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A Man's Priorities: How to Decide What's Important

Putting God, others, rest, and work in their proper places.


by Patrick Morley

Are you tired? I don't mean just physically tired, but emotionally and mentally tired? I don't know about you, but everywhere I go these days I see tired men. Just plain exhausted.

Two kinds of tired make their way into my life. Sometimes when I go home, I'm "good" tired. You know the feeling. You spent yourself in a worthy cause. You're tired—but you feel great!

Theodore Roosevelt described "good" tired this way:

It is not the critic who counts, not the man who points how the strong man stumbled or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena; whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly. Who errs and comes short again and again; who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions. Who spends himself in a worthy cause. Who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement; and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly so that his place will never be with those timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat.

Don't you just love that kind of talk! That gets me fired up! That's good tired.

But that's not the kind of tired most men are these days; most men are just worn-out tired. One of the greatest Christian fallacies is that we are not doing enough for the Lord. You've heard men say it, "I just wish I was doing more for the Lord." It's not that we are not doing enough, but that we are doing too much of the wrong things.

As a young Christian, I didn't have a clue about God's priorities for my life. I lacked the self-confidence to say no because I honestly didn't know where the boundaries were. So I said yes to everything, and I wore myself out. Some people do too much out of guilt, but mine was out of ignorance of biblical priorities. I only knew enough to be dangerous.

One fall I went to a men's retreat just to get a break from it all. Tom Skinner, the primary speaker, stunned me—totally and completely—with his teachings about biblical priorities. I was so impressed we invited Tom to come to Orlando to share his understanding of the Scriptures with some tired, worn-out friends. Tears of relief flowed from several of the Christian "workaholics" who attended.

Jesus said, "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls" (Matthew 11:28-29, italics added). Our emphasis always seems to be on doing. But God is interested in our rest. It is a priority with Him and, therefore, us.

Some of us worry so hard we get no rest. This rest Jesus offers isn't just for the physically tired, but for the emotionally and mentally tired, too. "The sleep of a laborer is sweet, whether he eats little or much, but the abundance of a rich man permits him no sleep" (Ecclesiastes 5:12). The "worry" tired may be the most tired of all.

Isaiah gave special attention to worn-out, tired men:

He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall;
But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint (Isaiah 40:29-31).

Work

Men need a forum in which to find their significance and make their contribution. That forum is work. Our propensity for work finds its origins at the very beginning of creation when God prescribed work as the manner in which we would occupy our days.

The purpose of work is to glorify God with the abilities He has given us. By pursuing excellence and by settling for nothing less than our personal best, we demonstrate to a world weary of Christian "talky-talk" that Christ can make a difference in a man's life here and now.

Paul places such a high emphasis on work that he says a man who doesn't work (if he is able) shouldn't be allowed to eat! Paul himself often earned income as a tentmaker.

Good works

To have a faith without any good works is no faith at all. Our faith allows us to enter into relationship with God, not our good works, but "we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do" (Ephesians 2:10, italics added).

In other words, God didn't give us salvation for our benefit alone. Rather, He has a will, a purpose, and a plan for every man, which includes some good work He had in mind for us before we even knew Him.

The areas in which God wants our help are:

  1. Introducing others to Him (Evangelism);
  2. Helping others learn about and become like Him (Disciplemaking); and
  3. Caring for the poor and needy (Matthew 25:37-40; Deuteronomy 15:11).

This is God's agenda. We try to make it more complicated, but these are the three tasks God wants us to help Him with.

Different men can contribute to these three areas in different ways, depending on their temporal and spiritual gifts. Each of us must make an honest assessment of how we are endowed: in intelligence, wisdom, acquired competencies, and innate abilities.

The spiritual gifts we most frequently think of are serving others, teaching, encouraging, contributing to the needs of others, leadership (including administration), showing mercy, and preaching. Several passages of Scripture give us an inventory of the different spiritual gifts God gives to men:

  • 1 Peter 4:10-11
  • Romans 12:4-8
  • Ephesians 4:11-12
  • 1 Corinthians 12:1—12

Why not look these up and answer the question, "What are my gifts?"

We conclude about our task priorities that God wants us to work and provide for ourselves and our families, while at the same time working on His three agenda items using the different temporal and spiritual gifts which He gives us.

To summarize, five overarching areas of importance to God form the foundation upon which we are to prioritize our lives:

  1. To love God,
  2. To love others,
  3. To rest,
  4. To work,
  5. To do good works.

To be a biblical Christian is to have these five priorities in balance. This all sounds so simple, but we know there is fierce competition with biblical priorities.

The competition with God's priorities

Trying to keep up with all of our responsibilities, like an old farmer said, is like trying to put two tons of fertilizer in a one-ton truck! What competition do we face when we try to live by God's priorities?

The world system, far different from the spiritual life, competes directly with biblical priorities. We are to be aliens and strangers here, pilgrims who are just passing through. "Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For everything in the world—the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does—comes not from the Father but from the world. The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever" (1 John 2:15-17).

The slave master "money" indentures men to a bankrupt set of priorities. No slave master has ever been more cruel or ruthless than money. "No one can serve two masters …You cannot serve both God and Money" (Matthew 6:24).

This competition, the world and money, must be part of our lives. They must be our slaves, however, and we must be their master.

God knows we face choices more numerous than our time and money resources. That's why He has so clearly outlined His agenda to us and has shown us what our priorities should be. Men frequently pine for direction from God saying, "If I only knew God's will for my life." We need look no further than the Bible—it has the answers.

Taken from The Man in The Mirror by Patrick M. Morley. Copyright © 1989, 1992, 1997 by Patrick M. Morley. Used by permission of Zondervan.

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