When Jesus Is First

“Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are My disciples.” (John 13:35 NLT)

One day, sooner than any of us can imagine, we’ll stand at the threshold of eternity. Looking back across the years of our lives, what will fill our mind as we quickly review every detail? JESUS! In that moment He’s the only thing that will matter.

Too often we get enmeshed in minutiae. We’re distracted from what will be by what might be, but likely what will never be. May I ask you? When will Jesus be first in your life? When will the Kingdom of God be pre-eminent in your thinking and planning? When will your “treasure” be funneled into your heavenly account? When will your family know they matter more than anything on earth to you? When will the people in your sphere of influence see Jesus mirrored in your life?

All of these questions, and many more, can heap shame, guilt, frustration, even anger, resulting in inactivity and/or ineffectiveness as a Christ-follower. Why? Because Jesus IS our goal! Jesus IS our heart’s desire! Jesus IS the center of our universe! So what’s the problem? LIFE!

Too often we fall prey to what Charles E. Hummel referred to as “The Tyranny of the Urgent.” Our minds get so locked onto future events – the next meeting, the next assignment, the next call, the next mortgage payment – that THIS MOMENT is lost. At what cost? We miss the Jesus we’re most desiring to know, love and serve. How do we miss Him? Where is He? Our eternally present Savior is always and only in THIS MOMENT!

A young Pastor asked in his message, “What do you want people to say at your memorial service? … Don’t make them lie!”

My mind raced, but ultimately came to rest on one thought: I want people to say on the occasion of my death: “When I was in Ed’s presence I sensed the presence of Jesus. Jesus is more real to me for having spent time with Ed Hager.”

Okay, so if that’s my “end view,” how then should I live? What decisions will I make? With whom will I spend my time? How will I invest the money and other resources with which the Lord blesses me? In short, how will I allow my ever-present Lord to reveal and magnify His holy presence in and through my life in THIS MOMENT!

Another way to think of this whole process is to ask the question: How can I discipline myself to be aware and intentional about allowing Jesus to be the focus of my every thought? But even as I ask that question, my heart is shouting – “I CAN’T” And my heart is right, I can’t. But what if we gave the Holy Spirit access and permission, regardless of the circumstance, to assume pre-eminence in our thoughts? What might THAT look like? It’s impossible to even imagine all the scenarios of all of our lives and attempt to explain what each of our thoughts should “look” like. Perhaps an illustration will help.

I read a story a number of years ago about a group of salesmen who went to a regional sales convention in Chicago. They had assured their wives that they would be home in plenty of time for Christmas night’s dinner. In their rush through the airport, one of these salesmen inadvertently kicked over a table which held a display of apples. Apples flew everywhere. Without stopping or looking back, they all managed to reach the plane, just in time. All but one. He told the others to go on without him and went back to where the apples were all over the floor. He was glad he did.

The young girl, in charge of the apple stand, was totally blind! She was softly crying, tears running down her cheeks, as she groped for her spilled produce, the crowd swirling about her, rushing to their flights.

The salesman knelt on the floor with her, gathered up the apples, put them back on the table and helped reorganize her display. He set aside the bruised and battered apples in a separate basket. When he had finished, he pulled out his wallet and said to the girl, “Here, please take this $40 for the damage we did. Are you okay?” She nodded through her tears.

He continued, “I hope we didn’t spoil your day too badly.”

As the salesman started to walk away, the bewildered girl called out to him, “Mister….” He paused and turned to look back.

“Are you Jesus?”

He couldn’t get that question out of his head for days. It was such a simple, small-scale event, but it made him see clearly what following Christ was really all about. “Love one another as I have loved you” Jesus said. To be a Christ-follower is to exhibit His loving presence in every circumstance, even if we’re never fully able to grasp what the result may be.

Living with the end in view forces us to focus on the only moment we have. The previous moment is gone. The next moment isn’t promised. Does that mean we don’t plan? Set goals? Prepare for the future? Absolutely, yes! Plan, prepare, set goals, but not at the expense of being denied full presence in this moment.

What’s the point? If Jesus is going to be pre-eminent in our thoughts in the final seconds of our life, why not allow Him to be pre-eminent in THIS MOMENT, regardless of what that entails?

Blessings, Ed 🙂

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