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Balancing Life's Demands - How To Put First Things First, Part 1

Living on the Edge / Chip Ingram
The Truth Network Radio
January 1, 2024 5:00 am

Balancing Life's Demands - How To Put First Things First, Part 1

Living on the Edge / Chip Ingram

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January 1, 2024 5:00 am

Is your “to-do” list too long? Do you have too many people wanting your attention? If you’re struggling to keep all the balls in the air, join Chip Ingram for Living on the Edge today as he shares how you can put first things first.

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Is your to-do list too long? Do you have too many people wanting your attention? Are you juggling too many balls and you wonder, God, how do I slow this down?

How do I get my life under control? If that's you, stay with me. We're going to talk today about how to put first things first. Welcome to this Edition of Living on the Edge with Chip Ingram. The mission of these daily programs is to intentionally disciple Christians through the Bible teaching of Chip Ingram. You know, I think it's safe to say we all can relate to that overwhelmed feeling Chip described. When there's a lot going on in life, whether it's work, home, or personally, it can be like trying to chase down a runaway train. So today, Chip continues his series balancing life's demands by helping us slow life down and reprioritize what matters most.

This is a vital lesson we all could be reminded of. So let me encourage you to share this message with someone in your life, either through the Chip Ingram app or by downloading the free MP3s that you'll find at Okay, go in your Bibles to Hebrews Chapter 12, as we join Chip for his talk, How to Put First Things First. I was a pretty new Christian, and I had this amazing opportunity to ask Howard Hendricks.

He was one of my heroes and mentors, and I got to ask him anything I could ask, anything you wanted to ask him. And so I grew up in a very dysfunctional church, one that didn't teach the Bible and had a lot of hypocrisy. And then I ended up in a small parachurch ministry where everybody I knew for the first three years I was a Christian, I mean everybody, everyone got up and read the Bible, everyone memorized two or three verses a week, everyone was in a Bible study. Once you got to a certain point, no one said it, but you just knew someone has helped you, now you need to help someone else. Everyone was in some sort of a mentoring relationship where I knew that Jerry was helping me and I was helping the two guys on my floor and I was helping the two guys on my floor. And so we went from about four or five people in his living room to 250 college students in personal Bible study on a secular campus.

It's all I knew. And then I kind of got onto the real world and I met all these Christians that said they love God. And by the way, I'm not saying that everyone needs to do all those things in that way.

Please don't hear that, you know, that's a list of things everyone needs to do. All I'm saying is all the Christians I knew were really, I didn't know they were like not committed Christians and committed Christians. You know what I'm saying? It's just those are the only ones I ever met and the ones before, you know, that was a bad scene growing up. And I remember getting with Prof Hendricks and I said, Prof, will you tell me something? You know, you always ask like, you know, oh, great poo-paw of wisdom and knowledge, you know.

And I got to really know him, he's just a regular guy with lots of wisdom and knowledge. I said, why is there so much hypocrisy? You know, once I saw it, I just saw, why is there just so much hypocrisy in the church?

And I'll never forget, you know, he said, Chip, I think it might go to something like this. Most people live with two sets of priorities. They have one set of priority that they have written down on a list.

And if you ask them, they sincerely believe it. God's first, family, you know, family, ministry, work, and they have that on a list, but they have another set and that's how they actually live. And so we have people whose lives are over here and their list is over here and we have this amazing ability to not see that they don't line up.

The reason why most of us live with two sets of priorities, I want to give you three reasons here just to get us going. First, we are deceived. We're deceived. We honestly don't see the discrepancy between what we think and say and how we actually live. And by the way, it's true of all of us. This isn't like the bad people and the good people.

This is like, are you really, really deceived, fairly deceived, or just a little deceived, right? I mean, welcome to the human race. The second reason we have lived with two sets of priorities is we are afraid. Though we long sincerely to put first things first, we simply do not believe that God will supply our needs if we give him the first portion of our time, our lives, and our money. I mean, you don't understand, I can't squeeze in, I mean, I'm overwhelmed and you're asking me to add, you know, 15 minutes or a half hour or 45 minutes to be with God first.

You know, it's kind of like some of you looked at, are you on drugs, man? You understand I got three kids? You understand I got six grandkids? And see, if you believe that when you give the first and the best to God, he will begin to clear things and provide in ways. So a lot of us don't put things first and don't live by biblical priorities because it's really an unbelief issue that's rooted in fear. You know, we've got debts, we've got pain, I'm overwhelmed, give the first portion of my money.

