First Things First

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By Jeff Foerster

I make lists. I make grocery lists and I make itinerary lists. I make lists of books and lists of movies. I make lists when I am packing for a trip. I make lists of tasks to accomplish at my job and lists of things to accomplish around and outside my home.

I might go on to explain the personality idiosyncrasies within me which compel me to do such things, but I’d rather think I am not completely alone in this. Whether you organize your ideas on paper, enter them into electronic media, or assemble them within the confines of your brain, we each have some structure or method for sorting and prioritizing the dealings of the day.

I know a colleague who expressed her enjoyment of a small spurt of enthusiasm whenever she identified one item from her to do list next to which she could put a check mark. If you are a list-maker you might have even faced the temptation to write on paper a task you’ve already completed, so that you might revel in the satisfaction of placing a triumphant check mark beside it. Ever done that?

This got me to thinking. Now, I know to do lists and the like serve important functions. They keep me from wandering completely off track, or, at the very least, they bring me back to the station when I find myself in another room wondering what purpose I may have had in traveling there. They ensure that I make all my stops along the route I chose for the day. They serve as a place to start when I consider the next day’s journey. But might they be something more?

These lists place on paper our hearts. They reveal our true priorities. In this vein we can use them as a place for reflection: “What do I view as high priority?” “Do I focus my efforts toward those items which, if questioned, I would say are of greatest value (or are they left unattended)?” And, most importantly, “Is this the same list my Lord and Master would create for me to do, given today’s circumstances?”

When you become a Christian, i.e., accept Jesus as Lord and Master over your life, you give up your life that He may live in you. I am sure this is what Paul meant in Romans 12 when he instructed each of us to be a living sacrifice.

May your daily list be born out of the Word of God. Let your head and your heart, driven by the Holy Spirit, set your agenda. Let Him free you to have the desires of your heart; to live in a way that pleases your Lord and Master. You will not accomplish each item on your to do list. Act from the heart of God each day. For who can say, “Today I will do such and such and tomorrow will be spent on other things”? You do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away (James 4). Make first things first.

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