Matthew 6:33 “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”
Last week and this week we are trying to unpack when it means to seek first the Kingdom of God. Matthew chapter five begins with a description of those who belong to the Kingdom of God or the Kingdom of Heaven. Chapter six concludes with our main text about seeking first the Kingdom of God. So sandwiched in between these two Scriptures is a host of material in chapters five and six that teach us the nitty-gritty of what it means to embrace the Kingdom of God and to seek the Kingdom in our personal lives. To review, the Kingdom of God is the rule of God on the inside of us and the reign of God that is demonstrated on the outside of us through our attitudes and actions.
We see first of all in the opening verses of chapter six that
Kingdom people SERVE UNSELFISHLY.
Matthew 6:1-4 (NIV) 1 “Be careful not to do your ‘acts of righteousness’ before men, to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven. 2 “So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. 3 But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, 4 so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.”
The Pharisees were great showmen. They put on a show whenever they performed good works. They always made sure they had an audience. Their goal wasn’t to relieve suffering or show compassion but to be seen. I wonder if this idea about not announcing one’s good works with trumpets was the forerunner to the modern day expression, “Don’t toot your own horn!”
Kingdom people aren’t into discipleship for credit. They aren’t seeking applause. They don’t give to get recognized or serve to benefit their image or reputation. They don’t care if they get noticed or thanked. They are servants who aren’t seeking any kind of earthly reward. People who live for applause get their reward in a moment in time that comes and goes as quickly as it came. People who live for God’s blessing and favor will gain a reward that lasts for eternity!
Remember, last week, from chapter five, we talked about being pure in heart. If a person desires notoriety, attention, or approval as a result of their good works, they aren’t pure in heart. Their motives are twisted. Instead of being “pure givers,” they are selfish givers; seeking what they can get in return. Remember, seeking first the Kingdom always involves an internal component. No matter how “good” our actions appear on the outside, if they don’t come from a pure heart, they are corrupt and are done in vain. Corrupt hearted people will never receive their reward from God.
I love this word Paul gives to Timothy in 1 Timothy 6:17-19: “17 Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. 18 Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. 19 In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life.”
“. . . so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life.” That phrase could also be translated to say, “So that they may take hold of the life that is real.” Real life is Kingdom life. It is an internal reality that exceeds the physical dimensions and constraints of this life. It is true life or true living. It is living on a spiritual plane that supersedes the ways of thinking and doing in this world.
As you evaluate yourself this morning regarding this particular Kingdom principle, do you serve and give unselfishly? Is it a burden to help others or give to others or are you happy to do so? When you see a need are you moved to act or do you have to be “compelled” by others to get involved? Is it natural for you to want to make life better for others because of an internal purity of your heart? The more we become like Jesus, the more we submit to the God of the Kingdom, the more we will seek the Kingdom through serving and giving. If you aren’t prompted to serve and give, you may want to consider how much Kingdom seeking you are doing.
Kingdom people PRAY STRATEGICALLY.
Matthew 6:9-15 (NIV) 9 “This, then, is how you should pray: “‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, 10 your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. 11 Give us today our daily bread. 12 Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. 13 And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.’ 14 For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 15 But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.”
God is not a genie in a bottle to be demanded of and used. He is the Almighty, Everlasting, Creator, Redeemer, and Restorer of all things and He is to be worshiped, feared, and adored. Understanding who He is and what He has done for us in making us His children by sending Jesus to pay the price for our sins with His very life . . . that should prompt us to talk to Him with reverence and awe. “Hallowed be your name!” (Vs. 9)
Praying for God’s Kingdom to come (Vs. 10) is to pray for the rule of God on the inside of every person and the reign of God on the outside of every person through their attitude and actions! People who seek the Kingdom through prayer will have that prayer answered!
Vs. 11, “Give us this day our daily bread.” Asking for daily bread means accepting that all we have is this moment. It is a daily reliance on God to supply our needs. Asking for bread for tomorrow or next week or next year can get us into trouble. It gets our focus off of a daily relationship and dependence upon God and puts the focus on our agenda and what we think we need for our future. God knows what your daily bread should include. He knows what that means for your life. He has designed us for a day by day relationship with Him. He isn’t nearly as concerned about your five-year plan or your bucket list as He is about you obeying Him and trusting Him today.
I wrote this poem when I was 16 years old, and I believe it is something God has impressed upon me that I should live by:
When I think about forever, this moment seems to fade,
But the way I spend each moment is how my forever is made.
So each moment, I give you, Lord.
In my life have Your way.
My forever, I entrusted to you today!
Kingdom people know that it’s day by day, moment by moment. They understand that it is a daily recognition and walk with God. Later in verse 24 of chapter 6 of Matthew, we are told, “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” People who are seeking first the Kingdom are concerned about what God wants them to do right here, right now.
