MATTHEW 6:33c(part two)
Prepared by Dr. John E. Marshall
Matt. 6:33c (part two) “. . .first. . .”
Our precious Lord, condescending to help us overcome our natural bent to worry, is reminding us we can think on only one thing at a time. Committing our minds to thinking about spiritual matters will crowd out worry about earthly stuff.
Seek God’s kingdom “first,” beginning with our lifetime, with determining the direction of our whole lives. Young People, I especially urge you to give God your best and your all right now. A helpful verse to me in my teen years was, “Let no man despise thy youth; but be thou an example of the believers” (1 TM 4:12).
Second, seek God “first” in our calendar. Time has become in the minds of most of us Americans our most valued commodity, even surpassing money. What we do with our time tells us much about what we truly value most in our heart.
It is amazing and sad how easily God can be slowly yet systematically squeezed out of our lives by the hustle and bustle of things we want to do–kids in little league and after-school activities, adults wanting to golf, play tennis, hunt, fish, go to movies, have date nights, etc. When it comes to stuff we want to do for our own enjoyment, we have lots of choices, but must be careful not to let fine things push out the finest thing. The greatest danger to best is always second best.
We need to pray and pore over our calendars, doing honest evaluation. How much of our time is God really getting? When things of this world compete with things of God, the choice for God should have been made way in advance.
When God is not first in our schedule, He becomes our antagonist rather than our protagonist; our foe, not our friend; our hinderer, not our helper. This results in disaster. Life gets out of kilter, spins out of control, everything seems to be swirling into chaos and confusion. We feel we are trying to keep too many plates spinning, our world is going haywire, and all the while we wonder what is wrong. The whole problem is, we have not placed our calendars on the altar. Thus, God is not helping us with them. For a believer, this is a scary thought.
Seek God’s kingdom “first” on our calendar. Our first consideration about any engagement should be, what does God think of it? Will it detract from my witness or my time with Him? Whatever appointment we consider, remember we have a prior commitment. At home, Ruth handles finances, I handle the calendar. Thus, before Ruth can commit to any engagement, she has to say, “I need to check John’s calendar first.” I urge us all, when calendaring, check God’s agenda first.
Seek God’s kingdom “first” on our calendar every week. Set aside the Lord’s Day. Even when gone on vacation, attend church. Getting away to give our minds a break is okay, but our faith should never take a holiday. Asked if her dad was a Christian, a girl replied, “Yes, but he has not worked much at it lately.” For some believers, their religion is on vacation, AWOL, absent without leave.
One day a week, every week, belongs to God first. Worship and rest–do both. As our culture quit doing the former, we began losing the latter. Ever since we repealed the “closed on Sunday” laws, our society has been exhausted. We wanted to shop and work on Sunday, and have been tired ever since. A side benefit of our starting Saturday Sunday School and worship will be to help our people who have to work on Sundays be better able to set aside time for worship and rest.
Taking one day a week for worship and rest will do more for our mental health and families than any other activity, including occasional weekend trips or annual vacations. The latter are wonderful, but a weekly day of worship and rest is the only thing prescribed in the Bible. Trips and vacations can supplement, but not replace, setting aside one day a week. I challenge you, for 90 days set aside one day a week for worship and rest. Try it. You will feel better, your marriage and work performance will improve. God’s way is always the best way to live.
Seek God’s kingdom “first” on our calendar every day. Do not put feet on the floor until after voicing a prayer. I usually do each day’s personal private time the night before because I can be most focused then. When I do devotions in the morning, my mind is divided–a stack of work awaits me, and I want to get after it.
I remind us of Chadwick’s words, “Hurry is the death of prayer.” We cannot at the same time have our eyes on God and the clock. Thus, for me it is best to do personal private time at night. However, even with this being the case, the next morning I do not rise from bed without first hugging Ruth and praying to Jesus.
Paul said, “I die daily” (1 C 15:31). I have long felt these three words carried profound significance with regard to living a godly life, but I have never heard an explanation of them which I felt fully and adequately clarified their real meaning. I have heard many attempted explanations, but they all seemed too shallow, a mere skimming of the surface. Of late, though, I think I am finally fulfilling my quest to come to grips with Paul’s meaning in this strong, dreadful, phrase.
Each believer possesses two life sources–our original self, our old man, our sin nature, given to us at our physical birth, plus our newer nature, the God-life, implanted in us at our spiritual birth. “I die daily” means I consciously choose every day to let my old man die, and to depend solely on the new power source.
”I die daily” does not happen by accident. The choice must be made repeatedly. By default or by design, we can live in the power and ways of our old man. We all have the ability to think, talk, communicate, make decisions, and get on in life solely by our old self. Prechristians do this all the time. They have this same life source in them and live their whole lives under its sway. Sadly, many Christians do the same thing. They live life in their own strength, in their own power, and often do this by default. The choice is ours, but by being careless, by not choosing to die daily, we live our lives with no more power than lost people do.
Jesus chose to die daily. Leaving heaven, He emptied Himself of His glory (PH 2:7). Yet even then, when He humbly walked on earth, still being God He could have lived a perfect life in His own strength and power. However, Jesus chose to live a dependent life. He was absolutely perfect, but not due to strength and power He inherently possessed in His own self, but rather because He chose to depend on the Father’s power within Him. Jesus said, “The Son can do nothing of Himself, unless it is something He sees the Father doing; for whatever the Father does, these things the Son also does in like manner” (JN 5:19 NAS). “I can do nothing on my own initiative. As I hear, I judge; and My judgment is just, because I do not seek My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me” (JN 5:30 NAS). “The living Father sent Me, and I live because of the Father” (JN 6:57 NAS). “I do nothing on My own initiative, but I speak these things as the Father taught Me” (JN 8:28 NAS). “The words that I say to you I do not speak on My own initiative, but the Father abiding in Me does His works” (JN 14:10 NAS). Jesus left us an example of how to live. We do not stumble into victory or gain it by osmosis, but rather consciously choose daily to say no to our own strength, and yes to God’s in us.
As we understand the need to make a conscious choice daily between two competing life forces within us, we better understand Galatians 2:20, “I am crucified with Christ, nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God.” Paul lived life by daily making a choice to lean on a life-source other than the natural one he was born with. Stephen Olford has said, many Christians adore the cradle of Christ and await the coming of Christ, but abhor the cross of Christ, not wanting to live the crucified life. They do not want to sacrifice their life on an altar daily. As a result, they are powerless and frustrated.
God help us to prioritize, to keep first things first. May we seek the kingdom of God “first” in our lifetime and also on our calendars weekly and daily.