In this first message of 2015, we begin a new series of messages simply called “Breakthrough”. Today we talk about priorities. What does putting first things first look like and how is a change in our priorities an essential for personal breakthrough?
In the spring of 1960, Ruby Bridges, a six year old, was one of six black children in New Orleans to pass a test that determined whether they could go to an all-white school. Ruby went to a school by herself. She was an unlikely agent of breakthrough.
Ruby was the only black child assigned to William Frantz Elementary. Her father was initially reluctant to send her, but her mother felt strongly that the move was needed not only to give her own daughter a better education, but to “take this step forward … for all African-American children”. Her mother finally convinced her father to let her go to the school.
The court-ordered first day of integrated schools in New Orleans was November 14, 1960. As Ruby now describes it, “Driving up I could see the crowd, but living in New Orleans, I actually thought it was Mardi Gras. There was a large crowd of people outside of the school. They were throwing things and shouting, and that sort of goes on in New Orleans at Mardi Gras.” Former United States Deputy Marshal Charles Burks later recalled, “She showed a lot of courage. She never cried. She didn’t whimper. She just marched along like a little soldier, and we were all very very proud of her.”
As soon as Bridges entered the school, white parents pulled their own children out; all the teachers refused to teach while a black child was enrolled. Only one person agreed to teach Ruby, Barbara Henry from Boston, Massachusetts. For over a year Henry taught her alone, “as if she were teaching a whole class.”
That first day, Bridges and her adult companions spent the entire day in the principal’s office; the chaos of the school prevented their moving to the classroom until the second day. Every morning, as Bridges walked to school, one woman would threaten to poison her. Because of this, the U.S. Marshals dispatched by President Eisenhower who were overseeing her safety, only allowed Ruby to eat food that she brought from home.
Another woman at the school put a black baby doll in a wooden coffin and protested with it outside the school, a sight that Ruby has said “scared me more than the nasty things people screamed at us”. At her mother’s suggestion, Ruby began to pray on the way to school, which she found provided protection from the comments yelled at her on the daily walks.
The Bridges family suffered for their decision to send Ruby to William Frantz Elementary: her father lost his job, the grocery store the family shopped at would no longer let them shop there, and her grandparents, who were sharecroppers in Mississippi, were turned off their land. She has noted that many others in the community, both black and white, showed support in a variety of ways. Some white families continued to send their children to Frantz despite the protests, a neighbor provided her father with a new job, and local people babysat, watched the house as protectors, and walked behind the federal marshals’ car on the trips to school.
Breakthroughs require that you do things differently, according to God’s priorities, until the breakthrough comes, no matter the time or price; the bigger the breakthrough, the bigger the price.
How will you see breakthrough in your own life? That’s the topic we’re considering on this first month of the year 2015.
There are barriers, walls, confines in life, restrictions that ought not to be there. Those restrictions keep us back from experiencing the freedom that was bought for us by the Lord Jesus.
Real breakthroughs come from God Himself. He is the Lord of Freedom. If the Son sets you free, you’ll be “free indeed”.
Here’s four New Testament “firsts” that give you His priorities so that you can begin to do things differently:
1. Put a genuine love for God in every arena of life.
But when the Pharisees heard that He had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together. Then one of them, a lawyer, asked Him a question, testing Him, and saying, “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?” Jesus said to him, “‘You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and great commandment.
How do you love God first? It’s the time, energy, and attention you give to Him personally.
2. Put trusting Him above your pursuit of a better position.
“Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.
We all worry about things. But that doesn’t make it good to worry. When we seek first His Kingdom, trust in Him and His ability to grant His power and provision is where we land. Yes we do our part, under the banner of trusting Him, faith and prayer.
3. Deal with your own need for change first.
And why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me remove the speck from your eye’; and look, a plank is in your own eye? Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.
Inward changes precede outward changes. Outward changes flow from inward ones. When we get that mixed up we become legalistic and religious!
4. Change always has a personal price attached to it.
Now great multitudes went with Him. And He turned and said to them, “If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple. And whoever does not bear his cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple. For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not sit down first and count the cost, whether he has enough to finish it— lest, after he has laid the foundation, and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish’?
There is always a price to pay for breakthrough. There are so many jokes this time of year about New Year’s resolutions. Do you know why so many sincere folks don’t make it past two weeks? They won’t pay the price, long term. We may pay it for a week, but do you mean we have to keep on paying it?
I’m often that guy, the one who doesn’t pay the price for breakthrough long term. The net effect of that is many of the situations of my life remain the same. From the unfinished projects to the great ideas that remain great ideas. But when change does come for me, it’s because I put God first, trusted Him, and paid a price.
But there’s a price I cannot pay. The one for which only Jesus could pay for me; and He did.