What’s the difference between urgency and priority? In John 11, Lazarus’ death was urgent. But Jesus waited. By the time Jesus finally arrived, Lazarus had been dead for four days. Both Mary and Martha greeted Jesus, “Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died.” (NKJV). Why wouldn’t Jesus hurry when he knew Lazarus was dying? Because there was a greater purpose behind waiting, there was a priority greater than the urgency.
This happens in life too. I work at a small non-profit that encourages kids to memorize and study Scripture. It’s been an amazing experience to not only understand the behind the scenes that goes on at a place like this, but to hear the testimonies of the families as they go through it. There are many challenges and trials in this kind of ministry, but the one we seem to struggle with most often is the temptation of urgency. Each day there are so many demands and functions that have to happen in order to keep the wheels turning. It’s exhausting. And as we all work on our own projects and deadlines within the company, we sometimes lose sight of the big picture. When this happens, work quickly becomes a noisy mess as everyone is advocating for their own emergencies.
Take this as an example, I have a full-time job and have just started my masters. If I forget to prioritize or slack off and find out I have a paper due tomorrow for my masters, it’s tempting to skip work and focus on that. I forget that the only reason I’m able to return to school is because of my job. I take it for granted and soon, I lose both opportunities. The urgency of the paper took precedence over the priority of work.
We do this in our Christian walk as well. The world is screaming at us that if we don’t do something RIGHT NOW then everything is ruined. The live-in-the-moment mentality takes over, and things that are truly important are put on the back burner. And when our lives ever slow down, we instantly think something is wrong and begin to busy ourselves with random things so we appear to be a “good” Christian.
No one is guaranteed tomorrow. This is most certainly correct. But we cannot use that idiom to ignore the call of discipleship. We cannot allow the things that are urgent today to take over priorities. It is not enough to call people to Christ. The urgency to tell others about Christ is there and real, but if we dine and dash and leave without teaching them the principles and foundation of faith, then what have we accomplished?
It may seem like a daunting or even impossible task, but in Matthew 11:28-30, Jesus says to His disciples “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (ESV). Answering God’s call is not an easy one, but we have never been called to do it alone. In light of the emergencies and frenzy of everyday life, we have a Savior to turn to. As we head into the holiday season, as life hectic and urgency incessantly knocks, we need to immerse ourselves in Scripture and daily remind ourselves of the priorities we have in Christ.