Is your life spinning out of control? Is there constant running and confusion? Are you constantly gaining more and feeling satisfied less? Is there no time to smell the roses? Do you feel out of balance? We live in a fast-paced have-it-all-instantly my-way society. We have so much opportunity, wealth and technology that we can become weighed down and confused.
The experts tell us to put your priorities in order. However, your life may be so overloaded there seems to be no answer. You ask, "How do I choose?" And, "What is a priority, anyway?"
The word "priority" means "the right to precede others in order, rank and privilege; to receive special attention, first concern." A priority is something and/or someone that gets our first and most attention, dedication and commitment. Our priorities are what we think about first and center our lives and schedules on.
rev. Janis Heiser
When we are challenged, over-extended, it is usually because our priorities are out of balance. Our priorities become our stress issue.
The Scriptures teach that our priorities are to be in God's will and in proper balance.
"But put God's kingdom first. Do what he wants you to do. Then all of those things will also be given to you." Matthew 6:33
In Genesis 48:1-20, there is a story that teaches us how to choose our priorities. Jacob, also called Israel, is the head of the Hebrew nation and his family. He is old and blind and knows his days are few. It was Jacob's responsibility to pass on the birthright to the next generation. This was accomplished through a blessing which once said, could not be revoked. He asks his son Joseph to bring his two grandsons, Manasseh and Ephraim, to him. Joseph directs his sons to kneel beside their grandfather, Jacob, with Manasseh, the older, on Jacob's right and Ephraim, the younger, on Jacob's left.
Jacob places his hands upon the heads of his two grandsons, but with a twist. Gently, quietly and lovingly he crosses his hands and places his right hand on the head of Ephraim and his left hand on the head of Manasseh.
Jacob blesses them. However, Joseph realizes that his father has mistakenly positioned his hands; the right hand is to be on the first-born. Joseph is displeased this mistake has been made and tries to shift his father's hands correctly. Manasseh is the oldest, Jacob's right hand should be on his head, and Ephraim is the younger, his left hand should be on his head.
Jacob refuses to change his hands. He declares that both Manasseh and Ephraim will become a great people but in this case the younger shall be greater. Jacob concludes the blessing over them with "in Israel they will bless each other by saying 'May God make you like Ephraim and Manasseh!'" He put Ephraim before Manasseh.
You might be asking at this point, "Nice story but what does this have to do with my life and my priorities?" Trust me, there is a connection.
Manasseh would oversee all of the administrative and financial areas, all the busy concerns of life, and Ephraim was to oversee the spiritual life. When Jacob crossed his hands, he was saying, all areas of our lives, every choice, every action is significant, but the spiritual is more important; the spiritual is to come first!
With this in mind, examine the priorities in your life and/or the priorities in your children's lives. What takes top priority? What takes first place? Where is your first commitment? Jobs, possessions, family, sports, food, money, shopping, home, positions, titles, power, education, entertainment, recreation... or is God first in your life?
All of these things are important and some very necessary, but where are your priorities?
Is Sunday a day to worship God or has it become a day to sleep in, take advantage of a sale or compete in an event? Have the true meaning of the holidays been replaced with worldly substitutes? How much time is spent in prayer and reading scripture, developing a relationship with God?
Where can you start? Take an honest and accurate look at your priorities. Put God first and the rest will fall into place.
There may have to be some changes. Choices will have to be made. Some will come easy and actually be a relief; others will be difficult and may even be painful. But the outcome and rewards will be freeing.
Remember our definition of priority: "the right to precede others"
Exodus 20:3 says, "You will have no other gods before me." God is first... Ephraim, the spiritual, is the greater; Manasseh is second to him.
Finding Faith is written by area pastors. This week's column comes from Rev. Janis Heiser.