Living by Spiritual Priorities

Scripture: 1 Kings 3:3-14
Date: 06/12/2021 
The key to success in life is aligning your priorities appropriately. Our destiny depends on understanding what priorities are.

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Doug: The key to success in life is aligning your priorities appropriately. I think that in eternity, looking back, we'll see that people's eternal destiny turned one way or the other, and it pivoted on understanding what the priorities are. Not understanding those things can be eternally fatal. And I'd like to invite you to go to a Scripture we're going to open with. It's in 1 Kings chapter 3 and verse 3, 1 book of Kings. Now, King Solomon has just become king. David has passed away. And early on in his kingdom, he was showing his love and his dedication for the Lord. And you can read in--I love this part. 1 Kings chapter 3 and verse 3, and it says, "Solomon loved the LORD," and that's one of the most important things you could read, "Solomon loved the LORD, walking in the statutes of David his father," and then it says in verse 4: "The king went to Gibeon to sacrifice there," there's no temple yet. Solomon, of course, built the temple, "for that was a great high place. And Solomon offered a thousand burnt offerings on that altar," wanted to begin his reign showing his love and dedication for God, "At Gibeon, the LORD appeared to Solomon in a dream by night, and God said, ‘Ask what I shall give you.’" So God says, "What do you want? Ask."

And you know, just--this is way better than finding a genie in a bottle that gives you three wishes. Of course, that's not true. This is God saying, "what shall I do for you?” What is the first thing that you would seek? What would you ask for? If you get a blank check from God, what do you ask for? Here's his request: "Therefore, give to your servant an understanding heart to judge your people, that I might discern between good and evil," he wants to know the difference between right and wrong, "‘for who is able to judge this great people of Yours?’ And the speech pleased the Lord that Solomon had asked this thing.

Then God said to him, 'Because you've asked this thing, and you've not asked for long life for yourself nor have you asked for riches for yourself nor have you asked for the life of your enemies, but you've asked for yourself understanding to discern justice, behold, I've done according to your words. See, I've given you a wise and an understanding heart, so that there is no one, there's not been anyone like you before you nor shall there be like you any that will arise after you. I've also given you that what you did not ask for, both riches and honor, so there shall be none anyone like you among all the kings, all your days. So if you walk in my ways, and keep my statutes and my commandments, as your father David, I will lengthen your days,’” I've given you a wise and understanding heart, given you riches and honor, and I'll give you a long life.

How did all that come? By having the priority of-- what did Solomon ask for? I've got this kingdom. I need to know the difference between right and wrong, good and bad, to judge Your people. He sought first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness. And because he sought first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, everything else came to him because he had his priorities right. You can see why this is such an important theme. If we get our priorities wrong, everything else goes wrong.

Now, I struggle sometimes with priorities. In fact, in preparing for the message today, I thought like a good pastor, if you're going to study and preach about a word, look the word up. So I get online, and I type in the word "priority," and it pops up. You know, Merriam Webster's got this definition thing I go to, but in order to watch that for free, there's ads on the side. And you know, there's an ad on the side that says, you know, "a surefire way to get rid of age spots" or something. And I'm looking, I'm going click. And then, when I'm learning about the age spots, it says, have you heard that Elvis Presley has been reincarnated as a jungle sloth? I thought, well, I don't believe in reincarnation, but that's pretty interesting, I got to find out what in the world they're talking about. Click.

Now, that didn't happen exactly like this, but that kind of thing has happened to me before. Anyone else? You're trying to study, and you get distracted from the main thing, and they call it clickbait. They got these crazy things. It says find out what really happened to the Brady Bunch. Well, that's from my era. I thought, did something happen? I don't know. And you don't want to be, you know, not knowing these things. And so, I've got a strong curiosity, and all of a sudden, I find myself clicking and ten minutes later, I'm going, "What did I come here for?" Oh, yeah. Priorities. I was going to look up the definition for priorities, and I’ve wasted ten minutes of things that just really didn't matter.

