RESET: Resetting Your Relationships
RESET: Resetting Your Priorities
RESET: More of God
Do you feel rested? Overwhelmed? Do you struggle to keep your priorities straight? In the second week of our Reset series, David Leventhal teaches through Matthew 6:25-33, showing us that, as followers of Jesus, our one-priority should be seeking the Kingdom of God. If we do so, everything else will fall into place.
Good morning! How are we doing? We are jumping back into the second week of our Reset series. Last week, which was the first week, Bruce led us in learning about resetting our perspective on God, and that's where you should absolutely start when you think about, "If I want to begin to reset my perspective on life, I should start with looking at my perspective on God." Bruce did a great job leading us last week.
Now, as we roll into the second week, it's appropriate that as we think about resetting our view of God, the next thing we ought to consider is how we reset our perspective on priorities. So, that's what we're going to be talking about this morning. Really, the new year is a great time to consider this.
If you're like me, you're constantly being bombarded early in January with all sorts of people who have great ideas about how they think we should spend our time: a new gym membership, a new meal prep plan, some sort of a new financial plan, some sort of a new Bible-reading plan, and on and on and on.
People are telling me, "Your problem, Lev, is not that you're not doing stuff; you're just doing the wrong things. If you will do the things we think you should do, your life will settle into a rhythm of peace and order and clarity." The reality is what the world wants us to do is to add more and more to our plates in hopes that it would numb us from the reality of a really hard world.
I bet as we start the second week of this Reset series, there are some in the room who are coming into this place or checking us out online who are weary and tired and who feel like their plate is plenty full enough, and perhaps too full, but I don't think it's just individually us who are feeling that way. I think, if you looked at the last week our country has had, you would be right to say it looks like our country has our priorities, collectively, out of whack.
You watched perhaps, like I did, the news this week and saw something on the TV that I thought was more akin to another country on the planet. As people stormed our nation's Capitol building and as there was chaos around that, I thought, "Man, we have our priorities way out of whack." It's a tragedy. It's a tragedy when I do it individually, and it's a tragedy when, collectively, our nation takes that turn and is collectively off track.
Does God have anything to say about that? Does God have anything that would help us ease our exhaustion and our weariness and sometimes our give-up-ness to the whole thing? I think the answer is he does. He has spoken very clearly on these topics and more. I hope this morning you're encouraged as we look at how God would have us reset our priorities.
As we move through our time this morning, we're going to be in a lot of Bible. We're going to be popping around in several different places in God's Word. I would encourage you to go back through the sermon guide and look at the Scriptures I'm going to talk about today to make sure I am sharing them in a way that's accurate with what is in God's Word, that it's in context, that it makes sense. Test what I say before you put it into action.
So, as we think about priorities, let's define priorities. A priority is anything (it could be anything or any person) that takes up mind space, that is what we think about. It's the things we spend our money on. It's the way we schedule our calendar. When you have those quiet moments and you have nothing to do, those 10 minutes where you're waiting for your kid to come out or you're early for some appointment, it's what your brain goes to. Those are priorities in your life. We all have them.
As we look at the beginning of the year, it's a helpful exercise just to go back and ask, "Hey, in 2020, I had some things I prioritized, and were those things valuable? Did they help me? Did I accomplish the things I set out to accomplish?" Some of you may have started 2020 with high hopes of eating better, and then you had kale, and you were like, "That's awful. I don't think I want to do that again."
Some of you may have thought you were going to read through God's Word diligently, and you got to somewhere around Leviticus 15 and the laws of bodily discharge, and you were like, "I'm out!" So, the things you prioritized at the beginning of the year may not have been the things you were prioritizing at the end of the year.
I think, oftentimes, when we talk about priorities, many of us instinctively have something in our brains that maybe looks something like this. We have a couple of priorities…three or four or maybe you're super ambitious and you have five…things you would say, "These are my top priorities." Of course, you have to have God on that list, because you just have to. Otherwise people will judge you. Maybe you have family or work or maybe school if you're a student.