Kingdom people live a confessional life. Verse 12 tells us they regularly confess their sins and ask for forgiveness. They are aware that they can’t save themselves and are mindful that God’s offer for forgiveness isn’t a one-time cleansing at salvation, but an ongoing washing and renewal that helps Kingdom people stay in right fellowship with the King of the Kingdom.
Verses 14 and 15 are really an extension of the thoughts from verse 12: “14 For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 15 But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.”
God is serious about us being able to get along. He is serious about us being peacemakers. He is serious about us working together in the Kingdom. There cannot be a divided Kingdom. We cannot claim to be Kingdom seekers if we hate anyone, avoid anyone, speak ill of anyone, or think we are better than anyone else. We cannot claim to be Kingdom seekers if we hold grudges, bear anger, or stand in judgment of others. God is super serious about this point. If you don’t get it right with people, you can’t get it right with God.
“Well, they don’t deserve forgiveness.” You have a great but worthless point. You and I didn’t deserve it either when God forgave us. You see, here is the inward component. Forgiveness is a gift that comes from a person’s heart. It’s a gift. People don’t earn forgiveness. They might earn trust, but they don’t earn forgiveness. They might earn respect, but they don’t earn forgiveness. Forgiveness is something you choose to do because on the inside you are a Kingdom person and the Kingdom principle is that people are given gifts they don’t deserve.
I know some of you in this room have suffered greatly. People have done and said unthinkable things to you. It isn’t easy to even think about forgiving people under those circumstances. God doesn’t ask that you forgive someone so that they can be “off the hook,” but so that you can be healed and free to give your energy to positive things like God’s will for your life. If you are consumed with bitterness and hate, you will use all of your energy up and have no focus left to move you forward or be productive. It takes a lot of energy to hate someone. It will put all kinds of unnecessary stress on your body.
Forgiveness is a gift you choose to give someone because it can transform them. Kingdom seekers are all about transformation! After all, didn’t forgiveness start to transform you when you received it from God? When we forgive people, we can expect God to be at work because God is in the forgiveness business. He gets involved in relationships where forgiveness flows. He speaks and reveals truth and helps people think about things they wouldn’t have otherwise considered when forgiveness flows. He opens people’s hearts to possibilities when forgiveness flows. Oh, sometimes, the person who is forgiven minimizes the gift or never changes as a result of receiving the gift, but at least we have created an opportunity where they could if they chose to.
I’ve gone over the fact that we are to be “pure in heart” (Matthew 5:8). But we can’t be pure in heart if we aren’t “free in heart.” Forgiveness is about being “free in heart!”
Mark 11:25 tells us forgiving those who wrong us is a command of God. “And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive him, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins.” Kingdom seekers don’t pick and choose which commands they will follow and which ones they will dismiss. If you seek the Kingdom, you take it all, even the hard stuff.
Verse 13 speaks of the Kingdom idea that God is responsible for His subjects. When we become Christians, we become God’s responsibility. He is there to shield and protect us. He is there to ensure our victory by empowering us in moments of weakness and by showing us the way of escape. He gives us His power and authority to resist Satan and to battle Him not in our own strength, but in the supernatural power He provides.
Kingdom people SEEK GOD SACRIFICIALLY
Matthew 6:16-18 (NIV) 16 “When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show men they are fasting. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. 17 But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, 18 so that it will not be obvious to men that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.
Remember our inward component for those who are Kingdom seekers. There is an internal drive, an internal desire, an internal pursuit that is known only to us and God. It’s a willingness to embrace discipleship through sacrifice in order to seek the Kingdom.
Fasting is a form of self-denial. It is one way a Christian can do what Jesus says to do in Luke 9:23: Then he said to them all: “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.”
If we were asked to explain what it meant to be a Christian or follower of Jesus we would likely list things like going to church, witnessing, following God’s commands, reading our Bible and praying, but how many of us would say it included sacrifice or self-denial? Fasting is a way to follow Jesus “on purpose.” The fasting itself is an act of sacrifice and when we fast and experience hunger, we are reminded of God and His sacrifice for us. We are reminded who our true strength and help and Source is. While fasting denies the flesh comfort, it feeds the spirit strength. Think about it: It is through eating that our body is sustained. When we sacrifice a meal or some kind of food, we are spiritually saying, “God, You mean more to me than food itself.” “God, You in me is more important than food in me.” “God, You can sustain me beyond any physical food.”
