In the busyness of life, we often succumb to the tyranny of the urgent. Instead of focusing on what’s most important, we focus on what’s most pressing. Thankfully, there’s a way out. When we choose God’s priorities, we can know and do His will rather than being tossed about by a thousand options.

Last summer, I toured Alaska with my family. In addition to singing 15 times, we also took time to visit friends, view the scenery, and strengthen our family relationships. During a slower portion of that trip, my wife Cassidy (then my fiancé) visited us for eight days.

In those eight days, Cassidy and I probably talked for around 40-45 hours combined. We discussed God’s Word, family, faith, culture, vision, goals, aspirations, memories, life, and much more!

We had an incredible time walking, running, hiking, talking, reading the Word, and enjoying the natural beauty of the Kenai Peninsula.

In hindsight, that concentrated block of time is probably one of our best memories from our courtship. Those eight days took our relationship to an entirely new level.

For eight days, life slowed down. All the car researching, wedding planning, studying, and other projects waited till later, as we enjoyed as much time together as possible.

Today, I’m grateful that the Lord allowed us that time to solidify our relationship and shared convictions before marriage.

Looking back on that time, I’m reminded that priorities matter. We must all intentionally prioritize in order to invest in the truly important people and things in our lives.

So why priorities? In this post, we’ll first examine three reasons why we all need priorities. We’ll then discover how we can set God-centered priorities in our lives.

The Necessity of Priorities

1. The Tyranny of the Urgent

Do you ever feel like you’re running a rat race? Do you ever feel like there are simply too many demands to be met?

Let’s face it, if we don’t determine our priorities, someone else will. There are a thousand options screaming for our time, from church events, to community actives, to work, to friends, to family, to social media. Unfortunately, the proverbial wheel that squeaks the loudest often gets all the grease.

Sometimes, we think that simply becoming more efficient in our tasks and relationships is enough. It’s not. In the words of John C. Maxwell, “Time management is an oxymoron. Time is beyond our control, and the clock keeps ticking regardless of how we lead our lives. Priority management is the answer to maximizing the time we have.”

Though a Transcendentalist, Henry David Thoreau grasped a truth that Christians often miss when he said, “It’s not enough to be busy. The question is, what are we busy about?”

Busyness does not define godliness. We need priorities so we can focus on the things God wants us to prioritize, not simply the things others wish us to do.

2. The Finity of Time

Unlike money, time is a fixed resource. The Feds may be able to print more money, but we can’t come up with more time. In the words of C. S. Lewis, “The future is something which everyone reaches at the rate of sixty minutes an hour, whatever he does, whoever he is.” Benjamin Franklin once stated, “Lost time is never found again.”

Though we’d love to say yes to everything, we simply can’t.

Ever day, we might choose between a book or a conversation, a friend or a sibling, a church event or family time, rest or socializing, time with God or more sleep. Because we can never do all these things at once, we need priorities in order to focus on the most important things in the time we have.

James 4:14 says, “What is your life? It is even a vapor, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away.”

Jonathan Edwards said, “Time is so short, and the work which we have to do in it is so great, that we have none of it to spare.”

3. The Will of God

Do you ever listen to the voices of those who are screaming for your time, while ignoring the still small voice of God’s will?

Elizabeth Elliot once said, “There is time to do anything and everything God wants us to do.”

God has a work for all of us to do in the time that He has entrusted to us. As stewards of God’s time, (I Corinthians 4:1-2, Matthew 25, Ephesians 5:17, Romans 14:12), our responsibility is to use our time for God’s glory and purposes.

Prioritizing cuts through the clutter of life, helping us to focus on the people and things that matter most. Like a compass, prioritizing gives spiritual purpose and direction.

We need never become overwhelmed. God has given us enough time to fulfill His will, and His alone.

The Selection of Priorities

So how should we determine our priorities?

1. God’s Word

2 Timothy 3:16-17 tells us, “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.”

Psalm 119:105 says, “Thy Word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path.

Soon after our marriage, Cassidy and I began a Bible study on some of the things we spent time on, from health and fitness, to church, to family, to work, to learning, to God’s Word.

During our study, we found out that the Bible has a lot more to say about each area of life than we often realize.

As Bereans (Acts 17:11), we must take everything we do back to God’s Word, asking, “Is it Biblical?”

We should also ask, “What does God prioritize? What things does God value in His Word?”

Below are some examples of Biblical priorities. There are many more that could be found by studying God’s Word. These are not necessarily in order of importance.

