A Rock-Solid Way to Prioritize

Blind Faith (No. 34, 2017)
Weekly Devotional for August 24, 2017
A Rock-Solid Way to Prioritize

NOTE: I had not planned to re-run the following Blind Faith before ending
posts next month. My writing schedule took a back seat with the peaceable
death of my mother-in-law this week, however. She – and other readers –
liked the image in the devotional. Enjoy it again – and give thanks to God
for a woman whose way of life resembled this:

Modern parables that have true “staying power” don’t come along
very often. Illustrations abound in speeches and sermons, but pithy,
striking images that can vividly imprint themselves in your mind and easily
reappear when life presents situations similar to the parable are much more

Setting priorities correctly touches everything we do at church,
home, work, school, or wherever we spend our time. Stephen Covey tells about
one of his associates attending a time-management conference where the
seminar leader presented this memorable modern parable. It has been repeated
in countless sermons, speeches, and online postings since Covey included it
in his book, First Things First. Stephen Covey has demonstrated the parable
countless times himself. The following version is slightly shortened and
edited from the book:

One day an expert in time management was speaking to a group of business
students. As he stood in front of the group of high-powered over-achievers
he said, “Okay, it’s time for a quiz.” Reaching under the table, he pulled
out a wide-mouthed gallon jar and set it on the table next to a platter
covered with fist-sized rocks. “How many of these rocks do you think we can
get in the jar?” he asked the audience.
After the students made their guesses, the seminar leader said, “Okay, let’s
find out.” He put one rock in the jar, then another, then another–until no
more rocks
would fit. Then he asked, “Is the jar full?”
Everybody could see that not one more of the rocks would fit, so they said,
“Not so fast,” he cautioned. From under the table he lifted out a bucket of
gravel, dumped it in the jar, and shook it. The gravel slid into all the
little spaces left by the big rocks. Grinning, the seminar leader asked once
more, “Is the jar full?”
A little wiser by now, the students responded, “Probably not.”
“Good,” the teacher said. Then he reached under the table to bring up a
bucket of sand. He started dumping the sand in the jar. While the students
watched, the sand filled in the little spaces left by the rocks and gravel.
Once more he looked at the class and said, “Now, is the jar full?”
“No,” everyone shouted back.
“Good!” said the seminar leader, who then grabbed a pitcher of water and
began to pour it into the jar. He got something like a quart of water into
that jar before he said, “Ladies and gentlemen, the jar is now full. Can
anybody tell me the lesson you can learn from this? What’s my point?”
An eager participant spoke up: “Well, there are gaps in your schedule. And
if you really work at it, you can always fit more into your life.”
“No,” the leader said. “That’s not the point. The point is this: if I hadn’t
put those big rocks in first, I would never have gotten them in.”
(Paraphrased from Stephen R. Covey, A. Roger Merrill, and Rebecca R.
Merrill, First Things First, Free Press, 1996, pp. 88-90)

Identifying the big rocks, gravel, sand, and water allusions in your own
life is helped greatly by the vivid visual image of the parable.

One big rock, according to Jesus, is setting our highest
priority as living the way God designed us to live. The Bible verse I have
quoted most often in these devotionals states Jesus’ teaching clearly. In
the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said, ” The thing you should want most is
God’s kingdom and doing what God wants. Then all these other things you need
will be given to you.” (Matthew 6:33 NCV) Food, clothing, and personal
appearance are some of the sand and gravel Jesus mentioned specifically just
before he called for putting the big rock of living responsibly as a citizen
of the Kingdom of God in our lives first.

Paul had an impressive resume` which he recited on several
occasions. He was highly educated in the best schools. He was a full Roman
citizen. He was a respected religious leader. His star had blazed brightly
among his contemporaries when he was a young man. But Paul would certainly
have called all these laudable factors in his life just more sand and
gravel, (actually, he called them something much less!) when compared to the
essential rock of Jesus Christ in his life. Another of my favorite passages
of scripture conveys Paul’s testimony: ” I once thought all these things
were so very important, but now I consider them worthless because of what
Christ has done. {8} Yes, everything else is worthless when compared with
the priceless gain of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. I have discarded
everything else, counting it all as garbage, so that I may have Christ {9}
and become one with him. I no longer count on my own goodness or my ability
to obey God’s law, but I trust Christ to save me.” (Philippians 3:7-9a NLT)

Jesus seems to recognize how constantly we are tempted to fill our lives
with what we think of as the “nitty gritty” matters of life, many of which
simply turn out to be gravel and sand. As important as families, homes,
jobs, financial security, education, and all our other daily concerns may
appear from our point of view, if we fill our lives with those concerns
first, we may not find room for our relationship with Christ. But if we miss
following Jesus, we miss foundation-sized rocks that will sustain us all the
way through eternity. Jesus was clear about this with his disciples: “Then
Peter said, ‘We’ve left everything to follow you.’ {29} Jesus said to them,
‘I can guarantee this truth: Anyone who gave up his home, wife, brothers,
parents, or children because of the kingdom of God {30} will certainly
receive many times as much in this life and will receive eternal life in the
world to come.'” (Luke 18:28-30 GWT)

Can you identify the big rocks that need to go in your jar?.
What about sifting out all the sand and gravel that always want to fill your
jar prematurely A little of this, a little of that, and soon no room is
left for what really matters, personally following Jesus and loving others
the way he does. But get those rocks settled and other concerns will snug up
around Jesus’ kind of love very well.

J. Edward Culpepper
(Edited from Blind Faith, August 7, 2008)

Dear Blind Faith Readers:

Blind Faith will retire as a weekly devotional with my 65th
birthday next month. I have enjoyed writing and sharing these promptings to
recognize God’s presence in events of each day, the enduring witness of
scripture, and other testimonies of faith. I have sensed that the time has
come for me to pursue other avenues of service, although the scope of such
opportunities is not fully evident to me yet. I am looking forward to God
guiding me to new endeavors as he has done in the past.

The last weekly posting of Blind Faith will be September 13. I
anticipate that Blind Faith devotionals may appear intermittently “as the
Spirit moves.” Weekly posts will not be the case. I deeply appreciate the
privilege you have given me of visiting via your e-mail In-box or FaceBook
news feed each week. Thank you for your responses, forwards, re-posts, and
faithful reading of Blind Faith. I will continue to pray that God will use
nearly 12 years of these writings spread across cyber-space to encourage and
build faith as he sees fit.

I borrow my concluding words from Peter’s reflections over his
ministry. This is what I have sought to do and pray that God will continue
to do through me:

do your best to add these things to your lives: to your faith, add goodness;
and to your goodness, add knowledge; {6} and to your knowledge, add
self-control; and to your self-control, add patience; and to your patience,
add service for God; {7} and to your service for God, add kindness for your
brothers and sisters in Christ; and to this kindness, add love. {8} If all
these things are in you and are growing, they will help you to be useful and
productive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.. {12} You know these
things, and you are very strong in the truth, but I will always help you
remember them. {13} I think it is right for me to help you remember .. {15}
I will try my best so that you may be able to remember these things even
after I am gone. (2 Peter 1:5-8, 12-13a, 15 NCV)

God’s blessings,
Ed Culpepper