PRIORITIZE YOUR LIFE
— Lorne Sanny
I was challenged by Mike Treneer eight years ago to begin tabulating “goads and nails” from Navigators who had influenced our Kansas Ministry. The above comments by Lorne were the first to come to my mind. Of all his comments those of us in Kansas have been privileged to hear, the above words chosen to help in the priorities of life have influenced my life most deeply. Over the years I have seen how these five words have impacted the lives of many. Our lives become quickly filled with activities, events, hobbies, and work to the extent that we hardly have time to evaluate what we are doing and why we are doing it. Evaluation of these words as they apply to our lives helps develop investment in the eternal rather than the temporary, moving our focus from the urgent to the important, enabling us to have margin in our lives for the Lord and for people.
As we consider what these words mean to us we first have to reflect on the word “essential.” How do we determine what is “essential?” I have heard this described as “things that last for eternity,” or to answer the question “Will it make a difference in one hundred years?” Another way to approach our consideration is to view our lives forty years from now and think about what we would wish we would have done. As an Intensive Care Physician at the bedside of many a dying patient I have never heard anyone say that they wished they had spent more time at the office! Perhaps the clearest way to obtain direction is to look at the life of our Lord and determine what was essential to Him in His life here on earth. As we do this we discover that His priorities were clearly time with the Father and with people.
A number of things in life are necessary. Working at our profession or job is necessary. How much work, though, is really needed? Is it possible to limit to some extent the necessary to make room for the essential? Maintenance of our home and other property is necessary. How much property, though, is necessary? Someone once remarked that everything you have also has you. It has your time to clean, repair, paint, and otherwise maintain its existence. Physical fitness is, for example, necessary but how much time needs to be devoted to this pursuit?
There are many good things to do in life. The list is endless. It contains a great variety of local and national societies and organizations, hobbies, travel, and even church activities. Few of these are necessary, however, and rarely are they essential. The “good” in our lives is often the enemy of the “essential.” Last year a young man showed me a list of ten things that he was trying to accomplish each day. If he were to have done them all, it would have taken twenty hours to complete! I asked him to identify the essential, and then the necessary. There were seven things left on the list which were all good. In the hour that was left of each day, I recommended that he should choose which of these seven he would like to do. They were all good but squeezing out the essential in his life. It is by labeling many things we do as “good” that we are able to understand that they are not “essential.”
I have discovered that I do not need to be responsible for everything. Is someone else able to do what I do in a specific area of my work or other responsibilities? If so, then I need to consider relinquishing that function to them. Years ago I knew a medical colleague who was unable to delegate certain aspects of his practice. He would write out directions and draw maps for his patients who needed to go to the hospital for their appointment. In addition to taking over the office receptionist job, he also did activities that a nurse was hired to do! After trying unsuccessfully to meet the demands of an office practice, he left town for another position, unable to delegate to others.
Now we come to the word “eliminate.” I suspect if most of us were honest, a significant amount of our time is spent here. Dare I begin with the entertainment industry? Much of it is a waste of time at best, and demoralizing and degrading at its worst. Leroy Eims once remarked that our movie selection should be governed by comparing the description of the feature with Philippians 4:8. Is it true? Is it honest? Is it just? Is it pure? Is it lovely? Is it of good report? Is there virtue? Is it worthy of praise? If so, then we should think on (go see or spend time with) these things. Such a practice would help eliminate some areas that might need to be eliminated!
One of the most significant failures in the lives of followers of Christ is that of having no margin for the essential. Whether it is simply having the time to read the Bible thoroughly, to pray steadfastly, to develop relationships with non-believers or to help others in their discipleship, the essential is crowded out by the necessary, the good, and that which we should either delegate or eliminate. We would do well to take Lorne’s advice to heart and examine our weekly agenda, labeling items as he suggested, and then asking the Lord to lead us to redirect our days into the “essential.”
In Christ, Richard Spann