This is the second part of a three part series on priorities I pulled from a bible study I did through email last year. You can read Part One Here.
*If you need to look up any of the following verses but don’t have a bible handy, you can go to www.biblegateway.com or download the YouVersion bible app to your smart phone.*
In Luke 10:38-42 we see the famous story of Mary & Martha. I love reading this in the Amplified… Verse 40 reads, “But Martha, overly occupied and too busy was distracted with much serving.” That really smacks me in the face. OVERLY OCCUPIED. How often do we try to fit just one more thing into our schedules? There are many reasons for this… Trying to please everyone, not wanting to be left out, maybe even because you care so much about others’ opinion of you or being busy makes you feel important. I’ve found that I even have to be careful that I am not over-scheduling my 4 year old daughter! Yes, it seems ridiculous to me too. I think even for those of us that have kids, we constantly struggle with keeping the balance of being ‘overly occupied’ with housework and still being attentive enough to our children. TOO BUSY… First, busy and productive are two different things. We all have things we need to do; for example, one or both spouses has to go to work to support the family. If you’re unsure for some reason, the bible actually confirms it in 1 Timothy 5:8. We have to do laundry, dishes, grocery shopping, etc or our family will not have clothes to wear or meals to eat or dishes to eat them off of. We should not feel guilty about doing things that are necessary. But we do need to examine what things are good and prosperous for us and what things are again, unfruitful (I feel like I keep using this word… but it is appropriate). See Joshua 1:8 for a reminder why God’s Word is so important. The footnote on this verse says that this is the only place in early English versions of the bible that the word “success” is found. Joshua formed a habit of going “all out” for God by making HIS will our will, which is an unfailing prerequisite for eternal success. We should be like Mary, spending time with our Savior, who personally gave so much for each of us as individuals, and keeps giving to us as long as we keep asking. I know this can seem challenging, but all it takes is a decision.
In Submission. We could just as easily say, in OBEDIENCE. The difference is, with obedience we can do what God asks us to while still harboring grudging feelings about it. When we submit, we obey with a good attitude. My study bible says “To submit means to obey him first, yielding our bodies, minds, wills, and emotions to him.” Look back at Joshua 1:8 and his complete submission to God’s will for him. Are we submitting completely? Once it becomes a habit, it will become second nature; but until then it can be challenging to put our plans aside. Now see 2 Chronicles 30:8. With this verse we have to remember it is Old Testament, which also means old Law – when our ancestors’ deeds did matter more, before Jesus died to save us from our sins. But the idea is the same; we submit to God everything we are and everything we ‘own’. Look back at James 4:7. We can’t just resist the devil; if we try to do that on our own, from our own power, it will be fruitless. We first need to SUBMIT TO GOD, receiving His own power, strength, and wisdom. See Proverbs 3:6.
Practical ideas: Make a decision to submit to God’s will for your life. Commit that decision out loud to Him in prayer. Ask Him for His help and guidance in making this a daily priority. Consciously think of Him any time you have to make a decision or need help – this even ‘works’ with small things!
In Prayer. Read 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 and Romans 12:12. Prayer is our line of communication with God. Without it, it’s like we’ve blocked God’s number on our cell phone. We should pray any time and all the time. One decision I’ve made is if someone asks me for prayer, I do it RIGHT THEN. Otherwise I end up saying, “Sure, I’ll pray for you” and get busy (there’s that enemy again!) and forget. Prayers don’t have to be long or involved. Knowing a few key verses about health, God’s love, His will for us, His peace, etc can help us quickly pray for friends in need, and ourselves! When I first studied 1 Thess 5:16-18 in high school, I thought the meaning was that I should rejoice in all circumstances, even bad ones, because those bad things were God’s will for me. How wrong I was! Sometimes, yes, we can look back on circumstances and see how they were a blessing in disguise. But while every experience, bad ones especially, is a learning opportunity, it is not God’s will for us to suffer, or be sick, or be unhappy. God does not cause these things to happen to us; Satan’s influence in the world (which we do not belong to, by the way; see Col 2:20 & Rom 12:2) causes them. The verse in 1 Thessalonians is telling us that we should rejoice always, because we KNOW we’ve already won; pray continually for God’s continued guidance, peace, wisdom, and protection; and give thanks in all circumstances because God will take what Satan means for harm and turn it to good for us (Rom 8:28). When we pray continually, we are keeping the lines of communication OPEN – we are asking God for what we need, which allows Him to answer and bless us (Matt 7:8), and allows Him and the Holy Spirit to speak to US and direct our paths (Prov 3:6), telling us the way to go.
Practical ideas: Pick one thing you do every day, or nearly every day, and decide to pray every time you find yourself in that situation. For example: the shower, in the car on the commute to work, in any type of line (drive thru or in person), while doing dishes or laundry.
