In going through the process of determining my core values, I had a lot of things cross my mind. There are so many thing that are out there vying of my attention, and many of them are really good things! How am I supposed to settle down and figure out what the most important things in my life are going to be? If only there was a place that could tell me how I should look at the different responsibilities, opportunities, and amusements that cross my path.
But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. – Matthew 6:33 (ESV)
Okay, so that clears that up! Christ tells His followers that the most important thing they can look for in life is to find ways to grow closer to God and do work for His kingdom. That is where things should start. Anything else goes somewhere else. (That’s kinda what “first” means – at least as I read it…)
So, what does it look like to seek the kingdom of God first? This kingdom of God is not here. It is something we are not going to see in our lifetime. (I will wait a second for that joke to settle in…that should be enough.) The kingdom of God comes later, and right now we are in the middle of our now! And righteousness? Isn’t that what a lot of religious people claim to have when they are really just looking down on other people? Frankly, no. The kingdom and the righteousness of God we are supposed to be seeking are found in how we live our lives, and that probably means that something needs to change. More than likely more than one thing!
1. Start thinking differently. – Our natural way of thinking is to seek first the kingdom of “insert your name here.” I want what matters to me, and if all goes well, that might not bring you any harm or discomfort, but if it does, I can probably live with that. After all, I got mine, right? That would be fine, but that is the way of man, and that path will lead to an empty end. Instead we need to live as if we are standing before the face of God. That is different thinking!
In thinking differently we start to look at the things in our lives that are taking the place of God. They might be some good things like a nice house, a green lawn, a nice car,a wife and 2.3 kids. It could be a college education, a football game with friends, or a family vacation. All good things, but when they take the place of God as first in our lives, they become bad things. The Bible has a name for that – IDOLS. As I have borrowed from Mark Driscoll before, and yes, I think he understands this more than ever now, “When a good thing becomes a god thing, that’s a bad thing.” Anything that takes the place of God is bad. It’s not debatable.
When I think about some of the things I want to do, I need to stop and ask myself if doing it is going to keep me from or hurt my relationship with God. If it does, then it is a bad thing. When I want to say something to someone that I think they really need to hear, I need to ask myself if this is going to bring them closer to understanding their need for a relationship with God. If it doesn’t, it could be a bad thing. When I allow something to take up my time I need to ask myself if it is going to help myself or someone else know God and understand His Word better. If it doesn’t, it might be a bad thing.
Not all things are bad things, but when they are running my life, they are not good things. They have become little “g” gods that pull me from doing the things I should be doing as a follower of Christ, a husband, a father, a friend, an employee and so on. I need to examine the things in my life that I think about and figure out how they impact kingdom work. When I start thinking about the kingdom the next step comes in.
2. Start acting differently. – When I am looking at my actions with God in mind, I start to see changes that need to be made. that requires me to make a decision. Do I do the right thing, or do I decide to just do what I want? The easy thing to do is to just keep going along. You have a groove and you stay in it. That is a guaranteed way to fail. The thinking that got us where we were is not going to take us to a better place. It is not going to take us to the kingdom, and it is not going to lead us toward righteous living.
Righteous living is just living in the presence of God and following His direction. It is not perfection, and it is not judgement of others. It is an honest assessment of the things that I am doing in light of the example of Christ, and giving them up in favor of acting more like Him! I fail! I mess up! I sin! I don’t get things right, but still I am in a Relentless pursuit of His righteousness. I am looking at the way I treat people at work, the people I am friends with, the people I am not friends with! What do my actions in front of them say about the God that I serve? Sometime they say what I want them to say, but other times…
“Coram Deo” means to stand before the face of God. That’s what we are talking about here. Living with a mindset that is in constant acknowledgment that we are living in the presence of God. He sees everything, hears everything, and knows everything. This should not make us live in guilt, shame or fear, but it should encourage us to do well. To experience His grace as we extend it to others. It should comfort when we are in pain or are scared. It should strengthen when we feel weak. God is here! Are we looking for Him?
I’d like to day that I have this down. Nope. Working on it though. Relentless Growth means that you can look at your weaknesses in the presence of God and seek His help. He carries us through the struggles, trials, and temptations. God must be my number one value, because without Him, my attempts to do well in the other areas I value will be a pale comparison to what they can be through Him.
Thanks for reading.