We instinctively think the secret sauce of life is figuring out how to manage the tension that exists between those three or four top priorities. If I really double down on my walk with Jesus and on my work, I may feel like I'm letting some stuff slide at home, so I pivot and say, "I'm going to really double down with my family and work," and then I find myself feeling like sometimes my relationship with the Lord is slipping.
I think that's how we often think if I were to ask you how we instinctively think about it, but I don't think that's actually reality. I think reality looks a little bit more like this, which is we're not just managing our top three or four or five. We are struggling to keep a lot of priorities in line: family, work, God, kids' sports, a plumbing bill that popped up, a first date, our in-laws. What are we going to get our spouse for our anniversary or our friend for their birthday? What about that PTA meeting? What about my Instagram account? And on and on and on. It's just too much to manage.
If you're like me, sometimes you just check out of the whole thing and you just want to scroll, binge, or buy. You just want to scroll through Instagram to forget or you want to binge-watch something on Netflix or you just want to buy something off Amazon. We have such give-up-ness as we consider trying to manage all of these competing priorities.
I don't think that's what God intended for his people. I don't think that's what Jesus wants for his people. I think when we look at our lives and the exhaustion, Jesus would say, "You guys are carrying a big ol' bag of rocks I never intended for you to carry." We're going to look at a couple of different passages. Let's start in Matthew, chapter 11. I'll read the passage and then I'll make some comments.
Matthew 11:28-30. Jesus says to a group of people listening, "Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light." In this section of Scripture, Jesus, right before these verses, was talking about the fact that Jesus would be the one who would show the Father to everybody else.
You might be asking, "Well, who is Jesus going to show the Father to?" Jesus says, "I'll show it to anybody who comes to me, and those who come are the ones who are weary and heavy laden." So, the prerequisite to coming to Jesus is that you're weary, you're tired, you're sick and tired of being sick and tired.
If you were a first-century Jew (because these words took place in a context), you were a weary individual. God had given the Jews, the covenant people, his law: 613 commandments. The religious leaders of the day had taken those 613 commandments we find in our Old Testament Scripture and had said, "It's not just about following these 613 commandments." They put on them thousands of other legislation and rules and regulations they forced the people to follow.
"It's not just 613; it's all of these ones around them, and if you don't do them perfectly, then you can't come worship God in the temple." They were oppressing people. They were oppressing people so much that Jesus said of these men, these religious leaders, that they tied up heavy burdens on the people that were hard to bear. They laid them on the people's shoulders, but they themselves were not willing to move their fingers.
The people Jesus was speaking to in that first-century day were weary and exhausted and trying to juggle too many things, like many of us today. Jesus in John 10:10… He's in the middle of this passage where Jesus is describing himself as the Good Shepherd, the shepherd who guards the flock, who protects the flock, who makes sure he knows who comes in and out. Jesus says in the middle of this passage, "I came that they may have life and have it abundantly." Restful, abundant life.
The reason many of us aren't experiencing that as our reality is because we greatly misunderstand the biblical concept of priorities. The reason many of us walked in this morning or tuned into the livestream is because we are weary and heavy laden and we misunderstand God's clear call for the priorities of our lives.
Now, before we go any farther, I do want to pivot just a smidge, and I want to address a topic here. I want to get this right up front. We come up here weekly. We often say around here that each week we host a pastors' conference. So, when I prepare to teach, when others prepare to teach, we are talking primarily to our family members, those who said, "I want to be a part of this body of Christ," where we can train and equip you and teach you on what God's Word says about being salt and light in the community.
But we know every single week we have visitors who show up here or who tune in through the livestream, and they may not have been to church in a long time, maybe ever, and they don't know a lot of what we're talking about. So, what I'm going to start with is saying that every man, woman, and child who has ever walked the planet… The primary priority of their life is their relationship to God.
The reality is every one of us has a relationship with God. Scripturally, that relationship is defined in one of two ways. Scripture says the relationship with God is either one of a son or daughter… For those who, by God's crazy grace, have come to know and trust in Jesus, we have been adopted. The Bible says we have been made sons and daughters of God and our eternity is secured. Not just our eternity when we die, but our eternity today is secured, and we can live a life of peace and hope and purpose in the midst of the chaos.
