Priorities matter. Our priorities should be ordered in agreement with scripture, and we should keep them in order. Knowing what our priorities should be is actually not difficult; however maintaining them is another monster. Seeking first God and His Kingdom are our first priorities always but how that plays out in your life can look differently for different people. Matthew 22:37-38 says, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment." It means we should "seek first the Kingdom and His righteousness" (know the Lord and live righteously) and in that righteousness we are taught by Jesus Himself that our ministry is to serve. He revealed this to the disciples as He washed their feet before the last supper. The disciples were arguing about who would be the greatest out of all of them; the disciples had their priorities all wrong. James 4:1 says, "What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you?" When our own priorities are wrong it reveals itself in our relationships and it is not pretty! The disciples' own personal passions were distorting the vision Christ had been imparting to them. Pride is always such a spirit killer. It can start with such a tiny root and still grow up to destroy everything.
For those who are married with children our priorities are somewhat more complex but not too much different. God is always first, but after God (knowing Him and His righteousness) our very next priority is our marriage and parental responsibilities. We seek the Kingdom within our homes before we ever seek to build upon it publicly. Who can minister to others when their own homes are in turmoil? Our marriages and our children are our first fruits to God on this earth. We entered into this service taking vows before the Lord to honor and serve one another as spouses and parents. God teaches men to raise their children in the fear and admonition of the Lord and their wives are called as their helpers with the same charge. Women love and respect their husbands and work together with them to bring into and keep the home submissive and glorifying to the Lord. Men love their wives with the same love Christ had for the church, even while the church was not in right standing with the Lord, He gave up His life for it. This means that men put their wives before themselves and wives do the same for their husbands. This is truly the image of a perfect marriage and it is attainable even in this world today. It is when our priorities get out of biblical order that we begin to suffer in our families and ministry and self. So for the married families the priorities are God, family and service.
How do we know that the marriage and parental responsibilities come before our work in church or within the ministry? 1 Timothy 3:5 reads, "For if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God's church?" Paul is teaching Timothy how to lead the elders in his church. If a person cannot maintain the order of their home they certainly cannot maintain the order of a church congregation and all the variety of resourcefulness it requires. This doesn't mean that a minister will never have issues to deal with in his family, but in the overall scope of things, the minister should have control over the direction of the family. When there is a matter of importance it should be focused upon and not neglected. At no time does God call anyone to ministry and negate their marriage vows or family responsibilities. Vows, families, and testimonies matter to God. There are a great deal of ministers who focus so wholeheartedly on their ministries that they completely neglect their wives and children, expecting their wives to shoulder the entire responsibility of the family alone. These families almost always fail or end up in serious counseling to say the least. Christian families are falling apart in the church at the same rate as they fall apart in the world. This is because these families are no more set apart than those of the world.
Audrey Barrick, a research reporter for the Christian Post reported, "The Barna Group found in its latest study that born again Christians who are not evangelical were indistinguishable from the national average on the matter of divorce with 33 percent having married and divorced at least once. Among all born again Christians, which includes evangelicals, the divorce figure is 32 percent, which is statistically identical to the 33 percent figure among non-born again adults, the research group noted." We should never be indistinguishable from the world. Romans 12:2 says, "Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is--his good, pleasing and perfect will." The pattern in this world is to be led by our feelings. The love of marriage is not a warm fuzzy feeling; it is a deep faith filled commitment that serves even when not being served in return. It is devotion in motion, commitment with feet.
So it is important to know what the order of our priorities are as Christians, but equally important to maintain them. There will be pressure to sort and shift these priorities. At times the commitments we've made in service often demand rigid respect from us but we have to remember that this is something the enemy will also use against us to destroy our families and our testimony. Our agreement within our family is that we all seek the Lord in all that we do first, we serve one another in this family second and we serve in church as much as we can without neglecting the family and without exalting the family beyond its proper place. The family is to function in such a way as to allow regular service but there are going to be times when tragedy strikes or matters beyond our control arise in the family and when this happens it is an immediate priority to tend to these matters without neglect. When family members are sick, sickness has to be tended to even if it means a short absence in service in church. Some ministry leaders do not like this and they will put pressure on a person by questioning their level of commitment but it is precisely in those times you make it clear that you know what your priorities are and you intend to maintain them, period. The peace of your home and your responsibility to the Lord to maintain your family is of higher priority. When the family goes bad so does our personal testimonies and the ability to minister effectively.
So from this point forward, pray that God will make clear to you what our Christian priorities are and how to maintain them; God, family, ministry. Ask Him to help you recognize attempts by others to thwart your management of those priorities and ask Him to help give you the wisdom and the strength for an orderly life and home. If you have to pay consequences in ministry for doing so, God will make those things work for your good. Trust Him in your obedience.
Dear Lord, "...teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom." Psalms 90:12