“But seek first the kingdom of God AND His righteousness....”
For awhile it bothered me that there were 2 things that we needed to be doing “first”. How can I do 2 things at once? I had pondered this verse for several years trying to understand why Jesus wants us to do these two things above everything else. Why two things? Why not just one?
First, I am to seek the kingdom of God. Well of course I want to be there! I mean, it sounds perfect, right? But how am I supposed to look for an invisible door? I can’t just walk right up to it if I can’t even see it. And second, I am supposed to seek to be righteous and holy like God? I have been trying to be good all my life! (Well, sort of.) I’m not doing a very good job of it either, but nonetheless I’m trying. So if I want to be in God's kingdom AND I am trying to be a good person does that mean that I am doing what I am supposed to do?
Seek His kingdom first. What am I looking for? Jesus gave us an illustration of what the kingdom of God is. It’s found in Mark 4:30-32 (NKJV quoted below)
Then He said, “To what shall we liken the kingdom of God? Or with what parable shall we picture it? It is like a mustard seed which, when it is sown on the ground, is smaller than all the seeds on earth; but when it is sown, it grows up and becomes greater than all herbs, and shoots out large branches, so that the birds of the air may nest under its shade.”
Obviously, Jesus understood what this kingdom was, but we still seem to struggle a little trying to understand it. Just a few verses prior to this He had used another illustration. Mark 4:26-28 (again NKJV)
And He said, “The kingdom of God is as if a man should scatter seed on the ground, and should sleep by night and rise by day, and the seed should sprout and grow, he himself does not know how. For the earth yields crops by itself: first the blade, then the head, after that the full grain in the head. But when the grain ripens, immediately he puts in the sickle, because the harvest has come.”
Both of these illustrations point out that our job is to put the seed (God’s Holy Word) into the soil (our hearts), and then what happens next is up to God. We cannot make it grow. We can water it (1 Cor. 3:6, 7), feed it (John 21:17), and maybe try and protect it (Prov. 4:23), but that’s about all.
I had always thought that God's kingdom was a place, but is it something intangible? When you look at these two illustrations of Jesus it doesn't sound like a place at all. In fact, it sounds much like how a church without a building is still a church. (Even though God's kingdom is made up of His people, we also know that He is building a very tangible place, a very real place, for them to live in too. See John 14:1-3 and click here for more.)
In order to seek God's kingdom we need to read and listen to God's Word. We need to place His message deep into our hearts (like we hide a seed in the soil). We need to keep adding to this core message things that will be of use (things like supporting thoughts gleaned from nature). And we need to protect this core message from things that will harm it (things that will poison the seed and prevent it from growing, or that will keep it from growing once it begins).
But how do we seek God's kingdom? We cannot just go out and start physically looking for it. And we know that there is nothing we can do to earn a place there (Romans 6:23) because it's a gift, and every one knows that if you earn something it is no longer a gift. So, again, how do we seek God's kingdom?
“Keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives. Everyone who seeks, finds. And to everyone who knocks, the door will be opened.”
Ask for His kingdom! Ask, and it will be given to you. It's as simple as that. It must be done with your whole heart, and if you want it bad enough then you will be persistent. You will be much like the father who brought his son to Jesus for healing (Mark 9:14-27). You will confess your belief, but you will also ask Jesus to help you to believe and trust Him totally, without any reservations. By asking Jesus to help you are leaning on Him, and He will never fail you.
Ok, that makes sense. Now, how do I go about seeking the second part of this verse? How do I seek God's righteousness?
Isaiah 64:6 tells us that all our righteousness is as "filthy rags”. It sounds like even when I try as hard as I can to be righteous I will never be as righteous as God (not even close in fact), so how can I ever hope to be like Him in character? How am I to seek His righteousness?
Can an Ethiopian change the color of his skin? Can a leopard take away its spots? Neither can you start doing good, for you have always done evil.
It’s obvious that there is nothing I personally can do to make myself righteous, so then what do I need to do? Let’s look at what our Bible says again:
“Keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives. Everyone who seeks, finds. And to everyone who knocks, the door will be opened.” - Matthew 7:7-8 (NLT)
“For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him.” - Philippians 2:13 (NLT)
“You can pray for anything, and if you have faith, you will receive it.” - Matthew 21:22 (NLT)
Jesus said, "If you have faith"! Just the fact that you ASK Jesus for His righteousness is a step of faith. So keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find what you are looking for. Are you seeking His kingdom and His righteousness? Keep ASKING, and keep SEEKING! They both are gifts. (And if you don’t feel you have enough faith, ask for that too.)
1) God's gift of His kingdom comes with eternal life. (We would not want to live forever like we are living right now with all the pain, hardships, suffering and death all around us. We would not be happy if we remained as we are.)
2) We need His righteousness in order to be truly happy and free. (The Bible says that our righteousness is as dirty as filthy rags. God loves us too much to force us to live forever with the pains and hurts we live with right now. )
But again, both His kingdom and His righteousness are gifts to us. God is offering us free membership in His kingdom, and He has told us that we cannot change ourselves from being bad to being good, but that He will change us if we don’t resist His love.
It all comes down to accepting Jesus and His offer to save us. All we have to do is accept the gifts of Jesus, and then allow Him to do whatever is needed.
What an amazing GOD! What LOVE and GRACE!
“Seek first the kingdom of God AND His righteousness....”
- Steps to Jesus, Peace and Happiness
- The Fiber Optic You
- Predestination - (Am I being forced to be who I am?)
- The Magnetic Pull of Jesus