For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures,that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures—1 Corinthians 15:3,4
He who finds a wife finds what is good
and receives favor from the Lord.—Proverbs 18:22
Because we loved you so much, we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well.—1 Thessalonians 2:8
Let’s talk about the word “priorities.”
Priorities are the things that are most important to us, the things we put first. To be clear, they are not the things we know we should put first, but the things we actually put first. Many people are confused about this, and give themselves too much credit for having the right priorities because they know what’s important. It’s not good enough to know what’s important. You have to take those important things and actually give them priority over other things in your life.
For example, there are people who would be insulted if you were to look at the fact that they rarely attend church and say to them “Clearly, going to church isn’t that important to you.” They would take offense, and say, “Oh, no, it’s very important to me,” by which they mean “I know it should be important to me. I have a belief that worship should be a priority, I just don’t act on it because I’ve gotten out of the habit,” or “because it’s easier to watch online,” or “because my kids’ sports schedule dominates our family calendar.” It’s a priority, but I haven’t prioritized it for the last several months or years. If that’s the case, then it’s not really a priority, and you should just be honest about it. Comfort, or sports, or whatever you’re actually putting first, that’s your priority. What is most important to you shows up in your life, not just your thoughts.
I’m very faithful about going to the gym several mornings a week, so I can safely say it’s a priority for me. I’m not very faithful about sharing my faith with non-believers in my daily life. I know I should be, but it would be hypocritical to say it’s important to me, because clearly it’s not, or I’d be doing it. I’m not proud of this, but these are the facts. What’s important to us shows up in our life, not just our thoughts.
Community Church has priorities, one of those being the Gospel. The Apostle Paul said the Gospel was “of first importance.” People need to know that Jesus died on the cross for our sins, that He was buried and rose again, that He offers forgiveness and new life and adoption into the family of God. They need to know that He is the one true source of love and joy and hope and peace. Because this Gospel is a priority, we spend more time on it than we do on other things. We don’t talk as much about interesting side-issues like spiritual gifts and end-times speculation. We try not to commit too much energy to other things that would distract us from what is primary, even if those are good things. We’ve identified our priorities, and we want them to define us and shape the things we do.
This past weekend I got away with Carey for what was either a really long date or a really short vacation. Our anniversary is in the middle of December, at a time when we have no money, no time, and it’s freezing outside. So this year we decided we’d celebrate early, in October. We still don’t have much time or money, but at least the weather is better. We left town around 2:00pm on Sunday, after the morning worship services and the Newcomer’s Lunch, and drove down to Lee Vining, where we spent the night in a cute little hotel room overlooking Mono Lake.
The next morning we got up early and drove into Yosemite National Park. Carey had never been, and I had only visited when I was a child and too young to remember. There was snow on Tioga Pass from the night before, but the skies were clear, and we had a beautiful drive. We stopped at all the viewpoints, and saw a mother bear and her two cubs. Then we got to Yosemite Valley, which is absolutely majestic. We spent about three hours taking in all the sights, went on a short hike, ate our lunch, and then got back into the car for the 6-hour drive home. We were back in time to pick our girls up from their dance class at 8:00. It was a 30-hour whirlwind, with lots of beauty, lots of important conversation, and lots of laughter.
When we got home, we were absolutely exhausted. Tired from the road, sick to our stomachs from cheap fast food, and not at all rested for the week that lay ahead. I got up early Tuesday because I knew I was behind on a dozen different things. There were emails I was late replying to, lessons to prepare, a staff meeting to lead, people who wanted to find a time to meet, and an anonymous letter in the mail criticizing my leadership and the direction of our church. Back to reality.
Was it worth it? To take 30 hours, most of them in the car, and get away with my wife to see a little beauty, get a break from our responsibilities, and focus on our love for each other? It made our finances this month that much tighter, and our schedule that much crazier. In other words, there was a cost. And of course it was worth it, because our marriage is a priority.
Now, everyone knows marriage is important. We can all say the right things about our marriage being a priority. But if we’re not careful, it can become one of those things that we know is important, but that we don’t actually place ahead of the other things in our lives. This can also happen with our children. It can happen in our relationship with God. We know how important they are, but “you’re important to me” needs to be more than words. It needs to be “you’re more important to me than getting enough sleep.” “You’re more important to me than my job.” “You’re more important than what people think.” “You’re more important than saving up for that road bike I want.” If something or someone is really a priority, it will be clear in our lives that they are actually more important than other things. We’ll be willing to pay a price, because that’s what love does.
What are your priorities? Can the important people in your life see that you truly place them ahead of other things? And what about your faith? When you tell God you love Him, what is the evidence that’s true? What are you placing first? This week, find a way to love God and at least one person by giving them some time, even it means taking that time away from something else you enjoy. Especially if it means taking that time away from something else you enjoy. Let them know they come first. Let your priorities show up in your life, not just your thoughts.