In school I once heard a teacher say, “If you don’t choose the right answer, it doesn’t matter which wrong one you pick.”
Elder Neal A. Maxwell once said something similar. “If, in the end, you have not chosen Jesus Christ it will not matter what you have chosen.” This is so very true; second-best doesn’t always count.
If someone asked us to list our priorities, of course we would put Jesus Christ at the top—but in mortality we will inevitably lose our footing. We will wonder how we can exemplify our beliefs better. How can we show what we know?
Here are five thoughts that may help you re-design your life:
- First, are you all in? Do you really believe in a living, loving Savior and in a living, loving God? Do you believe Christ’s gospel was restored in these latter days? If your testimony burns brightly, start each day with gratitude for what you know is true. Plan your day with this as the focal point. President Russell M. Nelson said, “The joy we feel has little to do with the circumstances of our lives and everything do to with the focus of our lives.”
Some people find it helps to use symbols and signs to keep them centered—a CTR ring, a motto on the wall, religious music, paintings of Christ, whatever reminds them to keep the Lord first. When it comes to priorities, I like the phrase, “The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing.”
- Pare down on all the emotional clutter and extraneous things that can crowd out spirituality. Watch for Satan’s cleverly disguised distractions. As St. Augustine once said, “God wants to give us something, but cannot, because our hands are full — there’s nowhere for Him to put it.”
- Be willing to sacrifice. Ponder this important principle. We really can’t have one foot in Zion and one in Babylon. Look at the things that have risen in importance in your life, and weigh them carefully. Is anything depleting you of the energy and time it takes to worship? Are we sometimes so busy that we’re unavailable to God? Do we justify little things that become big wedges between you and the things you value most? Ask hard questions and be willing to make hard choices that reflect the answers you find.
I love the story President Hinckley once shared, of a young man who found the gospel while studying in the U.S. President Hinckley asked him what would happen when he returned to his native home a Christian. “My family will be disappointed,” the young man answered. “They may cast me out and regard me as dead. As for my future and my career, all opportunity may be foreclosed against me.”
“Are you willing to pay so great a price for the gospel?” President Hinckley asked.
And, with tears in his eyes, the young man answered, “It’s true, isn’t it? Then what else matters?” Truly here was a man with the confidence and courage that comes when our priorities are straight.
- Realize that your purpose here really does matter. We’re not just to tick off boxes (education, job, house, kids, etc.) but to impact those around us. We need to be more enthusiastic missionaries. We need to fully grasp the importance of Family History. We are to love and serve those around us. It may seem that life is swirling with options, but we needn’t be confused about which “good” thing to put first.
President Dallin H. Oaks said, “Jesus taught about priorities when He said, ‘Seek not the things of this world but seek ye first to build up the kingdom of God, and to establish his righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you’ (JST, Matt. 6:38, in Matt. 6:33). “Seek … first to build up the kingdom of God” means to assign first priority to God and to His work…”
- Remember that this only sounds hard until you actually do it. Once you commit to making Christ your top priority, you’ll be astounded at how free you feel. You won’t anger as easily, you won’t tire as easily, you won’t feel confusion about decisions that puzzled you before. President Ezra Taft Benson said, “When we put God first, all other things fall into their proper place or drop out of our lives. Our love of the Lord will govern the claims of our affection, the demands on our time, the interests we pursue, and the order of our priorities.”
Our love of the Lord. There it is, the key to everything. For young or old, instead of grappling with a decision about what’s okay morally and what’s not, decide how much you love the Lord. You won’t want to cause Him anguish and now you know exactly how to behave.
You’re arguing with your spouse. But suddenly you picture the Savior right there in the room with you, disappointed in your tone and words. Instantly your love for Him outweighs the disagreement and you beg forgiveness.
Your boss asks you to do something dishonest, possibly even illegal. Times are tough and you really need this job. But then you remember the Lord, and suddenly it isn’t even difficult to say no to your boss. You know that even if you get fired, you’ll be able to live with yourself. And you have faith that God will lead you to a better job.
In the grand scheme of things, God wants our hearts. He wants our devotion, our obedience to the commandments, our very best efforts to be like Christ. Do we have to be perfect? No. But we have to be facing the right way, earnestly trying to improve. We have to realize that how we live our lives actually tells a story—the story of our real priorities.
Hilton’s books, humor blog, and Youtube Mom videos can be found on her website. She currently serves as an Inter-Faith Specialist for Church Communications.