By Clarence Bradbury
The priorities we choose determine the legacy we leave. Jesus taught us to embrace God and His work as our ultimate priority. Everything else falls in line below His agenda. No matter what else we achieve in life, it has a short expiry date compared to the enduring quality of God-endorsed priorities and the results they yield.
I am inspired when I observe all around us the good examples of leaders who put the kingdom of God first in their lives and pursue with relentless determination the calling God has placed before them. Some of these are missionaries, like the Salvationist doctor I know who could have celebrity status in North America, but who chose instead to invest his life serving poor and diseased people and using extraordinary means to elevate their human dignity. I think of two friends – one an officer and one a lay person – tirelessly striving to lift the lives of those who stay in one of our shelters. They could keep their jobs by routinely watching a sea of humanity cycle through the revolving front door. Instead, they passionately provide multiple layers of care and stick with their client friends until they are reestablished in the community and connected with a church home. With all their social service, they dispense Jesus – kindness by kindness, smile by smile, prayer by prayer, listening, affirming, nudging toward wholeness.
Priorities are evident in our use of resources, especially time. William George Plunkett wrote, There are three things that never come back: the spent arrow; the spoken word; the lost opportunity. Priorities enable us to determine how we expend our resources in ways that honor God and bless others.
Priorities come in different categories. Time management literature gives us many excellent tools for setting priorities to increase efficiency. Of a different category are those priorities that provide meaning for all of our activities. Following are three priorities I would like to offer as destiny shapers and legacy makers.
Priority 1. Spirituality amplifies skill. Whether my competency is in communication, fundraising, athletic prowess or simply good looks, character is what counts, no matter what our culture has brainwashed us to believe. Although we know this intuitively and say the words religiously, isn’t it painful to see how personal skill and charisma are often rewarded in spite of obvious character flaws. As essential as competency is, it can never compensate for deficient character. But human skill surrendered to God’s agenda is multiplied for eternal good.
Priority 2. Godliness legitimizes giftedness. How often we are wowed when someone new comes along with exceptional gifts – whether music, personality or other superior talents. There is a tendency to separate ones gifts from ones growth in holiness. Both the carrier and the admirer of such exceptional gifts tend to fall prey to human pride. Meanwhile, lesser mortals with valuable gifts and often superior godliness live forgotten or under-utilized lives.
Priority 3. Identity outlasts titles and all things measureable. My sense of self as a child of God is more significant than the rank I hold, the scope of ministry I have built or inherited, the offices I have held or the stuff I have amassed. Who I am and what I am becoming in Christ has infinitely more significance than all these externals combined. While we know this to be true, we find ourselves entrenched in secular and religious cultures. We learn the idolatry of chasing externals, plotting upward mobility on self-constructed staircases and all along using pious platitudes to conceal our inner fictions.