Fasting can be a form of worship. “And she was a widow of about fourscore and four years, which departed not from the temple, but served God with fastings and prayers night and day.” (Luke 2:37) This form of worship reminds us that loving God, pleasing Him, worshiping Him and following Him calls for some kind of sacrifice. There is a certain kind of Kingdom seeking you can do when you sacrifice in some way that you can’t do otherwise. In other words, one way to discover the Kingdom of God is through sacrifice.
Kingdom people INVEST WISELY.
Matthew 6:19-24 (NIV) 19 “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. 22 “The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are good, your whole body will be full of light. 23 But if your eyes are bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness! 24 “No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money.
We only have so much time. We only have so much energy. We only have so many resources. What we do with what we have and how much energy we give to something is a question Kingdom seekers have to wrestle with on a daily basis.
The stuff you are craving now is usually yard sale fodder in about three years. Do you really need it? Will it help you be a better Christian or servant if you possess it? Can you glorify God more fully if you obtain it? Will other people be drawn to Christ if they observe that you own it? Is it really necessary? How many “just because I want its” should a person pursue? Where does a person draw the line?
There is nothing wrong with goals for this life. There is nothing wrong with desiring a nice home, nice car, or nice things, but when it comes down to it and you are asked the question, what truly are you seeking? Are you investing more time, energy and money in seeking the things of the Kingdom or the things of this world? And IF the King of the Kingdom asked you to leave it all behind . . . everything you had acquired, everything you had worked for, everything you had surrounded yourself with in order to be comfortable, could you walk away from it? Answering that will help you find out how much power or hold your stuff has on you. If we couldn’t leave it behind should God call, we aren’t seeking the Kingdom, but material, earthly pursuits.
It is a blessing to see God at work in Brian Richardson’s life. Brian is a newer member of our church who is selling all of his earthly possessions in order to leave to train to become a missionary. He gets to take whatever he can carry on his back. That’s it.
He will move to Jacksonville, FL next month to join Youth With a Mission (YWAM) and will go through a 6 month training process. Three months will be spent doing local outreach in Jacksonville and 3 months after that will be spent abroad, perhaps India and Nepal. He has just finished a huge yard sale for the purpose of selling everything to raise the support he needs to train. Everything he has worked for. Everything he has invested in. Everything he has acquired for entertainment or comfort. Gone because the King of the Kingdom has called. He isn’t storing everything “just in case things don’t work out.” He is selling it all to fund what God has called Him to do. Talk about the sacrifice component of seeking the Kingdom!
You see, when you are seeking the Kingdom, you recognize that you own nothing. The King of the Kingdom owns everything you have. You are merely a steward. Therefore, if He asks to use it for a Kingdom purpose or He wants to take it from you completely, your attachment, your affection isn’t on your stuff, but on Him, so you can freely give it up.
Kingdom people TRUST GOD IMPLICITLY.
Matthew 6:25-33: 25 “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? 26 Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? 27 Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life? 28 “And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. 29 Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. 30 If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? 31 So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.
“In God we trust.” If only we lived by those four words. How many nights could we sleep instead of toss and turn? How many physical and mental challenges could we avoid? How much time, money and effort could we save? How many relationships could be salvaged?
One reason I believe so many things happen to us beyond our control is so that we will have an opportunity to choose to trust in God. You don’t have to trust in Him if you are never in pain, never surprised, never in need, or never dissatisfied or discontented.
Worrying is us trying to figure it out. Trusting is letting God work it out; no matter how long it takes, how much it costs, how much it hurts, where it leads us or what the end result is.
His way is always best. His purpose is always good. Always. We either believe that or we don’t.
Romans 8:28 “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” It is either true or false and how we demonstrate trust in Him during times of testing proves if we believe it is true or we believe it is false.
So that’s it. It all comes down to a matter of trust. Do we trust the King of the Kingdom? From Matthew 5, do we trust Him enough to let Him be in control? Do we trust Him enough to let Him inform our grief and sorrow? Do we trust Him enough to restrain ourselves in times when we would rather have our say or get our way? Do we trust Him to the point that we desire more and more of Him and His righteousness because we know possessing that is the key to possessing it all? Do we trust Him enough to choose to walk in holiness rather than try to satisfy every earthly desire? Do we trust Him enough to reach out with mercy and get involved in difficult and messy situations with people in need? Do we trust Him enough to embrace our calling to be salt and light? Do we trust Him enough to confess our sins to Him exposing every part of who we are to Him and His holiness and love? Do we trust Him enough to love those who persecute us? Do we trust Him enough to serve unselfishly, pray strategically, seek Him sacrificially and invest wisely?
Seeking God FIRST and His righteousness is going to be a matter of faith and trust. Embracing the Kingdom is always first an internal choice that will be manifest in your outward actions. Can you say for sure as you evaluate yourself against Matthew 5 and 6 that you have been seeking FIRST God’s Kingdom and righteousness?