Several years ago I decided to become a runner. I needed a way to improve my cardiovascular health and relieve the stress that comes with being a pastor. The decision to take up running was easy. Actually becoming a runner and putting in the miles to see the benefits that come from running was not nearly so easy. Over and above the fact that my body was not conditioned to run distances, I faced the challenge of finding the time to run in my hectic schedule. Like almost everyone else these days, I didn’t have a lot of free time on my calendar. My schedule was already full of important events and tasks and it took an iPhone and Google Calendar to keep track of it all. Running was going to be one more thing to try and squeeze in.
At first, I tried to find the time in my schedule to run. The truth is that finding the time to run didn’t work so well. My days and weeks were already filled with things to do and places to be. I didn’t have any empty slots in my calendar where I could just lace up my running shoes and run. When a time slot did occasionally open up in my schedule, the circumstances were always less than ideal to run. I was too tired or I only had a short period of time before I had to be doing something else. Consequently, my runs were sporadic and I couldn’t make significant progress towards my fitness goals.
After a month of struggling to find the time to run, I realized what the problem was: I was trying to find the time to run and I wasn’t making the time to run. If this was going to be a priority in my life I had to treat it as a priority and not an afterthought. That meant scheduling the time to run before I filled my schedule with other things. From that point on, I decided to schedule time to run before I scheduled other things. Of course, some things - like Sunday morning worship and my prayer time - are inviolable and I would have to schedule around them but the truth is that I usually have some say in the rest of my schedule. Instead of being the last thing to go on my calendar, running became one of the first things to get scheduled. It should come as no surprise that this worked. Before long, running was a regular part of my weekly schedule. I started accruing the necessary mileage to see improvements to my cardiovascular health. As the weeks passed, I started could farther and faster. My ability to handle stress also improved. The more I ran, the more stress I could handle.
For this to happen I had to make running a priority. When we make something I priority it shapes the way we use our time and resources. We allow it to claim our time and attention. The good news is that often we see a return on our investment of time and dedication.
In Matthew 6:25-33 Jesus asks us to examine our priorities:
“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? 26 Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? 27 And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life? 28 And why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin, 29 yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these. 30 But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? 31 Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear?’ … 33 But strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”
There are a lot of things that consume our focus, energy and resources. There are many things that compete for our time and money. Some of them are important. However, Jesus is saying that the most important is the Kingdom of God. He reminds us that God’s Kingdom should be our priority. He is also saying that a paradoxical things happens when we prioritize God’s Kingdom: we end up receiving all the other things about which we normally worry. So as we engage in our stewardship campaign at St. Matthew’s, I invite you to ask yourself, “How am I using my time, talent and financial resources in service to God’s Kingdom? Is God’s Kingdom the top priority in your life? I invite you to answer those questions as you prayerfully consider the gifts and talents survey and financial pledge card for the coming year.
Grace and Peace,