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How To Put First Things First

From the series Balancing Life's Demands

Is your “to-do” list too long? Do you have too many people wanting your attention? If you’re struggling to keep all the balls in the air, join Chip as he shares how you can put first things first.

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Message Transcript

I was a pretty new Christian, and I had this amazing opportunity to ask Howard Hendricks – he was one of my heroes and mentors – and I got to ask him anything I could ask, anything you wanted to ask him. And so, I said, “Why is there just so much hypocrisy in the Church?”

And I’ll never forget, he said, “Chip, I think it might go to something like this: Most people live with two sets of priorities. They have one set of priorities that they have written down on a list, and, if you ask them, they sincerely believe it. God’s first, family, children, ministry, work. And they have that on a list.

But they have another set, and that’s how they actually live. And so, we have people whose lives are over here, and their list is over here, and we have this amazing ability to not see that they don’t line up.”

The reason why most of us live with two sets of priorities – I want to give you three reasons here just to get us going. First, we are deceived. We’re deceived. We honestly don’t see the discrepancy between what we think and say, and how we actually live. And by the way, it’s true of all of us. This isn’t like the bad people and the good people. This is, like, are you really, really deceived, fairly deceived, or just a little deceived? Right? I mean, welcome to the human race.

The second reason we live with two sets of priorities is we are afraid. Though we long, sincerely, to put first things first, we simply do not believe that God will supply our needs if we give Him the first portion of our time, our lives, and our money. I mean, “You don’t understand. I can’t squeeze in – I mean, I am overwhelmed, and you’re asking me to add fifteen minutes, or a half hour, or forty-five minutes to be with God first?”

The third reason we live with two sets of priorities is, we have failed repeatedly. Our sincere and honest efforts to put first things first in the past, lasted only a short time and ended with frustration and disillusionment with ourselves.

And so, what I want to talk to you about this morning is, I want to get very, very practical, and I want to talk about what I think is the secret, if you will, the missing ingredient. What it is. What is it that brings the list that I intellectually would write down, and my life is demonstrated and played out by how I actually do things – what is it that brings those things together, so they’re the same? What’s the missing ingredient to living out your priorities?

First, it’s a rarely used word. We’re going to go on a little inductive journey together, okay? It’s a rarely used word. Second, it’s a fruit of the Spirit. It’s a fruit of the Spirit. So, this missing ingredient isn’t something that you can do. It’s something that is a part of what you already possess in Christ, but it’s allowing the Spirit of God to produce this in your life. Third, it comes to us by grace. Whatever this is, this missing ingredient, it comes to us by grace. So, it’s not about trying hard. Most of you have already tried the trying hard; it doesn’t work. Four, we admire it in other people. When we see this in other people, we go, “Whoa, man, that’s neat.” We admire it. It’s essential for putting first things first.

A lot of people start well, don’t finish well, because of this. And the word – are you ready? You can just sort of swallow hard – the word is discipline. Some translations say “self-control.” If that makes you feel better, you can write in “self-control.” But it’s discipline. We love it when we see it in other people. We admire it. It’s part of the fruit of the Spirit.

Let me give you a definition for discipline. Discipline is doing what needs to be done, when it needs to be done. By the way, that’s why workaholics can be slothful and lazy, even though highly active.

When I don’t do what needs to be done, when it needs to be done, the Bible calls that “slothfulness.”

So, let’s get on the positive side of this. Discipline is the Spirit-empowered ability, given by God’s grace, that allows us to say “no” to the quick fix and the easy road, and say “yes” to the harder, but better way. That’s what it is. It’s not trying hard. It’s not button down. It’s not, “I’m going to make myself do this.” It’s not getting self-righteous and, No one else does this, but I get up early, and I do this, and I do this, I do this, and I’m rigid and legalistic. No, no, no.