See, when you do that, it forces a chain reaction of if you give the first portion, you think, oh, now what are we going to do? You're going to trust God. And if you're not on a budget, you probably have to get on one. You probably have to figure out where your money's actually going. You probably have to make some priority decisions. You probably have to do some crazy stuff like, well, I guess we could cut off that satellite and maybe the cable and you know what? I had no idea we tracked it for one month.

You know, $395 of eating out, gosh, this is only half of the month. How did we do it? When you begin to take those steps, God will show you things. But see, we're afraid. And so, and it feels overwhelming when we're afraid. And so most of us with this whole priority issue, we nod, we nod.

Yeah, well, I need to address that someday. Monday hits, emails hit, it's got to go here, go here. And most of what we talk about apart from some who say, God, I really want to hear, I really want to change, I really want to grow. It'll be almost life as normal two weeks from now. The third reason we live with two sets of priorities is we have failed repeatedly.

Our sincere and honest efforts to put first things first in the past lasted only a short time and ended with frustration and disillusionment with ourselves. Let's face it, how many have started on a diet and not doing so well? How many have had a little card in our wallet somewhere that says fitness center that we've actually paid for? And they're making a ton on it because let's see if it's $150 for a year or $200 or $300 and you go twice, that's like $75 a visit.

They're really doing well. How many of us said, God, I'm really going to start meeting with you and you did it for two, three, four mornings and right. And you know, you're human, I'm human. So in those areas where God has spoken to us in the past and we're going to put first things first, how about this one?

Have you had one of these? I am really serious this time, right? Hey, I mean, I'm, I'm, I'm really, I mean, I'm going to get in shape. I'm going to walk with God.

I'm going to start mentoring someone. We are going to simplify. We're going to start, we're going to get under control.

And like maybe, I mean for you, like obsessive compulsive, super disciplined people, it lasts about two weeks maybe. And you know, once you fail a number of times, then you know what you do? You just start saying, uh, one, we don't say it anymore. And two, there's this battle that goes on.

Yeah, I want that God. I hear that those tools of my money and my time. I don't want to go there. I've tried this before and I failed and I failed. And so what I want to talk to you about this morning is I'm going to get very, very practical and I want to talk about what I think is the secret, if you will. Um, the missing ingredient, what it is, what is it that brings the list that I intellectually would write down and my life is demonstrated and played out by how I actually do things. What is it that brings those things together so they're the same?

What's the missing ingredient to living out your priorities? First it's a rarely used word. We're going to go sort of in a little inductive journey together.

Okay. It's a rarely used word. Second, it's a fruit of the spirit. It's a fruit of the spirit. So this missing ingredient isn't something that you can do. It's something that is a part of what you already possess in Christ, but it's allowing the spirit of God to produce this in your life. Third, it comes to us by grace. Whatever this is, this missing ingredient, it comes to us by grace. So it's not about trying hard. Most of you have already told you've tried the trying hard.

It doesn't work. Four, we admire it in other people. When we see this in other people, we go, whoa, man, that's neat.

We admire it. It's essential for putting first things first. This is, a lot of people start well, don't finish well because of this.

And the word, are you ready? Again, you just sort of swallow hard. The word is discipline. Some translations say self-control. If that makes you feel better, you can write in self-control, but it's discipline. I mean, we love it when we see it in other people.

We admire it. It's part of the fruit of the spirit. Let me give you a definition for discipline. Discipline is doing what needs to be done when it needs to be done.

By the way, that's why workaholics can be slothful and lazy, even though highly active. And all of us, have you ever had a, you know, Matthew 18 situation come up, someone has sinned against you, or there's an issue that you need to confront someone on, right? And you wrote it down. God has showed you. You need to go talk to this person.

You need to confront them. And all of a sudden, it just pops up over here. You know, I really need to jot that note to so-and-so and you know what, you know, maybe I'll do a few errands first, or, you know, we fill it in with all kinds of discipline is not simply activity. It's doing what needs to be done when it needs to be done. And, you know, the Proverbs give us the list of, you know, major sins that inhibit our lives. When's the last time you heard like a really great message on slothfulness or laziness? You know, call me anything but don't call me lazy, right? When I know what needs to be done in my relationship with God, my relationship with my wife, with one of my kids, in terms of where God shows me something, when I don't do what needs to be done, when it needs to be done, the Bible calls that slothfulness. And so there's a reason why we don't get some things in line.

So let's get sort of on the positive side of this. Discipline is the Spirit empowered ability given by God's grace that allows us to say no to the quick fix and the easy road and say yes to the harder but better way. That's what it is. It's not trying hard.

