“Things which matter most must never be
at the mercy of things which matter least.” Goethe
E.M. Gray spent his life searching for the one trait all successful people share. His essay entitled, “The Common Denominator of Success” revealed successful people’s common characteristic wasn’t hard work or wise human relations, though those traits were important. The one factor that seemed to surpass all the rest was the habit of simply putting first things first. He observed, “The successful person has the habit of doing the things failures don’t like to do. They don't like doing them either, necessarily. But their disliking is subordinated to the strength of their purpose.”
Over the years I’ve read many books on what makes a great father. If you Google Fathers or what makes a godly one, you’ll be overwhelmed with all the advice available. While I’m at the second phase of fathering, seeking to have a godly influence on my now adult children, I’m still working on being a godly Dad. One trait that I’ve observed that I believe makes a major difference is having the right priorities.
Stephen R. Covey in his bestseller, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, wrote: “As a longtime student of this fascinating field [of life and time management], I am personally persuaded that the essence of the best thinking in the area of time management can be captured in a single phrase: Organize and execute around priorities.” Setting the right priorities is vital for success in anything. It’s indispensable for spiritual success. Scripture tells us that it’s critical to put our priorities in the right order and then carefully cultivate each one with zeal and enthusiasm.
Yet, we struggle with “the tyranny of the urgent” and are easily distracted from what’s most important. For example, each week I have an 800 lb. gorilla that I must deal with – next Sunday’s sermon. You may have heard me share one of my favorite quotes on preaching by Jan Karon from her book, At Home in Mitford. She writes that preaching is “like having a baby on Sunday and finding out that you’re pregnant on Monday.” Preparing a sermon each week is similar to having a term paper due every Sunday. If I don’t prioritize, it won’t happen. And it would be a sin, failing in my calling from God and stealing from our church if I grabbed some “Saturday night special” off the Internet. It means I must make preparation a priority. It takes me between 15-20 hours each week to be adequately prepared for each Sunday. But did you like doing term papers when you were in school? Neither did I. While I love and am so thankful that God has called me into the ministry, I have to discipline myself each week and prioritize.
The same is true of anything vital. If you’re going to be successful. Prioritizing is critical. For example, you always know who makes their landscaping a priority. Their yards are weed free, flowers and landscaping are immaculate. The grass is green and looks like a carpet. But you can’t order a beautiful yard on the Internet (Trust me on this. I searched Amazon). In the same way, to be a godly father you must make it a priority to first know God the Father. God the Father is our model. For those of us who didn’t have a model in our own earthly Dad, this is such a blessing.
While there’s no shortcut to knowing God, it’s simple. You must make time with the Lord in reading His Word and prayer a top priority every day. Everything else will clamor for your attention. Spending time with your Heavenly Father each day will help make you a better husband, father, employee, neighbor, etc. It will help you be a wiser manager of your finances and time. I’m so confident this is true that I’d challenge you to try it for 30 days. You’ll find for yourself the phenomenal difference it makes.
Everyone you talk to bemoans how busy they are. Yet, being chronically overly busy isn’t God’s plan for us. You can’t do everything. It’s why priorities are vital. As you spend time at your daily “staff meeting” with your Heavenly Father, He’ll give you the wisdom to know what’s the most important for you to focus on and to base your decisions on those priorities.
It’s a well-known anecdote, yet so accurate of an instructor at a time-management seminar. He asked the group a foundational question, as he reached under the table and pulled out a wide-mouthed gallon jar and set it on the table. Next to the jar were a number of fist-sized rocks. “How many of these rocks do you think we can get inside this jar?” Participants guessed, so the instructor said, “Let's find out.” One by one he began putting as many fist-sized rocks as he could into the jar until they filled the jar. Then, he asked, “Is the jar full?” The participants looked at the jar filled with rocks and said it was. Then he reached under the table and pulled out a bucket of gravel. He dumped some gravel in and shook the jar. The gravel filled the spaces between the big rocks. He grinned and asked again, “Is the jar full?” The group was catching on and said that the jar probably wasn’t full. He nodded and said, “You’re catching on.” Next he took out a bucket of sand and poured it in. Slowly the sand filled the gaps between the rocks and gravel. After the sand settled, the instructor again asked, “Now, is the jar full?” The audience roared, “No!” Next he poured a pitcher of water into the jar. At this point he stopped and asked the group, “What's the point of all of this?” Somebody said, “There are always gaps. If you work at it, you can always fit more into your life.” But the instructor replied, “No, the point is this: If I hadn't put in those big rocks first, I never would have gotten them in at all.”
Every Dad needs to ask, “What are my big rocks?” When you begin with God the Father and make Him your first priority, you’ll be amazed at the difference and how in balance the rest of your life becomes.
Can we help you spiritually? Can we help you know Jesus better? Please check out more resources on our church's web page, Gracechurchwi.org. Or, call us at 262.763.3021. If you'd like to know more about how Jesus can change your life, I'd love to mail you a copy of how Jesus changed my life in "My Story." E-mail me at Carson@gracechurchwi.org to request a free copy. Please include your mailing address.