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My Priority

God should be our singular priority. Everything else in our lives needs to fall under that umbrella: education, careers, hobbies, personal goals. All these things need to be viewed under the aegis of God’s plan and purpose. But how? It’s such an easy concept… but the execution is our entire struggle against the flesh.
By JOSHUA BUDNEY
Read Time: 6 minutes

WHAT AM I AIMING TO ACHIEVE IN LIFE?

THIS is a question I’ve been pondering as I enter my college years. As a 19-year-old college student, I’ve never faced a more pivotal time in my life. Especially now, when life has been turned upside down by the Covid-19 pandemic, I’ve had to take a step back and think about the direction of my life.

One thing is for certain: there can’t be a gray area. My focus must be on manifesting Christ in daily life. Even during life’s distractions, my actions should reflect the mindset of ultimately glorifying God and seeking his purpose on this earth.

This can seem like an impossible task! How am I to truly serve God, if I must study for finals, work 40 hours a week, or otherwise handle essential “priorities”? Well, I recently learned something interesting! Nowadays, we misuse the word “priority”.

A SINGULAR PROSPECT

Until recently, the word priority did not have a plural form. For a long time, people used the word “priority” to mean their single focus. It’s now common to pluralize it to “priorities,” to organize our tasks in order of importance. I’ve always framed my life in terms of multiple priorities. But is our attention to God just one area of our life to receive the majority of our focus? Is our attention to God just a bullet point on a list of urgencies? It shouldn’t be that way.

For a long time, people used the word “priority” to mean their single focus.

God should be our singular priority. Everything else in our lives needs to fall under that umbrella: education, careers, hobbies, personal goals. All these things need to be viewed under the aegis of God’s plan and purpose. But how? It’s such an easy concept… but the execution is our entire struggle against the flesh.

“But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” (Matt 6:33 ESV).

This well-known verse is a beautiful depiction of how we must live our lives. In everything we do, we first seek the kingdom of God. But,… how does this work out practically? I’m actively working to implement this principle in my busy life. With a college workload, ever-increasing work hours, a need to relax, and more, how do I seek God first?

 

It’s dangerously easy to misinterpret the quest for the kingdom as an unrealistic ideal we’ll never achieve—that truly seeking God is something we can do only in our minimal free time and squeeze in when we can. But of course, that notion isn’t true. We must get that idea out of our heads because with such a mindset, we’ll only discourage ourselves.

The first obstacle to fully understanding Matthew 6:33 is to keep two concepts separate that should not be seen as opposites: seeking God and living our secular lives.

SERVING GOD VS LIFE’S DUTIES?

God knows we have things we have to do and expects us to spend time, even large amounts of our day, doing them. All the things we do—school, work, hobbies, and interests—must be wrapped together with our goal of seeking God. We seek Him as we live our lives. Our spiritual life and our natural one need to be completely intertwined. In all we do, we give glory to God.

“So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do everything for the glory of God.” (1 Cor 10:31 NET).

DANIEL, THE PARAGON

Our spiritual life and our natural one need to be completely intertwined.

Daniel is an amazing example of one who served God while surrounded by negative influences and holding major worldly responsibilities. The account of Daniel’s life is written after Nebuchadnezzar conquered Judah and brought the people to live in Babylon—lasting 70 years. Daniel was at a pivotal point in his life. He was about 17 years old—just two years younger than me—when he was thrust into this new way of life. We read:

“Then the king commanded Ashpenaz, his chief eunuch, to bring some of the people of Israel, both of the royal family and of the nobility, youths without blemish, of good appearance and skillful in all wisdom, endowed with knowledge, understanding learning, and competent to stand in the king’s palace, and to teach them the literature and language of the Chaldeans. The king assigned them a daily portion of the food that the king ate, and of the wine that he drank. They were to be educated for three years, and at the end of that time they were to stand before the king.” (Dan 1:3-5 ESV).

We’re faced with a choice: conform to the world around us or stay true to a godly lifestyle.

