By Elder Enoch Ofori Jnr
(Sabbath Sermon, Jan. 19, 2013)
What are your Life’s Priorities?
If I asked you to write out the topmost concern currently on your mind as you sit here in church, what will it be? Will it be your business, your work, a debt to be paid, your child’s school fees?
As smart people, most of you will detect my little trick and will promptly say, ‘salvation’. But if I were God and could read your minds or prise open your brain, what I will probably discover will be far mundane, even base. Your thoughts will be mostly earthbound, preoccupied with bread-and-butter everyday survival issues!
You may be thinking, "my upcoming rent, the landlord; the children’s school fees; the funeral of my father’s friend’s uncle, I have got to attend; the bank loan I have applied; my marriage, when?" and a million other wants and needs.
I am not saying these are not important things; they are. But do they constitute the most important thing in this life and therefore deserving of all of our attention? Do they represent our true worth?
In all the hustle and bustle of modern life, it’s easy to lose focus on the single most important thing in life. But if only we could sometimes just pause and reflect, we will realize just how futile all earthly life really is, how exacting and cruel life is and yet has little reward and comfort to give back to us. We lumber on in life only to end in ruin and oblivion!
The mercy of God is our only hope in life. As we float through life, this is what we must grasp at to secure for ourselves a future of hope. But who meditates on such things? There is a life to live!
The Prayer of Moses, the Servant of God
For Moses, the servant of God, his heartfelt prayer was that God temper the harsh destiny of man with His mercy and that His first act of mercy be that we use our time on earth in the wisest way possible. Here’s his prayer as presented in Ps 90:
"… Lord, you have been our dwelling place in all generations.
"Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever you had formed the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God.
"You return man to dust and say, "Return, O children of man!"
"For a thousand years in your sight are but as yesterday when it is past, or as a watch in the night.
"You sweep them away as with a flood; they are like a dream, like grass that is renewed in the morning:
"In the morning it flourishes and is renewed; in the evening it fades and withers.
"For we are brought to an end by your anger; by your wrath we are dismayed.
"You have set our iniquities before you, our secret sins in the light of your presence.
"For all our days pass away under your wrath; we bring our years to an end like a sigh.
"The years of our life are seventy, or even by reason of strength eighty; yet their span is but toil and trouble; they are soon gone, and we fly away.
"Who considers the power of your anger, and your wrath according to the fear of you?
"So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom.
"Return, O LORD! How long? Have pity on your servants!
"Satisfy us in the morning with your steadfast love, that we may rejoice and be glad all our days.
"Make us glad for as many days as you have afflicted us, and for as many years as we have seen evil.
"Let your work be shown to your servants, and your glorious power to their children.
"Let the favor of the Lord our God be upon us, and establish the work of our hands upon us; yes, establish the work of our hands!" (vv. 1-17 ESV).
A poem of yawning contrasts: The everlasting Creator God is our refuge from generation to generation, but He has doomed man to death and to a fleeting earthly life filled with trouble. And the reason is that man is so lawless and sinful, and the righteous God cannot help but unleash His just wrath on mankind. The average lifespan of man is 70 years, or at most 80, but these are all years of hard labour and trouble that we endure only to end in our sudden disappearance from life! But worse, man could experience more of His fury (for who knows the extent of it?)!
It is here that the heart of the prayer of the man of God comes through: Although God has destined man to destruction, we are able to win His mercy when, upon realizing how short life is, we open our hearts to (divine) wisdom.
He prays, "Teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom".
Heavenly Wisdom to Prioritize the Indispensable
The wisdom Moses prays for is not wisdom to get by in life, nor to gain worldly education or possessions but wisdom that consists in the fear of God: "The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom: a good understanding have all they that do His commandments: His praise endureth for ever" (Ps. 111:10; cp Prov. 1:7).
Gaining and applying this all-important wisdom, however, takes a sober realization that life is short and that God’s mercy is all we need. But that realization does not come naturally; it takes the help of God. Strangely for even some believers, their priorities don’t show that they have mastered the art of numbering their days on earth. Some serve their belly (Rom. 16:18; Phil. 3:19); others are caught up in the everyday worries of this life (Luke 21:34). These live their lives pursuing the things of this world as if they have all the time in the world.
But not disciple Mary. She needed not hazard a guess as to what will have the best of her time and attention. After several years of sitting under the feet of Master Jesus listening to His words of life, she knew almost by intuition the most important thing in life, and she prioritized (chose) that good part. It all unfolded before the Master, earning His commendation:
"Now it came to pass, as they went, that He entered into a certain village: and a certain woman named Martha received Him into her house.
"And she had a sister called Mary, which also sat at Jesus’ feet, and heard His word.
"But Martha was cumbered about much serving, and came to Him, and said, Lord, dost thou not care that my sister hath left me to serve alone? bid her therefore that she help me.
"And Jesus answered and said unto her, Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things:
"But one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her" (Luke 10:38-42).
Mary’s action showed her unspoken view that she considered salvation the most important thing in her life even in relation to serving the Master temporary food. The Word was her priority, and she wouldn’t miss it for anything else. This word is the Word of life, of power, of salvation, and of eternal life. You have it and you have everything: "But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you" (Matt. 6:33). You ignore the Word and you lose everything: "For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?" (Matt. 16:26).
The business of the soul — feeding it the Word of life, etc–is the only business which yields eternal dividends if we invest our time and effort in it; it is also the only one which brings an eternal loss if we mess it up.
Undoubtedly, Martha also knew the great importance of the Word, but then her hands were always full–she was "careful and troubled about many things". So not quite intentionally the Word slotted into second place in her life. However, as Christ pointed out to her, devotion to the Word cannot wait. It’s and should always be top priority! Is this the case in your life?
There’s much distraction in the system to fritter away precious time, but let’s set our priorities right. Let’s make the best use of our time "because the days are evil" (Eph. 5:16). Once we have realized how short and futile our life on earth is, we will realize our great need for God’s mercy. It’s the mercy of God that will make life truly worth living. It will not only give us true joy but also compensate for all the evil experiences. For God will henceforth show forth His miracle power, and He will establish the work of our hands. The LORD will crown us with success (vv. 14-17).
The destiny of woe and ruin has been overturned. You now live the mercies of God and the power of His majesty. The school fess will not be left unpaid, neither the debt nor the rent. The "favour of the LORD" will be upon you. All because you allowed God to teach to number your days so you could apply the life-giving divine wisdom
Beloved, life is short, but you can make the best out of it if you allow the Eternal to play a frontal role in your life. He will secure and establish you forever. Amen!