Seek First The Kingdom of God
I. Life is filled with a number of wonderful experiences that bring contentment and joy, as well as many set-backs that bring disappointments and sorrow.
A. When we encounter those set-backs and find ourselves engulfed in disappointment and sorrow we sometimes lose focus on those things that are the most important in life.
1. The reason we lose focus is because we often resort to worrying about certain events whose outcome we simply cannot control.
2. And quite often, when we begin to worry about things we cannot control, it’s also very easy for us to lose hope.
II. No one understood the importance of being able to persevere during troubling times more than the Lord Himself.
A. In what is often called The Sermon on the Mount, Jesus demanded something of those who would be His disciples that seems completely contrary to human nature.
1. He began this section of His sermon by saying, Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life… (Matt 6:25)
2. And He concluded by telling His disciples, Therefore do not worry about tomorrow… (Matt 6:34)
B. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could all truly do that?
1. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could truly not worry about our life or about the things that may happen tomorrow – things over which we may have absolutely no control?
2. But the reality is that few, if any, of us are able to do this – at least, not consistently.
a. We all fall victim to worry.
b. And sadly, when our hearts are filled with worry to the point where worry consumes our thoughts, we may be only a few steps away from losing all hope.
C. So, why would Jesus expect something of His disciples that, one the surface, anyway, seems impossible?
1. The answer comes when we truly understand three things:
a. First, the answer comes when we understand the difference between those things we want verses those things we truly need.
b. Second, the answer also comes when we see all the reasons why we don’t need to worry.
c. And finally, the answer comes when we see the very simple solution for erasing worry from our minds.
D. So, let’s go to this portion of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount and look more closely at what He says about handling worry that comes from set-backs that bring disappointments and sorrow.
I. Immediately after Jesus said, "Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life…" (Matt 6:25), He identifies those things that are truly needful in life.
A. Jesus said, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; nor about your body, what you will put on. (Matt 6:25)
1. In this statement Jesus identified two things that are truly needed by everyone – food and clothing.
B. The apostle Paul said something very similar: 1 Tim 6:8 – And having food and clothing, with these we shall be content.
1. It’s interesting to note that the word “clothing” used by Paul in this passage is from a Greek word that is more correctly translated “covering,” and refers to both clothing and shelter.
C. And so, by taking these two statements together, we find that there are actually only three things we absolutely need in life:
1. They are food and clothing, which also includes shelter from the elements.
2. In other words, we need food to give us nourishment, clothing to cover our bodies and keep us comfortable, and shelter to keep us from the elements (a warm, dry place to sleep).
3. These are absolute necessities – everything else falls into the category of wants.
B. Now, think about this for a moment.
1. Every one of us has a fairly lengthy list of wants – the lists of some are probably much longer than the lists of others – but the truth is, we all have fairly lengthy lists of wants.
2. But, according to what we learn from the Lord and from the apostle Paul, the list of needs is very short – only food, clothing, and shelter.
3. And yet, what do we spend most of our time worrying about? The things on the needs list, or those things that are on the wants list?
4. Furthermore, if the Lord tells us to not worry about those things that are on our list of needs (food, clothing and shelter), then how much less should we worry about those things that are on our list of wants?
C. Hopefully, this will help us put things into a better perspective.
1. We need to always remember that those things that are truly needful for each and every one of us are food, clothing and shelter – and, with these, Paul says “we shall be content.”
a. Interestingly, the word “content” comes from the Greek word “arkeo” (are-KAY-o), which carries the idea of “raising a barrier,” against something, or to “ward off” something.
b. In this case, Paul says all we need is food to ward off hunger, clothing to ward off cold, and shelter to ward of the elements.
c. That’s all we need.
II. When we go back to The Sermon on the Mount, notice that Jesus gives us several reasons why we don’t need to worry about these things.
A. Matt 6:25-32 – Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing? 26 Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? 27 Which of you by worrying can add one cubit to his stature? 28 "So why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; 29 and yet I say to you that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 30 Now if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will He not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? 31 "Therefore do not worry, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?' 32 For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things.
1. So, what is Jesus really saying here? Why we shouldn’t worry about these things?
2. One reason we shouldn’t worry is because God provides for every need.
a. He provides the birds of the air with all the food they need to sustain life.
b. He provides the flowers of the field all the rain and all the nourishment from the soil needed to sustain them.
c. And so, the only conclusion we can reach from all this is that God will provide for us everything that is needful to sustain life as well.
