Thursday, June 27, 2013

The Right Order Of Things

Years ago, several from our church went on a short term mission trip to a small, remote village in Mexico. They went to do some construction work on a church building. The town was the epitome of Mexico's poverty - people living in shacks, electricity scarce, and nothing like our materialistic way of life in the U.S. The scene was culture shock to most who went on the trip. 

I remember talking to one of the men who went there, asking him if he got the chance to personally minister to some of the people. He said that, at first, he just wanted to give them hope of a better life. A life just like we have in our country - a nice house, a nice car, a nice job, nice restaurants, a nice TV, nice theaters, entertainment, ATM machines, credit cards. Credit cards? 

Then he thought to himself, wait a minute, why would I want to bring them into our rat race? The villagers there were in poverty, but they seemed happy. They seemed content. Then he realized that although he wanted to transform them and teach them to be Americans, in reality, they were teaching him something perhaps more important. And he came away from the mission trip with a valuable lesson - a lesson on priorities - a lesson most of us need to learn. It was a lesson on the right order of things. 

So, what is the right order of things? My friend realized the villagers had it right, and that many, if not most Americans, do not!  It would benefit all of us to take heed this lesson, and apply it to our own lives. Below is the right order of things, in order of priority - highest first.

1. God
Those on the mission trip found that the villagers were devout Christians, believing in Jesus. As a matter of fact, they were totally dependent on God. To them, the Lord was their protector, their provider, their healer, their strength, their hope. They trusted and relied on Him. They prayed to Him. They talked about Him. 

The highest priority in our life should be our spiritual commitment. "But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well." (Matthew 6:33) If we are in a right relationship with God through Christ, then everything else will fall in place. He will bless us and will never forsake us. 

2. Family
It was obvious that all the villagers loved their families very much. They were devoted to each other. The father was the head of the household. After God, he loved his wife first and then his children. "Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her." (Ephesians 5:25) Immediate and then extended family come next.

3. Friends
The villagers helped each other and shared with each other. Their community was just that, a community. It reminds me of the early church. "All the believers were together and had everything in common." (Acts 2:44)  Our relationship with our friends and those around us means so much. It enriches our lives.

When my wife and I were in Tanzania, Africa, to visit my son and daughter-in-law, who are serving with Pioneer Bible Translators there, we saw how people in a third world country live. I remember driving by small block houses, with steel roofs, windows that were just openings with no glass, an outhouse for a bathroom, no running water but a community well, and no electricity. I asked my son, what do they do at night, in the dark, with no electricity? He said, "They probably just sit around and talk."  Duh! That seems like something we should do!

Yes, it's God first, family second, and others third. What's your priorities? It seems like in our culture, money, job, career, cars, among other things, try to push themselves to the top of the list. There's nothing wrong with these things, and we are blessed to have them. It's just that when they become the most important focus in our lives, and our priorities get out of order, there's a problem. Could it be that because we live in such a rich, materialistic culture, that we've lost focus on the basics - on what's really important?

If you look closely, you'll see that each of the above three points is about relationships - with God, with family, and with others. When Jesus was asked for His opinion on what was the greatest commandment, He answered, "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.” (Mark 12:30-31)  Thank you Lord for setting things straight for us!

Loving relationships are what really matters in life - that's what it all boils down to - that's what really is important. Everything else, job, career, house, car, money, hobbies, entertainment, vacation, etc., comes after these three. That's the right order of things.

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