The young sailor had been given a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. He had been sailing on destroyers for many years and had lots of experience. But this was different. He was asked if he would like to get the ship underway from the dock. What a huge responsibility and he was very excited. He had the docks buzzing with activity, and soon the ship was steaming up the channel en route to its destination. It was full steam ahead.
And the interim captain was pleased with how everything was going. So it was no surprise when a seaman approached him with a message from the captain—it was an urgent radio message: My personal congratulations upon completing your underway preparation exercise according to the book, and with incredible speed. But in your haste you have overlooked one of the unwritten rules: Make sure the Captain is aboard before getting underway.
I like this little story because it has so many applications. We can be thoroughly prepared and leave out the most important things—like passports when we travel overseas, or we leave our credit card behind. It can be quite a concern.
What are your priorities in life? Have you ever spent much time thinking about what you should spend your time on? Most people have not. They just go from day to day doing whatever they want and whatever they feel like doing, without ever really asking themselves what they should be doing. Which shows the truth of what one well-known businessman from California said several years ago. He said that two things are difficult for most people to do: To think, and to do things in the order of their importance.
What a tragedy it would be to have gone through your whole life and at the end of it, look back, and realise that you spent all your time, money and energy on things that were pointless and had no value or worth. How depressing it would be to realise that you had wasted your entire life on vain pursuits. You left something off your preparation list.
The Bible gives us many clear statements on how to have a purpose in your life—what priorities to set for your life. There are hundreds of such statements in the Bible, but they all boil down to one thing: make eternal things your priority. The television shows we watch, they won’t last. The knowledge we have about cars and sports, it won’t last. The wealth we accumulate won’t last.
What is it Jesus said? “What does it profit a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul?” (Mark 8:36). Jesus said elsewhere, “More than anything else, put God’s work first and do what he wants. Then the other things will be yours as well” (Matthew 6:33 – CEV). Why do many people seek the ‘things’ first? Many people’s top priorities seem to be jobs, houses, cars or other material things. To seek means ‘to crave, pursue, to make sacrifices to get, to go after with all of your strength and all of your heart’. It is a mistake to crave and pursue possessions, believing they will give us the lasting peace, joy and contentment that only come from God’s presence in our lives.
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The Right Priorities
Take a moment and ask yourself:
- What am I seeking?
- What do I spend most of my time thinking or talking about?
- How do I invest the majority of my energy?
These are important questions you need to answer from your heart.
What does Jesus say your priority should be? To seek first the kingdom of God. To live with eternity in mind. Paul says that same thing in many places in his letters. For example, in Colossians 3:2, he writes, “Set your mind on things above, not on earthly things.”
A lighthouse along a wild coast was tended by a keeper who was given enough oil for one month and told to keep the light burning every night. One day a woman asked for oil so that her children could stay warm. Then a farmer came. His son needed oil for a lamp so he could read. Still, another needed some for an engine. The keeper saw each as a worthy request and measured out just enough oil to satisfy all. Near the end of the month, the tank in the lighthouse ran dry. That night the beacon was dark and three ships crashed on the rocks. More than 100 lives were lost. When a government official investigated, the man explained what he had done and why. You were given one task alone, insisted the official. It was to keep the light burning. Everything else was secondary.
There are many worthwhile things we can do in life, and we should pursue them—but not at the cost of not putting God first. Enjoying the best life possible isn’t about what you can get, however; it’s about what directs your life. That’s because whatever force has first place in your life, it will drive your decisions and shape your future.
If you decide to make your relationship with God first in your life, everything else will naturally fall into place in the right order, creating the fulfilling life you hope to enjoy.