Thursday, July 07, 2005

First Things First

A time management guru speaking to an audience in Utah, asked if all of the items that were on the table could fit into the gallon sized jar on the table in front of him. At first, the audience looked skeptical, and some even said "no." At their response, the speaker, who had previously performed this feat, stated "let's see," and began to fill the jar with the large rocks that were on the table. When it appeared that there was no more space in the jar, he asked the audience, "is the jar full?" Amused, the audience responded, "yes." "Well, let's see," replied the speaker. He then pulled a large bowl of gravel from under the table, and proceeded to pour the gravel into the jar. Naturally, the gravel fit into the spaces between the rocks, and the jar appeared full. Looking at the audience, the speaker again queried, "is the jar full?" Wary now, the audience responded, "probably not," and waited in anticipation for his next move. Reaching for a bowl filled with sand, he poured it into the jar. Of course the sand filled the spaces not filled by the rocks and the gravel. Once more he asked, "is the jar full?" "No," shouted the audience. "Well, is there anything else the jar can hold?" asked the speaker. No one said a word, although you could see that they were thinking. "Let's see," replied the speaker, as he reached for a pitcher of water and poured the water into the jar. It ran down to the bottom of the jar, and filled in the crevices left by the space between the large rocks, gravel and sand. In fact, the sand actually began to absorb the water, and at last the jar was full. Looking at the audience intently, the speaker asked, "What is the point of this illustration?" Cautiously one man replied, "That no matter how full your schedule is, you can always cram one more thing into it?" "That's what most people think," responded the speaker, but the real thrust of this illustration is that if you don't put the big rocks in first, you'll never get them in at all!" And so it is with life, if we don't schedule the important things first, then we'll never get to them, and our life will be filled with things of secondary value. Simply said, the moral is, "make first things first."

So, what is your priority? Well, you say, "I can't answer that question like that -- I have several priorities." Hmm, interesting. You know, its only recently that the concept of priorities has come into vogue. It used to be that the "main thing" was well you know, the "main thing." But now, we're moving so fast, that we have no time, and there is no "main thing," only lots of " main things." Despite this, if we look up the actual meaning of the word priority, we find that it means status established in order of importance (or urgency). The root of priority is prior, which means: a) Preceding in time or order or b)) Preceding in importance or value.

This definition indicates that a priority is something that should planned for, around and completed first, precisely because it is the most important thing. This could be thought of as the "big rock or rocks" which are illustrated by our story. Some say that these big rocks are determined by our values, but in reality they are better dictated by the principles we hold dear. In Matthew chapter 6 Christ indicated to His disciples that which should be first on their lives:

Matthew 6:33 But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.

While reading this verse, I became curious as to the biblical meaning of the word "seek." Looking it up, I found that in the Greek, "seek" refers to a desire to search for something which is hidden. Remember the parable of the hidden treasure? Its the one where treasure is hidden in a field, and a man searching, finds it (Matthew 13:44). The man was searching the land because he believed it contained treasure, and he desired to possess it. In this parable, as in many others, when Christ speaks of the "Kingdom of God," He is referring to the foundation of His power or realm. This is where the vastness of His glory is concealed; and in scripture, when His glory is spoken of, it is typically referring to His character. The character of God exudes Righteousness, for this is His essence, His nature. So to seek God, means to seek His righteousness-- and yet we know that it is not we who initiate the search, but God Himself. He is seeking us, and we are responding. Therefore the admonishment to "seek Him" could be better understood as to look for Him earnestly with the mind and heart. In finding Him, we have merely removed our natural sinful resistance to His presence. Funny how beholding (or looking for and at Him earnestly) removes self-will without our even trying to remove it.

The gravel in our story represents something that of secondary nature and
importance. Typically, if we do the first thing first, it will naturally lead or flow into the thing of secondary value. Christ said in Matthew chapter 22 and in John 13: 34, 35, that the Law and the prophets hung on two commandments: “… Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind … And the second is like unto it,... Thou shalt love one another as I have loved you.” Loving others, according to Christ, is the way in which all men will know we are His disciples. Who is our neighbor? Christ has defined this as anyone who is in need. This includes more than just those who are living in the proximity of our home. He really means anyone who is in need. To determine just what value Christ places on this principle, remember that in conversation to His disciples He said, that in the final judgment, those who will be accepted into heaven are those who understood and acted upon the principle of self-denying love that says, inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me” (Matthew 25:40).

The sand represents things that are tertiary in importance. Such a list would include: our jobs, church, homes, educational endeavors, achievements, charities, pets, cars and the like. While we value these things as critical to our well being (both financial and emotional), they often substitute for things that are of greater value, such as determine our eternal destiny. Christ did not fall pray to this temptation, as daily He subordinated Himself and totally depended on His Father by faith. In the constant moment by moment yielding of His will, He was strengthened to allow His Father to fill the jar of His life. As a result, He was not involved with things of tertiary importance, and thus stayed the course of His mission. A couple of examples where Christ reminded others of first things first, would be a) His reminder to Martha that Mary had chosen the best; (In Mary's focusing her attention on the Words of Jesus, she was "seeking" God) and b)) His reminder to a follower regarding his father's death and burial, “Let the dead bury the dead.” (In other words, focus on My Word and example now while I Am here, for in a short time I will not be with you ...).

Lastly, in our analogy, the water represents the trivial things. Things which are ' "time wasters, energy drainers, or dream busters.' " These are things which we use to help us escape the doldrums or the pressures of life. But in reality, they usually only succeed in helping us procrastinate with the tasks which must be done. Yes, I know many of you will say, "but I work better under pressure." But if you had learned to focus your attention from early on, imagine the quality of work you could actually accomplish. Unfortunately, trivial things actually prevent us from engaging in recreation-- something which would refresh and renew us in such a way that we actually would perceive our dilemmas differently. Its difficult to fight the battle with self and allow Christ to reorder our priorities, but the benefits so outweigh the disadvantages. You know, Christ was refreshed from the time He spent in prayer with His Father. Are we? It was the prayerful yielding to His Father's will that protected Him from the "tyranny of the urgent." I bet if we took stock of our lives, we'd discover that we're escaping into trivia because we're emotionally and maybe even physically overtired from the constant output of energy into the urgent.

Christ wants us to live lives that are balanced. He greatly desires us to come to Him so that we might rest. The seeking of His kingdom leads to the ultimate rest from the burden of sin. The name of the city to which we are going (Jerusalem) means peace. The rest He longs to give us comes through the seeking after His righteousness. This is a heart issue -- and so is yielding up the will to Him. So to conclude, the moral of the story is clear, seeking first things first, is putting the "big rocks" in first-- and believing Christ's Word, that -- "all these (other) things will be added unto you... for He knows you have need of these things."
Raul Diaz & Maria Greaves-Barnes

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