STUDY ONE: GOD’S PRIORITIES FOR MY LIFE
© Rosemary Bardsley 2009,2014
In studies one and two we are looking at spirituality and power. We will establish four biblical priorities that are foundational to victory on the battleground of our human desire for personal power. The first three of these spiritual priorities recognize that God is ‘number one’ – that we are to love God with all our heart, mind, soul and strength. The fourth is about loving our neighbour.
When the disciples asked Jesus ‘Lord teach us to pray’ his answer identified God’s priorities [Matthew 6:9-13; Luke 11:1-4]:
- human acclaim in the presence of man [Matthew 6:5-6]
- human attempts to manipulate God [Matthew 6:7-8]
- the priority of God’s glory [Matthew 6:9; Luke 11:2]
- the priority of God’s kingdom [Matthew 6:10; Luke 11:2]
- the priority of God’s will [Matthew 6:10; Luke 11:2]
These priorities pervade the Bible, demolishing any perceived validity of our human quest for personal power. In addition to these three foundational priorities a fourth equally pervasive and self-less priority is found in the Bible:
- the priority of the other.
A. THE PRIORITY OF GOD'S GLORY
Check out the references on Worksheet 1: God’s priorities for my life – section #1 now.
From these references we learn a very definite priority that is to govern all of our actions, including even such simple things as eating and drinking: the priority of God’s glory:
- It is the first thing we should be concerned about when we pray.
- It is the reason we were created in the first place.
- It is modelled in the perfect life of Christ who commanded us to ‘follow him’.
- It is commanded as the only appropriate response and action as those who know God by knowing Christ.
This priority demands that we make every choice with this question in mind:
Will this thought, attitude, word, or action that I am contemplating glorify my heavenly Father?
And this: Am I doing this for his glory or for mine?
Everything, including I myself, must be subservient to his glory, his honour, his praise. If something will dishonour him, then it is something his child and servant should not do.
B. THE PRIORITY OF GOD'S KINGDOM
Check out the references on Worksheet 1: God’s priorities for my life – section #2 now.
The second priority is given to God’s kingdom. God’s ‘kingdom’ speaks of God’s rule and reign, God’s dominion, and the recognition of and submission to God’s authority – that God is the One in the position of power, not us. Concern for God’s kingdom is concern that God should be recognized as Lord and God over all that exists. It is a concern that all that opposes God and works against him and his rule should be either subdued or terminated. It is a concern that the rule of God will come in individual hearts as people submit to Jesus Christ as their God; it is concern that we ourselves will acknowledge him as our king in obedient response to his promises and commands; and it is a concern to see and to hasten the coming of his ultimate, eternal kingdom, when all opposition to him will be ended and eradicated for ever.
The references on the Worksheet are just a small handful of the hundreds of verses about the God’s rule, authority and kingdom. Each of those selected points out the priority of God’s kingdom.
- It is, like God’s glory, the primary concern in our prayer.
- It is something that we should seek before everything else.
- It is more valuable than anything else we have or are.
- It must be proclaimed to every tribe and nation.
- It is better to sacrifice anything than miss out on his kingdom.
- It is to take priority over human priorities.
This priority demands that we make every decision with God’s kingdom in mind:
Is this choice submissive to my King and his command? Or is it a personal power play?
Will this choice extend his kingdom in the world, or will it hinder the increase of his kingdom?
Is this choice made in the light of his immanent coming as the King of kings, or does it reveal that I am seeking power and glory and honour for myself?
C. THE PRIORITY OF GOD'S WILL
Check out the references on Worksheet 1: God’s priorities for my life – section #3 now
The Bible identifies a third priority: the will of God [Matthew 6:10b]. There is much said and taught about ‘finding the will of God’ as if it is some hidden, esoteric thing that is difficult to unearth; but the Bible is quite clear about what the will of God is:
- It is God’s eternal purpose to save people through the death of Christ [Galatians 1:3-4; Ephesians 1:9; 3:11; Hebrews 10:9-10]
- It is that all should honour the Son as they honour the Father [John 5:23; Philippians 2:9-11]
- It is that we believe in Jesus Christ [John 6:29; Acts 22:14]
- It is the salvation of the lost [Matthew 18:14; John 1:13; 2 Timothy 1:13 (KJV); James 1:18 (KJV); 2 Peter 3:9]
- It is the eternal security of those who believe in Jesus Christ [John 6:39,40; 17:24]
- It is his commands recorded in the Scripture – that is, our sanctification [Ephesians 5:17; 6:6; Colossians 4:12; 1 Thessalonians 4:13ff; Hebrews 13:20-21; 1 Peter 2:15; 4:2]
This priority of God’s will means that:
- We recognize that it is God’s will, not ours, that made us his people.
- We follow the example of Christ who obeyed God’s will revealed in the Scripture.
- We follow the example of Christ who submitted to his Father’s will revealed in the Scripture.
- We understand that a true relationship with God is demonstrated by obedience to his will contained in his moral commands.
- We make all of our plans knowing and trusting that his will may over-ride those plans.
To implement this priority in our lives, every choice will be governed by the questions:
Does this choice tie in with the moral commands of God recorded in the Bible?
Am I ready to obey his word, even when it hurts?
In areas of personal life decisions: Am I leaving room for God, in his love, omnipotence and omniscience and in his sovereign purpose to interfere and intervene in my plans?
These three priorities of God’s glory, God’s kingdom and God’s will challenge the human quest for power. They remind us forcibly that it is God, not me, who is in the position of power and authority, that the whole of my life must be committed to honouring him, not to seeking my own glory, to promoting his kingdom, not my agenda, and to submitting to his will, not rebelliously doing my own thing
Here, in these three priorities, I submit to God: I forego my perceived rights and set about fulfilling my God-given responsibilities. I lay aside my self-seeking, self-promoting mindset and seek him and his honour.
D. THE PRIORITY OF THE OTHER
Check out the references on Worksheet 1: God’s priorities for my life – section #4 now.
There is also another priority scattered right through the Scriptures, and grounded in the fact that people belong to God, and are special to God on two counts:
By virtue of creation.
By virtue of salvation.
In priorities A to C above we learned that we must put aside our quest for personal power and seek only to honour God; here we learn an extension of this: that God’s honour, God’s kingdom, God’s will cannot be fully accomplished unless we put aside our private agendas and seek not only God’s honour but also the well-being of the other.
Both of the texts below speak of the priority Christ gave to people. As our Teacher he commands us to follow him in his humble, self-sacrificing prioritisation of ‘the other’. How do these contrast with the human quest for power?
These are extreme priorities. They do not fit well in our hedonistic, materialistic and self-seeking age. Yet they are the priorities lived out by our Lord, Jesus Christ. He is our King, and we are the members and servants of his kingdom, engaged in the work of his kingdom.
It is ludicrous to think that we can have any lesser priorities. These are the priorities of the kingdom of which we, by grace, are members. These are the priorities of our King.
Even though we know we fail, and will continue to fail, to uphold these priorities in our life and ministry, yet we can do nothing less than acknowledge that these are the priorities that we must embrace, and to seek the help of our King to keep us faithful to them.