How to Set Priorities

Our passage for today is Matthew 6:25-34 – the commands are DO NOT BE ANXIOUS (Matthew 6:25, Luke 12:22), LOOK (Matthew 6:26), OBSERVE (Matthew 6:28), SEEK (Matthew 6:33, Luke 12:31), CONSIDER (Luke 12:27, 29), DO NOT SEEK, DO NOT KEEP WORRYING (Luke 12:29), DO NOT BE AFRAID (Luke 12:32). Worry distracts from the Word (Matthew 13:22, Mark 4:19, Luke 8:14, 10:41). See also Philippians 4:6, 2:20, 1 Peter 5:7, 1 Corinthians 7:32, 33, 34, 12:25, 2 Corinthians 11:28).

Group Questions:

1. What would you do with the money if you won $1 million in a lump sum, or $50,000 per year for 20 years?

2. What does your answer reveal about your priorities? (Matthew 6:21)

3. Do you think that long-term savings, retirement plans, insurance policies, and real estate holdings reduce our sense of dependence on God? Do they give us missed placed security? (Matthew 6:19-20)

4. How does the issue of stockpiling things (Matthew 6:19-24 relate to our command passage on worry? (Matthew 6:25-34)

5. What is the root meaning of the word anxious? (Matthew 6:25, 27, 28, 31, 34)

6. What three aspects of life to people worry about more than anything else? (Matthew 6:25, 27)

7. Why are we commanded to look at the birds? (Matthew 6:26, Job 38:41a, Psalm 147:9b)

8. What did Jesus say in Matthew 6:27 that were he was in capable of accomplishing?

9. Why are we commanded to observe help the lilies of the field grow? (Matthew 6:28, 29, 30)

10. What phrase did Jesus frequently used to describe his disciples when they were filled with anxiety or fear? (Matthew 6:30, 8:26, 14:31, 16:8, Luke 12:28)

11. What characteristic of God should eliminate any need for anxiety on our part? (Matthew 6:31, 32, Luke 12:30b)

12. What does God want us to do when we are anxious about something? (Philippians 4:6, 1 Peter 5:7)

13. Who are the Gentiles? Why do they seek after the necessities of life? (Matthew 6:32a, Luke 12:30a)

14: how should we prioritize our lives if we want God to tend to our private concerns? (Matthew 6:33, Luke 12:31)

15. Why is it wrong to worry about tomorrow? (Matthew 6:33)

How to Set Priorities and Overcome Anxiety:

1. Invest in your eternal portfolio for the future (Matthew 6:19-24)

Our response to these two commands will determine our focus (Matthew 6:22-23) The lamp or lens of the body is the eye, it is our only means of vision. It’s through the eye that the body finds its way. If our vision is clear, which means the single, undivided, then the entire person has direction. When Jesus refers to the eye being bad, he’s probably using the Jewish colloquialism that means grudging or stingy. (Deuteronomy 15:9, hostile, Proverbs 23:6, selfish) hey man with an evil eye is one who chases after wealth (Proverbs 28:22).

Our response to these two commands will determine our service (Matthew 6:24). John Calvin said, “when riches hold the dominion of the heart, God has lost his authority.” The orders of the two masters are diametrically opposed and cannot coexist.

2. Take time to get an eternal perspective (Matthew 6:25-32)

The words “for this reason” look back to the previous verses (Matthew 6:19-24) that warned against stockpiling material things, which would ultimately monopolize our focus and become our master. When we become a slave to material things, we don’t own our possessions, they own us. Material things become a distraction to ministry. It appears that Jesus’ disciples were anxious about their future and these basic provisions.

The word “worry” literally means, “to divide, part, rip or tear apart.” The Greek word is generic and can be used in a positive way or a negative way. This God-given emotion when used in a positive way is the best translated “concern” or “care” and it describes an emotional energy that is available to tear apart the problems that we are facing today. You cannot turn this emotion on or off but you can turn it around or redirect it. Here are a few examples of this emotion directed in a positive way (2 Corinthians 11:28, Philippians 2:19-21, 1 Corinthians 12:25).

