This One Thing

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So there you are, studying for your upcoming exam, preparing for that big presentation, waking up before the sparrows to get in a bit of exercise, spending time in personal devotion, working a full day at the office, cooking, cleaning, disciplining, reading . . .

You get the picture. Life in the big city in 2011 is busy and there are huge demands placed on our time and resources from all corners. And it’s not like we can just decide not to do those things. We must put our shoulder to the wheel at work, we have to prepare for exams and presentations, and we really do need to exercise!

But how do we fit it all in without wrecking ourselves in the process?

At this point in any discussion on this topic, somebody usually pipes up: “It’s all about balance.” Achieving balance and harmony in the various aspects of life is widely purported to be the cure for the malady of over-commitment and burnout. We are told to prioritise our activities and then apportion relevant amounts of time and effort to each—and with this we can fully agree. The whole premise of the argument proposed in this article states exactly that. Set your priorities and then plan according to those priorities. The disagreement arises when we are asked to identify what those priorities are.

In Philippians 3:13-14, the apostle Paul, himself a very busy, multifaceted individual, states his priorities when he writes,

Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.

The emphasis here is the singleminded determination, the wholehearted zeal and passion, to do just one thing. This came from a man who was always busy doing many things: travelling, writing, debating, evangelising, tent-making, teaching and preaching. How could he claim to be pursuant of just one thing if he was doing all these things? Simply put, he got his priorities straight.

Perhaps he came to think and act this way after hearing that Jesus had said, in the Sermon on the Mount, that we are to seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, at which time all these other things would be added to us. Almost certainly he had readDavid’s similar expression in Psalm 27:4: “One thing have I desired of the LORD, that will I seek after; that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the LORD, and to enquire in his temple.”

Whatever led him to such an ordering of priorities, it is clear that he devoted his life and ordered his activities by the principle of having a single passion. In later years, he could therefore justifiably write to younger believers and instruct them in this regard. He instructed the Colossians (3:17), the Ephesians (5:20) and the Corinthians (1 Corinthians 10:31), and through his writings he instructs us today, to live with the single passion of glorifying God.

So forget “balance.” Become completely unbalanced. Do one thing only! Exalt Jesus Christ and glorify our Father in heaven. Work, study, play, eat, sleep and drive declaring who the sovereign Lord of all is. Whatever you do, do it well and with all your might as to the Lord, not to please men. The amazing benefit that we derive from honouring God primarily is that all the secondary issues and concerns—our anxieties and perceived needs—will be taken care of. So study for God’s glory, negotiate that business deal and push it up the next hill to exalt Him.

Isn’t it the deepest blessing to be able to leave all the other bits that give us ulcers and grey hair in His competent hands?

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