3. Another reason why we don’t need to worry about all these things is because God knows every need.
a. I take this to mean that God not only knows we have need of food, clothing and shelter, but that he also knows when we have need of these basic necessities of life.
b. The birds of the air have a constant need for food, and so God provides for that need in times of plenty as well as during times when things are scarce.
c. The flowers of the field also have a constant need of water and nourishment, and so God provides water through the dew, through rain, and from the moisture stored in the soil. He also constantly provides nourishment from the elements found in soil.
d. And so, when we have need of food, clothing and shelter, God will provide those things because He not only knows we need them, He also knows when we have need of those things – even before we ask.
4. Another reason we don’t need to worry about these needs is because God values us more than birds or flowers.
a. We are of more value in God’s eyes than the birds of the air or the flowers of the field.
b. We have been created in the likeness of God (Gen 1:26) by virtue of the fact that we were given a spirit that will live forever.
c. We have also been redeemed from our sins by the blood of Jesus Christ – God’s only begotten Son.
d. These two things alone should tell us how much God values us – and there are so many more ways in which God values us if we only had time to mention them all.
5. And finally, we don’t need to worry about all these things because worry accomplishes nothing.
a. This is why Jesus asked, “Which of you by worrying can add one cubit to his stature?” (v. 27)
b. Worry doesn’t change anything.
c. Nothing good ever came from worrying. The only thing that comes from worrying is stress, depression, mental and physical illness, and worst of all, a weakened faith.
III. So, now that we understand our actual list of needs is short, and we understand all the reasons why we shouldn’t worry, what’s the solution for erasing worry from our minds?
A. Matt 6:33 – But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.
1. There are several important things we need to understand about this verse, so let’s take the rest of our time examining this exhortation of the Lord, and see how we can apply it in our own lives.
2. This verse will not only tells us what we should be seeking, but how to seek it, and why.
B. First, Jesus says there is something that we are to seek.
1. The word used by Jesus here suggests something more than simply looking for something.
2. It suggests the idea of desiring something so intensely that we make it the aim of our desire, our goal, and we do everything within our power to obtain it.
3. And so, Jesus begins by telling us we must desire the kingdom of God and His righteousness so intensely that we make these things the aim of our desire, and we will do everything within our power to obtain them.
C. Second, Jesus says there is something that we are to seek first.
1. As you might guess, the word Jesus used here suggests that we are seeking certain things before all other things, and above, or more than, all other things.
2. The word suggests rank or the order in which things are arranged – nothing else comes before.
3. And so, Jesus says we must desire the kingdom of God and His righteousness so intensely that we will do everything in our power to obtain them, and we make these things absolutely first in our lives – the kingdom of God and His righteousness comes before all other things in our life, and above all other things in our life.
D. Third, Jesus tells us what we are to seek first. He says there are actually two things we need to seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness. Let’s look at each of these separately.
1. To begin, what did Jesus mean when He said we must seek first the kingdom of God? Let’s see how Jesus used this term.
a. Luke 17:20-21 – Now when He was asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, He answered them and said, "The kingdom of God does not come with observation; 21 nor will they say, 'See here!' or 'See there!' For indeed, the kingdom of God is within you."
b. John 18:36 – Jesus answered [Pilate], "My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, My servants would fight, so that I should not be delivered to the Jews; but now My kingdom is not from here."
2. So, what do these two passages tell us?
a. First, they tell us that the kingdom of God is, “not of this world” – meaning it isn’t something we can see – and then say to someone, “See here” or “See there.”
b. And second, the reason why the kingdom of God is not of this world, or is not visible with detectable boundaries like all other kingdoms, is simply because the kingdom of God is “within you.”
3. The word kingdom is simply defined as the realm over which a king reigns as supreme ruler.
4. In the case of the kingdom of God, the realm over which Jesus reigns as Supreme leader – as King of kings and Lord of lords – is within us (within our hearts).
5. And so, Jesus wants us to know that the first requirement for conquering worry is to desire the sovereign reign of Jesus Christ within our hearts so intensely that we make this the aim of our desire, and we put the sovereign reign of Jesus Christ within our hearts before everything else, and above everything else.
a. This means, we not only place ourselves under the reign and rule of Jesus Christ, but that our desire for Christ to reign and rule in our hearts is greater than any desire we have.
b. Jesus Christ comes absolutely first in our lives – before all other things, and above, or more than, all other things.
