We all live by priorities, whether we realize it or not. I don’t mean the process of making a list of all the many things we may need to be doing. There’s a place for that, of course. But I’ve noticed that what’s really important to us is what we will usually end up doing. I’d like to share three examples of that from the following biblical characters: the Apostle Paul, the psalmist David, and Mary, the sister of Martha and Lazarus. They each had one thing which was their ultimate priority. 

Look first at what the Apostle Paul wrote in his letter to the Philippians, 3:13-14. “One thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” In spite of the fact that he was writing this from a prison cell in Rome, awaiting his upcoming trial before Caesar, his preoccupation was not his present circumstances. Neither was he focusing on the good old days of his past. Instead, he was looking ahead toward the future: living for Christ, and seeing him one day. 

In Psalm 27:4, written by David, we read this: “One thing I ask from the Lord, this only do I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord  and to seek him in his temple. For in the day of trouble he will keep me safe in his dwelling; he will hide me in the shelter of his sacred tent  and set me high upon a rock.” David’s priority, what was really important to him, was the Lord himself. He longed to behold the beauty of the Lord and to seek after him. He also knew that was the safest place to be.

Finally, consider the familiar account of Martha and her sister Mary. Jesus had come to visit them and each of them revealed their priorities. We read about this in Luke 10:38-42.

“As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him.  She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said.  But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!” “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”

Here we see that living by priorities sometimes requires making a choice between what is good and what is better. Martha chose to focus her attention on having everything just right for her guests and preparing the food for their special guest, a good thing to do. But Mary chose what was better: to sit at the feet of Jesus and to listen to him.

Each chose to do the one thing that was most important to them and it reflected the priority that the Lord had in their lives. What one thing is your top priority and most important in your life? When you put the Lord first, you’ll find that He will help you to put the rest of your priorities in proper order.

Jim Newman is pastor of the First Presbyterian Church in Exeter. He may be reached by calling 559-592-2367 or by emailing [email protected]. Prays Together is a rotating faith-based commentary and advice column among the pastors, and guest laypeople, of area churches. 

This column is not a news article but the opinion of the writer and does not reflect the views of The Sun-Gazette newspaper.

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