THE CHRISTIAN’S PRIORITY STRUCTURE

What is the goal of human life? What are you striving for in life? What are you aiming for? What do you want to accomplish when life is over? Many people go through life without ever thinking about why they are living. It’s so easy to get caught up in the culture of our day that we can often go through our entire life without ever stopping to think about the ‘why’ of human existence. Why are we here? Maybe I could put it a little more differently by saying, “if you had one wish from your fairy godmother, what would it be? For that one wish will probably focus in on what the goal of your life is. If you could make one request, and anything you requested would be granted. What is the desire of your heart? What are you moving for with such rapidity week after week and hour after hour? I would imagine that philosophical psychology would tell us that man is searching for a sense of security; that he is searching for companionship, that he is searching for a sense of happiness and joy, that he is searching for some meaningful work. And I think all these things would be true, that these are elements of our lives that we very seldom move beyond these basic things until they’re in place. I think if you look at your life, remember back when you were somewhat younger until you got that thing settled about a vocation you weren’t really content to deal with some other things. Until you got that thing settled about a mate, you really weren’t content to go on to some other things. There are some basic things that we have to seem to get in place before we can move on to other fulfilling and meaningful work, and efforts, and striving for, and those kinds of things. So, I think there are some real basic things that all of us need to have a meaningful life or a happy life and we try to get those in place first. And I understand that and I think that’s just human nature that we strive to get those basic things of food and shelter and security and contentment and companionship and meaningful work in place. But most of us have those major pillars of our life founded. Most of us have those large pillars that give our life stability in place. And then once we have those necessary things for life in place, it becomes very interesting the different directions our interests take.

If I were to try to apply some pragmatic existential test to your life to try to see really what you are all about. Now you would probably tell me very nice and thought of kinds of things that you feel like is the purpose of your life and the goal of your existence, articulate some things. But I think you will be surprised to find that what we often say what we feel like is the goal or purpose of our lives and what we are actually doing don’t always jive. Well, i think one thing we could do to find out what you really feel like is important is, how do you spend the majority of your leisure time? Now, all of us have to make a living, all of us work so many hours. All of us have a pretty structured life to some extent. But what do you spend the majority of your free time on? It’s a good pragmatic test of priorities. Number two, what is your thought life dominated by? When you’re in relaxation, or in a moment of contemplation, or while resting and having a cup of coffee or something, What what goes through your mind the majority of the time? What recurrent themes does your mind permit to come back to over and over again? Number three, What do you spend most of your usable income on? All of us have monthly bills that have to be paid, but after you’ve paid all those things that you have to, what is the majority of your personal expenditures on? Where do you spend most of your free money on?

If we have been honest and forthright in answering those questions, and compare our lives with other people around us, we’re going to find that we’re pretty normal. I mean we’re doing things that everybody else is doing. We’re acting culturally appropriately, but were acting biblically amiss. Now all of us have little cliches about ‘Jesus is Lord of our life’, and either we don’t realize that’s a lie, or we realize it and don’t care? Jesus is not Lord of our life, things are lord of our life. This hurts real bad because it doesn’t compliment me, and it doesn’t compliment you. But if it’s true, i think we need to rethink our priorities.

In the Old Testament, the traditional theology was, if you know God and God loves you, you will be successful. And if you’re not a radical sinner, then you’re going to be prosperous. That you can tell when a man’s done something wrong because he’s not prosperous. If he gets leprosy, he’s done something wrong. And if you don’t have enough food, it’s your fault because you haven’t been spiritual enough. Now, that is the traditional Old Testament theology that began to be reacted against in certain parts of the Bible. The Book of Job is a direct reaction to that kind of theology; Psalm 73 is a direct reaction to that kind of theology. And Ecclesiastes chapter 2 is a reaction to that kind of theology, and so is Ecclesiastes chapter 5. I feel like our modern culture’s god is success. We judge a man, we judge a family, we judge a denomination, we judge a church, we judge a city, we judge a nation base on success. Competition is the driving force of most of us in every area of our Lives. say oh I oh no, surely not Church work. Competition, individual ego, the accumulation of possessions and saying, “that must be God likes me” becomes something that we’re all caught up in. In Ecclesiastes chapter 5 here is a guy who tried everything, everything for happiness and purpose and said it is meaningless, all of it pure vanity. Life is vanity. To think that if you know God, you’ll be successful, if you know God you’ll be rich, if you know God you won’t have disease, if you know God you’ll have an easy life, lived to a ripe old age and die in your sleep is just wishful thinking. “He who loves money will not be satisfied with money nor he who loves abundance with its income,” And people become consumed with success, become the slaves of success. Why is it that people always want more than they have? Why is it we are never content with whatever we have, no matter how much or how little it is. Most of us think if we had a huge account in the bank, we’d be happy. No, people who have aren’t happy because they want more and more and more and more. Success always breeds greed and graft. You say, “Oh no!”. Well, you are either naive or you do not know that man in his sinfulness cannot handle success and power everywhere. Man in his sinfulness abuses them, and it’s very easy to abuse the things of this world.