  • Relationship with God (Luke 10:27, John 15:4-5, Psalm 1, Matthew 6:33).
  • Family (Genesis 1:27, Psalm 127-128).
  • Work (Genesis 1:28-30, 2:15, Colossians 3:23-24).
  • Health and Fitness (I Corinthians 6:19-20, Romans 12:1, I Timothy 4:8, Joshua 15:14-15).
  • Others (Luke 10:27, Matthew 28:19-20).
  • Church (I Timothy 3:15, Hebrews 10:24-25).
  • Personal Growth and Development (Luke 2:52).

As Christians, it is vitally important that we understand from God’s Word the reason for every single thing we do. As we study the truth of God’s Word (John 17:17), we can better discern the things that God prioritizes.

2. Earnest Prayer

Jesus Christ was busy. He healed the sick, taught the Word, mentored His disciples, fellowshipped with close friends, and spent time in prayer.

Incredibly, Christ had a clear sense of vision and direction because He always spent time with His Father. Mark 1:35 tells us that Jesus arose “great while before the day” to pray in a solitary place. Christ was able to perfectly know His Father’s will because He was perfectly in tune with His Father.

In John 5:19, Jesus said, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, but what He seeth the Father do: for whatsoever things He [The Father] doth, these also doeth the Son likewise.”

As we follow in Christ’s steps ( I Peter 2:21), we should earnestly pray that we can know God’s will.

God has promised, “I will instruct thee and teach thee in the way which thou shalt go: I will guide thee with mine eye.” Will you take the time to seek God’s guidance?

Priorities aren’t always clear cut. They look different for different people in different seasons of life. We’ll miss the priorities God has for us if we aren’t sensitive to His voice.

Consider asking, “Lord, what priorities should I focus on?” “What things are most important in this season of life?”

3. Honest Evaluation

We’re often speeding so fast down the freeway of life that we don’t take time to stop to make sure we’re headed in the right direction. Honest evaluation requires pulling into a spiritual rest stop to re-evaluate our direction and focus.

Some time ago, I sat down to evaluate my life direction and priorities. That day, I wrote down a list of six basic priorities in order. I was amazed at how much clarity those priorities gave me.

Today, I take time every Friday morning to review the last seven days, my priorities, goals, time usage, and direction. I ask God to lead me and to adjust my focus as necessary.

Psalm 139:23-24 states, “Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: and see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.”

We need God to search us. Practically, that often requires taking a break from the busyness of life.

As we honestly evaluate our time and priorities, we must ask, “Will this matter in the light of eternity?” (2 Corinthians 4:18).

Make a List

In the midst of the pressures of life, God wants us to focus on His kingdom priorities (Matthew 6:33). Because of His grace, we do not have to be bound by the pressures around us. We can be liberated to know and do God’s will.

May we focus on God’s priorities so that at the close of our lives, we can say as Christ said, “I have glorified thee on the earth, I have finished the work which thou hast given me to do” (John 17:4).

Are you ready to live by Biblical priorities? Grab your Bible, a pen, a notebook, and cup of coffee. Find a quiet place and ask God, “Would you show me through prayer and the Word what I should prioritize?” After Bible study, prayer, and honest evaluation, write down your priorities in order of importance.

That exercise just could be life changing.

Question: Do you ever find yourself focusing on the urgent over the important? What does your list of priorities look like?

Recommended resources: 

Redeeming the Time by Steve Maxwell

Living Life Forward by Michael Hyatt

168 Hours by Laura Vanderkam

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey

Getting Things Done by David Allen

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Disclosure of Material Connection: The links in the above post are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend books I personally have read and believe will add value to my readers. I do not personally agree with everything stated in the recommended books, but I have benefited from each book in some way.


17 Comments

Alyssa · February 27, 2018 at 8:13 am

Excellent post!! I am going to go give the Lord some more fellowship in prayer right now. 🙂

Chad Anderson · February 27, 2018 at 9:00 am

Excellent, excellent, excellent post. Joshua, I can’t help it, but when I read your posts I keep saying to myself, “I can’t believe that he’s like only 20 years old.” Praise God for you.

Thought on point 3, The necessity of priorities:

Having priorities that are according to our responsibilities. Sounds good to me. What are our responsibilities? A top responsibility is possibly being good stewards for God. What is a steward? If I may, I would say a fair definition of “steward” is: Having the responsibility to manage or to take care of the concerns of another. So a steward of God is one who their responsibility is to look after and take care of the concerns of God. And a good steward of God would be someone who makes it a top priority to be a caretaker of the concerns of God, and to be found faithful in it. (1 Cor 4:1-2)

    Chad Anderson · February 27, 2018 at 9:17 am

    This item also:

    “As we honestly evaluate our time and priorities, we must ask, “Will this matter in the light of eternity?” (2 Corinthians 4:18).”

