The term “best practices” is sometimes used in the world of business to identify activities, methods, and processes that are proven to be the most successful, yielding fewer complications and failures and producing the best outcomes.
For the Christian, Jesus set forth a clear set of best practices in Matthew 22:37-39: “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it. Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.”
Tom Landry, the Dallas Cowboy’s first and only coach for 29 years—during which he led that famed team to 20 consecutive winning seasons, including 13 division titles, five NFC championships, and two Super Bowls—was once asked why he had been so successful. He replied, “In 1958, I did something everyone who has been successful must do. I determined my priorities for life: God, family, football.”
Many have done that, but the cares of this life, the deceitfulness of riches, and the allure of materialism have sidetracked their pursuit. Lewis Sperry Chafer, referring to a friend who was devoting most of his time and energy in pursuit of an insignificant practice, said, “He reminds me of a bulldog chasing a train: what’s he going to do with it if he catches it?”
Another practice that Jesus put at the top of the list for His followers is found in His Sermon on the Mount, when He said, “Seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and all of these things shall be added unto you.” (Matt. 6:33) The things Jesus referred to were what we eat, what we wear, and the basic necessities of life. He has promised to supply all of our needs, Paul reminds us in Phil. 4:19, “according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus.” So, our priorities should be to seek God first, and to pursue the advancement of His kingdom and His righteousness as we trust Him to take care of our necessities of life.
In one of his sermons, Dr. Bob Jones, Sr., founder of Bob Jones University, told of growing up in southeast Alabama, where hunters loved to go possum hunting with good possum dogs. He said, “Many of the best possum dogs in the country were plain, ordinary cur dogs. We did not judge them by their ancestors. Most of the dogs had no certificates of birth, and they had no family trees. One of the best possum dogs I ever saw was an old, mangy cur dog that nobody would have wanted for any other purpose except to hunt possums. There was a type of dog that nobody wanted. It was a rabbit-chasing dog. Sometimes, that kind of dog would go down a possum trail until he reached where a rabbit trail had crossed the possum trail; then he would leave the possum trail and follow the rabbit trail. Everybody in our section of the country had contempt for such a dog. We all liked good rabbit dogs. We liked to chase rabbits, and we did this often; but when we had a dog on a possum trail, we expected him to stay on the trail until he got the possum up a tree. About the worst thing anybody could say about a dog in our country when I was a boy was to call him a rabbit chaser. Some of you are on the possum trail of divine purpose. It is up to you to decide whether you are going to stay on the possum trail or whether you are going to be a rabbit chaser as long as you live.”
The Psalmist was laser-focused on staying on course for God: “I have set the Lord always before me.” (Ps. 16:8). “My voice shalt Thou hear in the morning, O Lord; in the morning will I direct my prayer unto Thee and will look up.” (Ps.5:3)
Such was the sterling priority practice of the teenage Jewish exile, Daniel, in Babylon. In adulthood, he would stand at the right hand of five kings, of five different kingdoms, as a counselor/administrator. His consistent practice of pursuing God was demonstrated in his pattern of praying with an open window toward the city of God, Jerusalem, three times a day—even on the threat of death. (Daniel 6:10) His practice of godliness, of faith, of prayer, and of obedience had stayed him in good stead. It would, in the den of lions’ experience, prove successful again. “Oh, that men would praise the Lord for His goodness, and for His wonderful works to the children of men!” (Ps. 107:8)
“I counted dollars while God counted crosses. I counted gains, while He counted losses. I counted my worth by the things gained in store, but He sized me up by the scars that I bore. I coveted honors and sought for degrees. He wept as He counted the hours on my knees. And I never knew ‘til one day at a grave how vain are the things that we spend life to save.” (The Heavenly Herald)
“Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which I also am apprehended of Christ Jesus. Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.” (Phil.3:12-14)