The beginning of the year is a helpful time to do a personal stocktake!
Let me try and explain. I suspect, that most of us would find that there is some kind of ‘pattern’ to our week – get up, breakfast, personal devotion, school/uni/work/home duties/appointments…, lunch, afternoon activities, dinner, and then whatever evening things we commit too, before falling into bed – ready to do it all over again!
Of course, this ‘routine’ will vary from person to person and from day to day. The point: we often construct our days and weeks according to ‘patterns’ which, frankly, help us stay sane.
The beginning of the year is a good time to look at our week and work out whether our ‘patterns’ reflect our priorities. Do the things that are most important get the best of us or are they crowded out by the things that are less important or urgent?
As I read through Matthews Gospel this week, it struck me that so much is asked of Jesus. Everywhere he went there was commotion and activity. There were temptations (4:1-11), crowds that flocked to him (4:25, 8:1; 17:14; 20:29; 21:8), people asking for healing (4:24; 8:2, 6, 14, 16; 9:2, 18, 20, 27, 32; 12:15, 22; 15:21-28; 17:14-16; 20:30; 21:14), there was opposition at so many points (8:28-29, 9:3, 11, 34; 12:1, 24-45; 13:53-58; 15:2; 16:1-4; 17:24; 21:12-15; 21:23-22:22; 22:23-33; 22:34-40; 22:41-46; 26:8; 26:14; 26:47-75; 27:11-44), mouths to feed (14:13-21; 15:29-39), people to pray for (19:13), and folk to encourage and instruct (19:16; 20:20-23). In each of these cases it was the immediate and the urgent that demanded a response or an action of some kind from Jesus. How was it that he managed anything else?
Yet, as I read through Matthew it also became clear that Jesus used the time and his circumstances to continually give attention to four key things:
- Preach about the Kingdom of Heaven (4:17, 23; 9:35; 11:1; 13:54) – in fact it was his desire to preach and speak about heaven that caused him to move from place to place.
- Disciple and instruct (4:18-22; 5:1-7:28; 8:18-26; 9:9-17, 37-38; 10:1-42; 11:4-24; 12:46-13:52; 15:13-20; 16:5-17:13; 17:17-19:15; 19:14, 17-20:16; 20:17-19; 20:24-28; 21:18-22; 23:1-12; 24:1-25:46; 26:17-35; 28:16-20) – at most points in the mayhem, Jesus kept using the situation to teach his disciples how to think and how to live as his disciples.
- Serve people – you can see from the many references above that Jesus had a heart to respond to people’s needs – be they children, the sick, the hungry, the demon possessed, the rich or the poor, and the sinner.
- Pray (11:25-26; 14:23; 26:36-44) – at key points, Jesus speaks to God his Father and was intentional by withdrawing from the crowds or the disciples in order to spend time in prayer.
It made me think. How do I use the time God has given me? If those were priorities for Jesus, should they not be priorities for me? If the urgent could be managed, even in the face of sometimes unreasonable opposition, then am I clear on what is most important to ensure that I don’t get distracted by the less important?
Friends, in your ‘personal stocktake’ – what place in 2017 does a. speaking about Jesus, b. discipling others in or into faith, c. serving others, and d. praying – feature in your daily and weekly patterns?
Be encouraged, as I have been, to organise your life around the things that are most important to our Lord.