Heard about a hunter. He was a bear hunter, and someone told him that we've got a really good bear dog. And these bear dogs, you know, their job is to track and to tree the bear for the hunter. So he takes his dog out on its first run, and he sets off through the woods. And he, the hunter, brings him to where he knew there was a bear trail, and the dog sniffs around. He gets the scent of the bear, and he takes off running. Pretty soon, there's a crash off in the brush, and the hunter can tell that he's on the heels of a bear, but as a dog is running off after the bear, a deer runs across. He spooks a deer, and it jumps across the trail, and the dog looks at--he smells the bear, but he figures a deer in hand is better than a bear in the bush. And so, he turns. He starts following the deer, and in the process of chasing after the deer, then a rabbit goes across the trail. And you know what he does. Rabbits are more fun. And then there's a squirrel. And when the hunter finally catches up with his dog, he's barking down a mouse hole. Starts out hunting for bear in the trees, and he's now looking for mice in the holes. And it's a progression of distractions from the priority of the mission. The devil is working full-time to distract the church with clickbait to get us going from the bear to the mouse, so we're not really pursuing what is important.

I remember years ago when I went to 3ABN, that was maybe 30 years ago, and started doing some taping. They had in their old satellite room, I'd stay in the guest room, and they had a sign above the door, and it said "the main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing." I thought, well, that's profound. The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing. And that, of course, would be Jesus, friends. Amen? I don't know about you. Do you sometimes have problems focusing on what is really important? And we get distracted by things that don't really have eternal consequences. By the way, a priority, I did look it up, something that is regarded as more important than another.

Now, in the message today, I'm going to go through about a dozen different priorities. And you might say, "Pastor Doug, if there's a dozen, then none of them are really priorities." You think if there's a priority, it's one thing. But I'm talking about different areas in our lives and in the Scripture, and these are all backed up by Bible.

Number one priority: take care of your body. Now, you might be thinking, why would you pick that first? Because if you lose your mind, none of the other priorities matter, right? If you die, none of the other priorities matter. You experience life, and you fulfill all the other priorities in your body. And so, one of the most important things you can learn is take care of yourself so that you are around to evaluate and process the other priorities. 1 Corinthians 3:16 and 17: "Don't you know that you are the temple of God and that your--the spirit of God dwells in you? If anyone defiles the temple of God, God will destroy him; for the temple of God is holy, which temple you are," be careful what you eat. Be careful what you drink. Make sure you get enough rest. Why the Sabbath is so important.

Another one, number two, prioritize your time. Because while if you lose your house, if you lose your money, you lose your clothes, you can buy more. If you lose your time, you can't buy anymore. You've only got so much time, and so, you need to be careful how you spend your life. Because what you do with your time is what you're doing with your life. You--Ben Franklin said time is the stuff that life is made of. If you waste your time, you are wasting your life.

Exodus 18:14, Jethro, Moses’s father-in-law, comes to visit his 80-year-old son-in-law. So Jethro's, he's up there himself. They've come out of the land of Egypt. This is in the book of Exodus, as I mentioned, chapter 18, verse 14, and Moses is now judging the people. He’s got this nation of slaves who are a little disorganized. You know, the Egyptians aren't telling them what to do anymore, and there's about 2 million of them. We don't know, but they had like 600,000 soldiers, so you do the math if there's other old and young and women and children, and they're lined up all day long. Moses is sitting there, and he's listening to the various disputes, and he's trying to tell them what God wants them to do. And Jethro comes to visit his son-in-law, and he watches in amazement all day long as he sits there and he does that. And he doesn't interrupt, but at the end of the day, he pulls his 80-year-old son-in-law aside. He said, "What is this thing that you're doing?" Verse 14, Exodus 18, "’for your people? Why do you sit alone, and all the people stand before you from morning till evening?’ And Moses said to his father-in-law, ‘Well, because the people come to me to inquire of God. When they have a difficulty, they come to me and I judge between one and another, and I make known the statutes of God and his laws.’ So Moses father-in-law said to him, ‘The thing that you're doing is not good. Both you and this people who are with you will surely wear yourselves out,’” It's not good for you. This is the health issue again. He said, "Moses, you're going to wear out physically, that's not a good idea."

Some of us think that we've got to be in charge of everything, and if you try to be in charge of everything, you'll do nothing very well. That was profound. If you try to do everything, you'll end up doing everything poorly. And so he said, "This is not the way to do it." He said, "Why don't you--you’ve got two million people. Is there no other wise men in the whole country? No one else knows the Lord but you?" Said, "Pick out rulers of thousands and hundreds and fifties and tens and delegate responsibility, and you can then use your time more carefully for the things that God has called you to do." And so, it's important to prioritize how you use your time. Ephesians 5:15: "See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil."

