The Peace And Power Of A Prioritized Life

From the series Balancing Life's Demands

Feeling overwhelmed? Need a dose of peace and a renewed sense of God’s power? Join Chip and discover how you can experience God’s peace and power like never before.

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Message Transcript

Well, as we get started, we’re gonna talk about aligning your life and your priorities, doing what’s important, in a way that God says, for two purposes.  One, so that you fulfill His purposes and bring glory to Him, and, second, because when you do that, it is good for you.  His highest and best is achieved and accomplished when there is an alignment of your priorities with the way He has designed you and designed life to work.  And when your priorities get out of whack, when the balance gets out of whack, it produces some painful things in you, in relationships, and, often, significant damage.

Just so this isn’t theoretical: 1983 I was a full-blown workaholic. Early 30s.  Driven, focused, and disciplined. I got focused early on about sports – this is what you do: You set a goal and you get focused.  And I was focused, I was disciplined, and I was driven. And then I got – I came to Christ, and it took me a while to get going, but once I got going, I got focused, I was disciplined, and I was driven. And then, God called me into ministry, and so, once I started with this church, about two or three years into it, I was focused, I was disciplined, and I was driven. And how in the world, in a church of 35 to 50 people, you can work 80 hours a week, I don’t know, but I figured out how to do it.

Nineteen eighty-three – I was sitting in a doctor’s office – and my wife went with me – and he evaluated everything.  He asked about my schedule.  He asked what I did, why I did it.  They had run some tests; there were some problems with my liver.  And he just said, “You keep living like you live, and you’re gonna die young.”  And he said, “Your life is out of balance and out of control.”

And I mean to tell you, what I want you to hear is, it has been a very significant journey, and you don’t have to be that way, and you can change, and priorities can change, and you can be motivated and not driven.  And you can have good priorities and discipline without being so focused that you’re out of whack. I say that so you know what I’m gonna talk about is not, like, theoretical.

You know, whether you’re young in the Lord or old in the Lord, whether you have had a long history with God, or you’re relatively new in Christ, whether you’re super successful and need to reevaluate, or you’re in crisis and overwhelmed, you know what?  Everyone needs to stop, and look, and evaluate your priorities.  Is your life in balance?  Is it being lived the way God wants it to, for His glory and your good?

And so, to do that, here’s the format that we’re gonna use.  I’m gonna give a little diagnosis.  I’m gonna give you six warning signs of misplaced priorities.  So, I’m gonna – just gonna go through – Boom!  Boom!  Boom!  Boom!  Boom! – and you’re gonna say, “Hey, you know, I think my priorities are here – good, good, good.  Mmm, better check that one.”

Second, then, after the diagnosis, I’m gonna give a little definition: What are God’s priorities for our lives?  I mean, how do they fit together?  I mean, what does God expect?  What are the right priorities?

And then, third, I want to just get you started.  I’m gonna give you two tools, two tools to start getting a handle.  When you hear these two tools don’t feel like, Ahhh!  I gotta have that down tomorrow!  You’re not gonna get it down tomorrow.  You’re gonna recognize – God’ll give you a tool for this hand and a tool for that hand, and now, you will start on a journey, using these two tools – they’re the beginning steps of bringing your priorities under the submission of God, to get them in line for His glory and your good.  Okay?  So, let’s jump in together, and let me give you the six symptoms of misplaced priorities.

The first symptom is busyness.  You can write that word in.  Busyness, but barren of fruit.  If your life is characterized where you’re hurrying all the time, you’re rushing, you’re driven, you eat on the run . . .  If I went into your desk and – if you have an office – or your dresser, and there are piles of many things, and then, over underneath of it, there are piles on the floor, and if we went in the garage – we wouldn’t even want to go there . . .  If I went to your office at work, there is stuff, stuff everywhere, and you’re going to get to it, but you’re just putting it in stacks now because there are just too many balls to juggle . . .  People who love you are saying things kindly and lovingly – some of them, you’re married to, others are business associates, others are people that just say it casually, when you say, “Hey, let’s get together,” and you say, “Oh, yeah, yeah, yeah,” and you’ve been saying that for, like, 18 months . . .  They’re saying, “Slow down.”  If you’re a fairly young follower, or maybe you remarried and now you have some kids and you have some smaller kids – five or six or under – they hang on your knee, with their arms around you, as you’re leaving out the door, that’s a symptom that you’re doing too much and that you’re too busy.  Busyness.  I call it the “activity trap.”

Second is emotional stress and pressure, anxiety.  People whose priorities are out of whack have symptoms like an uptightness.  They sometimes have chest pains, migraine headaches, trouble sleeping.  You have this uneasy feeling.  You feel restless a lot; it’s hard to sit still.  You wish you could get your mind to slow down.  Sometimes you find yourself going, [deep breath] I just need to take a deep breath.  Because the RPMs inside your head – you’re multitasking about everything, all the time.  There are no windows of real rest. There’s this dis-ease, this sense that, I’m not really very happy.  I don’t have a lot of joy.

