The Urgent and the Important

The Urgent is seldom Important.  The Important is seldom Urgent.

Not long ago I started a day with several important items to do.  The urgent, however, continued to crowd these out until the afternoon.  That day reinforced the thoughts expressed in the above title.  What is it about the “urgent” things in our lives that almost compels us to pay attention to them rather than to the “important” issues.  It seems that they usually deal only with the things of the world.  They involve primarily the cares and concerns of that which is material only.  They also seem to be those things which make one “feel” better.  They improve our image, our home, our yard, our employment situation, or our financial security giving us a feeling of accomplishment or self satisfaction.  From where do you think these ideas about how to spend our time come?  In all of these the effect is transient, and more time will always need to be given to these items that compel our attention.  Add to this list our current generation’s fascination and involvement with E-mail, Facebook, Messenger, Twitter etc. and we have no margin for the important in our lives.  I recall conversations with some whose attention was distracted each time a new E-mail came up on their mobile device.  It was difficult to carry on a meaningful conversation due to the distractions.  All of these seemingly “urgent” items are seldom important.

The “important,” on the other hand, is seldom urgent.  A  commitment to pray for others in need is easily pushed to the end of our day, getting only a cursory mention in our evening prayers.  Our neighbor, who is in need of a relationship with Christ, is seldom given any thought, as we bustle about our neighborhoods with our to-do list.  We have a haunting realization that we need to spend more time in God’s word throughout the day, but it often gets eliminated entirely only to be replaced by a quick glance at the Bible before we go to bed.  Our friend has been in trouble and has given us a call regarding his needs.  We easily say that we can be available to see him this week, but our schedule of “urgent” matters may delay our contact with him for some time.  We know down deep that Christ is the center of our lives and that our focus daily must be to worship and praise Him.  The time to do this, however, is easily delayed by starting our day addressing the “urgent” rather than the “important.”

The “urgent” things in our lives are issues primarily of this world which have no bearing on eternity.  The “important” things are those which will make a difference in eternity-to our lives and to those of others.  How, then, do we begin to focus on the “important” rather than the “urgent?”  The “urgent” is most often determined by our agenda or that of others.  The “important” is usually the Lord’s agenda.  We begin, then, by seeking His will for each day, each decision and each activity.  Rather than planning our day, we look to the Holy Spirit to lead us in His will, dependent on Him to do it through us, and in His way.  As we look to Him and as we wait on Him, He will manifest His agenda, the “important.”  Having undertaken our day in this manner, it follows that we must address His agenda first and foremost.  Matthew 6:33 states “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”  That which He  has shown us to do must be the primary focus of that day.  All other things must give way to His desire.  Having done so, He  promises us that He will take care of everything else as well.  Additionally, our ability to seek and respond to His will is aided significantly by providing “margin” in our day.  The practice of filling our days with endless commitments, activities and responsibilities prevents to a large degree our sensitivity to and response to the Holy Spirit.  While in medical practice, I routinely left at least one hour unscheduled during the day.  The Lord typically used this time to enable me to spend time with Him or with others who had spiritual needs.  This unscheduled time provided the margin in my day to help remove the stress of being over committed.

Our commitment to the “important” rather than the urgent is captured succinctly by Romans 12:2.  “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world (The “urgent”), but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.  Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is-his good, pleasing and perfect will.

(The “important”)

May the Lord so transform your lives so that you daily seek His agenda. (The “important”)  Then you will be able to test and approve of what God has shown you to do, finding that it is good, pleasing and perfect.

In Christ, Richard Spann

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