Setting My Priorities Straight

Without a doubt, I have my priorities in order…on paper at least. It is always a challenge to keep them properly ordered in real life. But let me take a stab at sharing them with you.

First, I am a person. I know that sounds like a strange place to start but I must begin there. I simply mean that I have to focus on myself. Not in a selfish way of course, but in a way that acknowledges I am an individual child of God.

Before I can take care of anyone else, I must first be right with God individually. Andrea and I have never viewed ourselves as “two halves making a whole.” No, we are two whole and complete people who have come together as one. The Bible clearly says, “The two shall become one” not “the two halves.”

In order to function in the other areas of my life I must take care of myself. My body, soul, and spirit, must be properly attended. If I am unhealthy physically, emotionally, or spiritually it will affect everyone in my life.

So, one priority for me is to cultivate a daily personal relationship with the Father through prayer, Bible study (not sermon prep), and other spiritual duties.

Secondly, I am a partner. Andrea is the love of my life. I adore her. Without a doubt she is my dearest friend and closest confidante. I have deep pity for husbands who do not have that kind of relationship with their wife.

The Bible says that I am to love her as Christ loved the church. That references sacrificial love. Most likely, I will not be called upon to die for her physically. But every day I must die to selfishness and pride, take up a towel and a basin and serve my bride.

Many women want to put their maternal duties ahead of their spousal duties. I am convinced that is as wrong as wrong can be. Frankly, the greatest thing I can do for my 3 children is to love their mother with a deep and abiding commitment. I must prioritize my relationship with her, even over our own kids.

Thirdly, I am a parent. Michaela, Andrew, and Sarah are gifts from God. Like every parent, I love them more than life itself. There is absolutely nothing I would not do for their good.

My greatest responsibility to them is to teach them to love and serve the Lord. None of them has made a profession of faith in Christ but the older two are well on their way to having a personal love for the Lord Jesus.

I treasure the “special days” I have with the older two. Since they were about 18 months old, I’ve taken Michaela to lunch every Thursday and Andrew on Wednesday. Now that they are in school, I meet them with their class and we still have our regular lunch date together. Sarah is nearly ready to begin her weekly date with Daddy and I am really looking forward to it.

Being a dad is the most humbling and awe-filled task I’ve ever had.

Lastly, I am a pastor. I have often said that next to being a child of God, Andrea’s husband, and my kids’ Dad, my greatest joy is to pastor Emmanuel Baptist Church in Blackshear. The love I have for this church is beyond description.

In a few months I will celebrate my 7th anniversary as Emmanuel’s pastor (June). I can only pray that in that time the Lord has done as much through me as He has in me. Some pastors hate their church and pray that a pulpit committee will show up every Sunday. By God’s grace, I cannot relate.

But as much as I love it, even this priority comes in at a distant 4th place. If anything competes with Christ, Andrea, or my children, that thing will lose. In fact, that competing priority will die a quick and painful death…and rightly so. I can’t be so busy saving the world that I lose my own family.

At this point I must distinguish that I am talking about the “job” aspect of pastoring the church. There is no question that my service to Christ is always first.

When the Lord calls me home, I assume there will be at least a handful of people at my funeral. Some of them may even whisper kind remarks. Whether they do or not, there are 4 people in this world that I want to be able to say, “Well done.” And their last names are all Stone.

Simply put, I cannot place my love for EBC ahead of obedience to Christ, fidelity to my wife, and devotion to my children. And thankfully, EBC has never asked me to do so.

Looking back I think this post is really directed toward the men. Guys, with everything vying for your time and attention, make sure that your priorities are:

1. God
2. Spouse
3. Family
4. Work

When it’s all said and done, may the Lord, our spouse, our children, and our friends and coworkers (in that order) say, “Well done good and faithful servant.”