When you are concerned, that concern begins to mobilize the energies in your body. The adrenaline surges through your bloodstream. You find your muscles begin to tighten, you begin to get ready to do things, and you are prepared for action. But if you’re concerned is directed toward the future, tomorrow rather than today, all that emotional energy that is designed to tear up the problems now begins to tear you up. This is why people that worry get stomach ulcers. All sorts of chemicals begin sloshing around inside of their stomachs. Those chemicals begin to eat at the lining of the stomach walls.

Anxiety may will be the most common psychiatric disorder in the United States. Some 65% of all new prescriptions that physicians write are for anxiety. As many as 4% of the population suffers from anxiety disorder, with 2% experiencing panic attacks.

A. There are two ways this emotion is used negatively. The first way this emotions can be used in a sinful way is when it focuses on temporal values or things of lesser importance. This worry is a dividing care, distracting the heart from the true objective of life (Matthew 13:22, Luke 10:38-42).

Noticed that “the many things” over which Martha is worried is contrasted with the “one thing” that is necessary. Even in our daily responsibilities there is a priority list of concerns. Our value system normally controls our choices.

What one thing is necessary for you to do today? If you could only do one thing what would it be? Martha appears to be driven by her anxious spirit over many things related to entertaining her Lord, but Mary had learned how to choose what was most important. Mary understood that the master wanted to feed them spiritually but Martha was worried about feeding the master.

B. The second way that this emotion can be used in a sinful way is when we become anxious about tomorrow or the future. It is sinful because it distracts us from the responsibilities of today and focuses our attention on something that we can do nothing about and that we cannot even be sure about. The New Testament instructs us to take these kinds of worries to God in prayer (Philippians 4:6-7, 1 Peter 5:7).

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus addresses the disciples anxiety about three things:

FOOD (Matthew 6:25-26) – in our society people determine how secure they are by how much they have stored up, which is a little crazy because who knows how much is enough. One person has $10,000 in the bank and feels a day away from destruction while another has $100,000 and he’s paranoid. Then there is a little, trusting, child of God who has $100 in the bank and feels secure for the rest of his life.

If your security is in that what you have in the bank, you don’t have security at all because recession, inflation, depression, war, health problems, and your security disappears.

Jesus is simply saying that humans are more important than birds. What is got done for the birds? He created them and he sustains them. What has God done for humans? He’s made them in his image, sent his son to die on their behalf. Do you see the point? If God created and sustains the birds, what will he do for those he has saved and adopted into his family?

FUTURE (Matthew 6:27) – worry could be related to longevity. We shouldn’t worry about our life expectancy either. Our culture is obsessed with trying to lengthen life. We exercise, we carefully, supplement our diet with vitamins and minerals, get regular check ups, and countless other things in the hopes of adding a few more years to life. Yet God has an appointment for man to die, you don’t die early or late (Hebrews 9:27).

FASHION (Matthew 6:28-30) – Jesus wants us to “observe” because he wants us to study their growth process and the way God clothes these beautiful flowers. The Lily was the wildflower the graces the hillside and fields of Galilee. Those beautiful decorations of nature make no effort to grow and have no part in designing or coloring themselves. Despite their beauty, flowers are not eternal. These verses say that they are here today and tomorrow they’re gone.

Worry is not a trivial little issue because it questions God’s love and faithfulness, or it declares our heavenly father to be untrustworthy in his word and promises. This is why on four other occasions Jesus rebuked his disciples with the phrase, “you of little faith” (Matthew 8:26, 14:31, 16:8, Luke 12:28).

Worry is something that is characteristic of the heathen, not the child of God. The heathen should worry. They don’t have the heavenly father. The gods of the gentiles were man-made gods, inspired by Satan. They were gods of fear, dread, and appeasement who demanded much, promised little, and provided nothing. Our Heavenly Father provides everything that we need.