Or the Bible says you're an enemy. You are either a son or a daughter or you are an enemy. Those are the only two categories that speak about the relationship we have with God. So, if you're an enemy of God, if you've not come to know this Savior who God sent for you, then you need to know you are not on the right side of your relationship. You're an enemy. If you were to die today, your eternity is secure as separated from all that is right and good and lovely.
Your life on earth is a mist, and you are drifting without any real purpose. Your hope is going to be found only in what you can accomplish and what you can do. I want you to know that God is not mad at you, that he sent his Son for you. In fact, this is what Paul talks about. Paul wrote a letter to his friends in Corinth (1 Corinthians is a letter), and he says, "I want to go back to when I first visited you."
Here's what he writes to them: "For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received…" Paul is going to say, "The thing that is of first importance is this." "…that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas [Peter] , then to the twelve."
What Paul is saying is the thing that is most important is not our gender or our ethnicity or our race. It's not our socioeconomic status. It's not our political party. The thing that is most important is our relationship with Jesus Christ. Paul says Jesus Christ came. He lived a perfect life. He was betrayed, tortured, put on a cross, dead, and buried, and then God raised him from the dead, defeating sin and death, so you and I could be restored.
There is an eternal gap that exists between me and a holy God, and there is no amount of old ladies you can help across the street, there is no amount of money you can give that's going to help you close that gap. It is impenetrable. The distance is too far for you. You need a Savior. I need a Savior. God says, "I've got you." His name is Jesus, and if you will simply put your trust in the reality that he did what you could not do by faith, then you can be adopted into the family of God.
It would be ludicrous for me to go any farther, to put the cart before the horse. If you are in this room or watching online and you've never addressed what is your greatest priority, which is your relationship with God, we would love to talk to you about that. Now, for those of us who, again, by God's grace, not because of anything we've done, have come to know Jesus as King and have been adopted into the family, we have work to do.
We need to straighten out our confusion about priorities, because confusion about priorities leads to exhaustion. As I look at Scripture, I see only one priority. I've been studying God's Word for about 25 years, and as I've read and reread it, I only see one priority. It's teed up a couple of different ways in Scripture, but it's all pointing to the same message. Let me read from a couple of passages, and let's talk about this.
Matthew 6:25-33. This is a longer section, so I'll summarize it. Jesus is in the middle of his sermon. He says, "Listen, guys. I don't want you to be anxious about life, what you're going to eat. Look at the birds. They don't store up stuff, but I take care of them, and you are worth way more than birds." He says, "Look at the flowers. Look at the lilies. They are just amazing. They're dressed in splendor. They're dressed better than King Solomon was, yet what do they do? They don't do anything. They just grow. They're here today, and they're thrown into the fire tomorrow."
Jesus says, "Listen. You need to focus on things that are important. Gentiles run after those things. 'What can we eat? What can we drink? What are we going to wear?'" That's what the people who don't know God went after, but Jesus says, "But you who know God, seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these other things…the food, the clothing, and all that stuff…is going to be added to you. Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness."
These verses are tucked into the Sermon on the Mount. We spent an entire summer unpacking this passage from Matthew 5 to Matthew 7. We spent a whole summer unpacking this sermon. In this sermon, Jesus is laying out what it looks like to be a citizen in the kingdom of heaven. It is the way of one-priority living.
Jesus covers a huge range of topics in this sermon, and right in the middle, when he's talking about what many of us would say are top priorities… "What am I going to eat? How am I going to be clothed? How am I going to cover my basic necessities?" Things that we would all say, "Man, that has to be a top priority."
Jesus says, "Don't worry about those things. Seek before those things the kingdom of God, and I'll take care of the rest." It's recognizing that the one priority we need to engulf ourselves in, that God is calling us into, is the priority of God's reign through God's people over God's place. If we do that, then he'll take care of the rest.
