First Things Second?
First Things Second? James 4:13-17 Matthew 6:25-34 All this “social distancing” stuff has me missing a lot of things in life. And honestly, many of those things, I’ve come to realize... I’d taken for granted (to a certain degree). I assumed those things would always be there, when I needed them, or when I wanted them... Like... Friday evening dinner at my favorite restaurant, with my favorite person. Or... the ability to go to a Saturday afternoon matinee. Or to sit down for lunch with a friend... or to simply visit a park or community playground with the grandkids... or even take a leisurely paddle down the river (since the kayak pad has been closed). This is our 6th Week of Online Worship Gatherings... I so miss our Sundays together. I pray that I’ll NEVER (ever) take such moments for granted again! Of course, other things I don’t miss so much. Unnecessary meetings (that could’ve been an email from the start). I’ll never miss those... and hopefully the powers that be have learned the difference between necessary meetings, and emails. I know I’ve mentioned this before... but... I voluntarily gave up watching too much news some time ago. I decided for my on sanity and emotional well-being that I needed to limit my consumption of the opinions of people I don’t personally know. The fact is... this pandemic has actually had an unintended effect (at least that’s how I see it). Our social isolation has forced us to take a break... a “time-out” to rest and reset some priorities... in our lives... our homes... and in our hearts. These last few months have been a whirlwind. From my mother’s three hospitalizations in 4 months... and her rapid decline in health... and passing. To missed holidays with family... to the unexpected illness and death of a couple of people I called “friends” - this whole pandemic scare and ripple effect of this virus - has caused things to feel unusually and unprecedentedly odd… and a bit overwhelming. Although, honestly, it wasn’t what I would’ve wanted or asked for... or even wished... I’ve become increasingly grateful for the moments of reflection, and the time-out from the ordinary routine this pandemic has brought about. It’s managed to reveal just how much of my time and strength and energy is needed to care for what (and who) is literally right in front of me. But, then... that’s how God often works! Sometimes God becomes intent on getting our attention. Because, ultimately, God is less interested in our comfort, than our character. He’s more concerned with our relationships than our routines. So, when everything around us is shifting - and we’re uncertain about the future... there’s one thing that’s certain: God never changes. He’s the same... yesterday, today and forever! Jesus is always with us... through good and bad, thick and thin, welcomed and not-so-welcomed. In fact, the not-so-welcomed times of struggle and uncertainty provide us with opportunities to grow. *When we feel stressed and pressured by life, we have an opportunity to find comfort and calm, in Christ. *When we feel frightened, we have an opportunity to find security... in Jesus. *When we feel overwhelmed, we have an opportunity to run into the arms of our Savior... who overcame death itself, to bring us life! In other words: struggle in this world is an invitation to strength in Christ. I have no idea where all this stuff is leading and what lasting impacts it will have, economically, politically, physically and spiritually… but I have no doubt at all that this time is one of refinement, for us individually, as well as the church at large. I want to encourage us to use this time to get back to what it is that matters most. Are we submitted to the Lord with open hearts that lean in to be led by Him? Are we actively using our words and lives to give true hope to those who seem hopeless? Or are we too busy with “my, myself & I” - our own lives, our own security and safety that we aren’t concerned with those around us? Are our hearts open to Christ? Or have we been avoiding relationship with Him because other things seem more important, alluring, consuming or interesting? Are we prayerful that God would use us to seek and save the lost, to be a voice of hope, to share grace, to be a presence of peace? Or are we allowing seeds of sin and selfishness to creep in and divide? Are we purposefully intentional to live and share God’s story of redemption, grace, and truth... or are we too preoccupied in being careful to preserve our story, interests, and identity? In other words: are we making second things first and first things second? The Word of God is clear... when we make second things first, and first things second... we lose both. What are the things that truly matter? As in honestly, what matters most in life? Let’s take inventory and really evaluate what it is we spend our time doing, our money investing in, and our efforts pursuing. My prayer is that you and I do not squander the opportunity Christ has given us. That we’ll make the most of this unwelcome situation... as we’re encouraged to think through what it is that’s lasting and eternal... and put all our efforts to invest in what matters most. Maybe it’s slowing down to connect with that particularly difficult child. Maybe it’s pursuing a meaningful, or possibly overdue, conversation with your spouse. Maybe it’s asking a neighbor if you can serve them in some way or carving out the time to just get to know them. Maybe it’s finally addressing that wedge that’s grown between you and another. Maybe it’s being present instead of rushing past. Now is the time to reset. Now is the time to make first things first! Now is the time to seek Him first. Now is the time to prioritize what it is that matters most! Let’s not waste this opportunity!