How many of you keep up with sports regularly? Perhaps you watch basketball or baseball or football or racing or whatever. Admittedly, I keep up with some of these sports--at least when their season is drawing to an end and the playoffs approach. No, I don't watch many games, but I often check the results online the next morning or read about it in the newspaper. But, I'm definitely not a fanatic, at least not when it comes to sports. I'm amazed, however, by how many people are sports fanatics!
When it was available locally, I tuned in occasionally to listen to ESPN radio a couple times a week. One thing that amazed me is how worked up some people get regarding sports! I'm talking about the radio hosts, those calling in, etc. Many people will really get fired up about something in the realm of sports, things that I would label as being of little consequence, but yet these same people refuse to be bothered about other things that I think are really important, like religion!
Have you ever noticed that? Different people get excited about different things. Of course, if a person gets worked up about something, that implies that the subject matter is very important to them. When a person is not passionate about something, then that probably means it is not a high priority with them.
In our feature lesson today, I want us to consider how to distinguish between things that matter and things that don't. Now, I'm assuming that since you are reading or listening to this lesson that we already agree on the basics--that is, spiritual matters are very important and physical matters are less important. Jesus said as much in Matthew 16:26 - "For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?" One's soul is the most important thing; spiritual matters are what really count. Now, that is where we must start in our understanding, but there is more involved than this in distinguishing between what matters and what doesn't.
Within the realm of religion, there are some things that are essential. Other religious matters are very important but not essential. Finally, there are other matters that are indifferent or irrelevant. Stephen, how can we know the difference? How can we tell what is essential religiously and what is unimportant?
Well, first let me show you evidence that distinctions such as these actually exist. The Lord Jesus Christ taught in Matthew 23:23 that some matters are weightier than others religiously. Jesus specifically labeled justice, mercy, and faith as weightier matters. He specifically mentioned tithing herbs as a less important matter. Of course, Jesus was not teaching that a person should figure out what the most important matters of religion are and do them while ignoring the others matters deemed less important. No, He was not teaching that at all. He clearly stated that the weightier matters should be done without neglecting the other matters. For us today, Jesus was teaching that some aspects of religion are more important than others, and consequently, we should focus our attention upon them, but not to the detriment of other matters deemed less important. Friends, how can we know the difference? How can we avoid majoring in minors and minoring in majors? Wasn't this one of the big problems of the Pharisees? They focused so much on the small matters of importance that they often neglected the more important things. May it never be so with us! So, how can we avoid letting the unimportant matters crowd out the important matters?
This lesson will try to provide some ideas on properly arranging our priorities or putting all the components of our lives in the proper places (we certainly won't be exhausting the subject in this study). Physically, everything in a house or room should be put in its proper place to keep things organized, neat, and efficient. It's the same way with priorities--everything must be kept in its proper place or you're going to end up with a mess. We need to put the essential matters at the top, the important matters second, and the irrelevant matters last. Like many things in life, accomplishing such is easier said than done, but it is a noble and worthwhile goal and one our attention should continually be focused upon.
IMPROPER CRITERIA OFTEN USED IN DETERMINING WHAT MATTERS & WHAT DOESN'T.
We will begin here with three points that come to my mind. These three improper criteria are "big ones" in my estimation. In other words, people use them a lot to determine their priorities, but they seriously err in so doing.
PROPER CRITERIA TO USE IN DETERMINING WHAT MATTERS & WHAT DOESN'T
Let's now contemplate three proper criteria for determining priorities that all Christians should be using in their lives.
Character is what you really are (not what you think you are; cf. Gal. 6:3). Reputation is what others think you are. Character is important; reputation is relatively unimportant. Character is important because "there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account" (Heb. 4:13). God requires certain qualities of character, and He provides what is needed for developing them in His word:
"But also for this very reason, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue, to virtue knowledge, to knowledge self-control, to self-control perseverance, to perseverance godliness, to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness love. For if these things are yours and abound, you will be neither barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. For he who lacks these things is shortsighted, even to blindness, and has forgotten that he was cleansed from his old sins. Therefore, brethren, be even more diligent to make your call and election sure, for if you do these things you will never stumble; for so an entrance will be supplied to you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ" (II Pet. 1:5-11).
Each of these character qualities should be studied and pursued vigorously by Christians because they matter so much to God (and should consequently matter to us).
There is so much more that could be said about our theme in this lesson, but hopefully some of these major points we've shared will be helpful. Everything essential to one's salvation and right relationship with God is stipulated in Scripture. Things that are important but not necessarily essential are more difficult but not impossible to determine. Trivial things get too much of our time and energy, and this is one reason why humans often fail in the essential and important areas. Dear listeners, please examine your priorities in the light of Scripture to ensure that what is important to God is properly manifested in the life He has given you.
Thank you for listening, and may the Lord bless you as you strive to do His will.