The New Year is a time of renewing, reevaluating, and reprioritizing. It is a time to start over again. But if you are like me, the best intentions for a new exercise regimen or a new improved devotional plan seem to fade as quickly as they are made. Mid-course changes are normal and essential. So before you begin another no-fail round of self-improvements, it's a good idea to make sure your priorities are on target. No one wants to develop discipline in one area of life, only to discover you've missed something much more important somewhere else.
To that end, we'd like to offer the following quiz, extracted from the first message of the series, "Biblical Priorities." Find a pen and take 60 seconds right now to do a quick inventory on your present priorities. At the end, see how you scored. Who knows, you may need to make a few of those "mid-course adjustments" to make this your best fall ever.
Six Symptoms of Misplaced Priorities
1. Excessive Busyness
How to know: People who love you are saying "slow down" (1 point). You feel held hostage by time; your clock has become the enemy (2 points). Your kids are clinging to your leg right now (2 points).
How to know: You are uptight, experiencing chest pains, having trouble sleeping (2 points). You are restless, uneasy (2 points). It's hard to make decisions (1 point). You're not very happy (3 points). You have a feeling of being totally worn out (4 points).
3. Low Grade, Nagging Guilt
How to know: You feel bad about yourself, unfulfilled. There are a lot of things you know are important (that you even tell others to do), that you're not doing. It's getting to you, robbing you of peace, and you're feeling like a hypocrite (5 points).
4. Mounting Financial Pressure
How to know: Money's tight for you. Credit card bills are piling up, and debt continues to rise (5 points). There always seems to be too much "month" left at the end of the money (3 points). A budget, to you, is a "good idea," not something you're practicing right now (3 points). You're doing research on the difference between Chapter Eleven and Chapter Thirteen (8 points). You're not giving your first portion to the Lord, and you can't see any way in the world to do it… which adds to your guilt (5 points).
5. Spiritual Leakage
How to know: Your prayers consist mostly of quick, one-sided conversations in the shower or the car (5 points). You pray mostly with others, but not much alone (4 points). You don't feel close to God (3 points), you feel like you're on a spiritual roller coaster (3 points). Your Bible reading is hit and miss - more miss than hit (5 points). You feel like you're drifting spiritually, but can't find time to turn things around (5 points).
6. Escapism Behavior
How to know: You find yourself finding ways to "get away," not to relax, but to escape responsibility. You're developing habits of impulse buying (2 points), thrill seeking (1 point), purposeless driving (1 point), lots of eating out (3 points), excessive television (4 points). You recently took a vacation you couldn't afford, just because you couldn't "take it" anymore (7 points).
Add your total from each category:
Excessive Busyness _______________________
Low Grade/Nagging Guilt __________________
Mounting Financial Pressure ________________
Spiritual Leakage ________________________
Escapism Behavior ________________________
0-3 points Congratulations! You should teach a seminar.
6-15 points You're off to a good start, with only some minor mid-course corrections to make.
16-30 points It's time to make some major changes in your life. Get ready!
31-50 points The trends in your life have you headed for disaster, and you need to make radical changes.
51 + points Danger Zone! Do not proceed without getting immediate help.
As you can see, misplaced priorities can be destructive in multiple areas of our lives. Symptoms that may seem "temporary" concessions on the front end, appearing as minor aberrations, are the gateways to disaster. But don't be discouraged! God has given us clear directives on how to find genuine peace, fulfillment and productivity in our lives.
About the author: Chip Ingram is President of Walk Thru the Bible in Atlanta, GA, and Teaching Pastor of Living on the Edge, a national radio ministry.