Then later in your New Testament, Paul, the great missionary, is writing a letter to his friend Timothy, and here's what he says: "No soldier gets entangled in civilian pursuits, since his aim is to please the one who enlisted him." In this verse, Paul says, "Timothy, no soldier gets entangled in civilian pursuits."
Timothy was a pastor. He was a leader at the church at Ephesus, an apostolic representative, and he had all of these responsibilities. He had false teachers to deal with. He had competing priorities. He had pressures. Timothy himself had insecurities and health issues. Paul draws on an analogy that would have resonated with anybody who lived in the first-century Roman empire: that of a soldier.
Paul says, "When you're a soldier, you have moved out of civilian life." You've said, "I'm going to leave that life, and I'm going to enlist myself in the service of the army. In that service, I'm going to have a commanding officer. I can't come and go like I used to. I can't schedule like I used to. My priorities are not like they used to be. My priorities now are subject to my commanding officer."
Paul says, "Timothy, that's the picture of a guy or a gal who says, "I want to be on Team Jesus. I want to follow the kingdom of God." It is to say, "I'm not going to be entangled with everyday pursuits." A good soldier lives his life with one priority: how we can live to please our commanding officer.
When I look at these verses and a whole lot of other verses, the picture I think is more relevant for what God intends for his people looks like this: It's God. It's just God. It has always been just God. See, a well-ordered life is a one-priority life. What if when you woke up in the morning you only had one thing to turn on?
What if you said, "If I can keep this one thing in its right place, then everything else in my heart will find its proper place." I know some of you, I'm sure, are thinking, "Leventhal, come back to real life. You're telling me if I just focus on Jesus it's going to be cupcakes and rainbows?" I just want to acknowledge that tension is there. That's real. We're going to unpack that a little bit more as we go, so stick with me.
But I do want to acknowledge that even with that tension, which, again, I think is real, this is clear: God calls his children to a life of singularity, a life that is singularly focused on the kingdom of God, which is to say a life lived in full recognition that we belong right now to the kingdom of God. That kingdom, which exists right now, will exist in its full glory one day in the future, but as we move through our day-to-day glory, we need to recognize that this kingdom has a king. His name is Jesus.
Our calling, as God's people, is to live our whole lives focused on pleasing that commanding officer. Jesus in Luke 9 is calling people to himself, and he has guys who are saying, "I want to follow you, Jesus, but I have this thing I have to do. I have to go do this thing." Jesus says, "Anyone who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is not fit for the kingdom of God." That sounds pretty singular-focused to me.
When Jesus says, "Focus on me," Jesus is the true commander in chief. What does that look like to focus exclusively on the kingdom of God? Well, it means that when I seek the kingdom of God, I'm resolving and I'm ordering my life in such a way that I can live under God's direction and under his control. Seeking the kingdom of God means I joyfully submit to God's purposes in my life and pursue his heart in all things.
Seeking the kingdom of God is having confidence in God's provision, and when I have confidence in God's provision, that frees me up to be undistracted in my pursuit of him because I know my clothing and my shelter, and all that stuff, is going to be taken care of. It's seeing Jesus in my family. It's seeing Jesus in my work. It's seeing Jesus in my dating relationships. It's seeing Jesus in my spending and in my saving and in my giving, Jesus in my education, Jesus in my kid's sport, and it's seeing Jesus in our pain, in our suffering, in our isolation, in our stretched-too-thin-ness.
So, when I am short, when I'm unkind to my kids, I remind myself that the Holy Spirit can, if I will let him, produce in my life fruit of love, joy, peace, patience, and kindness. That's Galatians 5. I'll confess to the Lord my shortcomings, and I'll go to my wife, who is God's provision of grace in my life, and let her know that I'm struggling, that I feel out of control, and I will allow her and God's Spirit to help redirect me and admonish me where I need to be admonished.
It means that when I feel betrayed or abandoned by my friends or my family, I remind myself that I have a Savior who was despised and rejected by men. He was a man of sorrow. He was one acquainted with grief, as one from whom men hide their faces. He was despised, and we esteemed him not. That's Isaiah 53.
