In the back of my journal, I have a series of quotes and verses written down. Seek first the Kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added unto you. The chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy him forever (Question 1 from the Westminster Catechism). John 3:16. The Gospel Changes everything (Tim Keller). When I am weak, then I am strong. It’s disciple-making stupid (Me). God made him who knew no sin to be sin for us so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. Unless the Lord builds the house, the labor is in vain. Pray without ceasing. Never, never, Never give up (Churchill).
Why are they there? They are a reminder to me that I need to keep the main things the main things. We are all prone to mission drift. We are all prone to letting things pile up in our lives to the point that they clutter our lives and our souls. It’s so easy. We take our eyes off what is truly important, and allow the irrelevant or even somewhat good to crowd out the really good and truly important. We collect activities and stuff and good things the way a hoarder collects trophies and trinkets, because we say, “What a deal”, “It’s a good cause” or use any of a hundred excuses not to say no. And before we know it our schedule books (or Apps) and to do lists look like the collision of 100 forces at once, our attics look like they could double for a storage locker or the transfer station, and we feel like we are living in chaos and disorder.
Which is why we have to continuously and constantly be asking ourselves “Is this important?” Do I need to do it? Do I need it? Does it help? We need to take work a page out of Google's playbook. They are a fascinating example of keeping the main things the main things. They vigorously resists the temptation to allow other things to distract from the main mission of search. If you go to Yahoo’s home-page, you have the search feature, news, different interest items, and etc. It’s cluttered and busy. Go to Google, and it’s all but empty. Up in the corner of the page, there is a little box line with the other stuff they do. At the bottom is a footer with a few things. But what confronts you is a clean white page with a search box, because they have a corporate commitment to not lose sight of what is truly important.
If we don't resist this temptation, we quickly feel like the pain, and usually encounter that distinct sense that we barely keeping our heads above water. And worse, we fail to do the things that we really need to do, because everything else has crowded them out.
I saw a vivid illustration of this recently. A group of church members went into the attic of the church, and cleaned it. It was out of control, it hadn’t been organized in ages, stuff had been stuck in any old place, and old stuff was on top of even older stuff. It was an illustration of what happens if you don’t work to keep what is important and let go of the rest. We took 5 truckloads of stuff to the dump. We found stuff dated 1978 in there (I was born in 1979), stuff that looked like it hadn’t been touched since then. It had become chaos, and the space had become unusable.
So we exercised our pitching arms, and purged. It was an almost spiritual act of letting go of the clutter. We kept the important things. We kept what was needed, the good and the valuable and the useful. We kept and honored that. But the rest we let go so that the space could actually be used again for something productive and God glorifying.
Are you working to keep the main things the main things? We need to be continually doing that in our lives as we seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness. Examine your life and work to do it. If need be, find tools to help you. Someone recently showed me an activity grid that I have found helpful. On the side it says urgent, and not urgent, and on the top it says, important, not important. It’s a helpful grid for asking, do I need to do this?
Too often, rather than staying in the urgent and important, or not urgent and important boxes, the urgent and not important rules the day because it is urgent and calls the loudest. We need to make sure that we stay in the important boxes. Praying every day may not feel urgent, and sometimes it doesn’t feel important, but it’s far more urgent and of far more importance than almost anything else we do. Getting in God’s word doesn’t always feel urgent, but if we’re not careful, we’ll starve ourselves spiritually. If we’re too busy to pray, or read God’s word, too busy to really feed our souls, or worship, or share the gospel, and be emissaries of God’s love, and if we’re too busy to love and care for our spouses, or kids, and to take care of our responsibilities there, then we need to reassess things, and make sure that we’re keeping the main things the main things, and let go of the things that need to go.
Work to keep the main things the main things. When we attend to what we should attend to, we can be used. When we allow everything to crowd in, it’s a mess. We are about to enter the Holiday rush. Thanksgiving and Advent are staring at, and in the next two months, there will be a million things to do. As you enter this season, let go of what needs to be let go of, and keep the main things the main things, for the glory of the Christ, and the good of your soul.