Summary: What will you focus on for the new Year? Prioritize what is important, stay positive in your attitude and improve the relationships all around us.

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It’s common during this time of year for folks to plan for the future and start anew. According to the Chicago Tribune, (Mark Silva, “New Years’ Resolutions: Uh, Never Mind”, December 29, 2008) The top three New Years’ resolutions were losing weight, quitting some form of nasty habit, and spending less money. However, the forth resolution is what I’m interested with this evening. The forth most popular New Years’ resolution this year is to “be a better person”.

That’s the same message Paul had for the church of Ephesus that we heard read a moment ago. He said to make the best use of your time, understand the Lord’s will, encourage one another, and to thank God for all things. Another way to look at this is to set your priorities, be positive in your attitude and work to foster your relationships, all for the glory of God.

Set your priorities straight

Paul spoke of this same theme in his letter to the Philippians and addressed these ideas as (Philippians 3:13 ESV), "this one thing I do." Now he obviously did more than one thing. He made tents. He preached sermons and established churches. He healed the sick. He wrote letters. He did a lot of different things.

But he said, "The top priority in my life is to press on toward the goal for the prize for which God has called me." He set this as his number one goal.

A while back an expert on the subject of time management was speaking to a group of business students. After speaking to them for a while, he said, “Okay, it’s time for a quiz.” He set a one-gallon, wide mouthed jar on the table in front of him. Then he produced about a dozen fist-sized rocks and carefully placed them in the jar, one at a time. When it was filled to the top, and no more rocks would fit inside, he asked, “Is this jar full?” Everyone in the class said, “Yes.”

“Really?” he said. Then he reached under the table and pulled out a bucket of pebbles. He dumped some of the pebbles into the jar and shook it, causing the small stones to work themselves down into the spaces between the big rocks. Then he smiled and asked the group once more, “Is the jar full?” By this time the class was on to him. “Probably not,” one of them said.

“Good!” he replied. And he reached under the table and brought out a bucket of sand. He started dumping the sand in and it filled all the spaces between the rocks and the gravel. Once more he asked, “Is this jar full?” “No!” the class shouted. Again he said, “Good!” Then he grabbed a pitcher of water and began to pour in the water until the jar was filled to the brim.

Then he looked back at the class and asked, “What’s the point of this illustration?” One eager beaver raised his hand and said, “The point is, no matter how full your schedule is, if you try really hard, you can always fit something more into it!”

“No,” the speaker replied, “that’s not the point. The truth this illustration teaches us is this: If you don’t put the big rocks in first, you’ll never get them in at all.”

Sometimes we like to think of our lives are being able to fit anything and everything in. So, we try to fit it all in. In the process, sometimes we don’t get around to completing what we wanted to get done. But, priorities are just like those big rocks. If we don’t place our important events and goals at the top of our priorities, we may not be able to get them done at all.

We all have big rocks in our lives. What are yours? They should include these: each day drawing nearer to God, spending time with Him in prayer, and seeking His guidance for your life through reading His Word. Remember to put these big rocks in first or you’ll never get them in at all.

It was Jesus who said in Matthew 6:33 (ESV), "seek first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” (adopted from Melvin Newland, “Facing the New Year”, FACING THE NEW YEAR by MELVIN NEWLAND)

Jesus made it clear that the kingdom of God was to be at the top of our priorities. Things such as worship, prayer, reading scripture as well as taking care of our fellow men and women should be right at the beginning of that list. Paul described it this way in his letter to the Philippians. Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” (Philippians 4:8 ESV) This is where our priorities should be set for the upcoming year.

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