I'll take these feelings I have of betrayal and abandonment, and I'll run to those God has put in my life, and I'll say, "Here's where I am. Here's the hole I find myself in. Just be with me and remind me of what is true." It means when I feel tempted to click on that website or to let my anger go or to let my flesh take over, I'll remind myself that Jesus Christ died to set me free and that he says in Scripture that no temptation has overtaken me that's not common to man.
I am not special in my sin struggles. My sin struggles are common to man. I'm not terminally unique. It says God is faithful. He'll not let me be tempted beyond my ability, but when I'm tempted, he's going to provide a way of escape, that I can endure it. I'll take that, and I'll run to those folks in my life God has given me, and I'll bring that temptation into the light where it can lose its power. I'll let these folks who love me know what I'm struggling with, and they will help me find the way of escape if it's not intuitive to me already.
It means when I feel discouraged or frustrated with the circumstances of my life (and I do sometimes feel discouraged and frustrated with the circumstances of my life), I remind myself that God sees me, that he's sovereign over all things, including whatever my crummy circumstances are. I can learn in whatever situation to be content. I can learn to be brought low. I can know how to abound.
In any and every circumstance, I can learn the secret to facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things, not through myself but through Christ who strengthens me. So, I'll run to those who know God and who love me, and I'll share with them my discouragement and frustration, and I'll allow their words and their encouragement to remind me, "Lev, in and of yourself you can't do it, but you can do all things… You can manage these circumstances through Jesus Christ who loves you."
A person who has a one-priority life… Their life is going to be marked by peace and perspective and patience. Not perfectly. We get that. Right? Not perfectly, but their life is going to be marked by peace and perspective and patience. They're going to have the peace of Christ in their relationships, so when there's tension in relationships, they will move back toward knowing that Jesus Christ came to create reconciliation, and if he can create reconciliation in my heart between him and me, then he can create peace in my relationships with others.
They will have perspective that all of life is a chance to glorify God…every task, every job, every area, and every relationship. Every conversation can be a "kingdom of God" conversation. Because they have the right priority, they can say no to things the world wants to put on them. They can say no to the request to be on the PTA and the board and all of these other things that complicate our lives and pull us away from the one priority.
They can look at their kids and say no when their kid says, "Hey, I want to take five AP classes. I want to play in two sports, and I want to play the bugle, and I want to do all of these things." They can say, "No, that's not good for you. That's going to be too much for your plate." Here's the reality, students. It doesn't matter where you go to college. It does not matter.
Some of us, as parents, are failing our kids because we are either letting them drive the bus on their schedule into the ground or we're somehow feeling like we missed out in high school and we don't want our kids to miss out. We are creating exhaustion and weariness in the lives of our kids, and it is wrong. A person with a right perspective can say no to those things. They can help.
A person with a right perspective is patient with others because they have a clear understanding that "The fact that I even care about the kingdom of God is nothing short of a miracle of grace and mercy in my life. So, if God has demonstrated this patience toward me, then I can be patient with others I'm in conflict with or others who don't understand or have a different perspective on life."
One-priority lives are marked by peace and patience and perspective, and a one-priority life has marks of hardship and inconveniences and discouragement. Lest any of you think I sound too Pollyanna-ish, that if you just focus on Jesus it's unicorns and rainbows and cupcakes and licorice (but not the black kind of licorice, because that's gross), I know that's not reality. A one-priority life is going to have marks on that life of discouragement and inconvenience and hardship.
I sent out a text this week to a group of men I deeply respect, men I would describe as one-priority men, and I said, "Hey, guys. In the last 24 hours, what have been the things that have occupied your mind? What have been the things that have become a priority for you?" Here was some of their list: stress over a colicky newborn and a weary wife, frustration around a recurring sin struggle, hours spent trying to buy a hard-to-find gift for a child, unexpected expenses around busted shower pipes, concerns over the health of parents who got COVID and ended up in the hospital, hours spent trying unsuccessfully to plan something creative for a wife's birthday, fear around health issues.
