I recently officiated at 2 funerals. If you have been to a funeral, you probably heard Psalm 23. Many find great peace in its words. Unfortunately, I think the 2021 version of this Psalm is how many of us live:
The clock is my dictator, I shall not rest.
It maketh me lie down only when exhausted.
It leadteth me to deep depression.
It hounds my soul.
It leadeth me in circles of frenzy for activity’s sake.
Even though I run frantically from task to task,
I will never get it all done, for my “ideal” is with me.
Deadlines and my need for approval, they drive me.
They demand my performance from me,
Beyond the limits of my schedule.
They anoint my head with migraines.
My in-basket overflows.
Surely fatigue and time pressure will follow me
All the days of my life,
And I will dwell in the bonds of frustration forever.
Well, this almost humorous version of Psalm 23 could be a wakeup call to many of us. The real Psalm 23 says “even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death”— these words clearly speak of trouble and danger. And yet, some of our danger is based on our poor priorities.
The 2021 version demands that we take a closer look at the things we value in life – to assess if we have the right values and priorities. Or do we take the wonderful blessings that God has given us today – and abuse them through excess.
My challenge for you is to:
Take a few minutes to look at your last month’s bank statement to see where your financial priorities are. Do you thank God for all that you have…do you use His blessings in a way that glorifies Him? Are you a good steward of all of His blessings? (time, talent, treasures, temple)
Take a look at your day planner / calendar to see where your time priorities are.
How many of your 1440 minutes per day are minutes spent with…or serving…your Lord and Savior?
The problem is that we live in a society that views Christianity as a 1 – 1 – 7 lifestyle. Know what that means? 1 hour… on 1 day…per 7-day week.
The reality is that a follower of Jesus needs to live for Him, and in Him, and through Him 24 – 7 – 365. That’s 24 hours…per day…for 7 days a week…for 365 days a year.
That means enjoying the wonderful gifts that God has blessed us with. But it also means examining our lifestyle to see if – our actions, our priorities, our values – are God-pleasing.
God wants more than 1 hour a week – He wants a growing relationship with you – growing through prayer, Bible study, worship, and serving your brothers and sisters.
Are there any areas that you need to work on?
How do we know what would be God-pleasing? Let’s look at Jesus.
In Luke 4 (take time to read vs. 1-13) we see Jesus fasting for 40 days. He was really hungry!!! At that time the devil tempted Jesus, telling Him to turn the stones to bread. Anything wrong with eating bread? Of course not. But Jesus would have compromised His convictions by doing so. It would have been easy for Him to justify fulfilling His hunger.
But His priorities were not physical – they were spiritual. “Man cannot live on bread alone” is the Scripture Jesus quoted.
Then the devil offered all the power and wealth of the world if Jesus would worship him. Jesus didn’t say the power and wealth were wrong—but it would be …….if He worshiped them. We are to worship and serve God alone.
Then the devil challenged Jesus to jump off the temple – “the angels will catch you”. Be irresponsible – God will save you. And Jesus said, “Don’t put the Lord your God to the test.”
So the devil tried to tempt Jesus to compromise His conviction about His spiritual life, about His possessions and activities. But Jesus used God’s Word as his guide and defense.
Our lifestyle choices often challenge us to compromise our convictions. Do you know God’s Word and His will in your life? Possessions are wonderful – until they become our God.
What about your activities? What if you looked at your schedule through God’s eyes? What if Jesus was your shadow for 24 hours? What would you have to change about your lifestyle…your priorities…? your values?
By the way…. How would your level of stress be affected by a closer look at your schedule, priorities, and activities? Did you know that stress and worry break down our bodies? “They are the unseen source of our headaches, backaches, heartaches, and belly aches. They produce everything from constipation to diarrhea, from impatience to impotence. They give us knotted stomachs, sleepless nights, high blood pressure, and low morale. They make our tempers short and our days long. They cause indigestion, irritation, chest pain, and muscle strain.”
If we are honest with ourselves, we will see that most of our stress and worry could be reduced if we axed the excesses in our life. If we slowed down and simplified who we are and what we need to be content. We need to spend time each day with the Lord in prayer and study. Why not let the Peace that is beyond our understanding be our reward as we draw closer to our Lord and Savior?
What is getting in the way of your relationship with Jesus? What is your spiritual struggle? What possessions and activities do you value over God?
Maybe this poem (for a worship service) entitled “Father, We’re Gathered” will help:
Father, we’re gathered in this place of grace,
Weary from running in a rat-like race.
Now as we slow down looking up to You,
Grant us the wisdom that your servants knew.
Lord, loose our grip from things that we possess.
Prompt us to pray more, watching TV less.
Challenge our tendencies to always do.
Help us to simply find our worth in You.
Daniel was quick to stand up for Your name
When tempted by self-compromising gain.
Knowing that excess would tax his poor soul,
He stood his ground to walk toward Your goal.
More than survivors confidently find
Freedom from “more” and all the chains that bind.
Help us dear Father to more simply live,
So that we have the means and hearts to give.
Lord Jesus, we live in a world where compromises are inevitable. You gave us this world and all that’s in it, but we recognize that focusing too much on possessions, entertainment, or activity can keep us from thriving spiritually. We don’t want this world or the things that are in this world to be our first love. Speak to each of us…guide us…help us to value You over all that this world offers.
Humor for the day:
I offer my kids $500 for every A on their report card. It sends the message that education is a priority in our household. And it costs me absolutely nothing since my kids aren’t that bright.