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Seek Ye First: Pursuing the Kingdom of God

“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 will be added to you”

- Matthew 6:31-33 -


It’s a sign of the times. All people everywhere are searching for something. We are all seekers by nature. Seeking captures our imaginations and fuels our passions. Shopping malls are full of people seeking the latest fashions or newest iPhone. We devour movies about renegade pirates searching for buried treasure. We watch shows where professional fishermen travel the back waters of Africa searching for river monsters said to lurk there. We cheer on gifted athletes who seek to take home gold at the Olympics. Whether they’re real people or fictional characters, we support them and hope they’ll find what they’re searching for. Most of us seek a better education, a new job, or a nicer house to live in. Women seek husbands, and men seek wives. Put it this way: we seek that which is most important to us is and we do it at any cost.


 

The reason we all keep searching is because what we first sought after didn’t satisfy, so we wake up each day and restart the process. This world is consumed with making a living and climbing the corporate ladder. People get ulcers and lose sleep over their careers, but there should be more to life than deciding what to wear to work, what to eat for dinner, or where to go on the next vacation. As Christians, we are in the world, but not of the world. But if we aren’t careful, even the elect will get snared seeking worldly things that won’t matter in the not-too-distant future.

 

Paul tells his precious Colossians: ‘If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth’ (3:1-2). We are defined by that which we seek. If we search for the right things, we will have a happy, blessed life. And if we seek the wrong things, heartache and misery will follow us wherever we go. James asks: ‘Where do wars and fights come from among you? Do they not come from your desires for pleasure that war in your members?’ (4:1). Does this not perfectly describe the “me first” culture in which we live? James warning has rung threw church history as self-serving desires will only cause divisions at church and destroy relationships with God. After all, those who seek to be friends with the sinful world system eventually make themselves ‘an enemy of God’ (4:4).



The solution is to seek the right things. Jesus teaches this in His sermon on the mount: “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 will be added to you” (Matt. 6:31-33). Jesus isn’t addressing outsiders. He is commanding kingdom citizens to make God’s interests their top priority. Our Father is faithful to provide for His own. Therefore, we ought to grow and edify our fellow kingdom citizens. Hear Paul on this: ‘Fulfill my joy by being like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind. Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others’ (Phil. 2:2-4).

 

History records many vast kingdoms that ruled the known world in ages past. The Greek, Egyptian, and Babylonian kingdoms were prolific, as was the Roman Empire. Yet each of these are no more. Kingdoms rise and kingdoms fall, but of God’s kingdom there will be no end (Luke 1:33). As citizens of this everlasting kingdom, we are remade in God’s image and inherit His desires. The Lord’s Prayer says: “Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven” (Matt. 6:10). When Jesus said to seek first the kingdom of God, He was telling us to ensure that what God wants done gets done! He orders us to stop making material things the center of life and to earnestly seek to bless others. We are to be so eager for heavenly things that we cast our earthly cares on Christ and help build His kingdom.



Seeking demands intensity. It takes perseverance and zeal to achieve objectives. Every nerve in us should tingle and throb at the thought of being used by God to help others. So make a conscious choice each day that your thoughts and deeds will prove the kingdom of God is your top priority in a world that is quickly passing away. Solomon teaches us: ‘Withhold not good from them to whom it is due, when it is in the power of your hand to do it’ (Prov. 3:27). Everything God has made is a solution to a problem. Our worth and significance is determined by the kinds of problems we are solving for someone. There are things in and about us that others need. We can even be God’s answer to someone else’s prayer, so be diligent to look for ways to benefit others. Like Jesus says: “Whoever compels you to go one mile, go with him two” (Matt. 5:41). As this becomes our lifestyle, God will show us over and over again that it is indeed better to give than receive.