If you would have asked me, "Lev, in the last 24 hours, what have been the things that have taken up your mind space?" I would share with you just a deep sadness, a lot of heartache over the hurt and pain and hopelessness I see in the life of somebody I deeply love, and I can't help them get out of the hole they're in. Anxiety over this sermon. I don't want to misrepresent God. I don't want to make this about me.
And if I asked you what has occupied your mind, you'd have a list too. I know you would. Having these things occupy the space in our brain does not mean we don't love Jesus. It doesn't mean we're not pursuing a one-priority life. It just means that living in this world, we're going to have marks of hardships and inconveniences and discouragement. We're all going to have those, which is why we need to remind ourselves of the one thing.
We live in a broken and fallen world. Paul describes that the world itself is groaning to be released from its bondage (Romans 8). We have spouses who are going to hurt us, kids who are going to disappoint us. We're going to have dating relationships that seemed so hopeful at the beginning that are going to end. Friends are going to let us down. Transmissions are going to go out unexpectedly. Job losses, sickness, and disease.
We live in a world full of hardships, full of inconveniences, full of discouragements, but that does not mean we can't live a one-priority life. See, the truth that's described in my Bible is that in the midst of pandemics, of riots in our nation's capital, of income inequality, of racism, of sin, God has given us all we need to seek the kingdom of God, all we need to live a life as a soldier who's not distracted by civilian pursuits, but a one-priority life doesn't happen overnight, and it doesn't happen by accident.
We don't naturally drift this way. We naturally drift toward adding more and more and more to our plates in hopes that we can somehow numb the pain or the isolation, the fear we have in life. But thankfully, God is patient. He's committed to seeing us through this life to the next. This is, I think, part of what Paul had in mind. He wrote a letter to the church in Rome. We call it Romans.
In the first 11 chapters of this letter to the Romans, Paul dumps on them mountains and mountains of really significant, Mount Everest-like theology about God, the nature of man, the nature of sin, the nature of salvation, the nature of God's relationship with Israel. It's 11 chapters of deep, heavy theology.
He pivots in chapter 12, and he says, "We're going to take all of this information I gave you, and now let's figure out how to put shoes on it. How do we apply it to our lives?" Jesus is not looking for a group of smarter sinners. Jesus is looking to transform our hearts and our minds. The very first thing Paul writes after all of that theology we see in Romans 12:1-2. He says:
"I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect."
One of the key things we do to move in that direction (because it's not going to happen by accident; it's not going to happen overnight) is we allow our minds to be renewed. The word Paul uses in the Greek is a word that describes to make new, to be different, but it's making new and making different in a way that is better.
It's the same verb re-translated that is used in the gospel of Matthew when it says Jesus went up on a mountain with some of his guys and was transfigured. It says Jesus' face shone like the sun. His clothes became white as light. He was transfigured. Paul says that's the picture of renewing your mind.
It's that you become something different but something so much better, something so much more like Jesus and so much less like the pattern of this world. This happens slowly, day by day, measured in months and years, not days and weeks, as we remind ourselves and each other to stop trying to focus on too many things and just focus on the one thing.
Last January, January 2020, I went to the eye doctor. I have terrible vision. Even my contact lenses are thick. They said, "We want to try something new with you this year." They said, "We're going to give you one contact lens (my right one) that's going to help you see out into the distance, and we're going to give you a different prescription for your left one that's going to help you read close. Your brain will figure out how those two things work, and you'll be able to see clearly."
Well, my brain didn't figure it out, so for 12 months, I've been living with this, because I bought 12 months worth of contacts. I'm getting the use out of every contact. I found myself throughout 2020 getting a headache, kind of a recurring low-grade headache. Not a COVID headache; just a contact headache. The reason I was getting headaches is because I was trying to focus on two things, and my tiny brain couldn't make it work.
Maybe your brain is better and you can make it work with those contacts, but I couldn't. Because I had one eye trying to focus here and one eye trying to focus here, it did not work, and it caused me frustration the whole year about my contact lens situation. So, this year, we went back to the old school, and now I have my readers back. Yay!
