A room which was once filled with laughter, quickly turned silent as I asked the room of teenagers to describe their feelings about beginning another school year. A few of them shared their eager anticipation of making new friends and embarking on exciting adventures. However; most of the room shared feelings of anxiety and even dread. I was curious if it was because of the high demands of their schoolwork that caused them to have these feelings and they were quick to say, “No”. Many of these teens felt the beginning of school meant the end of the close relationships which they cherished with each other and also with God.
I have seen reactions such as this before in my years of ministry, but to me this time is seemed different. As I stood there in front of the room my mind began to fade back to when I was a senior in high school and a dear friend of mine saw me begin to walk down a path which needed to be avoided. I recall Tony Hall speaking in front of a group of young people while holding an empty glass jar. He explained how the jar represented our life. Each and every day we all make choices as to what we put into our jar. Tony then began to fill the jar with white rice and shared how many times in life, “things” begin to take up our time, talents, and resources. However; if we are not careful we will not have enough room for all the things which really matter most: God, family, friends, recreation, school/work. He then began to try and fit ping pong balls with the previous words written on each ball. It didn’t take long to realize that not all of the ping pong balls would fit into the jar filled with rice. But then, Tony emptied the jar once again and began to challenge us to consider Matthew 6:33, “Seek ye first the kingdom of God…” He started by putting the ping pong balls in first and then began to fill the jar once again with the rice, only to stop for a second to shake the jar to allow the contents to settle. By putting the “important” things in first, everything fit nicely into the jar. On a side note, upon the passing of Tony I was allowed to take a few things from his office. One of the items I took is the same jar that he used to minister to me all those years ago.
I was recently asked to think about and share some insights into the priorities Jesus displayed within his life. At first I considered how Jesus spent time “preaching, teaching, and healing every type of disease throughout all of Galilee.” (Matthew 4:23). Then I considered his words in Luke 19:10, “For I have come to seek and save the lost.” I also considered how Jesus make it a priority to spend time in prayer with his father (Mark 1:35). All of these were constantly and consistently manifested throughout the life of our Lord and Savior. However; I wanted more. I wanted to have a deeper understanding of some additional things which will challenge me and aid me in my ongoing quest to become more life the Christ.
If there ever was anyone who understood the priorities of Jesus I believe it was the Apostle Paul. I want to submit for your consideration his writing about Jesus in Philippians 2:1-11. Please notice some additional priorities noted in this passage.
“So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, 2 complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. 3 Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. 4 Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. 5 Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. 9 Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”
Jesus made humility a priority in His life. (Philippians 2:3,8) Humility is a great oversight in the lives of many people. We need to pursue humility in the way we act, in our attitude, and by our words. Psalm 147:6 states, “The Lord lifts up the humble; he casts the wicked to the ground.” Jesus shared in Matthew 18:4, “Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” James went on to say in James 4:10, “Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you.” These are only a few passages from God’s Word stating His desire for you and I to be humble in all we do. But notice the question posed by the Lord through Moses and Aaron as they spoke to Pharaoh in Exodus 10:3, “Thus says the Lord, the God of the Hebrews, ‘How long will you refuse to humble yourself before me?” That is a question that each and every child of God needs to ask themselves. Are we truly humble or do we only want to believe that we are humble?
We live in a culture in which humility is counter cultural. Our world continually pushes pride. When was the last time you experienced a politician was promoted humility? How many singer/songwriters are promoting a heart of humility? What about in the realm of sports? Oh I know, after the long celebrated touchdown dance, the reporter interviews the athlete and the first this they say is, “I would like to thank my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” However; their behavior a few minutes earlier wasn’t consistent with their words when the microphone was in front of them.
Paul reminds the church of Philippi that Jesus has a heart of humility and we must do everything we can constantly take our focus off of ourselves and place it where it belongs.
Jesus’s concern for others was a priority in His life. (Philippians 2: 5-6) It has been said that our attitudes determine our actions and our outlooks determine our outcomes. Do we have the same outlook of Jesus? Jesus is God but did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped. When Jesus went to the cross, He was not thinking of Himself but of others. There are numerous “one another” passages in the New Testament. Serve one another (John 13:14) Bear one another’s burdens (Galatians 6:2) Be at peace with one another (Mark 9:50) Love one another (John 15:17) Live in harmony with one another (Romans 12:16) Welcome one another (Romans 15:7) Forgive one another (Ephesians 4:32) Build up one another (1 Thessalonians 5:11). We must become more focused on others like Jesus.
Jesus’s service to all was a priority in His life. (Philippians 2:7) As you read through the gospels you’ll quickly notice that it is Jesus who serves others. He serves fisherman, harlots, tax collectors, the sick and the sorrowing. In John 13, it was Jesus who kneeled down to wash the feet of the apostles. You see, God’s kingdom is a serving kingdom. Servant leadership is a must. Jesus models this in life and death.
Jesus’s sacrifice was a priority in His life. (Philippians 2:8) Many people are willing to serve others as long as it doesn’t cost them anything. Jesus’ death was not the death of a martyr, but the death of a Savior. Jesus willingly laid down His life for the sins of the world. I once heard a man say, “Ministry that costs nothing accomplishes nothing.” The conclusion we must all reach is not just how much we are willing to take in terms of suffering, but how much we are willing to give in terms of sacrifice. Is it costing you anything to be a Christian?
Jesus’s ability to glorify God was a priority in His life. (Philippians 2:9-11) No discussion about this priority should be needed. Jesus made clear that the Lord is the first priority within His life. In Matthew 22:36-30 Jesus states, “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” 37 And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38 This is the great and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. 40 On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” Jesus is commanding that we each love God with all our being.
In recent years a head coach divorced his wife of 26 years when he left coaching a college team to become head coach in the National Football League. He said he needed a wife while coaching on the college level for social functions and to show families that he would be looking out for their sons. In pro football, however, she was unnecessary and a distraction to winning. He said winning football was his number one priority and his two sons second. How tragic!
In contrast to this, Tom Landry, former coach of the Dallas cowboys said, “The thrill of knowing Jesus is the greatest thing that ever happened to me … I think God has put me in a very special place, and He expects me to use it to His glory in everything I do … whether coaching football or talking to the press, I’m always a Christian … Christ is first, family second and football third.”
Much like that room of teenagers, we who are adults need to take the time to refocus and reshape our priorities within our life. Consider how much more blessed our families and friends would be if we each took Jesus’ example personally. May God continue to be patient with us as we strive to become more like His son on a daily basis.