. Maybe you’ve never thought about there being a difference let alone how to know the difference. Believe me, I’ve had to learn the hard way and truth be known, I’m still learning.
So, together let’s take a look at the difference and see if we can figure out a way we might re-arrange our thinking so that we can find that balance we all want and need.
Miriam Webster defines urgent as follows:
2: urging insistently
The urgent typically has immediate and/or short term consequences.
We tend to believe that what is urgent is also important, “that ain’t necessarily so”. A ringing phone (or text alarm, or email alert) may seem urgent; the alarms telling us that we have a message have a demanding tone. If I were to ask you to look at your texts, social media messages, phone calls, emails etc., I would be willing to say that few, if any of them are important. Think about other situations in your day-to-day that demand your attention. The demands may be urgent, wanting immediate attention, but the need, not so important. And yet, where do we put these things on our “priority list”? When every person at the table has an I phone next to their plate, I can tell you where the priorities are. (Let me just throw this in for extra credit – do we respond to our technology the way we do because we feel these things are important or because they make us feel important?) Listen, I know it sounds like I’m judging but I’m not – sisters let me tell you, I’ve got a plank in my own eye.
Most often the important isn’t urgent and yet it should take a higher place on our priority list.
The important usually has both an immediate and long term effect on our lives.
For example, it’s important that we take care of our bodies – such as eating healthy and getting proper rest and exercise. When we don’t get enough sleep, we don’t have the energy we need, we get overly tired which makes us less able to fight off germs and more likely to get sick. As to the long term consequences, using the same example of taking care of our bodies, a poor diet and lack of exercise can lead to obesity and eventually to all kinds of diseases such as heart disease and diabetes. Of course, the immediate and long term consequences are positive when we make good choices. Learning to consider the consequences of our decisions is the beginning of getting our priorities right.
In case you’re still uncertain about how to set your priorities, Jesus has given us counsel on the subject.
Setting and managing priorities is a discipline that can be developed. Knowing how to identify what’s urgent and what’s important is half the battle. With some simple tools, a measure of self discipline and (if you’re one who needs it) a level of accountability, you can conquer this.
- The main thing. We’ve all heard it, “keep the main thing the main thing.” Remember, our objective is more Jesus, more joy – that’s the prize.
- To-do lists. Not only can a to-do list help you stay focused, it is an excellent way to enjoy a sense of accomplishment and it can be an accountability tool. I recommend you make a daily list but you may find a weekly to-do list works best for you. Whichever way you go, when you make your to-do list, make sure you list each item in order of importance.
- Perseverance. There is no such thing as failing, there are only detours. When those urgent things come along and get in the way of the important things, don’t allow yourself to be distracted and definitely don’t get discouraged. When you get off track, and you will because life happens, you just pick up and keep going. Yes, you’re accountable, but ultimately only to yourself. After all, this is about you, your white space and your joy. (Yes, it’s ok this time for you to make it about you).
Reason #3 “I’m not very organized”
Whether we’re talking about time, resources, or space, organization is key to setting and managing our priorities. Let me say up front, this is an area with which I struggle. It is here that I am not a very good “practicer of my preaching”. If you were to walk into my house, it might appear to be all neat and tidy but warning – if you open the closet doors, you do so at your own risk! About every other week I say to myself, “Sandra, you need to pull everything out of this closet and get it organized”. And then, I shut the door. With that confession in the rear-view mirror, let’s move on.
On occasions when I do stay focused on being organized, I find that I am much more productive. For one thing, organization makes for better time management. Think about it. Isn’t it more time efficient to handle something once than it is to pick it up- read it – move it – clean it, several times? And that’s not even considering having to find it! I’m just saying if our number 1 reason for not spending time with the Lord is that we don’t have time, could it be that this is one area from which we could gain some precious moments?
This is a different kind of lesson. I know I haven’t referred you to a lot of scripture; I want you to do that for yourself. As you read and study chapter 3, look beyond Paul’s words. Take time to put yourself in his place, to imagine what he might be thinking and feeling. Don’t just read what he’s writing, read what he is saying.
What I’ve shared with you this morning is what I’ve learned from my own experiences, and as I mentioned, am still learning. I wish I had all the answers but I don’t. But with continued study of God’s word, your own prayerful self examination, and these few pointers, just maybe you can have a little more white space on your page. So please, don’t give up, there is hope. We’re not there yet, but we press on.
– I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 3:14).
Read Philippians Chapter 3
- What is Paul’s encouragement? (verse 1)
- What are Paul’s warnings? (verses 2-3; 16-19)
- What are Paul’s priorities? (verses 7-11)
- What is Paul’s specific goal? (verse 14)
- What does Paul say he must do to reach his goal? (vss. 12-13; 15-17)
- What does Paul say is the reward? (vss. 20-21)
Finding your joy.
- Do you feel you have a better awareness between what is urgent and what is important?
Give one or more examples from your own life experience.
2. List 3 things you can do right now to put more white space in your life.
3. How do you see what you’ve learned from Philippians chapter 3 and the tips given in the lesson directly contributing to your joy?