I say that because many of us are trying to focus on different things, and we're not seeing either clearly because we weren't designed to focus on multiple things. Jesus said, "Seek the kingdom of God." He knows we can't focus on several things. In fact, in this same section of Scripture, in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus has a conversation, and he says in this sermon, "Guys, don't store up treasures on earth, because it's going to rust, and it's going to get stolen…all that stuff. Store up treasures in heaven."
Jesus ends by saying, "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. You cannot serve God and money." Which is another way of saying, you can't have more than one priority. We have one priority, and his name is Jesus Christ. It's living with Jesus in the kingdom of God.
So what do we do? How do we begin or how do we continue the process of renewing our minds and re-prioritizing our lives? Let me share with you four reasons why I think some of us are struggling with that. Let me give you four encouragements. I think if we begin to embed this into our hearts, we will find a greater degree of the rest God intends for his people. Some of us are overwhelmed and living a life that's mis-prioritized because:
1 . We live as though we don't need God. We come to a building like this on Sunday or we tune into a stream on Sunday, and then on Monday, we live as though it didn't happen. We live, as one author wrote, as Monday morning atheists. Our lives don't reflect a need for God. Our lives don't flesh out Monday through Saturday this reality that we need God.
So what should we do? We should remain with God every single day. Acknowledge you can't do it on your own. That's the whole purpose of Jesus coming. If we could do it on our own, we wouldn't need Jesus. Just this week, several times, I had to go to my 4-year-old and my 8-year-old and say, "The way you're treating each other is not right. This is why you, little 4-year-old and you 8-year-old, both need Jesus. Do you realize that?
You need Jesus Christ because of this, the way you're treating each other, and your daddy needs Jesus Christ too, because it might look a little different than this thing, but it's the same hurt in relationships." We need to remain with God every day, acknowledge that we need him. We're a soldier in God's army, which means we have people who are working with us. We are not Rambo on our own.
2 . We have believed the lie that God expects us to do it perfectly. Or the other side of that coin is we believe we have to put the perception to everybody else that we're doing it perfectly. For those of us who are struggling here, we should expect and confess setbacks. God knows you're not going to do this perfectly. See also the cross.
Know that every single day, you're going to have plenty of opportunity to wrestle with and be distracted from the one thing by the stress, anxiety, exhaustion, and discouragement, but let those things serve as a trigger to point you back to Jesus. I kid you not. At 9:00 p.m. last night, I'm working at my office at the house. I'm trying to scan, ironically enough, my contact lens prescription into the computer, and I couldn't get my printer/scanner to connect. It was saying it was offline. I'm like, "Everything appears to be working."
I'm feeling myself start to get more and more frustrated. I'm like, "Lord, I don't need an object lesson for this morning. I feel pretty good about what I have." I kept getting myself amped up. Finally, I said, "You know what? All right, Lord. What I want to do is let my flesh go in anger, but you have told me that no temptation has seized me except what's common to man and you'll give me a way out. Lord, what's the way out right now?"
So I turned off my computer. That was the way out. I didn't allow that inconvenience… Computer issues for me are like the life force being sucked out of me. When my wife calls and says, "Hey, computer problems," I just power down. I didn't get to that point, because I allowed God to remind me, "Hey, bud, this doesn't need to take you off of the one priority. Turn your computer off. Deal with it later."
3 . Our minds are filled, and we continue to fill them, with garbage. We let our employers, the news, our kids' school districts, our social media accounts, our lost friends and family… We let them tell us what's important. For those of us who struggle here, we need to soak in God's Word. We need to renew our minds by taking the garbage out and replacing it with God's Word.
God has given us about 1,400 pages of his life-giving Word that is transformative in our hearts if we'll allow it to be. We need to get the garbage out and replace it with God's good Word. If you don't know how to do that, jump in with our family reading plan Join the Journey, jointhejourney.com. If you don't even know where to begin, start there.