It's not buttoned down. It's not, I'm going to make myself do this. It's not getting self-righteous and no one else does this, but I get up early and I do this and I do this, I do this, and I'm rigid and legalistic.

No, no, no. Discipline is Spirit empowered ability that you get by God's grace that allows you to say no to quick fixes and easy solutions and say yes to facing the hard, difficult things on the front end in order to receive the richer and deeper and better. Titus 2 11 and 12, you have it in a translation in your notes and this one is especially good because I like it. It says, for the grace of God that brings salvation that has appeared to all men, it, notice its grace, it teaches us to say no to ungodliness and worldly passions and to live self-controlled, that's our word, upright and godly lives in this present age.

Couple quick observations. First of all, grace produces discipline and by the way, somewhere along the line we've been teaching grace in a faulty way. We think grace and no effort, the opposite of grace is no effort and that's not it. The opposite of grace is merit. Paul would say make every effort. It takes focus, it takes energy, but it is the grace of God who both to will and to work in you.

It's the grace of God that helps me to say no to worldliness, but then notice the second observation, it teaches us. What's that mean? It means it's a process. It means it doesn't happen overnight. It means like a child learns to ride a bike. I don't know about you, but I didn't stick my kids on the bike and go, okay, bang, they got it. They learn and how do they learn? They do this, bam, bam.

Well, I don't see their parents going, get up right now, what's wrong with you? They're just going, whoa, whoa, come here, Emmy, Emmy, Emmy, come on, come on, come on. And then they take three steps and they fall and their parents are excited about what?

The two or three steps they take and they understand they're going to fall. It's a process to learn. Discipline is a byproduct of the Holy Spirit. Listen to what it says in Galatians chapter five, 22 and 23, it says, but the fruit singular of the spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.

Against such things is no law. So it's the spirit, it's learning to trust by faith, allowing the spirit of God to produce discipline in our lives. We're commanded, I mean, just if that doesn't do it for you, we're commanded to live discipline lives. Second Peter one six says, and let your knowledge lead to self-control and self-control to perseverance and perseverance to godliness. Discipline is the process that is learned over time through training.

It is not an experience, it's not automatic and it's not about trying hard. I'll never forget I had an assistant, a really bright young gal that worked with me for about eight years and she had never run a day in her life. I mean, she was not athletic at all and she decided she was going to run a marathon and I've been working out for years and like I run about two miles and it hurts my knees. I'm like, man, you know, you know, let me chase something, hit something, play something, but running just seems like, how can anyone do it?

I admire you who do it. I mean, here she is, she's never done. She was, oh no, I talked to my friend and we're going to, there's a training program.

We saw it in the magazine. I'm going, good luck, sweetie. And then we met this guy who does marathons and I watched her and she started walking and then she jogged so long and all I can tell you is about four months after she decided to run a marathon, she went into training and I can remember about three months in and she goes, could I come in a half hour late tomorrow? I said, sure, what you got going? She goes, well, it's, I've done, I did 10 miles on so-and-so and this is, I'm up to my 16 miler and we had to get up real early. I said, you're going to run 16 miles before you come to work? And she said, yeah. I'm thinking you are like an angel from heaven.

How do you do this? And when I watched this, she ran a marathon without stopping because everything she needed to run a marathon was in her body, but she had to go into a process of training over time to take that which she already possessed over time to develop the capacity to perform what was in her. Are some of you kind of getting what I'm saying? All that you need is in you. The spirit and the power and the grace that raised Christ from the dead is in you. We must go into training. That's why the writer of Hebrews would say, by now you ought to be mature.

You ought to be teaching, but you're drinking milk. You need to be trained by God's word. And so we're going to talk about cultivating discipline as training.

You're listening to Living on the Edge with Chip Ingram. We'll get you back to today's program in just a second. But first, did you know that other believers are paramount to our individual faith journeys? Keep listening after this message as Chip explains why and highlights some resources we have to get you into authentic community today. Stick around to learn more.

Well, with that here again is Chip. Now as we get going here, the dynamics of biblical discipline can be summed up in two words. Because at this point, I hope you're saying, I want that training. I want to be disciplined. I'd love to start time with God or a workout or mentoring someone or getting my finances or my time in order, but I've never been disciplined. If you could show me how to get disciplined, ooh, ooh, ooh, I will do it. I want God to do it. Okay. Say no more.

That's what we're going to do. It can be summed up in two words, delayed gratification. It's the key. And I think of all the passages in scripture that helped me really get my arms around biblical discipline, it's Hebrews 12, 11. All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful. Yet, to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness. Do a little Bible study. I would encourage you to memorize that one little verse. All discipline, self-control, same word.

