First Things First
“But seek ye first the kingdom of God and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.”—Matthew 6:33
Today we are considering the matter of putting first things first. There are so many things which press for a claim upon our time, our affections, our ambition and as long as this kind of competition continues, there can be no peace or harmony in the life. It is a great thing when one master aim grips the whole being as it did Paul in Philippians 3:13, “Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before.”
This is exactly what our text pictures. When first we seek God, then ALL within His will for our lives will be added. It is not a question of adding God (religion if you like) to everything else as a kind of unfortunate, though necessary, appendix, but of putting Him first and then watching Him add everything else. You notice that the verse comes in the middle of a message from the Lord about “Worrying.” “Take no thought” the Lord Jesus tells us in verse 25, 31, 34. There is a natural propensity to be anxious in us all. “Very well then,” He says, “turn it to good account. Seek first the kingdom of God. Be careful about that. Let that be our one anxiety, our great concern.” To have many aims and objects is much the same as having none at all. Shoot at many targets and you will miss them all. It is a grand thing to live for a worthy object, with the undivided energy of all our powers, to stop living at random and concentrate and seek first the kingdom of God. Such is the message of our Lord here.
What then are we to seek and how are we to seek it, and what will be the result if we do?
In the first place let us look at the object of our search—the kingdom of God and His righteousness. God has always had a kingdom down here. It is not a visible kingdom with material power, “My kingdom is not of this world,” such as the kingdom of Satan. When our Lord faced Satan in the wilderness, He did not deny his assumed authority over all the kingdoms of this world. One day they will change hands, for the kingdoms of this world shall become the kingdoms of our God. But at the moment the kingdom of God is not material but spiritual and it is “righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Ghost.” It is upon these spiritual foundations that His visible kingdom will be established. It is those who have entered into the spiritual kingdom now who will be members of the visible one then—that kingdom which shall have no end.
The Bible makes it crystal clear that no man can enter that kingdom in his own merit. “Flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God.” The only way in is by the experience of the new birth, for “except a man be born from above, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.” In its realization and in experience that kingdom is righteousness, joy and peace but only in the Holy Ghost. These are the things the world strives desperately after and you and I long for them! The whole energy of man is directed to bringing peace on Earth and good will among men, but forget that first it was glory to God in the highest, then peace on Earth. God first in entering the kingdom. We stoop before Him if we would conquer among men.
Faith in a crucified Saviour brings us into His kingdom and His kingdom into our hearts: “But as many as received him to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name.” Seek this first. And His righteousness, that is, put your heart experience of Christ into action! At all costs do the thing that’s right. Fear nothing except sin. However far short man may come, if his supreme desire is to be right through and through, God can get His way in such a life.
Remember, this righteousness is first imputed then imparted. The apostle said, “I count all things but loss for the excellency of knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ and be found in Him not having mine own righteousness which is of the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith.” Right with God! No condemnation! No judgment! For Christ bore it all!
But He also said, “The Lord Jesus is made unto us righteousness. The kingdom of God is righteousness in the Holy Ghost.” Righteousness imparted by the life of the Spirit. A saint is not something set up in a glass window to be admired—he is a man whose life is not satisfied with the common standards of the world, but whose character has been made whiter than snow.
Therefore, righteousness is not a Sunday in a shell and weekdays without one. It is part and parcel of the man himself. Something for the business, the shop, the bank, the office, the home. Something which diffuses itself like the perfume of a rose or the light of the sun. Something which sweetens every earthly relationship and which is wonderfully attractive. It is indeed nothing less than Christ Himself revealed in the life. Seek this first. Entrance by the cross and existence by the Spirit is the object of our search. How infinitely such a life is to be desired.
Secondly we have the method of our search. Seek ye first. Let that word “first” suggest the method in several ways: First in order of time, that is, begin as you mean to go on. Begin each day by giving the dew of the morning to communion with heaven, begin your married life by putting God first, choose for your life partner one who will agree with you in the things of God. “How can two walk together except they be agreed.” Let every venture, every enterprise, every decision be guided by Him.
Next, first in order of preference: follow after Him no matter how dearly it costs you, for no man can serve two masters. Happy the man who never deliberates because his mind is made up “to suffer affliction with the people of God rather than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season.” Happy the Seek first. It is the same word as is used in relation to Christ’s coming to save us. Let the whole passion of your life go into this great search. Alas! How often everything else has our intensity and God our feebleness. Plenty of folk are very much all there in business but never in the prayer meeting.
Oh, that no matter what else may claim our thought, our affection, our desire and no matter what the cost may be, may the greatest intensity of our soul be that of seeking Him first! Let us put Him first in every issue, in every decision, in every detail and man with no other policy than that of thorough consecration to God and righteousness. If God and mammon run counter to each other, choose God.
Thirdly, first in order of intensity: Oh, yes, we have got to seek with all our hearts, with real determination! With a purpose of heart, determine to seek His kingdom and His righteousness.
In the third place we have the reward of our search. “All these things shall be added unto you.” What things? Everything that everybody worries about: food, clothing, material need, dread and fear of tomorrow. Everything in life becomes yours which is within the will of God and that will is good, perfect and acceptable. Not necessarily what you want, but what He knows is best. Would you not prefer a lot, a path, selected by the Lord to one chosen by yourself? “Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths” (Proverbs 3:5-6).
Choose thou for me my lot,
I dare not if I might,
Choose thou for me, my God,
So shall I walk aright.
Reward does not necessarily mean wealth. How often have I seen a man grow smaller as his wealth grew greater. He has built up a palatial estate on the ruins of his own character. He has become at once the architect of his fortune and the destroyer of himself. Happiness lies in the heart and not in the pocket book.
It does not necessarily give to us any earthly gain. Oh, you see that man lived for something less than God first. No you don’t see the man, you see his car, his house, his television, newspaper, theatre, but the man has lost himself underneath all that. His spirituality, manhood, character all buried under a movement of worry and trouble. Or the girl—her amusements, fun, gaiety—she is hidden under it all.
Are you prepared to face that? God first. Dare you face 1960 any other way? Bring Him out of the background and place the crown on His head and watch Him work on your behalf.