Discipline is Spirit-empowered ability, that you get by God’s grace, that allows you to say “no” to quick fixes and easy solutions, and say “yes” to facing the hard, difficult things on the front end, in order to receive the richer, and deeper, and better. Titus 2:11 and 12.

You have it in a translation in your notes, and this one is especially good, because I like it. It says, “For the grace of God that brings salvation that has appeared to all men. It” – notice it’s grace – “It teaches us to say ‘No’ to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled” – that’s our word – “upright and godly lives in this present age.”

Couple of quick observations. First of all, grace produces discipline. And by the way, somewhere along the line, we’ve been teaching grace in a faulty way. We think “grace” and “no effort.” The opposite of grace is no effort. And that’s not it. The opposite of grace is merit. Paul would say, “Make every effort.” It takes focus; it takes energy. But it is the grace of God both to will and to work in you.

It’s the grace of God that helps me to say “no” to worldliness, but then, notice a second observation: It teaches us. What’s that mean? It means it’s a process. It means it doesn’t happen overnight. It means, like a child learns to ride a bike. I don’t know about you, but I didn’t stick my kids on the bike and go, “Okay,” – bang! – they got it. They learn. And how do they learn?

They do this – Bam! Bam! Well, I don’t see their parents going, “Get up right now! What’s wrong with you?” They’re just going, “Oh, oh, come here! Emmy, Emmy, Emmy, come on, ma-ma-ma. Come on. Come on. Come on. Okay.” And then, they take three steps, and they fall. And their parents are excited about – what? The two or three steps they take. And they understand they’re going to fall. It’s a process to learn.

Discipline is a by-product of the Holy Spirit. Listen to what it says in Galatians chapter 5:22 and 23. It says, “But the fruit” – singular – “of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control; against such things there’s no law.” So, it’s the Spirit. It’s learning to trust by faith, allowing the Spirit of God to produce discipline in our lives.

We’re commanded – I mean, if that doesn’t do it for you – we’re commanded to live disciplined lives.

2 Peter 1:6 says, “And let your knowledge lead to self-control, and self-control to perseverance, and perseverance to godliness.” Discipline is the process that is learned over time, through training. It is not an experience. It’s not automatic, and it’s not about trying hard.

I’ll never forget, I had an assistant, a really bright young gal, that worked with me for about eight years, and she had never run a day in her life. I mean, she was not athletic, at all – and she decided she was going to run a marathon. And I’ve been working out for years, and I run about two miles, and it hurts my knees. Let me chase something, hit something, play something, but running just seems like, how can anyone do it? I admire you who do it.

I mean, here she is. She’s never done – she goes, “Oh, no, I – I talked to my friend, and we’re going to – there’s a training program; we saw it in a magazine.” I’m going, “Good luck, sweetie.” And “We met this guy who does marathons.” And I watched her, and she started walking, and then, she jogged so long. And all I can tell you is, about four months after she decided to run a marathon, she went into training.

And I can remember about three months in, and she goes, “Could I come in a half-hour late tomorrow?” I said, “Sure, what you got going?” She goes, “Well, I did ten miles on so and so, and I’m up to my sixteen-miler, and we’ve got to get up real early.” I said, “You’re going to run sixteen miles before you come to work?” And she said, “Yeah!” I’m thinking, You are like an angel from heaven. How do you do this?

And what I watched is, she ran a marathon without stopping, because everything she needed to run a marathon was in her body. But she had to go into a process of training, over time, to take that which she already possessed, over time, to develop the capacity to perform what was in her.

Are some of you kind of getting what I’m saying? All that you need is in you. The Spirit and the power, and the grace that raised Christ from the dead is in you. We must go into training. That’s why the writer of Hebrews would say, “By now, you ought to be mature. You ought to be teaching, but you’re drinking milk.” You need to be trained by God’s Word. And so, we’re going to talk about cultivating discipline as training.

