One of the most popular memory verses about the promise of God to meet the needs of His children in Matthew 6:33 which says, "Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things will be provided unto you." This verse is an incredible promise, but with emphasis on God's provision, we often loose sight of other significant issues of Kingdom Living.
As in a lot of situations, there is often more to learn than we initially perceive. In an edition of SBC Life Charles Lowery shared the story of the old man with the yellow dog. An arrogant young man challenged the older man's dog to a dog fight. "My dog will whip your dog," said the young man. The older gentleman politely refused the challenge saying it would not be safe or right for the dogs to fight. But, the young man gave an order for his dog to attack the old man's mangy yellow dog. When the dust settled and the arrogant young man's dog was soundly defeated, he asked what kind of mangy yellow dog just whipped his prize fighting dog. The old man said, "Before I cut off his tail and painted him yellow, my dog was an alligator!" Like the alligator dog, Matthew 6:33 his a bigger bite than most think.
I. See the reality
Jesus declares the existence of a new and different kingdom. His reference to seek His kingdom reminds us that there is more to reality than what we can see, feel, hear, or taste. The prophet Isaiah warned of those who had eyes but could not see and ears but could not hear. Jesus battled throughout His ministry the temptation that many in Israel embraced to make Him a military or political leader to deliver them from Roman occupation. When Jesus was asked why he taught in parables, He explained that spiritual truth is a secret that cannot be understood by those dominated by material things and calloused hearts (see Matt. 13).
The apostle prayed for the saints at Ephesus for God to open the eyes of their heart. Why? Because genuine faith is a spiritual reality that transcends our material existence. I love the way that John Eldredge accurately identifies the resonating appeal of popular stories to communicate the truth that "things are not what they seem." Dorothy declared that she was not in Kansas any more when she woke up in a strange land of Oz. In Star Wars, Luke discovers the force. When Frodo finds the ring, he is introduced to a cosmic battle that he had never known. The appeal of the stories is not because people think they are factual, but the stories of a new kingdom or cosmic battle resonate in the realm of the heart. "They remind us of the transcendent and the eternal." (Eldredge, Wake the Dead, p.24-25)
By using the military imagery of kingdom, instead of family, home, or town, Jesus intends for us to appreciate that His kingdom is not only different from others, but His kingdom has enemies. You have and enemy who is opposed to Christ and His followers. "To live in ignorance of spiritual warfare is the most naïve and dangerous thing a person can do. It's like skipping through the worse part of town late at night, waving your wallet above your head. It's like walking into an al-Qaida training camp, wearing an I love the USA t-shirt. It's like swimming with great sharks, dressed as a wounded sea lion and smeared with blood." (Eldredge, Wake the Dead, p. 152). Failing to appreciate the uniqueness of kingdom authority and the opposition to the reign of Christ is one of the most critical mistakes a Christian can make.
II. Set a priority
Jesus is the ruler of a new kingdom, and he calls His followers to make pursuing His kingdom a priority. We are called to "seek first" the kingdom of God. The New Living Translation says, "make the kingdom of God your primary concern." The word "first" is not a reference to time but quality. "The sense of above all things is obvious in Matthew 6:33, for Jesus is not teaching that we should seek the kingdom first and then other things, but that there should be and exclusive orientation to the divine kingdom and righteousness." (Kittel, Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, p.966).
Jesus further qualifies the significance of His kingdom. We do not pursue His kingdom as the first of several stops on a journey. This was the case in Galatia where the apostle Paul rebuked the church for turning to legalistic practices to accomplish or maintain redemption after having trusted in Christ alone for salvation. Christ, and Christ alone, is sufficient to equip us for His kingdom. It is through Christ we have access to divine provision to meet the needs that often cause us to worry. The Bible says, "He who did not spare his own Son, but offered Him up for us all; how will He not along with Him grant us everything?" (Rom. 8:32).
A second aspect of the kingdom being a priority is the command to pursue or to seek it. More than having an awareness of that God is first and greater than other sources, we are commanded to seek His kingdom. Our seeking is volitional and intentional. God does not force us to seek Him. The Bible says His spirit draws us (Jn. 6:44), but He does not force us. We do not seek God by accident. Seeking is a deliberate choice to search for God with the eyes of your heart.