Every passage so far, it's the same root word. All discipline, notice, for the moment, front-end, does not seem to be, you know, it's sorrowful. It's difficult. It's painful. Yet, to those who have, what's our word, over time been trained by it, I wish you could see the picture of my assistant's face with the medal she got with her three friends 26.2 miles later, one who'd never run a day in her life and accomplished an amazing feat because she went into training. And that's what God has for you and your relationships, your marriages, your singleness, your parenting, your money, and your time.

That's what he really has for you. Don't believe that lie. Well, there's other people that are more smart than we are and there's people that are so much more holy and there's people that are in such a different category. This is God's plan for every one of his children. I love the quote by the author and psychiatrist Scott Peck.

He says, discipline is willfully choosing to embrace the painful and difficult aspects of one's life first in order, listen to this, to more fully enjoy and successfully achieve those relationships that mean the most. So much, we always focus on the first half. It's sorrowful. It's hard. I got to get up.

We got to get on a budget. I don't want to do that. You know, I'll never do it. I've failed before. Instead of focusing on, he says, it's willfully choosing to confront the pain on the front end.

Why? So you can get something way, way better on the back end. Let me give you a high school illustration. You're in 10th grade and you're now learning how to write term papers. You have to write a term paper and there's a 15 page term paper that is due. You don't know much, but they've sent you to the library.

It's the old days. So there's three by five cards. You go and get on the computer and you've got, you know, like a month to do it and three weeks have gone by to your last week and you say to yourself, you know, I got to get on this term paper. You know, I've never written one. And your parents ask, well, how's that term paper? Oh yeah, pretty good. That means I've been thinking about it a little bit. Like I do have my topic.

That's it. And then they, hey, how's it really going? So now it's by Tuesday or Wednesday and you did at least peruse where the resources were for about five minutes. Well, it's Thursday and you decide, okay, Thursday, I got to get this. I mean, I got to start the term paper and you're at school and someone goes, hey, are you going to the party night?

No, I didn't know there's, oh man, this is, this is an awesome party. Well, okay, you know, I could do it Friday night. So, so you go to the party, but even during the party in the back of your mind, this nagging 15 pages, that's a long time, little knot in your stomach, but you know, a little fun sort of makes that go away. And you get up and Friday and then, oh, hey, did you hear about, you go to the game tonight? Oh no, I can't go to the game.

I'm writing a term paper. Friday night, you're going to stay home and write a term paper, you nerd, what's with you? And you say to yourself, that is kind of dumb. I got all day Saturday, right? So you go to the game, right? And then you get up on Saturday, man, I am really tired.

I think, I think I'll just get something to eat before I really get going. Well, pretty soon it is Sunday night. The term papers do. You start about 8.30 and you work until about 4.30 in the morning and you've written a very poor 12 and a half page paper that's supposed to be 15.

And here's the point. You not only have a lousy paper, you didn't enjoy Thursday night very much. During most of the game, all you could think about when your team wasn't scoring or you weren't laughing was what was undone and you had this gnawing in the back of your mind. On Saturday, your procrastination, you had low grade guilt that turned to high grade guilt and you told yourself, maybe God will really help me while you were at church and thought about skipping church to write the paper.

I got news for you, there's people that live their whole life like that. And the stuff that really needs to get done keeps getting pushed out and keeps getting procrastinated. We'll get the finances under control. We'll work on our marriage. We'll really sit down and talk with one of our kids. We'll address this addiction issue. We'll confront that issue with our in-laws and hey, we got to set some boundaries and deal with some stuff.

And you know what? It's that term paper and it never gets and you just stay busy, you stay active, you love God a little bit, you do a little bit of this, do a little bit of that. And all the while, you never experience the rich better that God has because of that rare word, delayed gratification. And so I would say the big question for us, how in the world do you develop? If delayed gratification, if that's the key, how do you develop it in your life? And the method of developing biblical discipline can be summed up in three words. One is two words, delayed gratification, how you get it, the process of developing it. You say to yourself, what's the training?

Where's the magazine that says if I run, you know, jog a little bit and then the next week I actually try and jog a mile and then after that I go and where, how does that happen? And you're going to see it right out of scripture. The three key words are advanced decision-making. The key to delayed gratification, if you are at the window and the moment where you know you need to delay your gratification and you haven't pre-decided what you're going to do in that moment, about 95% of the time, you will do what you don't want to do. This is Living on the Edge with Chip Ingram. And you've been listening to part one of Chip's message, How to Put First Things First from our series, Balancing Life's Demands.

