Priorities affect the composition of our lives. The shapes and pieces God is working with are a direct result of your priority choices on your Life Palette. In Romans 6:16, Paul tells us why this is so critical to our life’s composition: “Don’t you realize that you become the slave of whatever you choose to obey? You can be a slave to sin, which leads to death, or you can choose to obey God, which leads to righteous living.”
A person’s priorities are clearly seen not by what they say they want to achieve, but what they actually do. For instance, if a person says their marriage is a priority and they love their spouse, yet have an extramarital affair once a year; it’s clear having a healthy marriage is not a true priority. Here are a few ways to assure you live according to your priorities and ultimately your full potential.
1. Determine Your Priorities
While I’m not going to give you a list of priorities for your life, I do want to give you a starting point that will help you focus and realign your priorities on your Life Palette. Paul shows you where to begin when he says, “This is the secret: Christ lives in you . . . ” (Colossians 1:27) That’s the basis for a great life composition. Then the next step is to spend time prayerfully considering what priorities God would have you set. James 1:5 says, “If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and he will give it to you. He will not rebuke you for asking.” God wants to instruct you in your priorities. He is the ultimate source of guidance and He has revealed Himself clearly through His Word. Confirm what you sense through prayer with the Bible. He will never go against Scripture.
You should also seek wise counsel from others as you seek His priorities for your Life Palette, but be warned: wise counsel only comes from wise people. It’s dangerous to seek the counsel of someone who will just agree with you. Often the best advice is contrary to your own desires. The apostle Paul himself sought the wise counsel of the other disciples in Acts 9 after spending three years praying and preparing for ministry.
Finally, ask God to help you condense your priorities to only a few. We live in a day and time when we celebrate multitasking and think we can do it all. I find it interesting that the person who is usually doing way too much is usually the one trying to convince me they’re great at multitasking. Typically, we are not as good at it as we think we are and the results prove it. We end up being mediocre at many things. As my dad used to say, “Jack of all trades, master of none.”
2. Decisions And Discipline
One of the things I love about the approach of each New Year is how everyone stops to consider their priorities and how they intend to live them out in the coming 12 months. As a pastor I try to take advantage of New Years with a teaching to help people make true life-changing commitments. The unfortunate part of the New Year’s reflection is it comes but once a year. We tend to overlook the power of daily choices regarding our priorities. We underestimate the importance of what we do each day and overestimate the importance of what we do weekly, monthly or yearly. The sad result is we often squander our days waiting for some big moment to move us. The success of living our priorities on our Life Palette is found in our daily choices. We win or lose each day by the way we choose.
These choices center around two things God uses to paint our lives as masterpieces: decisions and discipline. Each is very different. Many people make a New Year’s resolution to lose weight—a decision. However when asked if they are making plans to give up their favorite food or dessert, they’re not quite ready to go that far. They lack discipline.
There is incredible power in a simple decision, but it must be in line with the priorities of our Life Palette. Most people grossly underestimate the cost of making a decision that goes against a priority. Discipline, too, is an incredible gift God has given us for success; but following through on the daily disciplines necessary to live out the priorities of our Life Palette is not easy.
3. Organize Or Agonize
God is a God of organization. It doesn’t take much research to see and understand this truth. Just look at our solar system. God is a God of systems. Without a good system in any area of our lives, we agonize. Notice I said good system, because we do everything by systems, both good and bad.
Our lives are lived around systems. God designed it that way. Yet it’s so important that we are intentional in using these systems. The key is to initiate. In what areas of your life are you allowing a bad system—the way you do something—to hinder your Life Palette? A poor system for any area of your life will result in you agonizing over it. The more organized you are, the more you create an environment for God to balance the composition of your life.
4. Keep Your Priorities In Place
Trophies are not handed out at the beginning of a race. They come at the finish line. Finishing the race is a result of living by your priorities every day. Paul said in 2 Timothy 4:7, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, and I have remained faithful.” One of the tools for helping you finish the race is to keep your priorities in place, and live by them every day. At the end of each day ask yourself, “How did I do in living out the priorities I’ve prayerfully determined?” Make a decision to eliminate anything that goes against your priorities. Be brutal. You must work daily on your Life Palette to ensure you live according to the priorities God has set before you. When you are tired and weary, remember the trophy at the finish line: a masterpiece. His masterpiece.
Leonardo da Vinci is noted for saying, “Paintings are never finished; they’re just abandoned.” Fortunately, da Vinci is not the artist of your life. God will finish the good work He has begun composing on the canvas of your life and He will never abandon you. You must do your part to reach your potential; know and live your priorities.
(Adapted from my book Life Palette, Chapter 5, Good, Bad And Ugly)