When I returned home, I found a paper I had written ten years ago from August 2007 where I actually wrote out my priorities. The reason I did this was because at the time I was struggling. Freshwater was growing rapidly, my three kids were growing up, I was busy running a lawn and snow business, I had just started a doctoral program, and I was contemplating selling my house to a developer and moving across town. I needed to figure out my priorities so I would have some direction in life because I was so busy and I felt like my life was spinning out of control. As a matter of fact, it was.
10 years ago I wrote these three values as my top priorities:
Family: I will prioritize my family above my career and only second to my relationship with God.
Spiritual Growth: I will make the time to cultivate my spiritual life on a daily basis through Bible reading, meditation, prayer, and spiritual conversations with other believers.
Recreation: I will take time to replenish myself physically and emotionally because ministry is difficult and demanding.
I have referred to these statements on a regular basis just to make sure my daily priorities are in line with what I value. I have not always been successful at this, but these values have helped me to make sure my priorities are in the right places. I’m certainly glad that I wrote them down. I wish I would have done it when I was in my twenties.
What are your priorities right now? Do you know? Can you write them out? How much better would your life be if you actually prioritized what you really value? If you can pin point your priorities, write them out, and live them out, then you probably feel less guilt and more joy. You probably feel less stressed and more energized. Ten years from now you will look back and feel a sense of accomplishment. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to live a life filled with good intentions. I want to live a full life with no regrets.
Whatever you prioritize will always be evident in your calendar, finances, and relationships because your priorities leave fingerprints all over your life that others can see and read like a book.
Here is how you can prioritize your spiritual life.
- Make time for God. How do you make time for God? For me, it involves some intentional planning.
- Block off time in your calendar to attend church.
- Schedule time to be in a small group.
- Schedule time to serve.
- Make time to pray uninterrupted every day.
- Get in God’s word daily. Pick a reading plan in the YouVersion app and read a chapter or two a day. Prioritize it, but don’t shame yourself if you miss a day.
2. Arrange your schedule around your actual priorities.
This is why it is so important to know what your priorities are. If I were to follow you around and observe you for a week, I could tell you what is most important in your life. You might not like it, or agree with it, but I would be right. Your calendar doesn’t lie, it only reflects your priorities.
3. Be OK with not being available for everything and everyone.
You cannot do everything for everyone. You need to learn how to say no to the wrong things so that you have the time to say yes to the right things that reflect your real priorities. For a biblical example, read through Acts 6:1-2.
If your priorities are mixed up or unclear, fix them. One night my wife Kathi and I went out for dinner with my friend and mentor Leith Anderson and his wife Charlene. He was the lead pastor at a very large church for 35 years. While we were out eating dinner we talked about ministry and life. I confessed to him that my schedule was starting to wear on me. My schedule was slipping away; I had too much to do and I couldn’t keep up. Leith is the President of the National Association of Evangelicals and leads one of the greatest churches in the country. He writes for the Washington Post as well as for other publications all of the time. At the time of this conversation he had his weekly “Faith Matters” broadcast on the radio in the entire metro area and ran a large staff at the church.
After listening for a minute or two he looked at me right in the eye and said, “John, who controls your schedule?” I said, “I do.” All he said was, “Then fix it.” That was it, that was his advice. Plain and simple. If I control my schedule then I needed to fix it. So I started to figure out where all of my time goes and in order to do that I had to think long and hard about my priorities.
Just because God was your number one priority at one point in your life doesn’t mean that he still is today. Maybe you have drifted a little bit and now he isn’t at the center of your life any more. Rick Warren says “Living in light of eternity changes your priorities.” He is right. Will you commit to making the pursuit of God your number one priority? Will you consciously make the development of your spiritual life a priority? When Christ is at the center, everything else comes together.