Now, as we get going here, the dynamics of biblical discipline can be summed up in two words. Because at this point, I hope you’re saying, “I want that training. I want to be disciplined. I’d love to start time with God, or a workout, or mentoring someone, or getting my finances, or my time in order, but I’ve never been disciplined. If you could show me how to get disciplined, ooooh, ooooh, ooooh! I will do it! I want God to do it!” Okay. Say no more. That’s what we’re going to do. It can be summed up in two words: delayed gratification. It’s the key.

And I think of all the passages in Scripture that help me really get my arms around biblical discipline, it’s Hebrews 12:11: “All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness.”

Do a little Bible study. I would encourage you to memorize that one little verse. “All discipline” – self-control, same word in every passage so far, it’s the same root word. “All discipline” – notice – “for the moment.” Front end. This does not seem to be – it’s sorrowful. It’s difficult. It’s painful. “Yet to those who have” – what’s our word? - “over time been trained by it.”

I wish you could see the picture of my assistant’s face with the medal she got with her three friends, 26.2 miles later. Someone who’d never run a day in her life and accomplished an amazing feat, because she went into training.

And that’s what God has for you in your relationships, your marriages, your singleness, your parenting, your money, and your time. That’s what He really has for you.

Don’t believe that lie, well, there are other people that are more smart than we are, and there are people that are so much more holy, and there are people that are in such a different category. This is God’s plan for every one of His children.

I love the quote by the author and psychiatrist Scott Peck. He says, “Discipline is willfully choosing to embrace the painful and difficult aspects of one’s life first, in order” – listen to this – “to more fully enjoy and successfully achieve those relationships that mean the most.”

So much – we always focus on the first half – it’s sorrowful. It’s hard. “I’ve got to get up.” “We’ve got to get on a budget.” “I don’t want to do that.” You know, “I’ll never do it; I’ve failed before” – instead of focusing on – he says it’s willfully choosing to – what? – to confront the pain on the front end – why? – so you can get something way, way better on the back end.

Let me give you a high school illustration. You’re in tenth grade. You’re now learning how to write term papers. You have to write a term paper. And there’s a fifteen-page term paper that is due. You don’t know much, but they sent you to the library. It’s the old days, so you use 3x5 cards. You go and get on the computer. And you’ve got a month to do it and three weeks have gone by; you’re to your last week. And you say to yourself, “I’ve got to get on this term paper. I’ve never written one, and…”

And your parents ask, “Well, how’s that term paper?” “Oh, yeah, pretty good.” That means I’ve been thinking about it a little bit. Like, I do have my topic. That’s it. And then, they say, “Hey, how’s it really going?” So now, it’s Tuesday or Wednesday, and you did, at least, peruse where the resources were. For about five minutes.

Well, it’s Thursday, and you decide, Okay, Thursday, I’ve got to get this – I’ve got to start the term paper. And you’re at school, and someone goes, “Hey, are you going to the party tonight?” “No, I didn’t know there was a…” “Oh, man, this is an awesome party.” “Well, okay, I could do it Friday night.” So, you go to the party. But even during the party, in the back of your mind, this nagging, Fifteen pages. That’s a lot of time. A little knot in your stomach, but a little fun sort of makes that go away.

And you get up, and Friday, and then, “Oh, hey, did you hear about – you going to the game tonight?” “Oh, no, I can’t go to the game. I’m writing a term paper.” “Friday night, you’re going to stay home and write a term paper, you nerd? What’s with you?” And you say to yourself, That is kind of dumb. I got all day Saturday, right? So, you go to the game, right? And then, you get up on Saturday, Man, I am really tired. I think I’ll just get something to eat before I really get going.

Well, pretty soon, it is Sunday night. The term paper is due. You start about eight thirty, and you work until about four thirty in the morning, and you’ve written a very poor, twelve-and-a-half-page paper that’s supposed to be fifteen.