In your thoughts. Read Philippians 4:8 & Proverbs 4:23 & 23:7(footnote). What are we putting into our brains? Is it good, pure, and positive? Or is it spiritually unhealthy? I love to read, but recently realized I needed to take a break from reading fiction, because I could be using that time to dive into bible study instead. God’s Word, and following His will, becomes addicting. The more you read, learn, and absorb, the more you want to read, learn and absorb. And the less you want to do anything BUT spend time with God. Take that first step of faith and God will honor it by changing your heart and your desires. Look back at Romans 12:2. We are to be transformed by RENEWING OUR MINDS – and our mind doesn’t renew itself. We do so by filling it with God’s Word. Whatever we put IN our mind/heart will pour OUT of it. Whatever we believe of ourselves will be true. ***This is why it is so important for us to know and repeat to ourselves who we are in Christ!! The devil will constantly try to remind us of our failures, but we need to cast down those thoughts and replace them with God’s thoughts!!** We will never succeed if we don’t believe we can.
Practical ideas: Make a confession card. This is a 3×5 card with verses on it that pertain directly to struggles you are going through, or refer directly to where you want to go (goals, plans, etc.).
A good link about the battlefield of your thoughts: http://www.joycemeyer.org/articles/ea.aspx?article=win_the_battle_with_power_thoughts
In Deed. Read Matthew 7:7-8 & Luke 11:9-10. All we need to do is ask God what we should do, and He WILL answer us; He will direct our path. (See Psalm 119:105 & Prov 3:6.) I know it seems daunting to be thinking of God every minute of every day. But I also know that each of us really truly desire to have this kind of relationship with Him – where He is literally the Lord of our life and it’s not just a nice phrase we say. And to be honest, I think we all believe the scripture that He will direct our paths – and I believe we also know in our heart of hearts that God’s way is better than our own. So I think we need to just start small and remember that none of us is perfect – which God knows about us, and is the reason He sent Jesus to save us. We don’t HAVE to be perfect!! Praise God for that. We just do everything we do UNTO Him, to the best of our ability, and He will bless it. Here are 3 ways Christian author Elizabeth George suggests we can keep God first in everything:
- Choose God’s ways at every opportunity. See Psalm 32:8 & Isaiah 30:21. Think on this saying: “Good better best, never let it rest; until your good is better, and your better best.”
- Commit yourself to God daily. In the morning give God your health, your body, your thoughts, your worries, your kids (one by one), your spouse, possessions, etc. Doing this releases what we think are our rights to these gifts, which have only been entrusted to us for a time. Andrew Murray, a 19th Century devotional writer, said this: “God is ready to assume full responsibility for the life wholly yielded to Him.”
- Cultivate a hot heart. See Revelations 3:15-16. Jesus does not want us to be lukewarm. A high temperature is characterized by violent activity, emotion or passion; being fiery and excited. Think of a tea kettle. God will fuel the fire as long as we keep ourselves on the stove.
Other Practical ideas: Keep visual cues in your house and/or car in places you will constantly see them (bathroom mirror, bedroom mirror/wall, in planner, near sink or stove in kitchen, at desk, in cube, as background on computer, on center panel in car). Post these bible verses or a simple phrase like “ASK GOD.”
Notice that in each of these areas we are to keep God at the forefront of our mind, asking Him what to do, whether or not to act, how to react, what to say… In her book, Elizabeth George says that when someone is saying something unkind to her, she not only asks God how to respond vocally, but asks Him to tell her what expression to have as she listens to criticism. I think this is a great example of the depth we can go to in order to keep God’s will a priority.
- We should never be too busy or ‘overly occupied’ to spend time with our personal Savior
- We have the power to control our thoughts, and we need to sow good seeds in this area if we want to reap the benefits later. Keeping God’s Word in our mind and heart will change us.
- Prayer is literally our line of communication with God. We cannot know Him fully if we are not communicating with Him.
- WE DO NOT HAVE TO BE PERFECT!!!! We only have to acknowledge God in everything we do, and He will direct our paths and bless our deeds.
Lord, thank You for knowing we are not perfect. Right now we give you our failures: past, present, and future (Psalm 55:22 & 1 Peter 5:7). We no longer expect perfection from ourselves since Jesus freed us from this pressure. I pray that every single person reading this gains revelation in this area. Holy Spirit, remind us of this when we are feeling crushed, broken, imperfect, and not good enough. In these times, help us to soak in YOUR power, YOUR determination, YOUR hope and joy. We know that as we begin to put You first in every area of our life that You will reward us with wisdom, peace, confidence, and joy. Your Word says where 2 or 3 are gathered in Your name, You are in the midst of them (Matthew 18:20). Even though we are not meeting in person, we know you are in the midst of us, connecting us through words and experiences. We ask that you continue to be the center of this bible study and our lives. Help us to control our thoughts, pray and ask for whatever we need, follow through with our promises to you, and keep our plans secondary to your will. Continue to move our hearts.