Let me give you two tools. There are two things we have to do to get a hold of our priorities. Two ways. They hold the key to enjoying the peace and power of a prioritized life. And by the way, I think that’s – when your priorities are in line, those are the two big characteristics: personal peace and you experience God’s power.
Number one: In order to get a hold of your priorities, you must start with your time. T-I-M-E. I’ll give you an Old and New Testament passage. First, it’s the only psalm that Moses wrote. Toward the end, he says, “The length of . . . days is seventy years – or eighty, if we have the strength; yet their span is but trouble and sorrow, for they quickly pass, and we fly away. Who knows the power of Your anger? For Your wrath is as great as the fear that is due You.” Application: “Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.” If we were doing some quick Bible study, verse 10, he says, basically, life’s brevity – it’s gonna be short. Verse 11: There’s coming judgment. You’re gonna give an account for what you do in this life. Verse 12: Therefore, pray, “God, give me wisdom. Show me how to live this life.” I mean, this is written by Moses, who did, – I’m not sure how it all worked out, but he probably did about a million or a million and a half funerals. That’s sobering. You get a little perspective on what matters. Right? I mean, I’ve done a lot of funerals. I’ve never done one, to date, that I didn’t just get a gut check about my own mortality.
I have a friend I was doing a little mentoring with – and he’s a very zealous guy – and his boss couldn’t do something, so he got this project. And his project was to interview centenarians - people that were a hundred years old or older.
And so, I saw him later, and I said, “Well, hey, how’d it go?” He said, “It was really amazing. They all had one thing in common.” They said, universally, two things. Number one, “We way overemphasized our accomplishments, and all the things that we thought were such big accomplishments, after four or five or six decades, we realized they weren’t such a big deal. And we underestimated the value of our families and relationships.”
God wants us to make a difference. But He wants us to make a difference according to His calling. He wants us to use our time wisely. He wants us to discern and to number our days. And you know, Moses is a guy, too, that, for – at about 40, with a lot of zeal, said, “You know what? I think I know God’s will. He wants me to deliver.” And Moses, and his great strength and his flesh, killed one Egyptian and didn’t have the wherewithal to even bury him well. Really?
Sometimes we think, Well, life’s passing by. I’ll never accomplish what God wants me to. Forty years of training about learning how to trust God and discover who He was, and then out of trust, God says, “Moses, watch this. I can bury them all, the entire army, and no one comes up afterwards.”
And a lot of us have to discover, are you gonna live your life and seek to do – and by the way, with people like us, it’s not like we’re usually out doing all these bad things. It’s all these good things that are killing you, that you’re doing good things for the wrong reasons that aren’t God’s unique calling for you.
And so, you’re multitasking, and you’re overloaded, and you’re overextended, and you’re all – all those meals and those cars and going to all those practices and doing all that stuff and attending stuff you don’t even like, that you just feel you ought/should, ought/should, ought/should, expectation, visible – where’s it come from? I don’t know. You just do it. Just do it. Just do it. Just do it. You know? And then you – you crash, and then you’re tired, and so you put on the TV, and, you know, beep, beep, beep, beep, beep, beep, beep, beep.
What I’ve realized is, when I get tired, when I lose focus, and when I don’t want to think, when a commercial comes, I’m bored. So, I’ll watch part of this, part of this, part of this, part of this. You know what? It drains me.”
One of the disciplines I’m going into right now is realizing, one, I have to limit even really good media, and I have to realize, I’m trying to control everything. Part of – quarter one of this, part of one of this, part of an old movie. Hey – and in my brain, hey, I’m kind of watching them all. Wonder how that one’s coming over here? Now, the reason you’re laughing is, there are other people that are as wacko as me! This is true, in this room! He says, “Our time.”
Notice what the apostle Paul would say. He says, “Therefore” – he’s talked about who we are in Christ. He’s talked about being different from the world. Verse 15 of Ephesians 5: “Therefore be careful how you walk.” It’s that metaphor for the way you live, or your whole life.
Negatively, “Not as [an] unwise men but as wise.” Do you get that idea? Wisdom. Discerning God’s will and doing it God’s way. “Making the most of your time” – circle the word time in your notes. Why? “Because the days are evil.” And he thought it was evil then, what do you think about now? “So then do not be foolish.”
When you have misplaced priorities and you’re spending your life, instead of investing it, it’s foolish. “[Don’t] be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.”
