Where Should Our Priorities Lie?
This past summer, the Barna Group concluded a study that revealed some startling truth—namely, those who claim to be Christians do not even count their faith to be the priority of their life! From the study:
“Fewer adults said faith is their top priority in the 2010 study (12%) compared to 2006 (16%) … Despite the fact that more than three-quarters of adults identify themselves as Christians and nearly nine out of 10 Americans believe in God, matters of ‘faith’ are surprisingly rare when Americans choose their highest priority in life … David Kinnaman, president of the Barna Group, commented on the relatively small proportion of Americans who place top emphasis on faith: ‘The gap is vast between self-described affiliation with Christianity and ascribing highest priority to that faith. When it comes to why so much of American religion seems merely skin-deep, this gap between what people call themselves and what they prioritize is perhaps most telling….’ Kinnaman underscored the importance of the current findings. ‘People are not turning to others – like family members or God – in the face of economic trials. Instead, they are focusing increasingly on themselves, trying to solve their problems by being more ‘balanced’ or by simply working harder. Since the nation’s character is shaped by the collective aspirations of its residents, the economy has revealed Americans’ fixation with individualism and their illusions of being self-made’.” (Barna Group, July 26, 2010).
The culture in which we live forces us to push our faith to the edge of our daily lives—technology has caused us to be overstimulated with the here-and-now. Yet God’s Word, in THIS culture in which we find ourselves, has called us to be something different. Notice from Colossians 3:1-4 what God has to say about our focus and priorities as His children.
First: Because we are Christians, a certain cause-effect consequence should mark our lives. “If (Since) ye then be risen with Christ…” (v. 1). The word “if” is a first-class conditional clause that means “since [you are a Christian and are viewed as dead and resurrected in God’s sight], then it is only obvious and reasonable that you seek those things which are above.” The fact of the matter is that your life right now is an evidence of whether or not you even know Jesus Christ. Notice First John 3:6-10. These verses reveal that our habitual actions and behavior are an evidence of whether or not we are even children of God at all. True believers will not live an entire life marked by affection for the world and the things of the world. The entire point of this first verse is to clearly declare what should be the natural result of the new birth. It is not too much to ask any true Christian to have a different way of thinking than those who do not know God.
Second: Our “affection” or our “mind,” that is, our focus and priorities, should be on things spiritual, not on things earthly. The verb “seek” (v. 1) is a present imperative which denotes continuous, repeated action: “Keep on seeking.” This is a life-long endeavor. We need to get the focus off of self. More than in any other culture or society ever, we are plagued by this narcissistic self-centeredness. We have a self-centered, antinomian attitude that stresses OUR worth or OUR likes and dislikes. We feel as though because we are not “under law” that we can do whatever we FEEL and this is totally contrary to Scripture! We need to get our focus onto Jesus Christ. Truly, our focus will reveal our priorities, and when we are living each day with the knowledge that He may return, we will be motivated to focus on Christ and set our priorities on Him (v. 4).
When things are in proper perspective and our priorities are right vertically, then (and only then) all the horizontal things (over which we have control) will fall into place as they should. Today as Christians our focus and priorities should always center around: 1) Jesus Christ and faithfulness to Him and spiritual things over the temporal things, and 2) The return of Jesus Christ which we sharpen our focus to Christ and fidelity to Him.
The only way we will be people who bring honor to God is to be a people who put Him first—who put Him above our fleshly idols and desires. As the apostle John wrote in conclusion to his first letter, “Little children, keep yourselves from idols. Amen.” (1 John 5:20).