Have you ever come to the end of a week, a month, or even (gulp) a year, and as you reflected on how you spent your time you wondered, ‘How did I spend so much of my time doing that stuff?’ It’s scary how fast our lives fill up with…stuff, isn’t it? It pains me, as a pastor, when I sit with people who sincerely love the Kingdom of Jesus, but all their good intentions never seem to actualise into a life invested in those things which have eternal value.
How can we prevent this?
Jesus’ Perspective on Our Priorities
There is a very practical tool that I would like to introduce you to (it may be a re-introduction for some) which many have found helpful in proactively ordering their lives to reflect what they value most. But, before we get to that, let’s begin with Jesus’ perspective on this very typical ‘human’ problem. Jesus, knowing the nature of humans, tells the story of two sons who were asked by their father to go and work in his vineyard. The one said yes but didn’t end up going (sound familiar?), the other declined but later changed his mind and went to work for his father anyway. Jesus ended the story with the rather searching question, “Which one of the two did the will of the father?” (Matthew 21:28-32) In summary, when it comes to a life of fruitfulness that brings glory to the Father, good intentions just don’t cut it.
when it comes to a life of fruitfulness that brings glory to the Father, good intentions just don’t cut it.
Prioritising Your Tasks and Treasures
In order that every task and treasure, from the menial to the monumental, finds its proper place in our lives, it is helpful to imagine them as rocks and sand. First, there are the big rocks; these are the things that are most important to us. The kind of things which, if we neglect them, we will regret for the rest of eternity! And then there is the sand; the sand represents the multitude of trivial things which so easily fill up our lives to capacity.
It is important to acknowledge that our time and our resources are limited, and this forces us to make choices every day. In order to be fruitful, we need to proactively choose which things we are going to give our attention to.
Imagine that the glass jar in the picture represents your life and your capacity. This picture is a demonstration of what can so easily happen when we allow the ‘sand’ to fill up our ‘jar’ in a haphazard way and realise too late that there are certain big rocks that we still need to squeeze in! Because our capacity has already been so used up we find that many big rocks can actually not fit in and so they get neglected.
It is tragic when it comes to pass that, because of my passivity, I ‘accidentally’ dispose of the most important things in my life! As devoted Christ-followers we dare not let all the things which are demanding our attention dictate what choices we make. So what should we be doing?
In order to make sure that our greatest treasures and passions get priority, we need to put these big rocks in the jar first. In the demonstration below you can see that when we do this, all the other things demanding my attention find their proper place around the ‘big rocks’. Practically, what this means is that we need to sit down with our families and decide on which things are most important to us. Once we have done this we can then plan our lives in such a way that these big rocks get the attention that they deserve.
All of this became very evident to me again in December 2017 when I became a father to my first child. As any parent will know, a newborn completely shakes up your routines and seriously handicaps your capacity to get things done. My wife and I both quickly realised that if we allowed our life to follow its ‘natural’ course, we were going to find ourselves in big trouble in the not too distant future!
Whole days quickly filled up with cleaning, feeding, shopping and trying desperately to catch up on sleep! We needed to have the ‘big rocks chat’ again and begin to proactively plan our days and weeks. We both identified four big rocks that we absolutely cannot allow to fall by the wayside. For us they were:
- Quality time with Jesus every day,
- Church life,
- Quality time for us as a couple,
We could have added many other things I’m sure, but when you are in survival mode you cannot be too generous with your priorities! This allowed us to better support each other and even get help from others in order to make sure that our lives do not get so over-run with menial tasks that we neglect the precious entrustments which God has put in our hands.
The Lion’s Share
The things that we truly value should be the things that get the lion’s share of our: time, money, energy, thought-life and passion. This is what it means to ‘love God with all your heart, mind and strength’. If your resources are going to other things first and God gets what is left over, then all we have are good intentions, and good intentions are not what truly glorifies God. I would encourage you at the beginning of this new year to determine in your heart what you want your focus to be on, chat about your intentions with friends and leaders and begin to proactively order your life so that you bear much fruit for your Heavenly Father.
This article was reviewed on 8 December 2021. It was originally published on the Four12 Global website on 1 February 2018.