Paralyzed by Priorities

I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.
Philippians 3:14


Have you ever set out on a journey to get something done, achieve a goal, or shoot for a specific target only to find yourself derailed? It seems like the minute you “press on toward the goal to win the prize”, there is something to disable your efforts. It often comes under the guise of “Priorities” – things that are “important” and demand our attention – things that eventually dissuade us from our true purpose. This is why Jesus said, “If your eye be single, your whole body will be full of light”. There is something about singular focus that pleases God.

John Maxwell said “Too many priorities paralyze us”. Think for one moment about the old lighthouse keepers. They had rigorous chores such as climbing the spiral staircase daily to clean and inspect the mirrors, and sweep dead birds off the deck who had flown into the lens.  However, their singular focus was to keep the light burning. Everything else held up next to that priority was not important. What good would it be to polish the mirrors if he didn’t keep the light burning?

A story is told of a lighthouse keeper who worked as most other keepers on a rough coastline. Every month, they would re-supply his oil in order to do the one priority that was all important: “Keep the light burning”. He had many come visit him with requests for oil. One night a woman from the village convinced him to give her some oil to keep her family warm in the cold winter. Someone else asked for some oil to use in their lamp. Yet another needed some for a squeaky wheel. Since all the requests seemed like important priorities, the lighthouse keeper could not say “No”. It then dawned on him that his oil supply was dangerously low. Abruptly, it was gone, and the light went out. That night, several ships crashed on the rocks and lives were lost. When the incident was investigated, the man made the excuse that all these other people needed the oil. Those investigating answered him with these words: “You were given oil for one purpose – to keep that light burning!”

Every one of us has looked at our proverbial “plates” and felt that futile feeling that comes over you when you are overwhelmed. We become paralyzed by priorities that rob us from our true focus. We become lost in the details that do nothing but make us frustratingly stuck.


Do you know what your true focus is? What God has called you to do – that thing that is as important as the ancient lighthouse keeper keeping the light burning?

The Psalmist knew his focus, and everything else was secondary to that consideration. Nothing dissuaded him from his purpose when he said,

One thing have I asked of the Lord,
that will I seek after:
that I may dwell in the house of the Lord
all the days of my life,
to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord
and to inquire in his temple.

Psalm 27:4