We're surrounded by all kinds of evil distractions, and we need to prioritize our time. Redeem the time. We've wasted time. Make the most of the time you have left, and learn good things, and serve God. Psalm 90, verse 12: "Lord, teach us to number our days, That we may gain a heart of wisdom." As I was mentioning to the young people, fill your minds with things that are going to help you and help others, and whatever you learn in this life, you take with you into eternity. So never stop studying.

Next one: focus on eternity. When you're thinking about priorities, keep the eternal perspective of what really matters. Jesus warns us back in the days of Noah, Matthew 24:37, that's how it will be in the coming of the Son of Man: "As in the days before the flood, they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage," none of those bad in themselves, "until the day that Noah entered the ark, and they did not know until the flood came and took them all away," they did not prioritize seeking first God's Kingdom. They took--became preoccupied with the cares of life, and eternity caught them unprepared. This is what Jesus is saying. They're doing, you know, eating and drinking. You got to do. They're building, buying and selling, planting, and next thing you know, eternity. And they weren't ready. Luke 21, verse 34, Jesus said, "Take heed to yourselves, lest your hearts be weighed down with carousing, and drunkenness, and the cares of this life, so that Day comes upon you unexpectedly,"

Every day, realize this could be your last day. I know that's sort of a somber thought, right? That could make you a little moody if you're just always thinking, could I die at any moment? But I think in the big picture, you need to realize, it's true that none of us knows exactly what our expiration date is and that life is a gift, and some of us play Russian roulette with eternity. And we figure, well, I should make it to, you know, 75 or 80, that's what the average is, so I'm going to goof off until then. And you know, the Lord kind of catches a lot of people unprepared. So, live your life with the eternal perspective of seeking for God's Kingdom and His righteousness, and plan on that.

When you think about what's happening in the world today, the way some people are living their lives, someone said it's like straightening the pictures in a house on fire or rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic as it's sinking. That's misplaced priorities. And the devil tries to distract us with things that don't really matter. So many people in the world are so distracted. It's amazing to me how many people are preoccupied with Hollywood and what the movie stars, what the sports stars are doing, and they just spend all their time living vicariously some other fantasy life. And those people's lives are pretty out of order as it is, and it's just a big distraction. He gets us so focused on something that doesn't really matter. That Jesus is the thing that really matters, we rarely think about.

I heard about this man that he worked in a factory that sold electronics, and they had expensive electronics. And so, whenever the employees left, they had hundreds of employees, whenever the employees left the business, they had to pass through security that would make sure they weren't purloining the products. Well, in the same factory, they had a lot of shipping coming in and shipping going out. And in that process, they ended up with extra shipping, packing material they didn't need. So they were--they had just tons and tons of styrofoam peanuts. You all know what I'm talking about? So, one of these employees went to the boss, and he said, "You're throwing out all these extra styrofoam peanuts." He said, "I could use them. I make bean bags, and I'd like to take some home and put them in bean bag chairs and stuff." He said, "You can have all you want." Said just tell security.

So at the end of the work day, once a week, he would take wheelbarrow filled with these styrofoam peanuts by. Security would say, "We got to check this." And this guy, security guard, going. He reaches around. He'd feel through the styrofoam peanuts, make sure he wasn't stealing any electronics, and then he'd wave them all through. And then you'd have all these styrofoam peanuts stuck because of static electricity to his arm, and he’d shake them off. And next week he comes again with another wheelbarrow full of styrofoam peanuts. And he said, "I'm taking a stick this time." He takes a stick, and he kind of goes around and says, "Okay, You're good to go." He does that for several weeks, and they found out the guy had stolen seven wheelbarrows. Everybody was looking for electronics. It's a big diversionary trick, and this is what the devil does. He diverts our attention from the things that really matter, priorities in devotions.

Now, this is connected with worship, but I'm really talking more about your personal devotions now. 1 Timothy 4:13: "Till I come, give attention to reading, exhortation, doctrine," what Paul said to Timothy. You know the story in Daniel chapter 6: Daniel is being told that if he's caught praying to anyone but King Darius for 30 days, he's going to be killed. Go into the lion's den.

