Reach Out: Priorities

Reach Out: Priorities

This week, we’re continuing our message series on reaching out. In this series, we’re learning some tips on how we can be more effective at seeking and saving the lost just like Jesus did.

So far, we have learned about how Jesus reached out to people where they were and how He did so in a relevant way. We also learned about an unbelievable invitation that is available to everyone to be carried to King Jesus’ table where all of our sin, shame, and brokenness are covered. We were challenged not to become too busy for Jesus.

This week, we’re going to dive a bit further into this issue. After all, life today is hectic and there are so many things that we are responsible to accomplish in a day. Beyond our routine responsibilities, there are the countless troubles that we encounter in life. Cars break down, water lines leak, sickness creeps in, there are so many things that come at us unexpectedly.

How can we possibly juggle all of these life issues and then also be expected to reach out and help meet the needs of others? How can we possibly take care of our own responsibilities and also serve Jesus and His church? Well, looking at the life of Jesus and His teachings, we find that the key to all of this comes down to one word: priorities.

Now if you turn in your Bible to Matthew chapter 6 and look down to verse 25, you’ll probably find a divider there by means of either a larger space or a heading along the lines of “Do not worry.” However, what word does verse 25 begin with? In every translation of the scriptures, you’ll find the word, “therefore.” As Dave has taught us, when you find the word, “therefore”, you need to see what the therefore is there for. In this case, we’re going to back up just a single verse and start in 24.

Matthew 6:24-34
24 “No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.

Now let’s all be honest with each other. The #1 way that I’ve found to have people serve is money. It’s amazing how quickly our schedules can rearrange when the motive is some extra cash. Now money isn’t evil, it is amoral, there’s nothing wrong with it. Even Jesus had a ministry bookkeeper and had to juggle finances. Money is amoral, but becomes good or evil depending on what we do with it. Jesus taught that it is MORE blessed to give than to receive. The choice is ours. If you back up further in this chapter, Jesus taught that we either store up treasures for ourselves here on the earth, or up in Heaven. This choice of serving God or money is what the therefore is there for.

25 “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? 26 Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? 27 Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?

28 “And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. 29 Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. 30 If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? 31 So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

What Jesus teaches here is priorities. He acknowledged our many needs, but reminded us that all these things will be given to us as we put Him first. This becomes not an issue of how much time we have in a day or what our circumstances and needs may be, but rather an issue of priority. Our priorities can be understood from this simple object lesson.

You see, we all have 24 hours in a day. This jar is a day in our lives. These objects represent the things that we desire to get done in a day.

These large rocks represent the things that Jesus calls us to do like spend time with Him in prayer, in His word, serving His church and serving others, tithing, etc.

These smaller rocks represent the things that we are solely responsible for in our lives. This includes things like working to provide for our needs, paying our bills, raising kids, household chores, routine maintenance, etc.

These pebbles represent the things that we desire to do in our lives. These include hobbies, time enjoying life with friends and family, sports, vacations, all of the extras in life.

This sand represents our hopes and dreams. These include future desires like a new house or car, learning a new trade, starting a new career, owning your own business, etc.

This water represents the unknowns in life. It’s clear because these are all of the things that you never see coming. These include serious illnesses or injuries, the loss of a job, the tragic loss of our belongings or of a loved one, etc.

These are things that all of us share in common. We all have 24 hours in a day and we all need to find a way to fit these things in our lives. However, the average person lives life reacting to what happens to them like a ball in a pinball machine. They get shoved around by life and always feel that there is never quite enough time in a day. This naturally happens when we don’t decide what our priorities are in instead live reactively.

Interestingly enough, which thing is it that we never seem to find time for? Jesus! We feel that if we try to fit in time for God, that we’ll simply shatter and break!

If, however, we live as Jesus taught us and we put His kingdom and His righteousness first, Jesus said that all these other things would be given to us as well. He said that each day would still have troubles, but that we would be able to handle all that life throws at us if we simply are wise with our priorities.

Putting God’s Kingdom first isn’t really as challenging and stretching as we might initially think. After all, we can’t possibly meet every need that we encounter, but we can wake up each day asking, “What’s one thing that I can do to bless someone else today?” The apostle Paul reminded us:

Philippians 2:3-5
3 Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, 4 not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. 5 In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus (taking on the very nature of a servant)

What needs to change in our lives isn’t so much our daily routines, but rather, the mindset and emphasis of our daily routines. It is us choosing to take the focus and emphasis off of ourselves and onto those around us. It is us choosing our priorities. After all, Jesus said that every day has enough troubles of its own to try and jam into a day. Choosing our focus and emphasis is what defines our priorities, however.

Think about this simple example. How much would a routine task like grocery shopping change if we changed our priority in order to put God’s Kingdom and righteousness first? What would happen if while we are going and taking care of our own needs, we also prioritized looking to meet the needs of others?

This could radically change, especially for families with young kids! Perhaps our kids would follow our lead and be transformed from whiny, self-seeking distractions while shopping to becoming patient and selfless missionaries. Instead of whining because they aren’t getting what they want, they would instead pick up that box that a lady just dropped or help find an item that someone is searching for or help put their groceries into their car or push back their cart.

If they are trained to have their eyes on the needs of others and not their own desires, then they’ll live more content and joyful lives as would we. Of course, we have to be ones who set the example and train them to do such things. Perhaps a simple act like leaving that quarter in your cart in order to bless the next Aldi customer or handing a dollar to the person in front of us nervously digging for enough change to pay their bill.

These acts are all so simple. Most of them don’t require any extra time from us or perhaps only a few extra seconds. However, they can be some of the most powerful and life-transforming acts in a world that is ever-darkening and selfish. These may seem like simple and insignificant acts, but to Jesus, these types of acts are deciding factors for us between Heaven and Hell! Sure, this sounds threatening and severe, but it is coming from His own words.

Remember that Jesus said to see first His Kingdom and His righteousness, right? Well, what does Jesus define as His righteousness? After all, it is such a churchy word that brings to mind so many different things for different people. This, however, is what Jesus defined as being His righteousness from His own mouth!

Matthew 25:31-46
31 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. 32 All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.

34 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

37 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

41 “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42 For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’

44 “They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’

45 “He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’

46 “Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”

From this moment on, let us seek first God’s Kingdom and His righteousness. Let us keep the priorities in our lives correct so that we can fit everything required of us into a day and then some. Let us be opportunity seekers who listen to the voice of the Holy Spirit as He leads us into small ways to serve the needs of those around us during our daily routines. Let us become missionaries into the workplaces, schools, communities, businesses, and friendships that God has placed us in. From now on, let’s live with the mindset of Jesus first.