Author, John Ortberg, writes about the pursuit of God in his book God Is Closer than You Think. Using the popular children's books Where's Waldo to illustrate the mystery of God, he states, "Where is Waldo. Why doesn't he show himself plainly? Why does he hide his face? He is not absent, but he is elusive. He is Walas Absconditus - the Waldo who hides himself. He is on every page but you must look for him. Let every day, every moment, of your life be another page. God is there, the Scriptures tell us on every one of them." (Ortberg. p. 33) Pursuing God is a mysterious task. He is invisible, inaudible, invincible, and "findable." The Bible says to seek the Lord while he may be found. Solomon said of God, "I love those who love me, and those who search for me will find me" (Pvbs. 8:17).
III. Submit to authority
The Scripture is clear that our pursuit is not for just any kingdom; we seek God's kingdom. We are called to pursue and submit to the reign and rule of almighty God. Perhaps, one reason God seems distant and the worries of life seem dominant is our reluctance to submit to His authority. The Bible says God resists the proud, but He gives grace to the humble (1 Pe. 5:5-6). Jesus Christ is the Good Shepherd, but He is also the reigning King of Kings.
William Booth, founder of the Salvation Army, was asked about the secret of his success and the impact that the Salvation Army was having upon the world. Booth paused and spoke with tearful eyes, "I will tell you the secret. God has all of me there is of me. There have been men with better brains, greater talents, and greater opportunities. But, from the day I got a vision for what Jesus could do with the poor of London, I made up my mind that God would have all of William Booth there was." (Frank Cox, Take Your Burdens To the Lord, pastorlife.org) General Booth knew the Salvation Army had only one commander and chief whose rank and power surpasses all of our futile attempts to govern our own lives. Securing the provision that God promised in Matthew 6:33 flows from this basic understanding that God is not interested in building your kingdom, but He is extremely committed to meeting your needs that empower you to build His kingdom.
IV. Strive for His purity
A fourth principle of divine provision revealed in this text is striving for purity. We must recognize the reign of God is not only powerful, but it is also pure, holy, and righteous. Notice this text is not suggesting to seek personal righteousness. Other passages certainly promote striving for personal purity, but Matthew 6:33 calls us to seek "His righteousness." The emphasis is not on getting yourself cleaned up before seeking God; rather the text declares that God is righteous. This is a description of the quality of God's kingdom and what you can expect to receive as divine provision.
My family recently went on an extended road trip. While traveling, we had to make numerous stops for gas and potty breaks. My four children seem unable to make the connection that consuming massive amounts of liquids causes one to go to the bathroom. I'm convinced that my children think raiding the candy aisle at a gas station ranks second only to Disney World in family fun. While you may satisfy your desire for candy at a gas station, your choice for substantial nutrition is limited. To find nutritional meals, you must seek another place that offers something other than Snickers, Skittles, and Sour Worms.
God's provision is not found at convenience stores offering items for temporary pleasure. The Bible says in James 4:3, "You ask and don't receive because you ask wrongly, so that you may spend it on your desires for pleasure." This world has a lot to offer, but it does not provide what we need. Matthew 6:33 is not a "name it and claim it" promise for God to give you anything you desire. What you seek may not be found on the shelves of God's storehouse. God "owns a cattle on a thousand hills", but if your not willing to eat steak and drink milk, you could go hungry! God promises to meet legitimate needs of those who seek Him and His righteousness. The apostle Paul described God's provision as coming from the reservoir of "His riches in glory" (Php. 4:19). Through seeking the face of the One who is "Holy, Holy, Holy," we experience the generosity of His mighty hand to meet needs that reflect God's righteousness.
When a young boy and his father saw a dead squirrel in the road, the father used the occasion to tell his son about the danger of running onto the road when cars were passing by. A few days later, the boy's mom buckled him into his car seat and reminded him that seatbelts provided for his safety. "If were in car wreck, these seatbelts and car seat would help protect us," she said. "I know", said the boy. "And dad said when you get hit by a car you turn into a squirrel!"
We laugh at the boy's failure to understand his father instruction, but our failure to understand and apply the promises of our heavenly Father is not a laughing matter. God made an incredible promise to care for us with greater concern than the flowers and the birds, but He also instructed where and how to find His provision. But, seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things will be provided for you.