You know, that word, time – in the New Testament, there’s a couple of different words for it. One is – we get our word chronology – chronos. You know, it’s time, like, 10 minutes, 15 minutes, 11 minutes. The other is a different word, called kairos, and it has the idea of a window of opportunity. It’s, like, during this window of opportunity.
Do you know what? There’s a window of opportunity, when your kids are between about two and six or seven, of unique spirituality of training. I text my boys, they all have little kids, and you know, I try not to be too pushy, but it’s like, “Hey, guys, I just want you to know, whatever you do, keep reading those Bible stories at night. Tuck your kids in; don’t let your wife have all the fun. Tell them stories about you.” And then there’s a window of time in pre-teens and teens. There’s a window of time in early adulthood. There’s a window in time in your life, and you’re in it.
There are certain things that happen in this season – some that are in the 20s, some in the 30s, some in the 40s, some in the 50s, some in the 60s, some in the 70s, and beyond. But there’s a window. There’s a window for activity; there’s a window for mentoring. There’s a window for risk. There’s a window of time. Buy up the opportunity. And what we tend to do is have some success in the last window and hang on to it, and God is always asking us, “Take risks. Trust Me.” So, you’ve gotta get your time under control.
I was at a banquet last night, and I spoke on a title called “Good to Great, in God’s Eyes,” and it was a group of people that had been successful in their endeavors, and I was encouraging them that the temptation, when you have done some things that have come out pretty well, is to rest on your laurels, instead of, you know, that your best days are out of your windshield, instead of your rear view mirror. When you find yourself always talking about what you did, what you did, what you did, what you did – you know, pinch yourself. That ain’t now. Faith is always futuristic. What are you trusting God for? You’re here. What can you do today, so that . . .?
And, you know, I didn’t mean it to be all that challenging, but it was really fun. They were really warm. And I love it. This couple came up, and they said, “You know, man, God really spoke to me.” And I said, “Well, great,” you know, and we talked a little bit – five, ten minutes – and then the guy goes, “Well, how?” I said, “Well, what do you mean?” He said, “Well, how?” He said, “You know, I own my own business; she’s doing this. We got so much stuff, so many people, so many commitments, so many committees, so much stuff.” I mean, they’re just pillar kind of people, you know? They’re on this committee, and they’re doing this in the church, doing this, doing this, dzzzzzz. I said, “You gotta hear from God.” “Well, I don’t have time to hear from God.” I said, “Did you just hear yourself?”
The greatest single gift God gave me was a bricklayer who came on Tuesday morning, after I was a Christian for three months. And he taught me how to have what he called a “quiet time.” And I developed the habit – and it was only, like, 10, 15 minutes, early on.
And then, after a year or so, it was fun. And God was speaking to me. And here’s all I want to say: If you will give the first portion of your time to God, He will clear away and show you what to do and what not to do, where to go and where not to go, what to say “yes” to and what to say “no” to, and give you the courage to say “no” to it.
I put in here, actually, a simple little way. There are a lot of ways to study the Bible, but one of the early ways that gets you in the text – because my fear, in our day, is, we have everybody eating predigested, Gerber’s spiritual food. That means someone else studied real hard, and you read what they say, and there’s a little verse at the end, and you say, “Praise the Lord, amen.” And you know what? It’s not that it’s bad. It’s a great appetizer. Strength and convictions and power and courage to do the will of God is when your nose gets in the Word for yourself, and the Spirit of God takes it off that page and does something in your heart and gives you the strength to say, “Yes! Thus says the Lord for me.” Not, He said it through some other person – and God bless all the great teachers and all the great ways, I love them all - but there’s no substitute.
And so, this little 2PROAPT . . . You know, I put it here, if you’re a newer Christian, I encourage you to start in the Book of Mark, and if you’re an older Christian – just ‘cause it’s so application oriented – James. And the two PROAPT – you know those initials? What do they call them, acronyms or something? You know, the two “Ps,” “R,” “O” – so are you ready? I’ll just go through it real quickly.
You start, and you pray, “Dear God, will You speak to me today?” And then I don’t want you to read a whole lot, maybe a couple of paragraphs, at the most, and then the “R” – the first one is “R.” You read it quickly. You just read it real quickly to get the general idea. Then, second “R” is, you read it slowly, and preferably out loud. It’s amazing what happens the second time.
And then the “O” is for observation. You read it a third time. See, you don’t take so much. You slow it down, and you dig into it. And this time, if there’s a word that’s repeated, you underline it, or if something sticks out to you, you might circle it.
