This new series is about the basics of faith and growing in faith. The fundamentals that are essential to growing and becoming more like Jesus. (Part of the EBC Mission Statement)
To use a gardening analogy, our society crowds out God, leaving the landscape of our lives overgrown with things that are worthless. How can we clear out the weeds and let the things of goodness and beauty grow?
Well, the first thing to do is get back to basics and prioritise!
When I sit in my office at home, I look out of the window on to a small front garden, triangular in shape. Just beyond the longest edge of this small garden is the footpath that runs all the way down the left hand side of Woodmancott Close. For the past 30 years, there has been a hedge of purple flowering hebes on that longest edge. I have always liked that hedge for two reasons: one was that when in flower it attracted a multitude of bees, they absolutely loved it! On a sunny day in June there’s a low murmur with the buzzing of literally hundreds of bees getting their fill of pollen.
The other reason that I liked the hedge was that my dad planted it. I well remember him saying when he planted it that it would look really good in a few years when it had matured. He was right; it became a very attractive feature of the garden.
However, over the years it became very scraggly, overgrown, lots of weeds and parts of it had started to die off. And this past summer, days and days of very hot sunny weather caused it to deteriorate even further. Every time that I looked out of my office window, I thought, “I must do something about the hedge”. I couldn’t even use the fact that my dad had planted it, and so I was reluctant to get rid of it. He would have told me to sort it out years ago! I needed to do something, but I kept making excuses, “It’s too hot, it’s raining, I’m too busy, I’m going on holiday, and so on…… I needed to prioritize!
We all do this don’t we? I don’t just mean with our garden, but more importantly, with our lives. We know that we should spend more time with God in prayer and reading the bible, or nurturing relationships, but other “stuff” keeps crowding out the things that we know are important. “Stuff” like answering emails, looking at social media, or watching the television.
Astonishingly, a 2017 survey found that the average person spends nearly two hours on social media everyday, which translates to a total of 5 years and 4 months spent over a lifetime. And right now, the average person will spend 7 years 8 months watching TV in their lifetime!
So this is the sort of “stuff” that we worry about and spend our precious time on, but other, much more important things get crowded out. If we’re honest we are guilty of neglecting things; important things, and just like my hebe hedge our priorities and our lives have become a bit of a mess.
So what advice did Jesus have about prioritizing things in our life? Following is what he had to say in Matthew’s account of his life: Chapter 6:24-33. You can read this by clicking here.
These verses are for me, are the heart of what has become known as “The Sermon on the Mount”
“No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.
Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?
“And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labour or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendour was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you - you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.
Most of our society believes that the purpose of life is happiness. “It’s all about you, and you deserve it”, we are told. However, that’s not true. Though there is nothing wrong with being happy, the purpose of life is not happiness, but the knowledge of God. The purpose of human history is the kingdom of God. God’s desire is to draw freely as many people as He can into His everlasting kingdom.
Jesus taught his disciples not to worry, even about the basics of life, but to seek God first, to prioritize – the rest will follow. Seek God and his righteousness and your prospects are good, you will always have a refuge, you will not be uprooted.
What do you need to strip back so that you can focus on God? What is it that you’re putting ahead of Him? Instead of putting your hopes, dreams and happiness ahead of God, put Him first
We have a mighty, loving, creator God. He made us and knows everything about us – every need, every want, every thought. (Psalm 139) He wants a relationship with us, so much so that Jesus died for us to share in His righteousness. With such a relationship on offer, what could be more important than that we spend more time with Him? As individuals and as church, we have many needs but our biggest “need” is this - we need to prioritize and focus on God.
“Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and ALL these things will be given to you as well”
Questions and Reflections (for you to think about on your own or to discuss in your small group)
1. What are the priorities in your life right now?
2. Be honest, on average, how much time each week, do you spend watching the television?
3. And how much time do you spend reading your bible and praying?
4. Do you agree that you cannot serve both God and anything else?
5. What do you worry about most? What could you do to worry less?
6. Do you agree that the purpose of life is not happiness, but the knowledge of God? If you do agree, does your life reflect that belief? If you don’t agree, what do you believe is the purpose of life?
7. What do you need to strip back or cut out completely so that you can focus on God? What is it that you’re putting ahead of Him?
8. When did you last read Psalm 139?