Are your priorities in order? Pastor Chuck Swindoll heard about a couple from Atlanta who simply loved the story of the famous musical “My Fair Lady.” When they found out about a special re-release of their favorite show on Broadway in New York City, they deliberately planned a vacation 8-10 months in advance in order to attend the opening night.
Arriving extra early, they found their choice seats – just 4 or 5 rows from the front. The theater quickly filled up…until every single seat was filled, except for the seat right next to the husband.
Just before the show was about to begin the man turned to the elderly woman seated one space over from him on the other side of the empty seat and said, “How could anyone purchase such an expensive seat in a sell-out crowd and miss this show – and not even bother to show up or give someone the ticket?”
The woman quietly turned to him and wistfully remarked, “Well, I happen to know the person who purchased the ticket for this seat…it was my husband. He and I had looked forward to seeing My Fair Lady for so long, but he recently passed away.”
“Oh! I am so sorry!” The man replied, “And you couldn’t find anyone, perhaps a close friend or family member, to take his place?”
“Oh no.” the elderly woman replied. “They are all at the funeral.”
Sometimes our priorities can be totally skewed…
Our Priority Chart
What do we value most? What kind of value do you and I place on our money, homes, cars, reputation, vacations, recreation, jobs, success, spouse and children, mom or dad, brother or sister…? It’s not that good jobs, money, homes, or most of all, our family members are bad things to hold as dear. My family is incredibly precious and dear to me. But what do you and I value most… more than anything?
What do you value most in this life? What is most precious to you? Your money? Your job? Your wife? Your children? Your reputation? Your vacations? Your pension? Your health? (That’s a big one for me as I write this, since I’ve been dealing with a terrible wisdom tooth problem…it’s so easy to lose our joy when we lose the thing we value most). What’s at the top of your list? Be honest with yourself and with God. What do you treasure and love more than anything else? What do you fear death would take from you? Take a moment to write down 2 or 3 top items on your value list…
Ok, you have your list? Here’s what the apostle Paul’s list look liked early on in his life, when he was known as Saul, not yet the apostle Paul: (from Phil. 3:4-6; cf. Phil 1:20-21)
Pedigree! He was a thoroughbred Jew (not a half-breed Samaritan), circumcised on the eighth day, he was born in the right tribe, to the right group of people, into the right family. His name meant something when people heard it echoing around Jerusalem, and he knew it! It was like hearing a name like Rockefeller, Forbes, or Buffett, Gates, or Bush. His name got people’s attention because he had the right pedigree.
Education! He was trained by the best educator in the land, the renowned and esteemed Gamaliel. Being trained in the Law by Gamaliel would be like saying, “by the way, I went to Harvard” or “I received my law degree from Yale University.” He was at the top of the pack, from the right family, with the right name, and with the best education. (cf. Acts 22:3)
Perfection! He lived according to the law as a Pharisee (the super-religious, holier-than-thou group who prided themselves in being better than everyone else), he thought he fought the right fight (“in my zeal for God I persecuted the church”), he followed the dos and don’ts to the inth-degree (“according to the righteousness stipulations in the law I was blameless/without fault.” (Phil. 3:6)
Power! He could get what he wanted, (obtained warrants from the High Priest for the arrest of Christians in Damascus (see Acts 9:1-2)!
BUT then Saul, who became known as the apostle Paul, met Jesus, or rather Jesus met with Him on the road to Damascus when he was on his way to arrest Christians and haul them back to Jerusalem… and everything changed. It may be the most dramatic reversal of values and priorities seen in the story of the Bible. Paul moved from seeking self (and all the credentials/values) to knowing Christ.
Look again at Paul’s letter to the Philippians in chapter 3:7-11, where we find in sitting in Rome suffering under house arrest…in prison for preaching Christ.
Listen to the full audio message entitled “Satisfied” (Philippians 1:20-21) by simply clicking on the play button below or by subscribing to our iTunes podcast. This message was originally delivered at Evangel Baptist Church on Sunday morning, November 10th, 2013, being my final message to EBC before my transition to Lead Pastor of North Park Baptist Church of Grand Rapids, MI.