 

God has a plan and a purpose for each of our lives. Just read the first four words of the Bible to find inspiration: ‘In the beginning God...’ (Gen. 1:1). At the beginning of each day, put God first. Every morning you wake up, begin your day by seeking the kingdom of God with your whole heart and soul. This pursuit provides ‘the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding’ (Phil. 4:7). Happiness, then, is not about having and getting. It comes from giving and serving. Jesus teaches us not to “worry about tomorrow” (Matt. 6:34). This is easier said than done for unbelievers, but for the saved, the antidote to anxiety is to prioritize God’s kingdom and His righteousness, not our own.



Seeking is a heart issue, so make it the habit of your life, one that touches your motivations and priorities, including how you spend your leisure time. The good news is that if we seek, we also find. Hear David’s wisdom: “As for you, my son Solomon, know the God of your father, and serve Him with a loyal heart and a willing mind; for the Lord searches all hearts and understands all the intent of the thoughts. If you seek Him, He will be found by you; but if you forsake Him, He will cast you off forever” (1 Chron. 28:9). Again, remember that, as Daniel says, God’s kingdom is worth pursuing as it alone is eternal: ‘And in the days of these kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom which will never be destroyed; and the kingdom shall not be left to other people; it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand forever’ (2:44).

 

God’s kingdom is a kingdom of love. Love is known through service, so we are reborn to love and called to serve. Jesus, the Son of God, came to serve. As His brothers and sisters, we must follow suit in His kingdom. Christ surely shocks the disciples when he says: “Do not fear, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom” (Luke 12:32). Think about that. God will give you the kingdom. He gives opportunities to serve Him and others; to see His will fulfilled in our lives. We’re living in the last days and laborers are needed like never before! Laboring is not a burden as some suppose. It’s a joy! Just listen to Solomon: ‘God keeps every man busy with the joy of his heart’ (Eccles. 5:20). Our good God not only implants gifts and talents in us, but He helps us apply them in ways that fulfill His will and bring us lasting joy.

 

There are two paths to advancing God’s kingdom. Do something or help somebody else do something. When God tells Moses how to build the tabernacle, He talks of two builders: “I have chosen Bezalel...and filled him with the Spirit of God, with skill, ability and knowledge in all kinds of crafts...Moreover, I have anointed Oholiab...to help him” (Ex. 31:2-6). We are all unique creators. There are things one can do for the kingdom that nobody else can. We receive abilities and skills by God’s design and He helps us develop in order to fit His plan. Therefore, Paul tells Timothy to ‘not neglect the gift that is in you’ (1 Tim. 4:14). Like Timothy, we are to hone our skills to the glory of God. Our skills may not be “religious” necessarily, but there is a spiritual element to everything we do. Nehemiah was a builder. Daniel was a statesman. Luke was a physician. Each used their skills to advance the kingdom, and we are called to do the same.



Paul exhorts the brethren to ‘be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord’ (1 Cor. 15:58). We can have fun in this life, but our top priority is to seek God’s kingdom and minister to the world. The work only gets done when we combine the natural with the spiritual. We learn this in Exodus. After passing through the Red Sea, the children of Israel are attacked by Amalek in Rephidim. Moses sends Joshua and his men onto the field of battle while he stands atop a hill with the staff of God in his hand.


‘And so it was, when Moses held up his hand, that Israel prevailed, and when he let down his hand, Amalek prevailed’ (17:11). We can have the best warriors on our side, but without spiritual power, they will fail every time. Moses’ raised hands symbolize faith and signal victory. Eventually, though, Moses tires and his arms grow so heavy that Aaron and Hur have to help hold them up until the going down of the sun (17:12). All Aaron and Hur do is hold up an arm, but it is needed for the victory. It shows that even small tasks hold great significance. The Israelites on the field may not have even had time to gaze up at the hill at Moses, but they needed the spiritual element or the battle would have been lost.

 

If we are to strive after God’s kingdom, we must be willing to forsake all to become a disciple of Christ (Luke 14:33). It begins with the heart. Heart decisions determine direction, and direction determines destiny. When God regenerates us to seek first His kingdom, we find ourselves set on an eternal course. So pray for God’s will to be done on earth as in heaven, and that we would be used to fulfill it with fervency and devotion.



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