The third is what I call “low-grade, nagging guilt.”  You feel bad about yourself.  Again, it’s not just the restless feeling but it’s “not fulfilled.”  There are a lot of things that you know you’re supposed to do.  In fact, you did them in the past.  You actually tell other people they should do them, but you don’t do them anymore.  But you know enough verses, and you have enough background spiritually, that you fake it well.  But you hate this feeling of this duplicity, this level of hypocrisy.  Now, you know no one has it all together, but right now’s not the way it used to be.  And you keep telling yourself, You know what?  I’m – you know, those times in the morning that I had or those significant times in prayer, I’ll get back to that.  But right now . . .  And you just have this low-grade, nagging guilt.  Relationships become superficial, little time for celebration.  Daily pressures push aside the need to stop, envision, plan, think about the future.

The fourth is financial debt, financial problems.  When priorities really start unwinding, you realize, You know, we were really committed to giving the first portion.  We meant to do that, but then we had this little hiccup, and then this happened, and then that happened, and we had a little hospital situation over here.  And the company, we thought, was gonna do a little bit better, and that didn’t work out.  And so, the debt begins to pile up; the giving begins to deteriorate.

And by the way, God speaks through your money. You can’t figure it out. You know, we’re making this much money.  We’re making more money than we ever have, but it just seems like . . .  Oh, it seems like God puts holes in our finances.  That’s ‘cause He loves you.  He’s trying to get your attention.

The fifth symptom of misplaced priorities is prayerlessness, or leakage in the devotional life. You’re on a spiritual, kind of, up and down roller coaster.  You have an experience at church or maybe a little something here, and – and then, it’s very up, down, emotional.

The final one is – is escapism behavior.  We do it in a lot of different ways: some thrill-seeking behavior, at least when you’re younger. As you get older, it’s impulsive buying, vacations you can’t afford.  You eat out a lot, rent a lot of videos.

And a lot of time doing things that make us feel like we’re accomplishing something, ‘cause down deep, we don’t know where we’re going. And I wish that did not describe an awful lot of believers’ lives, but I will tell you, as we get thousands upon thousands of emails, I hear it over and over and over and over.

In conclusion, these symptoms are always – in our minds, they’re temporary.  They’re just small concessions.  I mean, like, one or two of those things, it doesn’t mean you’re out to lunch and you don’t love God anymore; you’re ready for a divorce next week.  They all start as just a little thing, and you’re gonna fix them next week, and as soon as this season’s over, when this – you know . . .

But here’s what I want you to hear: They all begin a process.  The big falls always start with little things like this.  And one or two that you juggle, and then, pretty soon, there are three or four.  “He who is faithful in a very little thing [will be] faithful also in much; and he who is unrighteous in a very little thing” – Luke 16:10 – “[will be] unrighteous also in much.”  And you – “We’re gonna get reconnected as a couple when . . .  And the family will start some of that devotional stuff again, and we’ll get our finances in order and I’ll be able to give like I used to, and, you know, I know we need to have a budget, but, I mean, those credit cards – hey, you know what?  Everyone has a window like this, but it’s real temporary because . . .”

And, yeah, it’s not a life-or-death deal, but 2 Samuel 11, verses 1 and 2 says, “At the time when kings [went] out to battle” . . .  Priority issue.  After great success, “at the time when kings [went] out to battle,” when a king did what a good king’s supposed to do, David decided he’d stay home.  And then, Bathsheba and Uriah get penned in his autobiography.

And that’s the way it happens with good people, people who make great moral, financial failures: Families split, divide; churches get killed; kids wonder what happened.  They don’t wake up and go, You know something?  You know, I got this great marriage.  I love my wife.  I love my husband.  I got a couple kids.  I got one grandchild – whatever it is.  You know what?  I just think I’ll take about 200 grand from the company.  That CFO and I are good buddies, and I think, together, we could embezzle a little money and just have a lot of fun!  I mean, no one wakes up and does that.  Or – that’s Thursday.  You know, Saturday, I think I’ll have an affair. I’m gonna put that on my calendar, just so I don’t forget.  I’m just gonna . . .

That’s not how it ever happens!  These symptoms start to weave into your life, and you get vulnerable, and you get hurt, and you just want some relief.  And you never think it’s possible for someone who loves God the way you love God – for any of that to ever happen.

But the right place, at the right time, in a weak moment, with these things happening – Bang!  And all of a sudden, you’re the feature film in your own nightmare.

Those are the symptoms, and it raises a very important question, then: If those are the symptoms, then what are the right priorities?  I mean, God, help!