The word “knows” the note a full knowledge. It is in the perfect tense. God knows your need now, he has known them in the past. God has never said “oh no, one of my children has a need down there, I almost forgot about him.” That never would happen because God knows your needs intimately.

3. Seek his rule and character in your life (Matthew 6:33)

The command in this verse is to continually be seeking (present tense) God’s rule (kingdom) and character (righteousness) in our lives and ministries. This is to be our first priority. A priority is a value that has surfaced to the top. Since we have so many competing values in our lives, it is important to be very intentional about setting this as our top priority.

We are commanded to seek his kingdom and righteousness. This means to “seek after, seek for, aim at, strive after.” It also means to try “to obtain, desire to possess.”

Jesus makes a conditional promise in the spurs to take care of our basic needs, but it’s contingent on whether we are advancing his kingdom as our first priority.

4. Give attention to the priorities of today (Matthew 6:34)

Worry is wasting today’s time to clutter up tomorrow’s opportunities with yesterday’s troubles. Worry is like rocking in a rocking chair. It does a lot of work, but you don’t get anywhere. When we focus on tomorrow, we were robbed of the emotional energy that we need to tear up today’s concerns, which then makes our troubles of tomorrow compounded.

[Based on my classes with Richard D. Leineweber, Jr. c. 2000]

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The Bible and a Cell Phone

I find the truth of this post quite enlightening and wanted to share this and keep it as a reminder of my priorities:

Ever wonder what would happen if we treated our Bible like we treat our cell phone?

  • What if we carried it around all day?
  • What if we flipped through it several times a day?
  • What if we turned back to go get it if we forgot it?
  • What if we used it to receive messages from the text?
  • What if we searched through it to find useful information?
  • What if we treated it like we couldn’t live without it?
  • What if we talked about it with our friends and family?
  • What if we shared the discoveries we have made?
  • What if we told others about the helpful things it does?
  • What if we gave it to kids as a gift?
  • What if we used it when we traveled?
  • What if we used it in case of emergency?
  • What if we used it as a GPS to tell us where we are?
  • What if we used it for navigation to help us get to where we want to be?

This is something to make you go….hmm…where is my Bible? Unlike our cell phone, we don’t have to worry about our Bible being disconnected because Jesus already paid the bill.

Does this make you stop and think about priorities? And never a dropped call!

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Dreams, Visions and Goal Setting

Dreams are wishes that seldom happen. Life does not hand you your dreams. Dreams can only become a reality when they become a part of your vision. The leader must do something about his dreams and vision. You must also cast your vision to others if your vision is big enough. If there is no vision, the people scatter (Proverbs 29:18).

Helen Keller said the most pathetic person in the world is someone who has sight but no vision.

Vision that is ready to go to work is called a goal. A great Scripture on reaching your goal is 1 Corinthians 9:24, 25. Dave Ramsey says that opportunity knocks at your door wearing overalls.

From your vision and goals to have long-term positive impact, they must include goals for: Career, Financial, Spiritual, Family, Intellectual, Physical, and Social. Imagine each area as a piece of the pie. Ziglar calls it the wheel of life.

Gossip: talking to someone about something or someone who is not in a position to fix it.

Plan on problems: you are employed to solve problem, or you are not needed.

Goals are bite-sized visions: Goals convert vision into energy. You cannot be vague with your goals. Do the activity that brings the results (like a salesman making 30 calls a week is the base line). You cannot reach the goal if you do not do the work.

Goals work SMART if they are:

  1. Specific: create precise behaviors and outcomes, linked to rate and frequency. Each objective must have only one desired outcome.
  2. Measurable: too “improve” is far too vague, mention steps toward the desired outcome.
  3. Achievable, and yours (not someone else’s goals): stretch, but make it reasonable.
  4. Results oriented: and in writing
  5. Time bound: when will the results be expected?