Chip will be back shortly to share some helpful application for us to think about. Do you long to get out from under the pressure to do more, have more, and achieve more? In this 10-part series, Chip provides practical biblical steps to help you move your life from chaos to contentment. You'll discover what it means to prioritize your hopes around God's hopes for your life and how to not only put first things first, but keep them there. To learn more about this series, go to

That's Chip's back with me in studio now, and Chip, you've said before that real life change and meaningful spiritual growth can happen when we find authentic community. And here at Living on the Edge, we have a library of small group resources to help. So as we get started in this new year, would you highlight a few of those for us? Because, you know, people may not know which one to choose or where to begin.

Well, Dave, we all have special times in our life where there's either crisis or we know we need to improve our parenting, our marriage, or there's some emotional issues. And as people go through, there's plenty of small group resources like that. But what I think is missing is what historically has been called a catechism. A catechism is a well-ordered process of truth by which you go through it systematically and intentionally in order to become more and more like Jesus and to fulfill more and more what Jesus has called us to do. And so if you follow Jesus' life, His actual chronological life, then the first thing is He defined what a disciple is. And so the very first study I encourage people to do is true spirituality, becoming a Romans 12 Christian. It'll let them know this is what it means to be a follower of Jesus. The second thing Jesus did is He took them through various experiences to reveal who God was like.

What is God really like? And so our second study is called The Real God. And in that we study the attributes of God and how to get them from your head into your heart. The third thing that Jesus did is He helped them understand how does life change really occur?

How do you put it into practice? We have a study from Ephesians chapter 4 called Transformed, the Miracle of Life Change. And then the fourth one I'll give you because I don't want to lay it all out is that when you take these kind of steps, all hell breaks loose.

I don't mean that as a cuss word. What I mean is it's challenging, it's difficult, there's spiritual warfare. And that's our study from Ephesians chapter 6.

It's called The Invisible War, what every believer needs to know about Satan, demons, and spiritual warfare. So let me encourage you, unless there's a critical need, a high felt need, consider studying in order the catechism the way Jesus taught His disciples. Well, to learn more about the studies Chip mentioned or any of our other small groups, go to or call 888-333-6003.

And let me tell you, these materials are so easy to use. Chip provides the teaching, then you'll have time to discuss what you've heard alongside our helpful study guides. So if you're not in a small group yet or are looking for something new to study, check out our resources. And for a limited time, we've discounted all our small group tools. Visit or call 888-333-6003 to learn more.

App listeners, tap special offers. Well, with all that said, here again is Chip to share a few final thoughts. As we close today's program, you know, this whole idea of discipline, of not getting what I want right now, it's like intellectually we say, oh, yes, I know, delayed gratification is really important. But when you look at your debt level, when you look at eating at times when you know you're not hungry, and when you look at, you know, I started working out and already I've missed one day. What I want you to know is that we all struggle with this issue. I've observed that the single most important element that's missing in people's spiritual growth is discipline. You know, there's honest desire.

I'm with a group of young people. They honestly really want to grow, but they just, you know, it's hard to get out of bed. Or, you know, I meet people who really want to get their priorities in line, but, oh, the mountain of credit card debt is so big and so long. Or, you know, who want to get in shape, but it's just like, oh, you know, I get started and then I fail. It's because we don't understand how discipline works. It's a fruit of the Spirit.

It's not trying hard. In our next broadcast, I'm going to talk about the dynamics of delayed gratification. I mean, the mental process of how to think. So instead of this mindset of, oh, I'm giving up this and I can't do that and, you know, this is so hard and I need to try harder and I'm just not a very disciplined person. That thinking is garbage.

That thinking is from the enemy. When you get it right biblically, what you realize is I'm not giving up anything great. I'm delaying some things that would be sort of nice to get something awesome and great later. And as you start that process, the grace of God will begin to give you more and more discipline. It's a fruit of the Spirit.

And you will begin to have this level of self-esteem and positive feedback as you begin to delay some things and you'll begin to see the fruit within two or three weeks. But let me tell you, you've got to understand how it really works. And that's on our next broadcast. I hope you'll be with us. Excited to hear more about that process, Chip.

Thanks. As we close, if you're looking for good Bible content, check out the Chip Ingram app. You can listen to our most recent series or sign up for Daily Discipleship with Chip, a great resource to help you study God's Word at a deeper level. We want you to grow in your walk with Jesus, and the Chip Ingram app will help you do just that. Listen to next time as Chip picks up in his series, Balancing Life's Demands. Until then, this is Dave Druey saying thanks for joining us for this Edition of Living on the Edge.
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