And here’s the point: You not only have a lousy paper, you didn’t enjoy Thursday night very much. During most of the game, all you could think about, when your team wasn’t scoring or you weren’t laughing, was what was undone, and you had this gnawing in the back of your mind. On Saturday, your procrastination – you had low-grade guilt that turned to high-grade guilt, and you told yourself, Maybe God will really help me, while you were at church and thought about skipping church to write the paper.

I’ve got news for you: There are people that live their whole life like that. And the stuff that really needs to get done keeps getting pushed out and keeps getting procrastinated. “We’ll get the finances under control.” “We’ll work on our marriage.” “We’ll really sit down and talk with one of our kids.” “We’ll address this addiction issue.” “You know what? We’ll confront that issue with our in-laws,” and, “Hey, we’ve got to set some boundaries and deal with some stuff.”

And you know what? It’s that term paper, and it never gets – and you just stay busy; you stay active. You love God a little bit. You do a little bit of this, do a little bit of that, and all the while, you never experience the rich “better” that God has because of that rare word:
delayed gratification.

And so, I would say the big question for us, how in the world do you develop it? If delayed gratification, if that’s the key, how do you develop it in your life?

And the method of developing biblical discipline can be summed up in three words. Discipline is two words: delayed gratification. How you get it – the process of developing it. You say to yourself, What’s the training? Where’s the magazine that says if I run, jog a little bit, and then, the next week, I actually try and jog a mile, and then, after that, I go and, where, how does that happen?

You’re going to see it right out of Scripture. The three key words are advance decision making. The key to delayed gratification – if you are at the window and the moment where you know you need to delay your gratification, and you haven’t pre-decided what you’re going to do in that moment, about ninety-five percent of the time, you will do what you don’t want to do.
Delayed gratification, if that’s the key, how do you develop it in your life?

And the method of developing biblical discipline can be summed up in three words. Discipline is two words: delayed gratification. How you get it – the process of developing it. You say to yourself, What’s the training? Where’s the magazine that says if I run, jog a little bit, and then, the next week, I actually try and jog a mile, and then, after that, I go and, where, how does that happen?

You’re going to see it right out of Scripture. The three key words are advance decision making. The key to delayed gratification – if you are at the window and the moment where you know you need to delay your gratification, and you haven’t pre-decided what you’re going to do in that moment, about ninety-five percent of the time, you will do what you don’t want to do.

Let me give you a biblical example, and if you have your pen or pencil, pull it out, because I want you to do a little Bible study. You’re going to see something very interesting about what the apostle Paul does.

Now, remember, this is a godly, godly man. Thirteen books in the New Testament he writes. So, I want to give you a little context. This is a guy who God has greatly, greatly used. But listen to some of his fears in his life.

He’s writing to the Corinthians in 1 Corinthians 9. He says, “Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way” – that’s a manner of living – “that you may win.” Circle the word win. “And everyone who competes in the games” – he’s giving reference to the Olympic games at the time – “exercises” – put a box around – “self-control” – that’s our word – “in” – what? – “all things.”

Application to the Olympic games and the people of his day: “They do it to receive a perishable wreath.” In the Olympic games, they actually had an Olympic village. You had to – talk about training – you had to sign up in advance. You had to be approved, and you lived in an Olympic village, and they moderated your food and your schedule for a full year. And you were in what was called “training”.

So, that was the commitment, long before the games. They’d do it, so at the very end, in front of thousands of people, they would take a wreath and they would stick it on your head to declare you as the champion, to get the praise of people. They do it; they go into training. They’re self-controlled. They rearrange their time, their eating, their habits, their focus, their family, to get a perishable wreath, “but we, an imperishable.” And he’s picturing the judgment seat of Christ and the reward for the sons and daughters of the King.

So, here’s his personal application: “Therefore I run” – notice – “in such a way” – what’s that? It’s repeated again. It’s a manner of life. How do I do life? How do I put my schedule together? What are my priorities? See, “I run in such a way” – notice – “as not without aim; I box in such a way, as not beating the air; but I buffet my body” – and the phrase is interesting in the original text. Literally, it’s a battering to black and blue. He’s making a little hyperbole, here – “and I make it my slave.”

