How to seek the Kingdom of God FIRST

Jan 21

How to seek the Kingdom of God FIRST

Matthew 6:25-24

Our Problem: We focus on things of little value

Proposition: Since God cares for us, we must seek the Kingdom of God first

  1. Determine what is truly valuable
  2. Recognize that you are valuable
  3. Seek what is eternally valuable

There is one step to living a life free of anxiety and worry: Seek the Kingdom of God FIRST

  1. Determine what is truly valuable (V. 25 & 31)

Explanation

  • Read Matthew 6:25 and 31
    • These verses mirror each other and act as brackets to the passage
    • They both start with the word ‘therefore’ (Jesus has given us a truth, therefore)
      • This passage is directly connected to the passage we looked at last week (v. 19-24)
      • Don’t find your security, comfort, and joy in stuff on earth, but find your security, comfort, and joy in the hope of heaven.
        • So, Jesus is saying, since you can’t find security, comfort, and joy in stuff on earth, don’t be anxious about whether or not you will have those things.
          • He has said:
          • Prioritize treasure in heaven rather than on earth
          • See through a perspective of generosity rather than of greed
          • Practice a lifestyle of serving God with your money
            • THEREFORE, don’t be anxious about those things
    • Then Jesus presents this question in verse 25: “Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?”
    • What he’s saying is in order to seek the kingdom of God FIRST, you need to determine what is truly valuable.

Application

  • Fortunately, Jesus has already given us the tools to determine what is truly valuable, and we can figure that out by asking ourselves these three questions:
    • What do you prioritize? (v.19-21)
      • You prioritize what is most valuable to you
    • What is your perspective? (v. 22-23)
      • You perspective determines your directive
    • What do you practice? (v. 24)
      • Your actions show what you value
  • What do you prioritize?
    • You prioritize what is most valuable to you
    • Jesus told a famous parable about a farmer who sowed seed that fell on four different types of soil.  Some of the seed feel among thorns, and this is what Jesus said about it:
      • “As for what was sown among thorns, this is the one who hears the word, but the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and it proves unfruitful.” Matthew 13:22
      • When the cares of this world start to overwhelm you, and the deceitfulness of riches start calling your name, what do you prioritize?  What is truly valuable?
        • Is the kingdom of God your first priority, or is that bigger house, that newer car, that prestigious reputation. 
    • To live a life free from anxiety, we have to seek the kingdom of God FIRST, and that means determining what is truly valuable.
      • So the first way to determine what is truly valuable is to ask what we prioritize, and secondly you have to ask:
  • What is your perspective?
    • Your perspective determines your directive
    • If you live your life with a perspective that security, comfort, and joy can be found in stuff, then you will be enslaved to a life of anxiety.
      • The stock market might crash, you might lose your job, a tornado could sweep through this spring
    • But if you live your life with a perspective that security, comfort, and joy can only be found in the security of the Savior, then you will be liberated from anxiety about material things
      • In Hebrews 10:34 the author wrote to the Hebrew believers in the first century church saying, “You joyfully accepted the plundering of your property, since you knew that you yourselves had a better possession and an abiding one.”
      • Talk about a perspective that liberates from worry about stuff!
        • You can take my home on earth, because you can’t take my home in heaven
        • You can take my health on earth, because you can’t take away my eternal life
        • You can take away my possessions so I have nothing to eat, because in heaven Jesus beckons all who hunger and thirst to buy and eat without money and without price! 
          • Is that your perspective?
    • To live a life free from anxiety, we have to seek the kingdom of God FIRST, and that means determining what is truly valuable.
      • The third question we can ask to determine what is truly valuable is:
  • What do you practice?
    • Your actions show what you value.
    • I have been to some of the poorest places in the world, and do you know what they weren’t worried about? What they would eat, or what they would drink, or what they would wear.
    • But do you know who is worried and anxious about what they will eat, what they will drink, and what they will wear?  Celebrities, politicians, the rich. 
    • The more money people have, the more they care about what they will eat, what they will drink, and what they will wear.
    • What you practice, will show you what you value, and Jesus tells us not to worry about material things.
    • To live a life free from anxiety, we have to seek the kingdom of God FIRST, and that means determining what is truly valuable.