Break everything down into smaller parts and time frames.

For your team to have goals, you must have goals. Sharing goals and selling goals is called casting a vision. Shared goals create communication and unity. A positional leader pushes you into goals (go make your quota), while a servant leader pulls you into goals. Goals for a team are shared when they are developed together. Individual team members cannot have goals dictated to them; instead, help people to develop their own goals.

Management by objectives: when team members set goals within general company guidelines. Coach Carter (the movie) said that if you have no vision to college, you cannot win a national championship. Napoleon said that leaders are brokers of hope. Ziglar said that if you aim at nothing, you’ll hit it every time. Success is the progressive realization of a worthy goal or ideal.

We can spend a ridiculous amount of time avoiding the things that are outside of our comfort zones. The movie, Castaway, shows us there is a sin of losing time. Steven Covey (the 7 Habits guy) has an interesting matrix on establishing priorities:

If you don’t do Q2, you will always move to Q1. Recognize that you are being productive when you are in Q2. Scott Peck said that “until you value yourself, you cannot value your time. Until you value your time, you will not do anything about it.” Good verses (Proverbs 16:9, Isaiah 30:1). If the leader must ask “where do I start?” you have not broken the goal into measurable action plans (like if I want to drive home, what do I do first?).

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Bearing Fruit to More Fruit

The Secrets of the Vine: Bruce Wilkinson has an excellent study of disciples bearing fruit and what that really means.

  1. The Secrets of the Vine Introduction
  2. Authentic Disciples Bear Fruit
  3. From No Fruit to Bearing Fruit
  4. From Bearing Fruit to More Fruit
  5. From Bearing More Fruit to Much Fruit

The Secrets of the Vine (Bruce Wilkinson), teaches about every believer going from bearing fruit to bearing more fruit. John 15:1-3

The question must be asked, “Do you want all these leaves, or do you desire the fruit?”


I am the true grapevine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch of mine that doesn’t produce fruit, and he prunes the branches that do bear fruit so they will produce even more. You have already been pruned and purified by the message I have given you. — John 15:1-3

“Every branch that bears fruit” describes a fruit-bearing believer. “He prunes” specifies the pruning-agent as God the Father. “Prune” is an act by the vinedresser to cut back to bear more. “Bear more fruit” reveals God’s goal as increasing good works.

  1. Pruning is the primary method to make branches productive.
  2. Pruning redirects the sap from the wood and leaves to the fruit.
  3. Pruning occurs numerous times throughout the season


The more you live for God, the less pain you will experience.

Misconception: God brings pain into your life only because you have done wrong.

Truth: God brings pruning pain into your life because you are bearing fruit.

  1. Pruning can be confused with discipline as both are painful – Hebrews 12:11, 1 Peter 1:6 (They feel the same. Discipline is when I have done wrong, no fruit, remorse and repent; pruning is when I have done right, bearing fruit, relief and release).
  2. Pruning can lead people to become angry with God – confusion, misunderstanding.
  3. Pruning often causes sin in believers who are mature – Let me do more for You, anger causes avoidance and a hardened heart.

Principles of Pruning:

  1. Pruning Principle # 1– Pruning puts pressure on you to change your major priorities
    1. Pruning releases you from using your weaknesses to using your strengths – from good to better.
    2. Pruning leverages your life by focusing you on the strategic
    3. Pruning stimulates you to reallocate your primary resources
      1. Reprioritizing the way to invest your time – Ephesians 5:15-16
      2. Reprioritizing the way to invest your talents – Matthew 25:20-21
      3. Reprioritizing the way to invest your treasure – 2 Corinthians 9:6-8 (the heart will follow the activity).
  2. Pruning Principle # 2– Pruning increases your productivity by clarifying your life purpose – “no fruit” people have no clue to their purpose.
    1. Pruning seeks to discover why God laid hold of you – God laid hold of me so I can lay hold of the fruit (Philippians 3:12-13)
    2. Pruning forgets the past failures to focus on the future
    3. Pruning causes you to focus upon your lasting legacy
  3. Pruning Principle # 3– Pruning transforms and intensifies your heart passion – Titus 2:14
    1. Pruning lessens the pleasure you experience from unfruitful activities.
    2. Pruning intensifies your passion by requiring personal sacrifice – Philippians 3:7-8
    3. Pruning increases your desire to bring great joy to God’s heart.

