Everything that’s happening in your life is not equally important. I’m confident that almost every adult struggles with this tension on a daily basis. We become so distracted by molehills that we can’t charge up the mountain.
In February 2020, Dan Cain of Twinsburg, Ohio, came home to find postal workers hauling seventy-nine large bins of letters to his house. In one day he received fifty-five thousand letters, all of them the same. They were duplicate letters from a student loan company. Somehow the company made an error in its mailing system, inundating Cain with enough mail to last a lifetime.
Now think of this. What if somewhere among those fifty-five thousand letters was a vital piece of communication — a small package mixed among the bins? What if it was a letter from God? What if a small copy of the Bible, the message of hope and heaven, was jumbled among the letters in those seventy-nine bins of mail?
Your cluttered world bombards you with thousands of bits of data every day. No wonder you’re distracted! It’s easy for the most important things to be lost. That’s why you must acknowledge that not everything is a priority. Not every activity is vital. Not every situation is eternal.
In His parable of the sower, Jesus said, “Now he who received seed among the thorns is he who hears the word, and the cares of this world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and he becomes unfruitful” (Matt. 13:22).
Can you relate to that? I can. The Lord has sown the seed of his Word into our hearts, but it’s not as productive or fruitful as he wants. Somehow his work in and through us is choked by “the cares of this world and the deceitfulness of riches.”
Oftentimes our inability to move forward is due to a lack of priorities — we fail to even consider that some things are more important than others. Without understanding the nature of priorities, you can’t sort through the cares of this world, but you can become paralyzed by burdens, business, and busyness. In trying to do everything you end up doing nothing. This “paralysis by analysis” can devastate your morale and your emotional health.
In Mark 12, a Jewish temple scribe approached Jesus asking advice on how to organize life. His specific question was, “Which is the first commandment of all?” (Mark 12:28). In effect, the scribe was asking Jesus, “What is truly important in life? From God’s perspective, what one thing is indispensable?”
This scribe came from a Jewish tradition boasting a multitude of commands and obligations. Jewish rabbis divided the Old Testament commandments into positive and negative laws and into major and minor laws. According to their calculations, the Old Testament contained 613 commandments. Of those, 248 tell us to do something positive and 365 prohibit us from doing something negative. This scribe was asking Jesus which of these 613 commandments was most important from God’s perspective.
Jesus answered without hesitation: “The first of all the commandments is: ‘Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ This is the first commandment. And the second, like it, is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these” (Mark 12:29–31).
What an answer! Jesus boiled down the contents of the entire Old Testament into one overarching, overwhelming priority: love. And he ascribed to that priority three applications. Without understanding this, it’s impossible to cast off distractions and move forward. Love — as God defines love — is life’s ultimate priority.
This is an adaptation of Dr. Jeremiah’s upcoming book, “Forward.”
Dr. David Jeremiah is among the best known Christian leaders in the world. He serves as senior pastor of Shadow Mountain Community Church in El Cajon, California and is the founder and host of Turning Point. Turning Point‘s 30-minute radio program is heard on more than 2,200 radio stations daily. A New York Times bestselling author and Gold Medallion winner, he has written more than fifty books, including Shelter in God, Agents of Babylon, Agents of the Apocalypse, Captured by Grace, Living with Confidence in a Chaotic World, What in the World Is Going On?, The Coming Economic Armageddon, God Loves You: He Always Has—He Always Will, and What Are You Afraid Of?.