In other words, my body’s not going to tell me I’ve got to go to the refrigerator. My body’s not going to tell me because I’m tired, I’ve got to turn on the TV. My body and my emotions are not going to tell me how to live my life. I’m going to be in control, by the Spirit of God, to do what needs to be done, when it needs to be done, so that I can have a wreath from the King of kings, that says, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant.”

I can have the kind of marriage that God wants for me. I can have the kind of kids who’ll say, “I wish I had a dad or a mom like that.” I can have employees who say, “Now, there is someone who runs a company God’s way.” Get it?

He goes on to say, “After I have preached to others – I buffet my body; I make it my slave.” He’s talking about the self-control – lest possibly “after I’ve preached to others, I myself should be disqualified.”

Not speaking of his salvation, whatsoever. Disqualified as, “You know what? I’m not in the game, not making a difference.” I mean, all of us want to say, “Well, Paul, are you kidding me, man?” I mean, right? By now, he’s probably got five, six, seven New Testament books written. “You’re one of our heroes. You’re the greatest missionary entrepreneur of all time.” And he realizes it never ends – the pull of the flesh, the draw of the Spirit; the pull of the world, the draw of the Spirit.

Let me make a couple observations, and then, I want to get this very practical. Notice, he has a clear-cut goal, verse 24, to win. Notice verse 25. There is a focus on the prize. He lives consciously, with a sense of reward. “There’s something I want to get. There’s something I want to become.” Notice, verse 25 and 26. There’s a motive. And his motives are the eternal versus the temporal, right? An imperishable, versus a perishable. And then, finally, notice the personal application. He basically says, “I have clear-cut goals. I don’t beat the air. I don’t run aimlessly. I’m not jogging, here. I know exactly where I’m going.”

Second, he focuses on the reward: “So that I’ll get that.” And third, he ponders the consequences of, “What if I don’t do this? What if I don’t do what needs to be done, when it needs to be done, as an apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ, and I am disqualified for service?”

And from that passage alone, if you honestly, in your heart of hearts, want to learn to put first things first – everything from your money, to your time, to your relationships, to ministry, and to work – I will tell you, the apostle Paul is outlining for us exactly how to do it.

Advance decision making, we said, is the key. Notice, it begins with clear-cut objectives. Advance decision making is rooted in clear-cut objectives. Now, let me give you a couple examples of advance decision making. And by the way, again, sometimes when you hear people talk, we unconsciously think, Well, well, he said that. Maybe I should do that.

Maybe you shouldn’t. I’m going to give you personal, advance decisions I’ve made, that the Spirit as God has led me to make, so I can become who God wants me to be. If some of them might be helpful, great, but don’t – that’s how people get all messed up. “Well, you know, Chip, he’s doing it this way.” Well, good, you know why? Because he’s Chip! You’re Mary! Be Mary. Be Bob. You need to discern what God wants you to do. But here are a few advance decisions I’ve made – what? – so that I can get the imperishable.

I made an advance decision: I’ll be with God before I’ll be with people. That’s my advance decision with my time.

Second advance decision: I will give the first portion of every check to God.

Advance decision number three: I will not buy anything we can’t pay for in thirty days. And I will say, yes, the exception of a house. Or some of you would say, “You know, hey, Chip, that’s good for you, but you need to consider this, this.” Great. Consider all the other stuff. I’m just saying, as a general rule, if we can’t pay for it, I’ve never paid interest on any credit card. Ever. After I saved up the first time and prayed and asked God, I’ve had cars for eight and ten and twelve years, but it’s been twenty-something years since I ever put a car on time.

I’ve pre-decided I will not view nudity of any kind. For me, not you – for me, I’ve decided there are certain ratings, I don’t care, I won’t see them.

One is, I will not be with another woman, alone, other than my wife. I’ve seen all these ministry guys who love God, they start counseling people. I’m a lousy counselor anyway, so that’s a pretty easy one for me.