    Just this item alone could cross many things off our list of responsibilities!

Alex Miller · February 27, 2018 at 9:49 am

Great post Josh. It really helped me think about re-focusing my priorities. Loved the part about priority management over time management. It’s great to see how much thought you put into these posts. They’re having an impact!

    Joshua Bontrager · February 27, 2018 at 10:02 am

    Thanks Alex! Glad it was a blessing!

Jon Mieczkowski · February 27, 2018 at 10:24 am

Great post, thank you Joshua!

Allison Bontrager · February 27, 2018 at 1:35 pm

Fantastic post, Josh! I was greatly blessed by your encouragement some time ago to write out my priorities- this has been a helpful step in the direction of wiser time + priority management. Thank you for studying and sharing…..God is using your wisdom!
love,
you sis

    Joshua Bontrager · February 27, 2018 at 5:18 pm

    Thanks Alli! Love you!

Leah · February 27, 2018 at 4:32 pm

Very well written, Joshua!

One thought that comes to mind from first read is the concept of saying “no” to possible responsibilities. That is something I struggle with because I don’t want disappoint anyone or let them down.
In turn though, I will be able to work more excellently on the tasks that complement my priorities in that season. My struggle to say yes to every opportunity definitely does stem from responding to the urgent and in some part a wrong view of my own capabilities. I am a finite creature. This thought makes me more aware of the infinite character of God. All things are possible with God and He can use even us for His purposes if we will surrender ourselves to His will and His word. We must be willing to make time to listen to where He is calling.
Also, that quote by John C. Maxwell is so true and was helpful to me!

I wholeheartedly agree with your biblical priority examples. Family and church are on the top for me. Both help me grow in sanctification and encourage me to be a brighter light to the world.

Thanks for sharing. I really enjoy your questions at the end of each post and the insightful conversations among the commenters. I look forward to reading more!
God bless!

Benjamin Harris · February 28, 2018 at 11:06 am

Hey Joshua, I really liked your post, very encouraging! Thank you!

Isaac Jeremiah Carroll · February 28, 2018 at 12:49 pm

I really enjoyed your post. It helped me put a different level on my time. I have work to do! 🙂

Melanie · February 28, 2018 at 5:23 pm

Wow! Thanks for the encouragement. And amen – having clear priorities does make a big difference! Like the idea of a weekly goal/priority check time. Thanks for mentioning that!

Do I ever give in to the ‘urgent’?! Yes. But priorities have been a huge help to me in knowing when not to do so. Sometimes a rest break is actually more important and in line with my goals than writing another email.

My priorities? First and foremost, to know and love my Lord Jesus Christ. Second to being a loving and faithful family member (to keep the adjectives short). Also have priorities of health, work/ministry, attitude and stewardship of a unique gift God’s given me. That’s how it stands at the moment! 🙂

    Joshua Bontrager · February 28, 2018 at 5:25 pm

    Keep up the good work!

ChelsyRenee · March 1, 2018 at 2:15 pm

Love this post, bro! Excellent and so encouraging to press on in the things that TRULY matter!
Counting down the hours til Texas…=)

Chad Anderson · March 5, 2018 at 9:00 am

Joshua,

How have your priorities changed now that you are living with Cassidy as husband and wife? With baby on the way? I mean, you have priorities now that you did not even use to have on your priority list. If it has it affected you, then how has it affected you?

    Joshua Bontrager · March 5, 2018 at 12:38 pm

    Chad,

    The main priority shift has been between my parents and siblings and my wife. Since marriage, I now spend considerably more time with my wife and less time with my siblings and parents. Although I still love my family, Cassidy is my first priority.

    Additionally, we’re more selective with activities outside the home. I try to balance serving those outside God has called us to serve (church, community, etc.,) with serving my wife.

    Because we have realized that evenings are the best time to build our marriage relationship, we zealously protect as many evenings as possible in order to ensure that we don’t sacrifice our relationships to the priorities of others. At the same time, we strive to allow the Spirit to guide us in our schedule, and to show us what evening activities outside the home are important.

    We still have quite a bit to learn, but we pray the Lord will help us to pursue His will above all else.

      Chad Anderson · March 5, 2018 at 12:47 pm

      Awesome, honest, transparent answer!

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