By guest blogger Marcy Bradford
I have a friend who refuses to go to The Cheesecake Factory. It’s the menu. The pages and pages of choices overwhelm her to the point of distraction and agitation. While I love The Cheesecake Factory, I get it. The menu is massive and making a timely choice can be intimidating. Likewise, there are so many opportunities in life today. The globalization of information has expanded that truth to an infinite degree. It has become impossible to consider to accomplish in one lifetime what was once a keystone of the American Dream: to have and do it all. For the follower of Jesus, though, here is a bit of good news: there is always enough time to do God’s will.
The issue of overwhelming options and how to prioritize has been popping up often lately. I wonder if it’s something God is currently refining among his people. If you or someone you know is struggling to conquer the to-do list, feeling overwhelmed, or has a sense that there just isn’t enough time in the day to participate in the things of God… read on for some thoughts you may be able to apply.
PRIORITIES AND THE GREATEST COMMANDMENT
Key questions that can haunt and paralyze people are: Where do I start? What do I put first?
God spoke to this very issue in Matthew 22:35-40 (NIV):
One of them, an expert in the law, tested him [Jesus] with this question:
“Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”
Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
Clearly, loving God has relational implications to God, to self, and to others, so the FIRST PRIORITY Jesus calls us to is tending to our own relationship with God.
This falls into self-care. There are many in the church who have wrongly interpreted “deny yourself and follow me” and “consider others more important than yourself” as “self is not important.” But those interpretations don’t align with the greatest commandment. Your relationship with the Lord– and your resulting spiritual health– is essential. Obeying this command and tending to your relationship with God is an indispensable aspect of self-care. It’s like the safety instruction they give on airplanes: First secure your own oxygen mask before helping put one on the person next to you.
WHERE ARE YOU CHALLENGED?
Certainly, that doesn’t mean it’s easy. Some common challenges to making personal relationship with God a priority are:
Whether it’s because you are paralyzed with indecision, tired, or just aren’t feeling it— denying the Lord time with you will keep you from spiritual health and growth. Use your time wisely rather than on things that won’t help you in the long run. Jesus gave us an example of how to do this in Mark 1:35.
Failing to plan
Paul urges the Ephesians to make the most of every opportunity and to learn God’s will in Eph. 5:15-17. In today’s culture, that will often mean wise use of your calendar, including regular meetings with the Lord. How and when can you set aside time to meet with him?
There is always enough time to do God’s will but there isn’t enough time to do God’s will AND a bunch of other stuff. We see in Luke 5:15-16 that Jesus took time away from good and important work to spend time with his Father. Remember that your time with the Lord is essential and loving God is your first priority. Is your time with the Lord guarded by a distraction-free zone? What could you do to make it more distraction-free?
Pleasing people rather than God
To love your neighbor instead of yourself is an easy pit to fall into. But, as 1 Thessalonians 2:4 says, “We are not trying to please people but God, who tests our hearts.” Loving God with all we are requires we work for an audience of One. Are you giving away your time with the Lord to please others instead?
CHALLENGED BUT NOT BURDENED
In fact, this is love for God: to keep his commands. And his commands are not burdensome… 1 John 5:3 (NIV)
Spending time with God was never intended to be burdensome. This is our Heavenly Father, whose mercies are new every morning, who provides all we need for life and godliness. Spending time with God is no burden. It is a blessing and a joy– a gift to our daily lives.
How will making your relationship with the Lord your first priority affect your ability to prioritize?
Let us not forget what was promised in Matthew 6:33, “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” We can rest assured that our time with God will be well spent and that a fostered relationship with the Lord leads to God directing our path (Proverbs 3:5-6).
In the next week, consider the following:
What is God telling you to do?
How are you going to do it?
More on Time Management
If you found this blog post helpful, consider these time management resources:
Time Management Skills Builder: Managing our personal time to get the most out of our work day– and of course, our life– involves using the minutes in each day as effectively as you can. This booklet will help you to do that.
Coaching Guide and Storyboard: If you are a coach, these valuable tools help you walk clients through priorities and time management challenges.