MATTHEW 6:33f (part two)
Prepared by Dr. John E. Marshall
Matt. 6:33f (part two) “. . .and all these things shall be added unto you.”
Before pursuing “all these things,” seek God’s kingdom first. It is the best and most rewarding thing to pursue. If we seek pleasure first, the result will inevitably be boredom; if family, disappointment; if profit, worry over stock markets; if safety, cowardice. “All these things” are hard on us to get, harder on us to keep, hardest on us to lose. Thus, if we put them first, worry will dominate us. On the other hand, the kingdom’s spiritual benefits are freely bestowed, freely kept, and cannot be lost. Thus, if we seek the kingdom first, a sense of security dominates.
An effective way to obey the command in our text is to find God’s kingdom even in “all these things.” Eat, drink, and dress for the kingdom. Rather than let “all these things” master our lives, make them servants of God’s cause. Do think about our own food, but not as often as about feeding others. Do be concerned about our own clothes, but not as much as about how we can better clothe others.
Spiritual success is found in yielding to God’s service everything, every ounce of our being, every person we know, every possession we own. My boyhood idol was Mickey Mantle. His teammate Bobby Richardson, a devoted Christian, often tried to win Mickey to faith. Fortunately, not long before Mickey died, Bobby’s efforts succeeded. At a FCA meeting, Bobby prayed a classic prayer: “Dear God, Your will–nothing more, nothing less, nothing else, Amen.” Pray often, “Lord, all I am, all I have, it’s yours, what do you want me to do with it?”
The Moravian Brethren’s missionary emblem shows an ox standing between a plow and an altar. Under the picture are the words “Ready for either!” Here is the true spirit of Christ: ready to live or die; ready to serve or sacrifice–whatever God requires. Having heard Dad speak often of being a mule-farmer, I have developed a mental picture of myself as being not a thoroughbred, but a plow-horse. I envision an old faithful horse who knows his master’s voice and touch. Every day, before plowing, the work horse stands under a shade tree by the field to be plowed and listens to his master’s will. The horse then puts on his plow and drags it faithfully down a row, looking neither right nor left, making a perfect, straight furrow. This pictures service, but some days the call is to sacrifice on the altar something we own or someone we know. The call may someday be for our lives. We must yield to this duty as willingly as we have to taking the plow every day.
Total surrender of our all to God must be our first priority in every endeavor. I was reminded of this again recently. As a pastor scripted in church growth, I always seek new ideas and methods on how our church can be more effective. I recently read John Vaughan’s 1990 doctoral dissertation on Sung Rak (Holy Joy) Baptist Church in Seoul, South Korea. Holy Joy is the largest Baptist church in the world and in recorded Christian history. I thought my reading would yield helpful church growth hints, but instead of finding methods, I found a pastor, Dr. Ki Dong Kim, and a people whose lives are the essence of sold out commitment.
Ki became a Christian at 19, and immediately led his mother and brothers to Christ. In a year he read the Bible 42 times. For four years, he attended 5:00 a.m. prayer meetings every day, rain or snow. Ki and his bride spent their first 40 days together in fasting and prayer to dedicate their marriage to God. When Dr. Kim began Holy Joy, he spent another 40 days in fasting and prayer. When a bank would not finance a building, he prayed six hours a day for 21 consecutive days. The banker changed his mind, and Ki spent 3 days in prayers of thanksgiving. He took no salary from the church for 7 years, supporting his family by preaching revivals in nearby churches. Ki once sold his house and gave all the money to Holy Joy. Dr. Kim and his family moved into an apartment behind the pulpit area of the church auditorium. He is every year the largest financial contributor to the church.
And what of the congregation? Every member of Holy Joy is expected to read the whole Bible in January, to pray 100 hours in February, to win souls in March, to have enlisted one more member for Holy Joy by September, and to give to the church 100% of all they make in November. Each member attends one of 8 services offered on Sunday. The auditorium’s 3,200 seats are filled each service.
Holy Joy reminds us, God’s blessing on a church is not found in games or gimmicks, but in being sold out to Him. God blesses methods only when the people using them are totally yielded. The Holy Spirit anoints people, not programs.
Preparing this message caused me to reflect on the greatest revival Ruth and I experienced, from Monday night, October 24, 1977, to October 15, 1978. Everything we did that year succeeded. Even the weather was perfect, no rain or snow for 52 consecutive Sundays. At our next church, we tried the same promotions and events again, but they all, with one exception, failed. God thereby taught me a vital lesson. It’s not methods, it’s the Spirit, and His blessing falls on programs only as it passes through consecrated hearts. I recall, before the revival, looking out the parsonage window and praying, “God, give me that Air Force base or I’ll die.” I crawled down the auditorium aisles, praying over every pew, and crawled on my knees up the steps to a balcony which had never been used. I prayed over all the pews up there, and then as an act of faith I cleaned them. So much dust had collected on them that my moist cloth turned it to mud. When our church needed buses, Ruth and I gave all our money to buy them; people later reimbursed us. She and I took each Saturday to run a bus route; others joined us. The blessing came on methods only as it passed through the broken hearts of a congregation.
What is true of finding God’s blessing in local church growth is also true in finding success in the mission enterprise of a church. Except for William Carey, probably no person has had a wider impact on the modern mission movement than James Hudson Taylor. He began the “interior” movement, the drive to take the Gospel inland, away from the coasts where western influences were already felt. In some ways he is the grandfather of our modern unreached peoples movement.
Before Taylor was born, his parents knelt to dedicate their first child to God. At age 17 James Hudson became a Christian. “Well do I remember,” he wrote later, “as in unreserved consecration I put myself, my life, my friends, my all upon the altar. . . .A deep consciousness that I was not my own took possession of me. . . .I felt I was in the presence of God.” A voice spoke to his heart, “Go for me to China!” His commitment to China never wavered from that moment. He began teaching himself to read Chinese characters, and gave himself to winning others to Christ, believing he had to be a soulwinner at home before he could be one abroad.
To prepare for the rigors of missionary life, he gave up as many creature comforts as possible. He disposed of his feather-bed and began sleeping on the floor every night. He moved out of his comfortable home into an apartment measuring less than twelve feet square. He ate oatmeal, rice, and brown bread, paid his small rent, and gave the rest of his income to God’s work.
When the beautiful music teacher he loved would not consent to go to China with him, it was a perilous moment. He gave her up, but his grief was almost unbearable, his faith in God was severely tested. He could not understand why. The devil for days tempted him to give up his ministry to return to the lady, but at last, the Great Physician began to heal his broken heart. “God does not deprive me of feeling in my trial,” James wrote his sister, “yet he enables me to sing.”
Then came the parting from his mother. On the boat the two of them and two friends read a psalm, sang a song, and prayed a prayer. “While we waved our handkerchiefs,” his mother later wrote friends, “he took his stand at the head, afterwards climbed into the rigging, waving his hat, looking more like a victorious hero, than a strippling just entering the battlefield. Then his figure became less and less distinct, and in a few moments passenger and ship were lost to sight.”
“Victorious hero” indeed, off to live a life which altered the course of Christian history, an answer to his prayer for “wide-spread usefulness.” His daughter died, son died, wife died, second wife died, but the call to China never wavered.
First, seek God’s kingdom. Second, gratefully receive “all these things” He gives us. Third, find ways to use these things to promote the kingdom even more.