In Luke 9, there’s a sad account of at least 2 men who missed out on their destinies. These men received an invitation from Jesus to follow Him and they both responded: “I will follow you but first, let me…” [Luke 9:59-62]. These men may not have fully understood what they were turning down, but we now do. Yet, many of us continue to repeat their mistake and veer further away from God’s will for us. Each day, Jesus extends the same invitation to us to follow Him [Mark 8:34]. Consequently, we’re faced with a daily choice to prioritise following Jesus or our desires and responsibilities.
Scripture reminds us that God has a good plan for each of us [Psalm 139:17, Jeremiah 29:11]. However, since God never violates our free will, His plan requires our cooperation to materialise. Yet, like the men who turned Jesus down, there’s often an excuse between us and God’s plan for us. Oftentimes, these excuses seem legitimate, and others would even agree with our choices, but ultimately, we lose out when we don’t cooperate with God. So, what excuses have you given God recently? Do your priorities put God first and align you with His plan for your life? Have you told God, “I will follow you but first, let me…”?
We all yearn for the same basic needs – food, shelter and clothing. However, once those needs are met, we aspire to attain other things, often informed by our desires. So, we strive for power, wealth, influence, status, accolades, etc. Additionally, we may also be responsible for others like children, parents, communities and so on. These responsibilities, along with our desires, often determine our priorities. For instance, if you’re a parent, you’ll probably desire to earn more money to give your children a certain quality of life. As such, for many of us, life can easily become all about attaining our aspirations and fulfilling responsibilities.
Our aspirations may be good, and our desire to fulfil our responsibilities laudable, but both can lead us away from God’s plan for our lives. This is my key takeaway from that passage in Luke 9. I grew up erroneously thinking that being a Christian meant I had to choose between God and fulfilling my desires, but the psalmist tells us that God doesn’t withhold good things from those in right standing with Him [Psalm 84:11]. For instance, God wants us to prosper, but not at the expense of our souls [3 John 1:2]. God wants us to have sex but within the context of marriage [1 Corinthians 7:3-5]. God doesn’t just want us to scrap through life, He wants us to live abundant lives [John 10:10].
God desires to shower us with material and spiritual blessings [Deuteronomy 28:1-14, Ephesians 1:3]. Interestingly, these blessings are the very things many of us strive for. So, this implies that the issue isn’t our desires but pursuing or attaining those desires outside God’s will for us. God knows that even good things will destroy us without the boundaries He sets. He knows that our desires and responsibilities become idols if they hold a higher place in our hearts than Him. So, Jesus says to all of us: “seek first God’s kingdom and His righteousness, and all other things will be added to you” [Matthew 6:33]. I wonder how many of us believe this promise. Do we truly trust that God is capable of fulfilling our deepest longings?
I think that one of the tragedies of life is attaining our goals and finding no contentment. I remember a time in my life I sacrificed deepening my relationship with God to chase a promotion, only to find the elation of my accomplishment short-lived. It’s not worth it, but unfortunately, many of us repeat this mistake often. We procrastinate or deprioritise spiritual disciplines which would draw us closer to God in the pursuit of our desires and responsibilities. We say things like: “I don’t have time right now for….” Or “let me first get or do…then I will”. My intention isn’t to cause guilt, but we must realise that following God isn’t something we do at our convenience, there’s a cost [Luke 14:25-33].
I believe that the men in Luke 9 would have followed Jesus if they didn’t have competing priorities. Likewise, I’d also like to believe that many of us would spend more time praying, studying and meditating on God’s word if we didn’t have competing priorities. We would have a better relationship with God as we learn His precepts and obediently apply His principles. We would also hear more from God as He directs us into His will for us as we spend more quality time with Him. How much better would our lives be if this was the case? Think of how differently the lives of those men in Luke 9 would have been if they had chosen to follow Jesus.
Unfortunately, there will always be competing priorities. But, it’s the devil’s lie that we have to choose between following God and our desires and responsibilities. God is the one who gave us our desires. He gave them to us because He intended to satisfy them. Similarly, God gave us our responsibilities because He intended to equip us to meet them. He understands the challenges we face, and He is also aware of the difficulties of competing priorities [Hebrews 4:15]. Nevertheless, we must come to a place where we truly believe that there’s nothing good we desire that God doesn’t want to give us.
Ultimately, God has given us just two priorities: Seeking His Kingdom and a right relationship with Him. This is the key to all we desire, as well as finding contentment. Conversely, the devil wants us to chase and obtain our desires and responsibilities without God. The former prospers our soul and the latter destroys it, but the choice is ours.