If you won a lottery today, and news spreads around, you can’t imagine the in-laws, the salesman, the Christian foundations and the godly neighbors that suddenly love you with a passion you never dreamed of. Success breeds moochers. Wealth attracts parasites. “The sleep of a working man is pleasant whether he eats little or much but the full stomach of the rich man does not allow him to sleep.” is true. The more you got, the more you’re worried somebody’s going to take it. The more you got the more you’re worried a natural disaster takes it away in one fell swoop. You know, it amazes me that the man who doesn’t have enough the world offers, but has enough to eat whether a whole bunch or a whole little can sleep well. But the person who has much, oftentimes does not sleep well at all. Much breeds ulcers. Much breeds anxiety. The more you have the more nervous you are about somebody going to take it, or how you’re going to get more.

Another aspect of success which i think is so true is the fear of loss. “There is a grievous evil which I’ve seen the sun riches being hoarded by their owner to his hurt, when those riches are lost to a bad investment and he had fathered a son there is nothing to support him.” Isn’t it funny that people who hoard their money in bad investments often end up with nothing to bequeth their heirs. I know big churches with huge money in the banks and they end up fighting each other over money, and its’ disgusting. God’s people devouring one another because of greed? Money that’s hoarded always causes problems. The kids can’t wait till daddy dies so they can get it. The more we got the more trouble it usually costs.
“He came naked from his mother’s womb, so he will return as he came. He will take nothing from the fruit of his labor that he can carry in his hand, and this also is a grievous evil exactly. As a man is born thus he will die. So what is the advantage of him who toils for the wind?” How much did the taipan Henry Sy leave? Everything! How much are you going to leave? Everything!

“All their days they eat in darkness, with great frustration, affliction and anger” – I know people who work so hard to get things and what finally happens is, things become their master. Do you know there are people walking around that you would consider successful, and influential, and got all in life that they think will make them happy? The truth is, they are nothing but slaves to their own success. Success breeds slavery to it. We have focused life into the abundance of things, while the Bible focuses life into personal relationships. the New Testament talks a lot about things that might surprise you. It really does. It talks about possessions and things and success quite often, but how different the Bible discusses success and things so radically different from what the world teaches, and what amazes me so much is how we as Christians have the philosophy of the world and try to incorporate it into the Christian Theology of life and say that we are Biblical. Abundance of things do not a person, a church, a denomination, a city, and a country make, but how we use that for God’s purposes is the criteria to judge if we’re being successful. We are caught up in 21st century individualistic and capitalistic egotism. Communism says that happiness is found in the abundance of things. If everybody has the same amount of things enough things they’ll be happy. Capitalism says that if we work hard we’ll have things. If everybody works hard, they’ll have enough things and they’ll be happy. Well. capitalism is just much the pits as communism when compared to the Bible which defocuses on things and de-emphasizes on possessions.

the New Testament teaches us to “beware and be on your guard against every form of greed for not even when one has an abundance does his life consists of his possessions” (Luke 12:15). And of course the rich young ruler of Matthew 19 is an object lesson for us about the priority of people over the priority of possessions (be it influence, power, or things). The first century believers were of one heart and soul, and not one of them claimed that anything belonged to him was his own but all things were common property to them. And they began selling their property, and distributed to each according to their need. The early church is making a statement about the heart of the early Christian that said “what is mine is thine and thine is mine”. What it was saying is, “my fellow Christian brother, if you have need, I will share with you out of what I have. It was saying that we feel like we are such a priority family that if there’s anything I have you need, you got it. It’s a radical stuff. It’s biblical economics. It’s called sacrificial sharing. It’s called not laying up for retirement. It’s called laying up for yourselves treasures in Heaven. It’s a totally different system the world knows nothing about. To spend all we have on our selves and pleasure is absolutely worldly materialism, and therefore satanic!

God never promised you to be successful, wealthy, healthy and prosperous in this fallen world. God knows most of us can’t handle success. To give us success when we can’t handle it is a curse. The Bible says not that that wealth is bad, but it does say this very plainly, that it is harder for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven and almost anything else. Worldly success is the plague of trusting in ourselves. God wants to put the emphasis on personality and people, and we want to put the emphasis on possessions and things in the top rank of our priority structure. Worldy consumerism has bombarded us with having things equals happiness. And God says believing and knowing Me equals happiness, and we in the church have perverted everything in God’s teaching about things.

We’ve got to see the problem. And we’re so blinded by crass materialism that we don’t even see there is a problem. We don’t even know that we’ve perverted, and culturized, and egotized everything in life. Man is basically greedy. He wants everything that is for himself. He’ll walk on people. He’ll spend any amount of time, any amount of effort to get things. We think that things will make us happy. We think that power will make us happy. We think that influence will make us happy. We think that if we’re more successful we’ll be happy. We focus everything right here on SELF. Our culture has done it to us and we’ve allowed it to happen. That’s the tragedy!

Do you know that our life is a witness? You’re going to have to deal with greed, and pride, and egotism, and success. And who you are as a Christian you’re going to have to set aright. You’ve got to set straight your priority stucture. You cannot ignore it and not deal with it, because not dealing with it is dealing with it. Your life is a witness. What witness are you giving? We need to give a witness on the way that we live. Where is our priority? How do we live as people in a materialistic society? How do we witness to those who are trapped in clutches of materialism? The only way we can do it is to get out of the mainstream of consumerism and get into the stream of frugal living for Christ’s sake. There needs to be a change in your patterns of consuming the world’s goods in Jesus name. We need to give sacrificially to God’s Kingdom. Not money only, but priority time, priority energy. Priority time in priority energy. We need to give monetarily. You say something about who you are in Christ by your manner of life, and your priorities.

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