Well, Daniel had a habit of personal devotions. He probably read where King David said in Psalm 55:17, "Morning, evening, and at noon will I pray and lift up thy voice." And so he had a regular times of prayer, and even though he knew a death decree had been signed for anyone who dared to pray to anyone but the king, Daniel, as his custom was--let me read it to you from Daniel chapter 6, verse 10. It says, "And in his upper room, with his windows open towards Jerusalem, he knelt down on his knees three times that day, and he prayed and gave thanks before his God, as his custom was," he had a habit to prioritize personal devotions. You can read in Daniel 9, he read the Bible. Says, "While I was reading the prophecies of Jeremiah," Daniel read his Bible, and he prayed.

You might say, "Pastor Doug, I wish I could do that. I'm just so busy." Well, I think Daniel was like the prime minister of Persia, and he found time. People do what they want to do. I think Martin Luther said, "If I don't pray three hours a day, I can't get anything done." You think it'd be the other way around. But you know, it seems like God blesses the time you do have. And I'm not telling you you have to pray three hours a day. I'm just telling you what he said. But God blesses the time you do have if you commit that time to God. It's like he'll bless the other 90% when you're faithful with that 10%. Private devotions.

Jesus said to Mary, she was sitting at Jesus’s feet and Martha said, "Lord, will You tell her to get up and help prepare dinner?" By the way, Luke chapter 10, verse 42, Jesus said, "Uh no. I won't." He said, "Martha, Martha, you're troubled about many things, but one thing is needed, and Mary has chosen that good part which I will not take away from her."

Sitting at the feet of Jesus. We all need that time in devotions. That needs to be a priority because here's how it works. You need to obey God. You can't obey God if you don't love God. It starts with love. You're not going to love God if you don't know God. You're not going to know God if you don't take time with God. If you do take time with God, to know God is to love God. The more time you spend with God, the more you love God. The better you love God, the better you will obey God. Did that all make sense? It all goes back to how much time you spend with God. It needs to be a priority. It's not going to happen unless you make it happen, but show me a church that's backsliding, I'll show you a church that is neglecting their personal devotions, prayer, and ministry. We all need to have that relationship with the Lord if we're going to be ready for the last days.

Priorities and holiness, Jesus said in Matthew 5, verse 8, "Blessed are the pure in heart, For they will see God." That's what I want, friends, don't you? Matthew 6:33, Our Lord said, "Seek first the kingdom and His righteousness," God is calling us to holiness. Hebrews 12:14: "Pursue peace with all people, and holiness," pursue it. Make it a priority. "Pursue holiness, without which no one will see the Lord." Now, first we get that holiness in justification, but then as we pursue it, we have it through sanctification. But God is calling this the holy lives. Matthew 23:23, Jesus said to the religious leaders, "You've neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith." And he called them "blind guides, who strain out a net and swallow a camel," that's mixed up priorities, isn't it? They were straining their water lest they accidentally swallow a gnat that was unclean, but then, they'd sit down and eat camel steak, which was unclean, mixed-up priorities.

You know, one of my favorite verses is Micah 6, verse 6-8. "He's shown you, O man, what is good; And what does the LORD require of you But to do justly, To love mercy, To walk humbly with your God?" God is calling us to lives of seeking first his righteousness, his holiness. Then there's a priority of love. Matthew 22, verse 36: "Teacher, what is the great commandment in the law?" Let's prioritize them. Jesus said, "You should love the Lord your God with all of your heart, all of your mind, all of your soul, all of your mind. This is the first and the great commandment. And the second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself." Love for God is a priority. John 3:34: "A new commandment I give you: that you love one another just as I've loved you."

Now, that's right there. We've got our work cut out for us, don't we? To love each other the way Jesus loves us. "To the angel," and this is Revelation 2, verse 1: "To the angel of the Church of Ephesus write, These things says He who holds the seven stars in His right hand, who walks in the midst of the seven golden lampstands: I know your works, your labor, your patience, that you cannot bear those that are evil. That you've tested those that say they're apostles and are not, and you found them liars; and you have persevered and had patience, and you've labored for My name’s sake and you have not become weary."

Says a lot of good things. They're working hard. They're standing for the truth. They're laboring. They've got patience. They've got endurance, all those things we need. But you know what His criticism is? They mixed up their priorities. Said, "Nevertheless I have this against you, you've left your first love." Then He tells them they must repent. You know what that means? Leaving your first love is a sin, and He's calling us to repent of that. Says go back and do the first works. You remember how you were searching for Me with all of your heart and you found Me and you were excited and you were sharing Me and you--I know you can't maintain that honeymoon all the time, but you sure don't want to lose love in your relationship with the Lord or in our relationships with each other.

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