“… but pursue first God’s kingdom and God’s righteousness …”
I pursue a lot of things in my life. I don’t get to the finish line on many of them, but I go for it anyway. There is probably nothing horribly wrong with that, but if those things start to distract me from what God is leading me to do, I waste valuable time and mirroring the world system around me.
Jesus spoke about this when teaching “on the mount,” recorded for us in Matthew 6. In this section of his message, he discusses what the world values and contrasts that with God’s kingdom economy. He gets to the point in verse 33. “Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all of these (other) things will be given to you as well.”
As with many things in God’s kingdom, our normal tendencies lead us in the opposite direction from the truth. We believe that hard, focused work will yield rewards. Keep your eye on the prize. Pursue and achieve your goals. Leverage what you now have to get more. All these things may lead to rewards in our world, but they lead directly away from pleasing God.
Pursuing God’s kingdom first involves putting ourselves aside, taking up our “cross,” as Jesus put it, and following him. In short, following Jesus requires sacrifice. We must give up what we hold to most dearly to gain what we need most deeply. Jesus also said, “If we are to be productive (bear fruit) in the kingdom of God, we must remain focused on him (the vine).” Success in the kingdom relates directly to our identity source and not on how hard we work for it.
Whenever I want to strive for what I think is best, God keeps bringing me back to Isaiah 30:15, declaring what Israel needed to do. However, they didn’t want to walk that way.
“In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength, but you would have none of it.”
If we are to pursue God’s kingdom first, kingdom health and growth need to come before our priorities. Loving others precedes loving ourselves. We are released to care for others because we believe that God will meet our needs. We are willing to leave what we know and take the gospel to new and challenging places, often at great sacrifice, because obedience is the only honoring response to God’s leading.
Do you want to make a difference in the world around you? Seek first the kingdom!