Priorities and goals

Priorities are a common enough topic to be lectured/written/preached on. Certainly most of us could use some help keeping our priorities straight. Recently an opportunity arrived for me that threw into perspective my priorities.

Its a mud race. There are two actually. There is a 3 mile obstacle course/race in Sept. and then a 10 mile in Dec. People I know are planning on each, and it looks like fun. The first thing that comes to mind though is that I will have to train to prepare for them. Sure, I could make it through the 3 mile with little preparation (I think) but the 10 mile? I certainly need to devote time to getting myself in shape.

With the decision to do this race, I have shaped the next 6 months of my life. I have determined that this is a priority and in order to succeed at this race and cross the finish line I will have to prepare and work for it.

We create goals all the time. Sometimes opportunities present themselves and so we have a goal to complete it. Different things appeal to us differently. This race appeals to me and it may not to others. However, it was not long after considering this race that I realized the commitment I was looking at and wondering when I last committed so much to my spiritual growth, or to a spiritual goal.

Do we have spiritual goals? “Bodily exercise profiteth little, but godliness is profitable unto all things.” 1 Tim. 4:8 Yes, there is profit (a little) in exercise and we should take care of ourselves, but what is our goal? Where are my priorities? Do I have a priority of Godliness? Why not?

I start to tell myself that it is a harder thing to determine but it doesn’t have to be. Certainly it would be hard (impossible) to say I want to double my faith in 6 months. But I can easily say that I want to hand out 7 tracts each week, or that by the end of the year I want to read my Bible through twice, or any number of trackable goals that are spiritually minded. Maybe I should memorize the book of Hebrews, or write a 6 songs of praise. We can set goals that our spiritually minded. Why don’t we?

Are they not popular? I had a few different people with excitement in their voices inviting me and compelling me to join them on these races. Where is the excitement and energy about these other things? My friends would not have been dissuaded from the race if I had said “That doesn’t sound like any fun.” They already were going to do it no matter what I did, and so it should be with us as we set for ourselves goals that build us up in the faith. I should be excited about my goals. I should invite others to participate with me. But, if I’m alone, I should go on ahead because I know it will benefit me, and I know it will strengthen my faith and bring me closer to the Lord.

I want to set some goals. I’m not sure what they are yet, but I’m going to set some. I find that when I have a goal I strive to accomplish it. Who knows, many people who run short races end up running longer ones or a marathon. Some don’t. Some don’t like running and pick something else. Maybe you will memorize a short book and end up with the whole NT memorized. Maybe you will find another goal is better for you. Set spiritual goals for yourself. Pick something that is good and commendable and that will grow you. If you don’t know what to pick, ask your pastor. Ask someone close to you what your strengths and weaknesses are. What goal will you pick that will bring you closer to God?

A good blog post on priority in parenting

This is a well written concise post on some of the importance of training your children and protecting them. There is much discussion on sheltering kids and what is too much and what exposure they need but this is a good quick read on the extreme importance of training and protecting your kids.

http://eliciajade.blogspot.com/2012/05/train-first-send-second.html

Just do it!

At church Wednesday night our music pastor was finishing his series on Philemon. He got to the end and one of his points was “Just do it!” Too often we know the right thing and we struggle with “How can I do this? How can I forgive? How can I be kind? How can I treat them right? etc.” The answer is just do it; it was a good reminder, a convicting reminder.

It reminded me of a passage I had been studying for some time last semester. Luke 17:1-10

“Then said he unto the disciples, It is impossible but that offences will come: but woe unto him, through whom they come!It were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and he cast into the sea, than that he should offend one of these little ones.Take heed to yourselves: If thy brother trespass against thee, rebuke him; and if he repent, forgive him.And if he trespass against thee seven times in a day, and seven times in a day turn again to thee, saying, I repent; thou shalt forgive him.And the apostles said unto the Lord, Increase our faith.And the Lord said, If ye had faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye might say unto this sycamine tree, Be thou plucked up by the root, and be thou planted in the sea; and it should obey you.But which of you, having a servant plowing or feeding cattle, will say unto him by and by, when he is come from the field, Go and sit down to meat?And will not rather say unto him, Make ready wherewith I may sup, and gird thyself, and serve me, till I have eaten and drunken; and afterward thou shalt eat and drink?Doth he thank that servant because he did the things that were commanded him? I trow not.10 So likewise ye, when ye shall have done all those things which are commanded you, say, We are unprofitable servants: we have done that which was our duty to do.”