Just start reading God's Word and asking God, "This may not make sense, but, God…" If you know him, his Spirit lives in you, and he will illumine you the things you need to know. Get off of Amazon. Get off of Instagram. Get off of whatever garbage you're filling your brain with and get into God's Word.
4 . The size of our competing priorities is bigger than the size of our God. We fear making hard choices because, honestly, we're not sure God is going to show up. We have faith, but it's small faith. We've never seen if God would show up. For those of us who struggle here, we should trust and make decisions based on that reality.
We all make decisions out of faith. You got in your car this morning having faith that the brakes would stop you at the stop sign. You walked into this building having faith that it was constructed in a way that it wouldn't come down on our heads. You're going to go somewhere maybe for lunch, you're going to order pizza, and you're going to have faith they didn't poison it. All of us act out on things we have faith in.
If we have trust and faith that God will deal with our salvation, then surely he can handle our circumstances, so we can begin to make difficult decisions about our priorities, about our schedules, in a way that reflects our faith in God. Do you believe that God is for you? Do you? He is so for you. He's on your side. He loves you. He wants to see you be singularly focused on him because he knows that's the thing that's going to bring you life.
So, if you'll trust him and you'll begin to act on your faith… "God, I'm going to make some decisions. I'm going to cut some stuff out of my schedule, some things I feel like are important." You'd be surprised how he'll step in. When we remain with God, when we expect and confess setbacks, when we soak in God's Word, when we act in faith, trusting that God will show up, then we're going to begin to experience more of a one-priority life, and that's going to help us get off the exhaustion train and rest.
As I land the plane this morning, let me paint for you one more picture. I'm trying to help drive this point home. Many of you, if you've been at church camp, you've seen the illustration of the bucket. You have a bucket, and you have rocks, some small, some big. In this illustration, the bucket is the finite amount of time we have, a 24-hour day. The illustration goes like this.
You have your 24-hour day, so figure out what your big rocks are, your big priorities, and put those in the bucket first. If you have those in the bucket first, then everything else you can put on top, but at least you'll know your big rocks are in the bucket. I guess that's good for managing your daily task list, but that's an awful way to think about your relationship with God.
If you have to pick up the dry cleaning or deliver a heart transplant, you should know which is the big rock for your daily task list, but your relationship with God is not like that. God is not excited about being one of your big rocks in your bucket. God is not excited about being number one on your top five priority list. God is not looking to be the biggest slice of pie in the pie chart of your priorities. God is the bucket. God is the list. God is the pie chart.
God is in and through and over all things, and he wants us to dial in to him, to focus just on him. A one-priority life. Because he loves us, because he's for us, he will make sure we are successful. He has given you his Spirit in your life. He has given us each other, the body of Christ, to help us, to remind us when we're discouraged and exhausted that we don't have to live this way.
We can choose by the power of the Spirit to say, "I'm going to focus on one thing. I'm going to help my kids focus on one thing. In every decision…Jesus in my family, Jesus in my relationships. Every decision I make will have 'Jesus, what would you have me do in this moment?'"
Some of us need to turn off the printer. Some of us need to break up that relationship. Some of you need to go to a spouse you offended this morning and say, "I need to come to you, and I need to confess I was not kind." Some of you need to seek forgiveness from your children for how you are jacking up their lives by inadvertently reiterating to them that the secret to life is being busy. But God loves you, God is for you, and God wants to see you through that.
Heavenly Father, thank you for a chance this morning to reflect on your Word. I pray that our hearts would be moved, would be reminded, would be convicted, would be encouraged, whatever we need in this moment, to move toward a one-priority life. I'm thankful that you have made this so clear I can't miss it in your Word.
You have made it so clear that I'm to be a soldier who is not entangled in civilian affairs. I pray that for my heart. I pray that for the hearts of the friends in this room and for those who don't know you. I pray that today would be the day they raise the white flag, they acknowledge their desperate, eternal, significant need for a Savior, and they would run to the cross. Thank you for mercy and for grace and for kindness and for your Son. In his name we pray, amen.