Put First Things First
In one of his books, author Stephen Covey related a story about a professor who placed a one-gallon container on a table in front of him. He then set about a dozen fist-size rocks on the table and, one at a time, placed them into the jar.
After putting all the rocks inside the jug, he asked, “Is this jar full?”
“Yes,” the class said.
He then grabbed a bag of gravel from under the table and proceeded to dump these smaller rocks into the jar. He shook the container, working the smaller pieces into the spaces between the bigger rocks.
“Is the jar full?” he asked again.
“Probably not,” the class said, sensing that he was going to take it a step further.
He then poured a bag of sand into the container and again shook the jar to help the sand fill in all the cracks between the larger rocks and the gravel. Finally, the professor grabbed a pitcher of water and emptied it into the jar, filling it all the way to the brim.
“What is the point of this illustration?” he asked the class.
“No matter how full your schedule is, if you try really hard, you can always fit some more things into it!” one student blurted out.
“No,” said the professor. “The truth this illustration teaches us is: If you don’t put the big rocks in first, you’ll never get them in at all.”
Spiritually speaking, the two biggest rocks we must place into the jar every day have to do with our relationship with God. Prayer and Bible study are our most important activities each day. And unless we get into the habit of placing those two rocks in the jar first, they may not fit into the jar later as it fills with other material.
Galatians 6:7 says, “Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.” As any farmer knows, in order to reap a bountiful harvest, you must first prepare and work the soil, carefully planting each seed and nurturing each plant as it sprouts, protecting it from weeds, watering it, and so on. Then, at the absolute end of that process, you will finally be able to reap the fruit.
The principle God is teaching with this parable is that diligent work and effort always precede fruitful blessings and rewards. And sometimes, those blessings don’t appear until after many months or even years of hard, diligent labor.
We can’t skip all the hard work and rush to the harvest! God says that if we want to reap the blessings of growth and prosperity, we must sow the right way. As Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 9:6, “He which soweth sparingly shall reap also sparingly; and he which soweth bountifully shall reap also bountifully.”
“The light of the body is the eye:” Jesus taught, “if therefore thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light” (Matthew 6:22). If your mind is focused right, then your whole life will be full of light!
Later, Jesus said, “Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment?” (verse 25). God knows we have physical needs (see verses 31-32). What Jesus is saying is that God will help to supply those needs as long as we tend to the spiritual needs first.
Notice! “But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you” (verse 33).
After establishing the right priorities, we must maintain our focus on each of those priorities. “Focus is the most important factor in determining whether you’ll achieve a goal or stick to creating a new habit,” Leo Babauta wrote in The Power of Less: The Fine Art of Limiting Yourself to the Essential … in Business and in Life. “If you can maintain your focus on a goal or habit, you will more often than not achieve that goal or create that habit. If you can’t maintain your focus, you won’t achieve the goal, unless it’s such an easy goal that it would have happened anyway. It’s that simple.”
Our overarching spiritual goal is to seek first the Kingdom of God and God’s righteousness. But we must go after it! As Mr. Armstrong wrote in The Seven Laws of Success, “You must make the decision. You must set this right goal. You must set your will. You must expend your full effort. You must work at overcoming, growing and developing spiritually, and sticking with it. Yet God supplies the all-important ingredient—His power, His love, His faith—His guidance—His life!”
What a fantastic, life-altering promise! Seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness. Make that your first goal—your biggest rock. Then, work to maintain your focus on that singular objective. Put God first, and everything else will fall into place.
Then, at the end of the day, you will have squeezed more into the jar than you ever thought possible!