“But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” Matthew 6:33
The teacher stood in front of the class holding a large beaker. He placed several large rocks inside, and asked the class if they thought he could fit any more in, or was the beaker full? The students replied that it was full.
But then the instructor took out some smaller stones and placed them around the larger ones, and sure enough, they fit. “Now is it full?” he asked. The students hesitated to answer.
The teacher pulled out a small bag of gravel and slowly poured it over the beaker, giving the container an occasional shake, until the gravel reached the top.
“Now is it full?” he asked. The students said nothing.
Next he got out a little bag of sand and began spooning it over the beaker. As sand slid down in between the large rocks, smaller stones, and gravel, everyone realized how much room had remained after all.
“NOW is the beaker full?” This time some students called out, “NOooo!”
They were right. The teacher took out his last prop, a glass of water, and when he had poured the water over the rocks, the stones, the gravel, and the sand, as the last ingredient soaked in, it appeared the beaker was at last full.
Have you ever known someone who seems to do so much with the same 24-hour day that others struggle with? Do these people really have more hours in their day, or do they know something the rest of us don’t about priorities?
Suppose the teacher had started with the water, then added the sand, then the gravel, then some of the small stones on top of the gravel. By the time he was halfway through adding the small stones, he would have run out of room for the rest, never mind the large rocks.
When planning your day, do you focus on the most important things first, or do you just do what seems easiest at the moment? Do you spend a great deal of time doing things that don’t really need to be done today, and then find at the end of the day the ones that have to be done have yet to be done, and now you’re stressed and staying up too late. That kind of poor planning leads to stress, sleep deprivation, and all too often, sickness, which can really slow you down and steal your joy. (Please don’t ask me how I know this.)
So, picturing the big glass beaker, what are our big rocks? If we are believers in Jesus, they are our relationship with Him, being available to Him, learning His will, and doing it. – or rather, letting Him do it in and through us.
The smaller stones, but still major, are the relationships in your life – being a good spouse, parent, friend, neighbor, and church member. Jesus said “By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:35)
Jesus said that the most important commandment is to “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.” (Mark 12:30-31)
Other things can be important, too, such as work, school, household chores, and car maintenance. This is like the gravel of life, it surrounds us and is part of pretty much every day. Things like social media, TV, video games, and other entertainment should come last. If we get side-tracked by these too early in the day, it’s amazing how quickly the day can come unraveled, and the stress begins to take over.
This is the time of year we seem to be thinking about fresh starts, and best way to start over is by examining our priorities and trying to order our lives accordingly. If you’re into New Year’s resolutions, I would suggest setting aside some time each morning, if you haven’t already, and spend that time reading Scripture and talking to God about your day. It may not be a long time, but if you have trouble even fitting that much in, try setting your alarm clock 15 minutes earlier. It will be worth much more than the sleep you miss just getting that mindset – that “divine perspective” – to set the tone for the rest of the day. Some days your prayers may seem mundane or clumsy, but it doesn’t matter to God. He sees your heart and will respond when you call out to Him. In fact, you’ll find He’s been waiting for you.
Prayer: Lord, thank You for being a God of new beginnings. As we start this new year, may we celebrate Your love for us by turning to You and giving You our time, our attention, our very lives, in Jesus’ name, Amen.