Prioritizing God in the New Year

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On January 1st, 2013, the Toronto Star reported that, according to their research, 68-percent of Canadians had set New Year’s resolutions the year prior.

Among the most common goals set were many of the usual suspects: Weight loss and exercise ambitions, quitting smoking, saving more money, and eating a more balanced diet.

There’s little doubt that people are attracted to the idea of becoming better versions of themselves. In fact, as I’ve mentioned elsewhere, a 2008 study found that the self-help industry in North America was taking in 11-billion dollars a year! We all like the thought of self-improvement (even if we fail to consistently follow-through!). And, to that end, we often prioritize our lives in such a way as to encourage the reaching of those goals and resolutions. 

What should come first

However, as Christians, no priority in life should ever trump our God. No goal that we set or plan of self-improvement to which we strive to adhere should ever get more attention in our lives than the honour and pleasure of the Almighty.

The Old Testament book of Haggai describes the return of God’s people to Jerusalem after a disciplinary stint in Babylonian captivity. 

Unfortunately, the excitement of being back in their own land and the never-ending to-do list of restoring their lives began to distract Israel from what was truly important—honouring the God that had given the land back to them.

God noticed the confused priorities of his people and sent his prophet Haggai to encourage them to remedy the situation. Through Haggai, God asks his people of Israel a rhetorical question: “Why are you living in luxurious houses while my house lies in ruins?” (1:4). 

God took exception to the fact that, while the people’s priorities and goals were focused on rebuilding their lives and their city, minimal attention was being directed toward him and his temple. The people had placed the God who carried them through exile and now away from exile on the back burner (v. 2). Their priorities were confused. They were aiming at the wrong goals. Their focus was on the wrong thing.

He deserves and desires his prioritization

We can learn their mistakes. In fact, we should (see also 1 Cor. 10:11)!

As Christians today, we have to understand that our God deserves and desires for his honour and pleasure to be a top priority for his people. It should be our focus and our goal.

Some diagnostic questions to ask ourselves as we examine our priorities may be: 1) Where am I planning to spend my time? 2) Where am I planning on spending my money? and 3) Where am I planning on spending my energy? Those three conduits of spending—time, money, energy—can often serve as compass points that reveal the direction our priorities are traveling.

As we look toward the mysterious horizon of 2019, amidst all of the other resolutions and goals we may set, let us, above all, prioritize our God. May we all commit to giving him the attention and time he deserves and desires. May we dedicate ourselves to knowing him better for the purpose of understanding what pleases him most.