And here’s how priorities actually work: Living in you is the Spirit of God.  In John 6, He would say, “The Word that I speak to you is Spirit and it is truth.  And dwelling in you is the same power that raised Christ from the dead.”  And what our priorities are really all about is, what do you need in your relationship with Jesus, and the Father, and the Spirit, so that you’re full of Him, so that there is connection and abiding, so it can overflow into your relationship with your mate?  And He’ll show you, what’s it look like?  How much time?

It’s different for every couple.  I mean, my poor wife, she married this super high need guy.  I mean, I’ve seen couples that, you know, they have a couple of good talks a week; man, they’re both doing great.  Poor Theresa – I mean, I come home; I gotta have 15 minutes: “I gotta tell you what’s going on with my day.  You know, how are you doing?  What’s going on?”  I gotta have one date a week.  Two or three times a year, I want to get away from everybody.  I mean, I’m really high need.  But that’s to be filled up for our kids . . .  I mean, even in all those young years, we’d eat, and I’d tell the kids, “I love you.  Scram.  And I’m gonna spend some time –” And we’d sit and have coffee at the table.  Or take a little walk.

But just listen: What do you need?  Is it 15 minutes in the morning in the presence of God?  Is it an hour in the morning?  I don’t know what you need!  But I know it’s the Word, it’s prayer, it’s the community of believers, and it’s application.  And you walk and abide with Christ, and then the overflow of that is, you treat your mate, empowered by the Holy Spirit…  Now, what do you need in your relationship? You get that before you go and give it, and then that overflows to your kids, and that overflows to a high capacity, nurtured, loved husband or wife, who walks through the door and goes to work.  And then, your work is done in the power of the Spirit, with the support of those relationships, and people wish they had a boss like you or an employee like you, because of who shows up.  And then, your work is a testimony, and then your ministry, in local church or kingdom expansion – do you see the difference?  And so, it’s a fluid thing.

But don’t think of them as just linear.  It never works that way, just a linear one, two, three, four. Think about it as, what do you need in every relationship so that the Spirit of God can allow love that you possess in your relationship with Jesus to come out of you into that relationship, and so you, if – especially if you’re married – with your wife or husband, love in such a way that that flows into the life of your kids.

And you know what?  If it’s not happening here, don’t export it.  See, what people do is, they – they get the flow in their relationship with God and maybe – but often not – with their mate, and then, since you get a lot more strokes at work, then they take all that energy and take it to work.  Or what a lot of women tend to do is, they may have it with God, and pretty soon, there are all these needs, and there’s such fulfillment in, “Mommy, I love you and I need you, and you helped my knee, and you did this, and you helped me with my homework.  You’re the most wonderful person,” and that nurturing – and pretty soon, her second priority becomes the kids.

And so, he goes to work, she loves the kids, and they reconnect after 25 years of marriage.  And that’s why, other than the first five years of marriage, the most dangerous zone of divorce is about 20 to 25 or 25 to seven – 27 years, depending on when your kids leave the nest.  Priorities are about walking in the Spirit, and you can see a clear structure, but you don’t necessarily do them one, two, three, four.

The things that matter most, the things that will just take you down the road and help you become the person you long to be – there’s no gun to your head that says, “Develop a deep, intimate relationship with God.  Study His Word,” when there are 15 emails or 150 emails to answer.

Well, how do you get a hold of them? We’ve looked at six ways that say, “You know what?  These are indicators.  These are, like, six lights on the dashboard of your life, telling you what’s going on in your soul.”  And you know what?  If you’ve got two or three of those flashing, God’s saying, “Hey, time out.”

And by the way, something I want you to hear: It will require – this is not one of those issues that you say, “Oh, I heard from God.  I’m gonna start tomorrow, and everything’ll be fine.”  You didn’t get your priorities where they are, that affect so many relationships, overnight.  They don’t change overnight.

Someone has said, “Significant, lasting change never occurs without serious, prolonged thinking.”

The issue is not tweaking something. If tweaking your priorities worked, they would already be fixed.  ‘Cause you’re smart people!

Priorities and balancing your life really have to do with getting really clear on who you are, what God wants you to do, and then getting a sense of holy urgency and realizing life is passing.  And you’re gonna die.  And I’m gonna die.  And this unconscious, human thought that we have that, You know, I’m gonna work on that next week, and so we spend our life responding to details and data, and feeling good about, I answered 75 of the 150 emails. I did my list. Is it the right list?!

You know, you gotta stop. I mean, that’s why coaches call time out.  The momentum’s going this way; they scored three times in a row.  “Hey, I don’t know what we’re doing, but it’s not the right thing.”  And some of us, we’re not being smart.  We have those misplaced priorities, and some of you have four or five of those symptoms, and instead of stopping and saying, “Whoa, I gotta really reevaluate,” we go faster.
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.