The beginning of a new year always fills me with hope. Anything can happen this year. As I saw 2016 leave, Judy I realized we had two new members of our family. Aubrey and Esther were born. We could never have predicted such a great blessing.
I often make some resolutions or goals for the new year. I have some for this year that I will share in a later post. But most of the goals I have don’t come to pass. I have good intentions, but I just don’t fill the space throughout the year that I have created on the first day.
We often focus on the goal and forget the means to the goal. A goal might be to lose 20 pounds. But rather than focus on the end goal, we should focus on what we should do to accomplish it, like eat less, exercise more, and give up calorie-rich drinks.
So is there one thing we can do at the beginning of this year to guarantee a great year? Many would say that deserves a negative answer. Nothing can guarantee success, can it? I believe there is one thing you can do right now, and the better you keep it the better your year will be. Put Jesus first in your life.
That sounds so simple, but believe me, it is not. Everything in my life screams for first place. And many of those things are good things, like my family, my ministry, my health, and my wife. But there is a promise in the Bible that I think is one of the greatest promises Jesus ever gave.
“But seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things shall be added unto you.” (Matthew 6:33)
Jesus is concerned with the priorities of our life. Most of us have a lot going on. But Jesus commands that our first priority be His kingdom and His righteousness. How does this work itself out in our everyday life.
Our Focus. Matthew 6 defines three key issues in life: Shelter, Clothing & Food. These things are important. We spend at least half of our waking hours with involvement in these things. Probably more concern invested in these than in anything else. Therefore we are prone to focus on them. Those who personally know God and understand His Him should not live with the same anxiety as lost people.
Our Choices. Jesus indicates that there are two priority options or directions on which we can focus our life. We can go after and be occupied with things as our goal. Or we can seek first the kingdom and righteousness as our goal. Generally, we give ourselves first priority in our life. As a result, we go after the material things that loom large in life. We give small attention to the spiritual things of life. We expect that somehow spiritual things will take care of themselves.
Our Goals. Like the lost world we can go after “these other things.” We can choose to place the priority for our energies and efforts into providing for ourselves. If we make these things the goals for our life, they will move it in the direction of the material and earthly. Or we can go after God’s kingdom and righteousness. “Since all these things are to be destroyed in this way what sort of people ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God” (2 Pet. 3:11).] Seek first God instead of things, the spiritual as opposed to the material, the eternal instead of the earthly.
Our Priorities. This does not teach that having or pursing things is wrong. It is not wrong to go after other things. Jesus says “Seek first,” not let it be the one and only thing you seek or go after. God expects us to work and live, while centering our life on Him and His kingdom as we work and live. What Jesus is teaching us here is to clearly establish priorities in your life. Let you first priority be following Christ.
Our Denials. Apparently there are two ways of getting things. You can make them the object of life and struggling for them like the world does. Or you can have them added unto you. Our caring protective good God will always add what we need to our life. The passage calls us to seek first the kingdom and leave the secondary matters to His providential care. If God’s priorities become our priorities, He will take care of our needs. It is a conditional promise. First we seek the kingdom, and then everything else will fall into place.
Our Daily Life. We must not expect God’s specific blessings where He is not first in our life. If the first priority in your daily life is not God’s kingdom and righteousness it may explain some unproductive living and giving. This concentration on doing God’s will is the positive answer to worry. Anxiety is resolved by a lifestyle of seeking God’s kingdom and righteousness first each day. Don’t expect Him to spiritually or eternally bless you, if you are not going to put Him first. It means that decisions in life must be weighed. What am I putting first? Your daily life and decisions must give priority to God’s kingdom and righteousness. We must give God sovereignty over our daily lives. This is where the real issue lies. Will we walk or live by faith in Christ (6:30) or will we walk by the sight and wisdom of natural man. Do you want to follow Jesus as Lord or do you only want comfort, protection, and fire-insurance?
Two simple rules should govern life. Set your eyes on the things that advance God’s kingdom and contribute to the establishment of His righteousness and go after them. Allow the heavenly Father to keep His promises concerning the rest of life. Seek first the kingdom, and everything else will fall into place. That is His promise.