The truly important things are those things that have eternal value. These are pretty much constants. Relationships, spiritual health, loving well, and knowing God would be on this list. Regardless of the time in history, or place in culture, these things matter most. You may add other things to the list, and you probably should. But be assured, this is not going to be a very long list. The truly important things in life can likely be counted on one hand.
The urgent is usually more temporal, and is an ever-changing list. This list will reflect whatever crisis is happening at the moment. The items on the urgent list are often not bad things, and they are indeed of a certain level of importance. But the importance associated with the urgent need of the moment is inflated because there is a time concern.
You know people who act like they are more important than they are. Aren't they fun to be around? Well, that is how the urgent presents itself... as more important than it is. I'm not suggesting we do not consider the urgent anymore than I am suggesting we do away with people who inflate their own value. I am saying that I need to strike a balance and not exchange the glory of the important for the grind of the urgent. Both are necessary, but only one deserves my steady allegiance.
The Christian life is a balance as well. We are on mission in this world. We have tasks to accomplish in the name and power of Christ. Some of these tasks carry a sense of urgency. People are dying every day and are going into eternity separated from God. There should be an urgency to reach the lost and hurting. That is both important and urgent. To serve others is to serve Christ. He made that abundantly clear when He said, "‘I assure you: Whatever (act of compassion) you did for one of the least of these brothers of Mine, you did for Me." (Matthew 25:40) But there is no task for the Christian that is more important than being in the presence of the Master. For it is in His presence where we learn what is important to Him. It is where we learn to love what He loves. It is where we actually learn how to act as He would act.
There is a story from the life of Christ where this principle is illustrated. Jesus is traveling in His ministry and stop at a house. There are two women there who each approach the Lord differently. They both value His presence, and want to honor Him with their actions. One of the ladies, Martha goes into hospitality mode, making things nice and fixing some food for the refreshment of the Teacher. She was the one who had invited Christ into their home. Mary, her sister was simply sitting with Jesus, listening to Him talk. Martha was alone trying to make things nice for Jesus. Her busyness was distracting her from being with Him. Her sister was not helping,and eventually out of frustration Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, don’t You care that my sister has left me to serve alone? So tell her to give me a hand.” answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and upset about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has made the right choice, and it will not be taken away from her.” (Luke 10:40-42)
Now, who would be upset that a person was serving Jesus? No one. But when the good urgent thing replaces the most important thing, we miss out on the best things. It has been said that the greatest enemy of that which is best is that which is good. It may be that the greatest enemy of that which is most important is that which is urgent.
The right choice in life is not always the thing that claims to be the most important. We must determine what is of greatest value and put our energy there. Most of the time I find that the thing which seemed most urgent at the time was still waiting later. The urgent will rule your life if you don't rule over it.
This is not an encouragement to be lazy today. God knows we don't need more laziness. It is an encouragement to be more intentional about what we do. If you make a habit of doing the most important things, you will be more effective when those urgent things pop up. When given a choice, choose the most important and you choose the best.