Last week I talked about several priorities in our lives: Make Time for God, Make Time for Your Spouse, and Make Time for Your Children. Our gospel reading on Sunday, May 23, included Jesus’ words: “I am coming to you [the Father] now, but I say these things while I am still in the world, so that they may have the full measure of my joy within them. I have given them your word and the world has hated them, for they are not of the world any more than I am of the world. My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world. For them I sanctify myself, that they too may be truly sanctified” (John 17:13-19).
Jesus prayed that His disciples—which includes us—would find a way to live within this world but not be controlled by it. There are several other areas that help us to live in the world rather than be of the world.
Maintain Monetary Perspective We want to succeed, to live in a nice home, to have nice things. We want our families to be comfortable. We want to have our needs met—food, clothing, housing, etc. Unfortunately, in our society that isn’t enough. Once we have something, there is always something better to replace it.
The apostle Paul struggled with this feeling, and told his disciples, “I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through him who gives me strength” Philippians 4:12, 13. Therein is the key to maintaining monetary perspective, appropriating God’s strength in my life for whatever situation I am in.
Looking back through recent history, it is easy to see how serving God can take a back seat to the love of money. Success brings things. Things are fun. Get more things. God gave them to me, why not? Jesus told his followers, “No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money” (Matthew 6:24). When my “things” and my lifestyle begin to take more of my attention than my relationship with God, I am losing monetary perspective.
Keep Your Relationships Current In the modern church, just as in centuries past, we struggle with cliques, personality conflicts, and church fights. Although most are minor, we have seen the results of these problems. Jesus prayed that we would be one just as He and the Father are one (John 17:11). In order for Jesus’ prayer to be fulfilled, we must keep our relationships current. Several passages instruct our priority choices in this area.
Ask for forgiveness when you are at fault. “Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift” (Matthew 5:23, 24). When we gather to worship God, it is important that we come with clean and open hearts, having taken care of our conflicts.
Forgive others who have sinned against you. “Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, ‘Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?’ Jesus answered, ‘I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times’” (Matthew 18:21, 22). Jesus continues with the story of the servant who, having been forgiven a great debt, turns around and throws his own debtor into jail. When the master discovered this dishonorable behavior, he threw the previously forgiven servant into jail. “This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother from your heart” (v. 35).
It is hard to forget when someone has offended us, especially when the hurt was deep. Yet, through the grace of God in Christ, our sins have been thrown into the depths of the sea, where they can no longer torment us. We can share that same grace with others with God’s help. Just like the demon-possessed boy’s father cried out, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!” (Mark 9:24). By relying on God we can forgive others, even when it seems impossible.
I’ve said it, and I know I’ve heard it: “I’ll forgive, but I’ll never forget!” I’m not sure forgiveness requires forgetting what happened, just rejecting the bitterness that comes from nurturing old hurts. For example, if a person consistently and habitually repeats negative behaviors, forgiveness and love for the person might require remembering in order to keep them from being tempted again. You are no longer holding him or her liable for the sin, but rather supporting and helping him or her reach God’s best for his or her life.
Serving God in this world requires keeping our focus on the calling of Christ to represent Him and to share the gospel. The basis for our priorities can be found in Scripture and lived out in our everyday lives.
Are you having a problem setting priorities and keeping them? Spend some time in prayer and the Word of God. Talk to your pastor or spiritual mentor about your struggles. Let someone help you. You are not alone in this task. Don’t have a church home or pastor? Feel free to contact me. I’d be glad to help!
Pastor Mary Kay Glunt