Getting My Priorities Straight

By Catiana Nak Kheiyn

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For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it. —Hebrews 12:11
When it comes to developing good habits, I often feel like the laziest person on the face of the planet. I want to read the Bible for my own personal study, not just as a part of researching for my ministry job. I want to exercise regularly, but I can't make myself get up an hour earlier than everyone else and use that time to do it. I want to write every day, but my brain cannot function in the morning, and by evening, I am too exhausted to string words into coherent sentences. How can a working mom with a house full of needy beings get anything beyond the survival essentials done?

Exercising self-discipline takes proper motivation and time and repetition and steadfastness, then wash, rinse, repeat. And having someone to cheer you on never hurts.

Okay, I'm not a complete failure when it comes to dedication to good habits. Since my kids started school, I have made it a stringent rule to finish my work by the time they get home so I can focus on them. For almost four years, I've hosted a weekly get together for a group of young people God has placed in my life. For six years, I participated in National Novel Writing Month, a challenge to write a 50,000-word novel in 30 days, which added six new novels to my original works. For 365 consecutive days, I took a photo a day for Project 365. Not terribly shabby really.

Thus, my frustration about developing good habits. I know I can do it. Seems I'm just too lazy most of the time. I desperately want to have self-discipline in different areas, yet I must not want it badly enough to start. "The soul of the sluggard craves and gets nothing, while the soul of the diligent is richly supplied" (Proverbs 13:4). Can you relate? How do we get out of this funk and start reaping the benefits of self-discipline? Let's start by asking some pointed questions.

What are your priorities?

One thing I have realized is that the only good habits that last are the ones I place the most importance on. As you can tell from my list above, people are a high priority to me — my kids, my friends. That doesn't mean personal Bible study, exercise, or writing are not valuable disciplines to develop. But I do need to figure out where they go on my priority list.

Scripture says we need to have our priorities straight if we are going to accomplish anything worthwhile (Matthew 6:33; Luke 12:34; 1 Timothy 3:5). Jesus tells us exactly what our first two priorities should be in Matthew 22:37-39, "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself." The J.O.Y. acronym my kids learned in Sunday school helps me properly prioritize: Jesus-Others-You.

1. Jesus. Prayer. Bible study. Worship. If my relationship with God is weak, then how can I possibly be a mentor to anyone else, much less accomplish things for my own good?

2. Serving others. We need to use our gifts to help people with the purpose of glorifying God (1 Peter 4:10-11). Truly, it is more blessed to give than to receive (Acts 20:35). There is nothing I enjoy more than lavishing love and hospitality on the people who walk through my front door.

3. Taking care of our own mental and physical health. Our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit and should be well cared for so we can be ready to attend to our top two priorities when called (1 Corinthians 6:19-20). God has great things planned for us to do, and the healthier we are overall, the better equipped we will be to do it (Psalm 139:14-16).

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Published 9-17-14