I'm headed to work and I've got lunch with a friend at noon. I've got to run by the bank and grocery store right after work. I've got to do laundry because I'm headed out of town this weekend. My favorite show comes on at 7pm tonight and the grass in my front lawn is almost a foot high.
I've always got a list of to-dos and it's usually a mile long. So how do we decide what we're going to do? Most of the time, we subconsciously make a list of priorities. We know we are going to work because we need income to survive. I know I'm going to the grocery store because I'm pretty sure it's impossible to live very long on orange juice, soda and cereal.
I make decisions based on my perceived needs. The things I believe are essential for me to survive or get certain priorities accomplished.
So I've learned a fairly simple but important lesson over the years. What gets placed in the ESSENTIAL category of my life usually gets accomplished. Somehow I always seem to delegate the time, energy and effort to see those things accomplished. Weird!
The things I place in the OPTIONAL category of my life rarely, if ever, receive the time or attention.
These are usually things that you desire or have good intentions of accomplishing but they end up bringing nothing more than regret or guilt.
Things that may fall into this category would be working out, going to church, volunteering, rearranging the garage, helping out a friend, cleaning the house, etc.
If good intentions equaled productivity I would be running the world by this time. Unfortunately, the majority of time, I find myself clawing and fighting for time and trying to protect things I think are ESSENTIAL.
Here's a challenging and eye opening proposition.
Take a piece of paper, sit down, and write down the things you believe fall into the ESSENTIAL category in your life. Then write down the things that are OPTIONAL or the things that you desire to accomplish. Then look if you're organizing your time and life around the ESSENTIALS.
It's amazing how many times the ESSENTIALS receive our leftovers.
For example, I would place (in no particular order) family, work, my relationship with God, friends and church in my ESSENTIAL list. Which of these categories am I most willing to compromise when life gets crazy?
Can I be completely honest? I would place my relationship with God as the number one priority in my life and yet it may take the biggest hit when life gets a little out of whack. That's hard to say as a pastor. When my schedule gets too full and something gets the boot it's usually my friends and my relationship with God that suffers.
Why is that? Is it that we believe God can wait or is it that we don't realize how much we need a continuing relationship with God to survive and to live out our Christian life to the fullest?
Maybe you have put church or a community of faith in the OPTIONAL category of your life. There's an alarming trend today among college and 20-somethings. They are by and large absent from the church. Why is that? There may be many reasons but I've realized that in the life of most young people church falls into the OPTIONAL category of life.
If I'm not tired, if I'm not traveling, if I don't have school work, if there isn't something better to do and if it's not raining then I'll go to church. Come on, when are you not tired?
As a result, we place those things into the OPTIONAL category of life. In my opinion, what becomes OPTIONAL in your life will very soon no longer have a place at all. The OPTIONAL is soon discarded in your life and it becomes nothing more than a good intention. In case you don't know good intentions get you nowhere.
Maybe you need to simplify life. Identify those things that really matter and make sure they aren't neglected. Put some of your OPTIONAL stuff over into the ESSENTIAL category and start following through. Make sure you are formulating your day around the essential.
As followers of Christ too many of us have placed our relationship with God in the OPTIONAL category. We would never say that out loud but it's what our life reflects. We've lived with good intentions relying on God's grace and putting it off another day.
There are kingdom of God principles that I can't explain but I've learned to build my life around them. One of them is that if I choose to give God my time and nurture a relationship with Him, he gives me the grace and ability to live life to the fullest. He gives me the grace to accomplish things, the strength to carry on when I'm tired, and the peace even in the midst of chaos. It's one of those paradoxes of scripture. It doesn't make sense unless you see it in light of God's principles.
Maybe you've neglected your family, maybe it's your relationship with God, maybe you need to commit to a community of faith, or maybe you need to learn to rest and take breaks in life. Whatever it may be I encourage you to make a list of the ESSENTIALS and fight for those things. Don't let them fall over into the OPTIONAL category. Remember, what you place in the OPTIONAL category will very soon no longer have a place at all in your life.
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