The Pruning Process:

  1. Pruning Process # 1– The Lord’s Universal Pruning System
    1. Do you believe God prunes you at the perfect moment?
      1. Does He start pruning you at the perfect time?
      2. Does He prune you for the perfect length of time?
      3. Does He prune you to the perfect depth?
      4. Does He prune you at the perfect breadth?
    2. Do you believe that God prunes you with the perfect method? – Romans 8:28
      1. Does He carefully select the absolute best pruning tools?
      2. Does He watch out for you by limiting unnecessary pain?
      3. Does He stay intimately involved as your pruning coach?
    3. Do you believe God prunes you with the perfect motive? – Romans 8:31-32
      1. Does He truly have your best interest in mind at all times?
      2. Does He ever use you and then discard you when He is finished?
      3. Does He ever forsake you when you fail His pruning?
  2. Pruning Process # 2– The Lord’s Seven Pruning Tools
    1. Pruning Tool # 1 – possessions (money house, furniture, jewelry, clothing, retirement, recreation) – Genesis 37:23
    2. Pruning Tool # 2 – position (position in the family, church, organization, community, business) – Genesis 37:20, 36
    3. Pruning Tool # 3 – physical (sickness, weakness, discomfort, exhaustion, aging, blind, deaf) – Genesis 37:24
    4. Pruning Tool # 4 – people – injustice (family, friends, employer, employees, co-workers, strangers) – Genesis 39:11-14
    5. Pruning Tool # 5 – profession – more work (job title, responsibilities, demotion/promotion, success/failure) – Genesis 39:4, 19-20a
    6. Pruning Tool # 6 – place (location of home, employment, transfer, desk location, church move) – Genesis 39:20
    7. Pruning Tool # 7 – plan – my plan is God’s plan (plans for wife, children, education, finances, retirement) – Genesis 40:14-15, 23; 41:1a
  3. Pruning Process # 3– The Lord’s Pruning Cycle of preparation
    1. Pruning prepares you to step into more significant roles
      1. Cycle 1 – Youngest son
      2. Cycle 2 – Overseer at Potiphar’s house
      3. Cycle 3 – Overseer in the prison
      4. Cycle 4 – Leader over the nation
    2. Pruning prepares you to handle more extensive responsibilities
      1. Cycle 1 – Menial tasks, sheep
      2. Cycle 2 – Manage home/business affairs
      3. Cycle 3 – Manage large affairs
      4. Cycle 4 – Manage the economy/policy
    3. Pruning prepares you to handle major tests with godly responses
      1. Cycle 1 – Betrayal and slavery
      2. Cycle 2 – Accusation and prison
      3. Cycle 3 – Forgotten in prison
      4. Cycle 4 – Brothers

The main understanding is that pruning comes first, the fruit comes later.


God prunes all fruit-bearing believers by various methods throughout their lifetime in order to maximize the quality and quality of their fruit.

Conclusion: you can choose to actively rebel and reject, passively resist and remain reluctant, or proactively rest and rejoice.

  1. 1. God wants you to know if He is disciplining or pruning.
  2. 2. Ask yourself if there is any known major sin.
    1. If unclear, ask God to reveal sin in one week – (a reason for the discipline).
    2. You may be in pruning if no sin is revealed
  3. God disciplines His children and desires you to repent.
  4. God prunes His children and desires you to relax and release.

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