Transition: The first step in seeking the kingdom of God first is to determine what is truly valuable, but then Jesus takes this a step further and says, not only do you need to determine what is truly valuable, but you need to:

  1. Recognize that you are valuable (V. 26 & 28-30)

Explanation

  • Read Matthew 6:26, and 28-30
  • With these illustrations and comparisons, Jesus is trying to make three things as clear as he possibly he can:
    • Your heavenly Father loves you
    • Your heavenly Father provides for you
    • Your heavenly Father guides your life
  • Now Jesus uses two illustrations: birds, and grass. And what he is doing is taking the lowliest living things in God’s creation according to Hebrew customs.  He uses the lowliest of all creatures: birds, and the lowliest of all plants: grass.  And he’s going to make the point that if God values the lowliest things in his creation, how much more will he value the crowning jewel of his creation: mankind. 
  • Your heavenly father loves you
    • V. 26 – “Are you of not more value than they?”  I looked online and the going rate for a bird these days is about $5.  During Jesus’s time birds were sold for half a penny.  Do you have some pennies stuck in the cup holder of your car?  You could be rolling in birds. 
  • Your heavenly father provides for you
    • Jesus is saying ‘your heavenly father loves his creation, it is valuable to him, even birds that are literally a dime a dozen.’ It is incomprehensible how much more valuable you are to him. 
    • To live a life free from anxiety, you have to seek the kingdom of God FIRST, and that means recognizing that you are valuable to God.
  • Your heavenly father guides your life
    • God shows his love and provision by guiding our lives
    • V. 28-30 – If God makes the grass look nice by putting flowers in it, how much more will  he do that for you? 
      • The going rate for birds right now is $5, but you know what the going rate for a blade of grass is?  ZERO DOLLARS.  It’s free.  We walk all over it.  Our dogs go to the bathroom on it.  And yet God dresses it up with flowers because he values his creation. 
      • So after much study of this text, and examining the language, and referring to biblical scholars, I want to make a poignant theological statement to you this morning: You are more valuable to God than grass!
    • To live a life free from anxiety, you have to seek the kingdom of God FIRST, and that means recognizing that you are valuable to God.

Illustration

  • Psalm 23 is one of the greatest passages of Scripture that lays out how God loves us, provides for us, and guides our lives. 
    • It says, ‘The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.  He makes me lie down in green pastures.  He leads me beside still waters.  He restores my soul.  He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.’
      • He loves us, he provides for us, and guides our lives.
    • And then check this out, the next thing it says, ‘Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me.’ 
      • God guides our lives on paths of righteousness for his name’s sake, and sometimes that path goes directly through the valley of the shadow of death.  But we should not be anxious, we should not worry, we should not fear, because we are valuable to God. 
    • To live a life free from anxiety, you have to seek the kingdom of God FIRST, and that means recognizing that you are valuable to God.
  • Friends, Jesus took great pains to demonstrate to us how valuable we are to him, and there was no greater pain he took to do this than to endure the cross that we deserve.
  • There is perhaps no greater way for a child of God to grieve the heart of their Heavenly Father, than to not believe that he loves you.  Because he sacrificed his son to display that love.
    • Romans 8:31 says, “He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?”
    • To live a life free from anxiety, you have to seek the kingdom of God FIRST, and that means recognizing that you are valuable to God.

Transition: So to seek the kingdom of God FIRST, we must determine what is truly valuable, we must recognize that we are valuable, and finally, we must:

