Summary: The diagnosis, consequence and solution to misplaced priorities coinciding with an all church focus of stewardship.
In the Jules Verne novel The Mysterious Island, the author tells the story about five men who escape from a prison by hijacking a hot air balloon (www.PreachingToday.com). As the balloon rises into the air, the wind blows it toward the ocean. As the hours pass, the surface of the ocean draws closer and closer. Soon the men realize that if they don’t get rid of some of the weight, they won’t make it to land. So all the nonessentials like shoes, overcoats, and weapons are thrown overboard. The balloon rises slightly, but only temporarily, and soon they’re once again close to the ocean surface. So this time they toss over their food. They figure, "Better to be in the air and hungry than drown with a full stomach." But that solution is only temporary as well, and soon they’re once again sinking perilously close to the ocean. Then one the escapees gets an idea: They can tie the ropes that hold the passenger car and sit on these ropes. That way they can cut away the basket beneath them. As they sever the very thing they’re standing on, it drops into the ocean, and once again the balloon rises. Not a minute too soon they spot land, and they land on the island.
When I read that story, it occurred to me that the escapees’ balloon voyage is a powerful word picture about the need to get our priorities right. So long as we’re safe and secure, the things we surround ourselves with seem important and essential. But when life seems to be sinking toward catastrophe, those things we thought we couldn’t live without seem trivial. The death of my father-in-law two weeks ago reminded me of how important it is to have our priorities straight.
Today we’re going to talk about refocusing our priorities. Today’s message is part one of a three part sermon series on setting our priorities. This sermon series on priorities is part of our church emphasis we’re calling Beyond Every Limit.
I’m anticipating three different kinds of reactions to this sermon series on priorities. Some of you already know that you’re priorities are out of focus, and as you think about this sermon series, you’re afraid. You’re afraid of what God might ask you to do, of what implications rearranging your priorities might mean to how you’re living today. You’re afraid a change in your priorities is going to cause conflict in your marriage or cause you to do without things you really enjoy. If that’s you, I believe God wants to remind you today that he loves you; he loves you more than you can ever imagine. You can trust God, because he’s not out to get you. God wants to do extraordinary things through your life, and you can trust him to guide you in ways that are trustworthy and good. If you’re afraid, trust in God will disarm that fear.
Others of you feel pretty good about where your priorities are, but you know that there’s always room for improvement. You’ve worked hard to align your priorities with the teachings of the Bible. But you also know that keeping your priorities focused is a process, that our priorities can drift gradually away from God’s plan. So even though you feel confident about where your priorities right now, you’re also open to reexamining them, to fine tuning those priorities in any way God might lead you. I believe God wants you to know today that he’s pleased with your faithfulness. He’s honored by your openness to continually reevaluate your priorities in light of the Bible and the leading of His Spirit.
Finally, are some people who are totally convinced that their priorities are just fine and don’t need any reevaluation. Some might even be feeling a little defensive with this sermon series, because you feel like you’re doing just fine in this area. To be honest, up until recently I fit into this third category. I figured I was spending my time and money exactly the way God wanted me to, that this sermon series on priorities would be for other people, but not for me. But the last few weeks God revealed that my attitude was prideful and arrogant. To us who fit into this third category, God’s message to us today is to be humble and open. To not be so proud as to think that we have life all figured out, to be open to refocusing, to taking new steps of faith and trying new things.
Now before we look into the Bible today, I want to remind us what we’re hoping to accomplish these next three weeks of Beyond Every Limit. The purpose of this all church emphasis is to lead our congregation to dream beyond our current limitations and to take new steps of faith. There are several limitations in our congregation that are holding us back, limitations like misplaced priorities, limitations of space, limitations of indebtedness, and limitations in our own vision. Each of our four goals in Beyond Every Limit relates to a limitation we’re facing.