What’s your TOP Priority?

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In Luke chapter 14, Jesus told a story about a man who prepared a great feast.

Now this man sent out a heap of invitations, which we assume were accepted, but when the banquet was ready and the man sent a servant to fetch the guests, the invited guests all had excuses as to why they couldn’t come.

One of them said they had just bought a field and needed to inspect it, another said they’d just bought 5 pairs of oxen and wanted to try them out, and another said that he now had a wife and so couldn’t come.

All of the invited guests had excuses… they had other priorities, whether they were property, work or relationships that were a higher priority than attending the banquet that they had been invited to.

In December last year when I was organizing my first round of bible study groups, I sent out messages to about a dozen friends on Facebook – not expecting much of a response, but I was quite surprised when almost all of them said they were interested in coming along.

So after a break over the Christmas school holidays, and messages flying back and forth to work out the most suitable times for everyone who had indicated interest, I sent out the invitations.

The first week of the online studies, only 3 of those 10 original people showed up at the online meetings.

Now, remember, every one of those people had not only been invited but had specifically made contact with me to indicate interest and been involved in the process of selecting days and times that would work for them for when the bible study groups would be held.

Once we’d pinned down the days and times that suited everyone, they had chosen which of the two different bible study meetings suited them best and been added into a Facebook messenger chat group with everyone else who wanted to be part of that session.

Then, before each session started, they had received a 15 minute reminder, and on some weeks they were also sent a ‘we’re getting started hope you can join us’ message.

My point is, these weren’t people who had indicated vague interest once, and there wasn’t a communication breakdown about them not knowing when things were happening.

And we’re now 7 weeks in to those online bible studies.

But when it came to actually showing up, just like in the parable from Luke – all but three had other priorities and weren’t able to come.

In verse 33 of Matthew chapter 6, Jesus says “don’t worry about these things, saying What will we eat? What will we drink? What will we wear? These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers, but your heavenly Father already knows all of your needs. Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.”

So Jesus is telling us that we ought to have two key priorities – to seek the kingdom of God above all else, and to live righteously. For years, I understood this to mean ‘seek the kingdom first’, like you’d go on to seek something else second, something else third and so on.

But a more complete understanding of the words that Jesus used would say to seek the kingdom of God above all else – which means that seeking the kingdom of God is not just a first step, but an enduring highest priority.

The second part of that verse references living righteously as well – because seeking the kingdom won’t be fruitful unless we’re also living in a way that maintains our right standing with God and our alignment with the ways of his Kingdom.

And when we make seeking the Kingdom our priority, suddenly all of the other things we need that we would normally have to worry about – like food, clothing and shelter will be given to us.

That’s an amazing promise of God right there!

What happens if we have other priorities?

Well, in the parable with the man who organized the banquet, he sent his servants out to the streets and alleys of the town and invited the poor, the crippled, the blind and the lame.

When there was still room, they went further afield to the country lanes and behind the hedges, urging everyone they found to come.

They went out and found replacement people.

If you’re wondering whether my bible study groups were an absolute flop because most of the invited guests didn’t show up – actually, no they weren’t.

God has well and truly filled them with people who want to be there, right from the first session.

They may not be the same people who were originally invited – but they’ve chosen to make coming along to bible study a priority in their lives, and the flow on effects of making that choice has been amazing to witness, as well as being an amazing witness.

The groups are growing as people invite friends, who invite friends – who I’m sure will go on to invite friends and they are are full of people who I didn’t actually know before the groups started.

And as for the connection with the kingdom of God, we often miss this, but the whole point of Jesus telling the banquet story in the first place was in response to a comment from a man sitting at a table with Jesus who commented, ‘what a blessing it will be to attend a banquet in the kingdom of God'”

It’s a sobering thought, to me at least, that Jesus finishes the banquet story by saying “for none of those I first invited (so those who didn’t show up) will get even the smallest taste of my banquet.” That’s in verse 24 of Luke chapter 14.

As individuals, we are the only ones responsible for choosing what our priorities are going to be.

We choose with our thoughts, with our words, and with our actions – what we do with the time that we have on a day to day basis. And the many, many little choices we make every day add up and reflect our priorities.

Let me ask you… what do the choices you’re making today reflect about your priorities?

Are you prioritizing the things of this world?

Are you prioritizing your children?

Are you prioritizing your work?

Or are you prioritizing seeking the Kingdom of God above all else?

Until next time, blue skies!

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