  1. Seek what is eternally valuable (V. 27 & 33)

Explanation

  • Read Matthew 6:27 and 33
  • Jesus finally gets to the key of the whole passage: seek the kingdom of God FIRST.
    • That means seeking what is eternally valuable. Actively pursuing and putting energy into God’s desires.
    • So how do we do that?  We do that in these ways:
      • Give God your worries by praying continuously
      • Advance God’s kingdom by giving strategically
      • Reassure yourself by reading God’s word daily
  • As I was preparing this message I really wanted to take seriously Jesus’s command not to be anxious, while also taking seriously the things in our lives that cause us anxiety.
    • If your child is in the NICU, won’t that cause you some anxiety?
    • What if you’re not sure how you’re going to stretch your finances to the end of the month?
    • What if you and your spouse aren’t on good terms and you feel like you’re losing that spark in your marriage? 
      • Are we just supposed to pretend that everything is fine and slap a plastic smile on our faces?
      • Friends, if anyone has sold you that brand of Christianity, I want you to find the receipt and return it for full price, because the captain of our faith, Jesus Christ, has shown us that that is not what seeking the kingdom of God first means.
  • Jesus experienced worse anxiety than any of us ever have or ever will.  He looked down the barrel of God’s wrath against sin face first in the garden of gethsemane, and experienced such anxiety that he sweat drops of blood. 
    • The condition of sweating blood is known as “Hematidrosis” and is caused by mental anxiety and stress that is so severe that it causes the nervous system to hemorrhage the vessels of the sweat glands. 
    • So no, Jesus did not just pretend everything was fine and slap a plastic smile on his face like some TV preacher with slick hair and perfect teeth. 
    • What he did was he brought his anxiety to the throne of God. 
  • It is not wrong for you to experience anxiety.  Anxiety is part of the curse of sin, that things aren’t what they are supposed to be, anxiety is a reaction to our fallen condition before God.  What matters is what we do with that anxiety. 
    • You can either wallow in your worries, or you can signal your Savior.
    • Seek what is eternally valuable by praying continuously
      • Even when he was faced with extreme anxiety, Jesus sought the kingdom of God FIRST.  And that is what he calls us to do. 
      • Give God your worries by praying continuously.
  • We can also seek what is eternally valuable giving strategically.
    • Advance God’s kingdom by giving strategically.
      • In what way can you use your money to have the biggest impact for the kingdom of God? 
      • Give strategically to missionaries you trust, to organizations that spread the gospel, and use what God has blessed you with to advance the kingdom of God.
  • And finally, seek what is eternally valuable by reading God’s word daily.
    • Anxiety is after all of us, and we can reassure ourselves by reading God’s word on a daily basis.
      • Write down some verses that comfort you on sticky note and put them in places that you will see them so that you will be reassured of God’s faithfulness.
      • Set a time each day that you will read Scripture.
      • Memorize a verse each week that you can meditate on when worry hits you
        • Start with Romans 8:32 “He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things.”
      • Seek what is eternally valuable by praying continuously, giving strategically, and reading God’s word daily.

Conclusion

  • Jesus makes a promise here, after telling us to seek the kingdom of God FIRST.  He says that if we do that: all these things will be added to you.
  • He says, “Don’t be anxious about what you will eat, or drink, or wear, because if you seek the kingdom of God FIRST, all these things will be added to you.” 
  • Now just like we looked at Jesus’s example with his anxiety in the Garden of Gethsemane, I want us to look at his example again. 
    • Because some people can take this verse and understand it to mean that if you seek the kingdom of God FIRST then you will always be fed and clothed. 
    • That is not true. 
    • If you think following God will get you a full belly and fur coat, you are completely mistaken.
  • No one sought the kingdom of God FIRST better than Jesus
    • His last meal was not a joyous family feast, but a solemn supper, sharing bread with the man who would betray him, Judas Iscariot
    • The last thing he had to drink was not sweet and celebratory, but bitter wine mixed with gall in a sponge held up to his mouth as he hung on the cross
    • He was stripped of his clothes, a seamless robe probably made for him by his mother and given to him on his birthday as was the tradition, and instead he was made to wear a crown of thorns. 
      • This is the man who says to you today, do not be anxious about what you will eat, or what you will drink or what you will wear.
      • But seek first the kingdom of God, and all these things will be added to you.
      • How can he say that?  How can he say that all these things will be added to you when all those things were taken from him? 
      • And in that question lies the answer:
        • He can say ‘all these things will be added to you,’ precisely because they were taken from him. 
        • Through his death on the cross Jesus offers food so that you might never go hungry.  He offers living water so that you may never thirst again.  He offers white garments without stain or blemish that you may stand before the throne of God with confidence. 
        • Jesus would exchange his crown of thorns for a crown of gold, and he would exchange his nakedness for a robe. 
          • Revelation 19 says “On his head are many diadems, and he is clothed in a robe dipped in blood…and the armies of heaven, arrayed in fine linen, white and pure, are following him.”
        • And Jesus would exchange his last meal and his last drink, for the marriage supper of the lamb, where he invites us to dine with him for all eternity!
    • Seek the kingdom of God FIRST, and all these things will be added to you. 

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.  And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ.” Philippians 4:6-7

Jesus said, ‘Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands, for my sake and for the gospel, who will not receive a hundredfold now in this time, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and in the age to come eternal life.’” Mark 10:29-30