Often, we often get so caught up on what we’re doing, we lose sight of the ultimate reason we’re doing it. Consider Jesus’ warning to us at the end of His Sermon on the Mount: “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’” (Matthew 7:21-23, NKJV)
I believe these “unknowns” had established their works as their ultimate goal and in doing so had neglected Jesus. They did great works and expanded the Kingdom, but never knew Him. They were feeding the hungry, casting out demons, and possibly even preaching the gospel, but they missed Jesus. Their misplaced priorities cost them everything. It is important that we set Jesus as our ultimate goal. Consider the following examples of misplaced priorities I have observed in my own life.
I played football for six years in middle and high school. Of all the teams I played on, my 11th grade team was the best. We shattered many expectations, shut out a lot of teams completely, and made memories that lasted a lifetime. The truth is, we could have accomplished much more than we did, but we did not have the right ultimate goal in mind.
Our rival had beaten us at every meeting for the previous 22 years and had not lost a conference game in 12 years. This rivalry was intense and our entire lives had been directed toward this one game. It was the best football our team ever played. We beat our rivals and clenched the conference championship, but that is where we peaked. While we were local heroes for some time afterwards, I cannot help but see the untapped potential when I look back on what could have been. We did well, but we got so caught up in a rivalry that we missed out on greater opportunities. We were a great team and could have gone on to win regional or state titles, but we had never seriously considered anything that would happen beyond that one night. We did not achieve everything that was possible for us because of our misplaced priorities.
In the United States Marine Corps, the first phase of recruit training is learning to be a recruit. They don’t teach you to be a Marine right away. You have to learn to be a recruit first. It is necessary to be a good recruit for those 13 weeks of recruit training in order to learn to be a Marine, but being a good recruit cannot be the ultimate goal. The goal is to become a United States Marine, and that lasts a lifetime. The most successful Marines understand that recruit training is there to prepare them for something much bigger than those 13 weeks. However, there are a few recruits who get so focused on recruit life that it is difficult for them to transition beyond it. They are limited by their misplaced priorities.
For most students, the college experience begins with freshman orientation and ends with an internship. This is because although it is necessary to learn your way around the campus where you will live for the next 4 years, the ultimate goal is to acquire a marketable skill set which will serve you for the next 40 or more years. Successful people understand that college is a season of preparation for life, not an end within itself. Of course, there are also people who get so caught up in being college students that they have a hard time leaving, getting a job, and starting a life. They are also limited by their misplaced priorities.
Most people begin the path to marriage with an engagement. This is a period of time between the proposal and the wedding with allows the couple to plan their nuptials. While it is necessary to plan the 30-minute wedding, the 4-hour reception, and the week-long honeymoon, none of these should be the desired outcome of the engagement. The ultimate goal is not to prepare for the week which has the wedding, reception, and honeymoon, but rather to prepare for marriage and the 80 or more years of life shared with one another. Unfortunately, there are some couples who plan magnificent wedding ceremonies, receptions, and honeymoons, but fail to use the engagement period to prepare for their marriage beyond this initial stage. Their marriages often fail because they had misplaced priorities.
Many people also miss our ultimate goal in this life. They devote so much energy trying to be good little Christians on the earth, but miss out on building their relationships with Jesus. It is important to lead a godly life on this earth, but the ultimate goal is to spend eternity with Jesus. Making anything else your primary focus is a misplaced priority. Strengthening your relationship with Jesus on earth better prepares you for what awaits you in Heaven. Choose to make spending time with Jesus your top priority!