And is it okay for some other people to do that differently? Absolutely. You do whatever God shows you. A lot of my pre-decisions are about my weakness, not my strength. So, what pre-decisions would God want you to make?

If you want to be disciplined, you have to make some pre-decisions, and here’s the key: Let the pre-decisions grow out of clear-cut objectives. My experience is, so often, what they grow out of is guilt and other people’s expectations, and this thought of, Why I ought to do this. I ought to be more this way. And you know, that won’t keep you.

I would encourage you to develop a “to-be” list. I know you do “to-do” lists, or at least most of you do. It was 1986. Obviously, Prof Hendricks of Dallas Seminary has had a big impact.

It was a brown-bag lunch. I was with twelve other guys. We were talking about life and ministry and being husbands and fathers, and what we were supposed to be, what we wanted to do. And I’ll never forget, Prof put these four words up on the board and then, he basically said, “Guys, (A), get grace down. God loves you at this moment as much as He’ll ever love you. Okay? Let that sink in. Gentlemen, you can’t impress Him. Reading longer, praying longer, effective ministries – it doesn’t change His love. So, what you need to do, first, is get rooted and grounded in that you are loved and accepted, that you are His son.” We were all men in the room at the time. He says, “Then, you need to ask, how do you say thank you, and what do you want to do with your life? What do you want to be? What do you want to be?”

I put my “to-bes” on my calendar. For me. You can do it any way – To be a man of God, I’m going to meet with God, and I blocked off these mornings. And to be a great husband, it takes a lot more, and it’s relational. Okay? But I blocked off Friday, and I had a date with Theresa, and we had a three or four-hour block every Friday, all the time I pastored.

And then, I put my kids in my calendar. And then, I blocked off, Okay, all day Wednesday, half Thursday, my outline, I want to be a great pastor, I want to preach great messages. And then, like you, I can’t keep that.

And I was with Bill Glass in a prison. And we were sharing Christ, and one of the elders took me there, and did it a number of times, and just off the cuff, he talked about how your mind – whatever you think about, what your desires are, you unconsciously gravitate toward accomplishing.

And I don’t know why, I was just sitting at the table, and I was listening, and I was just a 28-year-old pastor, you’re sitting in the background, listening to all these heavy hitters and I remember thinking, I know what I’m going to do. I’m going to write – this is an old card, 1986. It’s my desire cards.

And it’s, “Delight yourself in the Lord; He’ll give you the desires of your heart.” What if I started writing on cards what I want to be? That I knew for sure is God’s will. I’m not going to memorize them.

I’m coming out of becoming a workaholic after three years. I don’t want to memorize them. I don’t want to demand then. I’m not going to say they’re goals. I’m just going to tell God, “These are desires of my heart,” and then, I’m going to let Him sort of gravitate.

So, these are old, colored cards, actually. I was a little obsessive-compulsive. I put the family in one color, work in one color. So, sorry – some of us can’t get over it. I was making progress; I was in recovery, but, anyway, but let me just give you, and at night, I would just read these over, and then, during the day, now and then, and I didn’t feel like, and if I missed a day, who cares? But three or four or five times a week, I’m reading these over. “I want to be a worshipper. I want to enjoy God more, sing of His greatness, ascribe worth and praise to Him.” Because it didn’t come naturally to me. “I’d like to become habitually thankful, as a matter of unconscious response to all life’s circumstances and relationships, in light of the goodness and the sovereignty of God.” I just want to become – my unconscious reaction to everything: thank you.

I know those are God’s will, and I’ve got others. We’ve had enough. What would happen if you did that?

If God says He’ll give you the desires of your heart, what if you wrote down what you really want to be? “I want to be a wife who…” “I want to be a dad that…” And I can tell you, as I would read these over – I just have to confess, I wasn’t trying to pray, but I would just start gravitating toward praying these things for my kids.