Daniel and his friends were effectively enrolled in the University of Babylon! They were surrounded by and immersed in the culture of Babylon. Those of us now going through university or in a career are in a similar situation as Daniel. We’re faced with a choice: conform to the world around us or stay true to a godly lifestyle.

Amazingly, Daniel chose to reject the magnificent appeal of Babylon.

“But Daniel resolved that he would not defile himself with the king’s food, or with the wine that he drank. Therefore, he asked the chief of the eunuchs to allow him not to defile himself.” (Dan 1:8 ESV).

In the NET version, “resolved” is translated “made up his mind.” Daniel made up his mind to shun their way of life. He committed. He made a conscious decision to stay separate.

Now, why did Daniel choose to demonstrate this commitment by eating a separate meal? I suggest he was determined to deny the influences of Babylon, even at a basic level. He didn’t compromise on a small, harmless portion of the culture, which could set the tone for every other aspect of his life. He was in Babylon, but he was not of Babylon. The Apostle Paul, later epitomized this thought:

“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” (Rom 12:2 ESV).

It’s important to note how Daniel stayed separate. Look closely at what he said because this is crucial:

“Test your servants for ten days; let us be given vegetables to eat and water to drink.” (Dan 1:12 ESV).

Daniel asked the chief of the eunuchs for only vegetables and water—a separate meal. He didn’t want the king’s food placed in front of him. He removed the temptation and the conforming attitude completely from the table. He replaced it with a separate meal, one that represented a God-fearing way of life.

This distinction is important. If he’d merely gotten the usual meal, but tried to only eat the vegetables, how long would it have been before he gave in and ate the same as everyone else? He didn’t just remove the negative activities of his life, he replaced them with a God-fearing way of life.

This concept of replacement is very important. We need to be careful to not only focus on what we’re removing from our life but how we are living as well. What we fill our lives with now furthers our commitment to God as our priority.

What can we change to re-establish our commitment to seeking first the kingdom of God?

What is our “king’s food”? What’s in our lives, especially at work or school, that we’re compromising on? —things that may seem harmless but demonstrate and allow for assimilation to the Babylon around us, such as:

  • Compromising in conversations with those around us; laughing or making jokes at school or work we know don’t represent the character we’re trying to manifest.
  • Media we’re taking in: What “harmless” things are we allowing into our life?
  • When considering professional goals, does making God our true priority shine through?

How can we replace these compromises? What can we change to re-establish our commitment to seeking first the kingdom of God?

GOD WILL BLESS OUR EFFORTS

Here’s how we can use Daniel’s wonderful example of maintaining our service to God while living in the world.

  • He COMMITTED to serving God — Dan 1:8
  • He REMOVED negative influences — Dan 1:12-13
  • He REPLACED those with Godly influences — Dan 1:12-13

An incredible and encouraging result for Daniel is revealed in verse 9:

“And God gave Daniel favor and compassion in the sight of the chief of the eunuchs.”

I never noticed this detail until recently. Because he made an effort to remain separate from the world, God gave Daniel success in his quest to seek first the kingdom of God!

We too can have this same confidence God will help us and guide us in our determination to seek him. We know God wants us to triumph, and he wants us to be in the kingdom.

“Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.” (Luke 12:32 ESV).

Of course, this doesn’t mean our path is easy. We’re not promised or guaranteed anything in this life now. Keep in mind God was working with Daniel and aiding him… All while he was in captivity in a foreign land—a hard time.

THE CONCLUSION OF THE MATTER

We know God wants us to triumph, and he wants us to be in the kingdom.

Daniel’s persistence gives us a great picture of how to approach our day-to-day life. He truly sought first the kingdom of God, while living in the heart of a sinful nation. He had temporal power, political responsibilities, demanding pressures, and strong temptations to conform. We see from his example it’s possible to seek God first even among crushing provocations. And God was with him as he sought first the kingdom. He truly made God his priority.

If we follow the example of Daniel, we too can live a life devoted to making God and his plan and purpose our PRIORITY!

“But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, to an innumerable company of angels” (Heb 12:22 NKJV).

Joshua Budney
(Meriden, CT)

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