What had me stumped and what I was studying was the last few verses beginning in verse 7 when Jesus presents this scenario to them about this servant. What did it mean? What was the point? I wanted to separate it from the context at first, but the more I studied it the more I realized it was not a separate story but immediately applicable to what had proceeded.

Jesus had just told the disciples to forgive people more than was normally required within their culture. The response is that they ask for more faith. Why did this response from the disciples trigger from Jesus this story? At first I didn’t think it did. I separated the two, but it is one story.

Jesus tells the disciples this story about the servant who does all he is commanded and the master does not give him space to eat until he has first eaten. Then afterward the servant does not get thanked, but instead says he is unprofitable because he did his duty. It was only his duty. He worked all day in the field; he came in and prepared supper and served it to his master; finally he got to eat and rest and he has no thanks. We would be upset. We would say we certainly deserved to be thanked and probably be given the next day off. We would expect the master to tell us we can eat first, and then we can serve him. No, the servant, the disciples, and we are to say that we are unprofitable; we have done that which was our duty. Why would Christ tell them they are unprofitable when they ask for more faith?

Certainly there is nothing wrong with asking Christ for faith, or for more faith. Jesus regularly upbraided them with their unbelief. Others asked for help with their unbelief. Faith is something that you can have a great amount of or a small amount of so to increase our faith is something we should be striving to do. So, how does this request for more faith result in Jesus reminding them that they are unprofitable servants because they have done that which was their duty to do?

Because the proper response to Jesus telling them to forgive was for them to do it, not to ask for faith to do it. The disciples didn’t need more faith, they needed to just do it. We are commanded many things of God. We are told to obey and fear. We are told to love our neighbor. God doesn’t say try to get up the feeling to love your neighbor. He doesn’t say ask me for the ability to love your neighbor. He says do it. Forgive, and if you need to forgive seven times in a day, forgive. “Lord, give us faith to forgive.” No, that isn’t the right response. The response is that we are unprofitable and it is our duty.

We do not need more faith to do what has been commanded of us. Just do it. Just forgive people. Just love your neighbor. Just be kind to one another. Just lay aside weights and sins that beset you. Just run the race. Just fight the fight of faith. Just do it. Don’t stop to say, “Oh Lord, I can’t do this! Please give me faith. Give me love. Give me forgiveness.” Just do it. It is our duty. He “hath given” unto us all things that pertain to life and godliness. Past tense. It is ours. Don’t keep asking for Him to enable you to do something that He has given you the ability to do, commanded you to do, and is your duty to do. Just do it.

Just love God. Just do your Bible reading. Just pray. Just obey. Just submit to authority. Just speak in love and meekness. Just do it. The list goes on an on.

We are God’s servants. He does not need to give us a break when we come in from the field. He does not ask us to eat and relax before we go on to the next aspect of service. There is no break from the Christian life. We are unprofitable servants. We like to get it in our heads that we have served all day at church and so we don’t need to go to that other extra function. We don’t need to serve at that thing because we did the other. God “owes” us a break. “God doesn’t want us to come in from the field and work to get dinner around without refreshing ourselves first. He wouldn’t want me to prepare dinner without taking a break.” Yes, He does want that. In fact, that is our duty. We are unprofitable servants. Can and does God give a respite? Certainly. He gives His beloved rest. But let us not dare think we deserve it or that He must. Our duty is to do whatsoever is commanded of us understanding we are unprofitable servants.

Just do it.