6. Jesus says this is the first thing we need to do to conquer worry. And do you want to know why this is so important?
a. For one thing, it’s through the blood of Jesus Christ that we have redemption and forgiveness, and are thus added to the kingdom by God. Col 1:13-14 – He [God the Father] has delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyed us into the kingdom of the Son of His love, in whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins.
b. And for another thing, when we truly seek first the reign and rule of Jesus Christ within our hearts, we can conquer worry because we know the Lord will always be there to care for and protect us. Heb 13:5-6 – Let your conduct be without covetousness; be content with such things as you have. For He Himself has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” 6 So we may boldly say: “The LORD is my helper; I will not fear. What can man do to me?”
c. This is why we need to seek first the kingdom of God – seek above all other things the rule of Jesus Christ within our hearts – truly making Him the King of our life.
7. But Jesus said we not only need to seek first the kingdom of God, but also we must seek first His righteousness.
a. The word righteousness can be defined simply as holy and upright living, in keeping with God's standard, as a result of having a pure and clean heart.
b. The word actually comes from a root word that means "straightness," and refers to the act of conforming to God’s authoritative standard of right and wrong.
c. One of the attributes of God, mentioned throughout the Scriptures, is the attribute of righteousness.
(1) God is the very essence of holiness and purity.
8. And so, Jesus wants us to know that the first requirement for conquering worry is to also desire so intensely a life characterized by holy and upright living as the result of purity and cleanliness of heart, that we make this the aim of our desire, and we put the desire of holy and upright living before everything else, and above everything else.
9. Now, why would you think this is so important in being able to conquer worry?
a. Ps 34:11-22 – Come, you children, listen to me; I will teach you the fear of the LORD. 12 Who is the man who desires life, and loves many days, that he may see good? 13 Keep your tongue from evil, and your lips from speaking deceit. 14 Depart from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it. 15 The eyes of the LORD are on the righteous, and His ears are open to their cry. 16 The face of the LORD is against those who do evil, to cut off the remembrance of them from the earth. 17 The righteous cry out, and the LORD hears, and delivers them out of all their troubles. 18 The LORD is near to those who have a broken heart, and saves such as have a contrite spirit. 19 Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the LORD delivers him out of them all. 20 He guards all his bones; not one of them is broken. 21 Evil shall slay the wicked, and those who hate the righteous shall be condemned. 22 The LORD redeems the soul of His servants, and none of those who trust in Him shall be condemned.
b. The Lord sees the righteous, hears the righteous, delivers the righteous, is near the righteous, guards the righteous, and redeems the righteous.
c. When the children of Israel were about to enter the land of Canaan and conquer it, Moses encouraged them by saying: Deut 31:6 – "Be strong and of good courage, do not fear nor be afraid of them; for the LORD your God, He is the One who goes with you. He will not leave you nor forsake you."
d. And don’t forget, the apostle Paul said God has also given US this same promise: Heb 13:5 – For He Himself has said, "I will never leave you nor forsake you."
e. By seeking above everything else the reign and rule of Jesus Christ within our hearts, and by also seeking above everything else holy and upright living as the result of cleanliness of heart, we know that God is with us every step of the way, and will never leave us nor forsake us.
f. If knowing that doesn’t drive a stake through the heart of worry, I don’t know what would.
E. But there is one other reason why Jesus said those who seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness should not worry – and that is the fact that God will supply all our needs.
1. Matt 6:33 – But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.
a. All what things?
2. First, all our needs – food, clothing and shelter. All the things that we need to be content (satisfied).
a. How God chooses to provide us with all these things is not always the same.
b. Sometimes God’s gives us the strength, the ability, and the opportunity to work and earn a living so that all these things can be provided.
c. And sometimes God provides these things through the grace, mercy and lovingkindness of others.
d. The psalmist David put it this way: Ps 37:23-25 – The steps of a good man are ordered by the LORD, and He delights in his way. 24 Though he fall, he shall not be utterly cast down; for the LORD upholds him with His hand. 25 I have been young, and now am old; yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken, nor his descendants begging bread.
3. But I also think the Lord implied that the God will add to us all the things we are truly seeking first – namely, the kingdom of God, and His righteousness.
a. Those who seek above all other things, the reign and rule of Jesus Christ in their hearts as Lord of lords, and King of kings, and who seek above all other things a pure heart that leads to holy and upright living – those who truly seek these things – will be given them.
b. The apostle Paul, in his letter to the church at Colosse, put it this way: Col 3:1-4 – If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. 2 Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth. 3 For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory.
I. What are you seeking first? What’s most important in your life?