Saturday, July 24, 2021

In Proper Order


The Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale, a widely used measure of Intelligence Quotient, or IQ, has a subtest known as the Picture Arrangement Test. Each of several sets of cards contains randomly shuffled scenes from an event, which the person being tested has to sort in the most likely chronological order. In the picture above, the crime happens first, then the arrest, the trial, and finally the prison sentence.
Or have you heard this riddle?  “It’s 7 AM, the doorbell rings, and you suddenly remember your in-laws are coming over for breakfast. You have strawberry jam, honey, wine, bread and cheese. What is the first thing you open?”

When I described this riddle to our son, who loves gourmet cooking, he went through an elaborate description of various recipes he could concoct with those ingredients. Sadly, none of the food items is the correct answer, as his love for food momentarily diverted his highly developed logical intelligence.

The point of the riddle, of course, is to distract us with useless information. When the doorbell rings and your in-laws arrive for a breakfast date you forgot, the first thing you’d better open is the door! Actually, someone pointed out that before you even open the door, you’d better open your eyes!  And after your guests come in, you’ll need to open the refrigerator and pantry before you open the first container of food.

Which brings me to my point – if we don’t do things in the proper order, and if we get distracted by enticing but unimportant options, we are bound to fail. The result may be ludicrous, awkward, or disastrous, but it will never be the optimal outcome. The world tantalizes us with so many temptations (Proverbs 22:5; Ecclesiastes 7:26) that we may fail to put first things first by seeking God’s will in all that we do (Luke 22:42).

My husband and I were at a crowded garage sale once when I heard a woman, a few tables away, give some advice to her friend: “When all else fails, pray!”

“Why not pray first, instead of as a last resort?” The words flew from my mouth before I even realized it, and I had no idea where they would land, and with what effect. Someone yelled, “Preach it, sister!” and I felt led to tell everyone about our pastor, who needed prayer for terminal cancer. Within moments, a group of Christians had gathered in a circle of linked hands for an impromptu prayer meeting!

When we place our faith in the death, burial and resurrection of Christ as the only Way to Heaven (1 Corinthians 15:1-4), His Holy Spirit enters our heart (2 Corinthians 1:22), giving us the mind of Christ (1 Corinthians 2:16). We have access to all His wisdom, knowledge, power and love, and we have the awesome privilege of instantaneous transport to His throne of grace, where we can boldly pray (Hebrews 4:16, asking for wisdom, mercy and grace and knowing that He delights in giving it (Matthew 7:11; James 1:17).

So why do we neglect this priceless resource, turning to it only when all other options leave us empty? Rather than relying on His omniscience (Psalm 139:1-6), why do we seek counsel from worldly friends who will tell us what we want to hear instead of Godly advice? Why do we run around pointlessly trying futile solutions in our own flesh, when He is the Master problem-solver? (Romans 8:28)

Priorities should order prayer life – seeking His face first before we embark on a new venture (1 Chronicles 16:11; Psalm 27:8), and proceeding only if He clearly leads in that direction, rather than doing what we want and then hoping to get His blessing after the fact. We should pray before we even get out of bed in the morning, putting on the whole armor of God (Ephesians 6:11-18) before we fall prey to the devil’s traps, lies and empty promises (John 8:44).

When we pray, do we thank and praise Him first (Luke 11:2), confess our sins (Luke 11:4; 1 John 1:9), and intercede for others before we bring our personal requests? Or do we just bombard Him with our own desires before even considering whether they are aligned with His will? (James 4:2-3; Luke 22:42)

Priorities should order our whole life, not just our prayer life.  If we seek Him first, and His righteousness (Matthew 6:33), He will give us all that we need, because He knows what is best before we even ask Him (Matthew 6:8). This includes not only our physical needs (Psalm 37:25), but our ministry needs (1 Thessalonians 5:24), provided our motives in ministry are to glorify Him and not to draw attention to ourselves (John 3:30).

Paul brought this out for when he provided detailed guidance as to the speaking of tongues, saying “Let all things be done decently and in order.” (1 Corinthians 14:40). Tongues were given to the early church as a sign gift so that those needing a sign to believe could see God’s great power. But it was intended for the sole purposes of educating members of the church and glorifying God.

The tongues spoken were actual languages understood by the listeners (Acts 2:6-11). If the listeners did not understand the language spoken, there was to be an interpreter. In that way the church body could be edified, or instructed, by those who prophesied one at a time (1 Corinthians 14: 31) and in order, so that there would be peace rather than confusion (v. 33). In no case was it to glorify the speaker or to make him appear to be more “spiritual” than one who did not have the gift of tongues. 

Order has always been important in worship, even in Old Testament times when God prescribed the order of what should be set on the table before Him (Exodus 40:4).Now that we are in the Church Age of Christian liberty, should we not still do things decently and in order, giving Him the preeminence (Colossians 1:18), rather than interspersing jokes, personal anecdotes, and even worldly theatrics with prayer, praise and preaching?
In our Christian walk, baptism is important as the first sign of obedience once we are saved (Acts 2:41), but many get baptized while they are still unsaved, or worse yet, think it will save them. Baptism is not a means to salvation (Ephesians 2:8-9), but a sign of identification with Christ's death, burial and resurrection. 

The order of steps we take determines our direction and ultimately our destination. If we take one step forward, one step back, and three to the side, we spend a lot of energy but go nowhere. (But if we’re dancing, we could at least turn it into a cha-cha!) God promises to guide us through the dance of life and to direct our paths (Proverbs 3:5,6) if we first trust in Him and acknowledge Him in all we do. Then He will order our steps in His Word, keeping us from sin (Psalm 119:133) and bringing us delight in the journey (Psalm 37:23).

As we speak and write, the proper order of our words is essential to convey the correct meaning (Job 33:5), particularly in English where noun forms do not change depending on their usage. “The hunter killed the bear” means something very different from “The bear killed the hunter.”

Paul was in the habit of beginning and ending his letters by acknowledging and thanking Jesus Christ and God the Father and blessing his readers with God’s grace and peace (1 Corinthians 1:1-10; 2 Corinthians 1:1-3; Galatians 1-3; Ephesians 1:1-3, etc.). What a wonderful example to follow, rather than starting Facebook posts or other communications with complaining, bragging, or vulgarity.

Praise God not only that He has ordered history, but that He has revealed to us the order of key events we are eagerly awaiting! Because Christ arose in His glorified body, all born-again believers will follow Him in their resurrected body to eternal life! (1 Corinthians 15:23). Look up (Luke 21:28), for before long, Christ shall descend from heaven with a shout and with the trump of God! The dead in Christ shall rise first, then believers still living shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and we shall forever be with the Lord! (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17)

© 2014 Laurie Collett
Edited and reposted from the archives 


Frank E. Blasi said...

Dear Laurie,
My answer to the second riddle was also to open the bedroom door. And as for the eyes, the riddle doesn't indicate whether the person in the bed was asleep or awake. He (or she) could have been already awake when the front door bell rang.
As for the rest of your blog, one Scripture comes to mind:
Seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added on to you. - Matthew 6:33.
Wishing God's blessings on you and Richard.

Laurie Collett said...

Dear Frank,
Amen -- the first and essential priority is to seek God first -- to enter His kingdom by placing our faith in His death, burial and resurrection, and then to walk worthy in the vocation to which we are called, by seeking His righteousness.
Thanks as always for your Scripture-based comment. May God bless you and Alex,

Rajani Rehana said...

Great blog

Laurie Collett said...

Thank you Rajani! God bless you,