You know, one of mine is, “I want to be a model of the attributes of God for each of my children.” I mean, I want that, but, and then so when something would happen, and my anger or something – God would bring that little card. And I ended up apologizing to my four-year-old, and, “I’m sorry, and that’s not how God works, and this is how Daddy is, and…” Clear-cut objectives.

Write down those desires. Get a clear-cut objective. And then, all of a sudden, “Yeah, a little sacrifice with our finances. Yeah, we can get on a budget.” Because it ties into the clear-cut objective.

Second is, then, focus on the reward, like Paul did. Imagine, picture in your heart and mind the success. Reward yourself along the way.

When I did real well in something – it takes six weeks to develop any habit. Okay? Getting up in the morning, whatever. When I did real well, and it was hard to discipline myself, and all these pulls, I would reward myself.

All my years in California – I met this older guy, godly guy, wise, gave oversight to these big companies in the past, and he was my leadership guru. Every Thursday morning, if my outline was done by six thirty A.M., we played nine holes of golf. And the first two or three holes, we’d talk about stuff. Then, I would go through my message, and then, the last three holes, I’d give him all my leadership issues. And he’d put his arm around me, and had kids my age, and I’ve got to tell you, a lot of times, I was up at four in the morning at my little doughnut shop, finishing up my outline so I could be with Dick.

And then, if I did these things, “We’re going to treat ourselves, and we’re going to go out to eat, and guess what, yeah, we’ve been saving; we’ve been budgeting, but it’s steak all around! We’re going to have a blast!” And you know, “If we do this, Honey – da-da-da – we’re going to save up, you and I, we’re going to go away.”

Plan in some rewards and have a blast! What happens, you live with all this guilt, and you don’t know – and so we do too many fun things to escape stuff, instead of reward ourselves and enjoy what God’s giving us.

The key to discipline – delayed gratification. The key to delayed gratification – advance decision making. How do you make advance decisions? One, clear-cut objectives. Two, reward yourself along the way. Three – and this is very important – advance decision making becomes personal and a conviction when you ponder the consequences. Ponder the consequences. The apostle Paul says – he ponders: Without a clear-cut goal, if I don’t buffet my body – I don’t think he liked that.

If I don’t discipline myself, if I don’t say “no” to the refrigerator, say “no” to the emotions, say “no” to the quick fix, say “no” to that everything in me that wants to run from this marriage issue, to say “no” to delaying talking to one of my kids, to say “no” to sitting down and saying, “You know what? I need a day away to figure out, what am I on Earth for, and what am I going to do with my life?” You’ve got to say “no” to all the pressures, and then, give yourself permission and come up with a plan. Clear goal. Focus on the rewards.

And then, I remember sharing this with our church, and it’d be different now. I guess I would have to say “grandkids.” But one of my great fears is – just because I see people fall financially or morally – is, I have this picture in my mind of all my kids on a couch – and I guess now, the couch got to be really big so their kids. And bending over with my knees, and they’re on the couch, and I’m explaining to them how I really do love God and I have been preaching God’s Word for now a lot of years, but it was just a weak moment, and I’m really sorry, and I know I’ve embarrassed God. I know I’ve embarrassed the Kingdom. I know that everything I’ve ever taught you – this behavior and what I just did, and now it’s in the papers, and… And I visualize telling my kids, eyeball to eyeball – and now, grandkid to grandkid – that I blew it, and I fell. And it scares me to death. And the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.

You need to ponder – you know, you think of that one – raise the ante. Imagine what it’s going to be like when Jesus is sitting on the couch, and you’re explaining to Him why you didn’t have time to fulfill your purpose, and how you were going to get around to getting on a budget and getting your finances straight, and dreaming the dream, and discovering your purpose, but you just had too many emails to answer. And I don’t know about you, I want gold, silver, and precious stones. I don’t want wood, hay, and stubble. But it takes discipline. That’s how you put first things first.