And so, you’ve previewed it, then you’ve read it slowly out loud, and then you read it real slowly, making some observations, and then the “A” is for application. And it’s only a couple of paragraphs, but you say, “God, speak to me.” And then, just think, Well, let’s see, this is a letter of encouragement. Nothing really stuck out, but it was encouraging... Hold it, do I know anybody that needs encouragement? Before I go, I tell you what – I’m gonna jot a note to Bob. I haven’t seen him in . . . And do something. Spiritual growth is not about getting more Bible knowledge in your head; it’s about responding to the truth and the light that He gives you.
Isn’t that what Jesus said at the parable of the seed and the sowers? Here’s how life works. You respond to the truth God gives you, He gives you more truth. You don’t respond to the truth and the light that He gives you, then even what you have’ll be taken away. We’ve got a generation of people that know so much about God but don’t have an intense, personal, relational knowledge of Him - because that doesn’t come through the head. That comes through application and the heart. At the end of the day, you want to hear God. You want to hear His voice. What’s He want to say to you from the Word?
And then the “T” is, you tell somebody. Kind of in a casual way, to people that you know – and it might be – you know, there’s a guy lives in Texas; he’s a good buddy, we speak couple of times a week.
And we’ll just say, “Hey, what’d you read? Where’s God speaking to you?” And he’ll share, and I’ll share. When you tell, it kind of seals it.
So that’s a little method that’s been very helpful for me.
So, tool number one – and this is just to get you started. Tool number one: If you’re gonna get a hold of your time, I believe you’ve gotta start by saying, “God, I got all these pulls, all these demands. I’m gonna give the first block, or the best block, of my time” – whenever that is, for me it’s the morning – “to You, and I’m gonna ask You to start sorting out my life.” And I will tell you, it’ll be dramatic.
The second tool that will help you get a hold of your priorities is your money. Jesus spoke more about money than heaven and hell, combined, and I think He could actually care less about your money. He needs none of it. But your money reflects your values. Your money reflects your heart. Wherever your money goes – imagine, just every time you put that credit card down, every time you write a check, every time you spend money, every time you invest money, what you’re saying is – here’s your heart. There’s a little chain connected to it. And wherever your money goes – your treasure – that’s where your heart goes.
Your heart always follows the money.
And so, what He wants is, He wants your heart. “Honor the LORD with your wealth, with the firstfruits of all your crops. Then” – notice, this isn’t a – prohibitive – “then your barns will be filled [with] overflowing, and your vats will brim over with new wine.” Proverbs 3:9 and 10. You all know, probably, many, many verses, and by the way, the giving is not about just giving. God owns it all, correct? The earth and all thereof is the Lord’s.
So, He evaluates the 10 or 15 or 20 or 80 percent that I give away – wherever you’re at in your life – and all that I keep. I’m a steward of it. I’m just the manager. You have to get a hold of your time; you have to get a hold of your money. And this is not a legalistic, “I’m now giving ‘X’ percent, and now –” No, I’m talking about your money, as it relates to your heart.
Let’s get off of being down on ourselves. Let’s try just getting real with ourselves, getting honest with God. He loves you so much that He wants you to learn to give, so that He can give – good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, back into your lap. He wants you to learn to budget and say, “This is Yours, and I want to be a good steward.” And He wants you – are you ready for this? ‘Cause some of you are looking so serious. First Timothy 6:18 – He wants you not to fix your hope on the uncertainty of riches, but – are you ready? – He wants you to richly enjoy every good thing He gives you. He wants you to take a great vacation and have a great steak, and have some real fun and have your priorities in order, so instead of going, “Oh, I feel guilty about this,” where you enjoy it. ‘Cause, you know, it’s the blessed hand of God upon your life.
God loves you, guys. He wants you to look at those six areas and be honest. How you doing?
So, how do you get your money under control? Four steps. Number one, give the first portion of each paycheck to the Lord. And for some of you, you gotta have a really hard talk, and you’re gonna say, “Oh, my, and how can we do it?” It’s a faith step. Give the first portion to the Lord.
Second, pay your bills next. Don’t take a vacation. Don’t go to Costco. Don’t buy something on sale. Okay? Money comes in. Here are all your bills, in one spot. Give to God the first; pay all your bills next. Novel idea: Live on the rest. You don’t have it, don’t spend it.
So, give to the Lord first, pay your bills, live on the rest, and then get out of debt. We’re on a journey and a process. It’s not gonna happen all at once. Six symptoms, two tools – time, money – an open heart. Let’s go there together.