As we aim to prioritise the values of God’s kingdom, I am reminded that on several occasions in recent years we have been reminded of Jesus’ challenge in Matthew 6:33 to ‘…seek first [God’s] kingdom and his righteousness…’
Jesus knows just how difficult a challenge this is – earlier in Matthew 6 he says that our giving, our prayers and our fasting should be seen only by God because he knows that our motive is often to draw attention to ourselves rather than God. He tells us to store up ‘treasures in heaven’, describing the impossibility of serving both God and wealth, because he knows that the temporary benefits of material things make us self-sufficient rather than dependent on God. He goes on to tell us not to worry about how to provide for our needs, precisely because we are prone to worry! Yet, in a world damaged by the sin of selfishness and greed, many people are very understandably anxious about where their next meal will come from, or how they will stay warm.
Jesus’ solution to these common issues – to ‘…seek first [God’s] kingdom…’ is both simple and radical. But sometimes the ‘simplest’ things in life are the hardest to do. The gentle tune of the old song ‘seek ye first the kingdom of God’ masks the fact that as this is about the battle to gain ground for the Kingdom of God, this task is more like trench warfare than a stroll in the park! The modern translation ‘strive first for the kingdom of God…’ highlights the challenges we face in restoring God to his rightful place. It is a battle to keep our motives pure. The attraction of wealth or self-sufficiency is alluring; the worries of day to day life are overwhelming; even the burdens of church responsibilities can easily suppress God’s calling on our lives, although of course ideally they should be very closely aligned!
Jesus’ call to ‘…strive first for the kingdom of God…’ is a call to join him in the battle to introduce God’s kingdom on earth. So our latest sermon series will look at what God’s kingdom looks like, and what it means to strive for it. Thankfully we don’t strive in our own strength – the Holy Spirit equips us for this battle. And Jesus promises that when we put God’s kingdom first, then we will not lose out – all the things we need in life will be given to us as well.
With my love and prayers