“But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well” (Matthew 6:33, NIV).
This verse and its meaning seems to keep weaving itself into my daily life in some way, shape, or form. This a verse spoken by Jesus Himself that I have heard many times over the years, and that I have found to be often misunderstood by Christians and our culture. Sometimes we read the second half of this piece of scripture and forget about the first part. In our selfish nature, all we see is what we want to see, and all we want to see is what we will get out of things. We seek how we will be benefitted and what our reward will be. We can also relate this verse to Psalm 37:4 which states, “Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.” Again, I have found that we often only pay attention to the second part of this verse, and neglect the first part; the most important part. We only like to see what God will do for us instead of taking delight in Him and seeking Him first solely because He is God and deserves that and so much more from us. We should not seek after God for what He can give us, but should seek after Him because He is worthy of all love, glory, honor, and praise. We should not seek rewards, answers, or what we will get out of things. We should seek God because He is worthy to be sought after. When we seek after Him like this, it is then that God gives us His promises, answers, and the desires of His heart. When we genuinely seek after Him above all else, and simply do so without expecting anything in return, our hearts are changed to reflect His and His desires become our desires. It is then that you can be confident that “all these things” that you pray for “will be given to you as well” because you sought after Him first. You surrendered everything to Him. He has taken it under His control and molded into exactly what it should in your life.
Seeking the Lord, His kingdom, and His righteousness first requires a great deal of surrender, trust, and patience. I am sure many of you have found yourselves in situations where you so desperately want God to give you an answer. You have a decision to make and you very much so want to be in the will of God and not outside of it. You pray that God would open a door, clearly showing you which direction to take. You pray that you would hear His voice, and that he would give you a sign. You pray that God would even close other doors leading you to the one that He has opened for you. These are not bad things to pray, but often times when we are praying these things, we aren’t seeking God, we are just seeking His answers. We become so afraid of being outside of the will of God, that we miss His greatest will for our life: to love and seek after Him. When we seek His answers instead of simply seeking Him, we become impatient, and attempt to take matters into our own hands, clearly showing that we do not trust God. We may have a timeline on which our decision needs to be made and we begin to feel the pressure of that. We haven’t heard back from God yet on what we are supposed to do, we need to start making moves, and we become prideful enough to think we can figure it out on our own.
I am sure many of you have also experienced the other side God’s provision and answers in your life. You have experienced what it’s like to be on the other side of waiting; what it’s like to be living in the answer. What sweet moments those are. You look back and you are able to see the hand of God at work in every area of your situation. Some of those areas you didn’t even ask for His help in and some you may have not even realized He was working in. Had things worked out in any other way at any other time than God so perfectly crafted, everything would be less than God’s best for you. Our God is so gracious and works out the smallest and largest details of our lives to form something greater than we are even capable of asking Him for. Have you ever found yourself in these moments in complete awe of God? You have no words, and even if you did, they don’t measure up to His glory and greatness. We are incapable of understanding God. I could drive myself crazy trying to understand His ways. Even though we are incapable of understanding Him, we are capable of fully experiencing His goodness by resting in His presence. We must live to praise, honor, love, glorify, and seek after Him with all that we have in all of the ways that we know how. And more. Often in these moments we realize God is worthy of that (and so much more) from us. We think that we will never doubt God again. We will never try to control everything ourselves and we will forever trust God to come through because we have experienced His sovereignty first-hand. But do we only want to praise Him now that He brought us through, provided, answered, and blessed? Do we continue this attitude of worship towards our God when we find ourselves waiting on Him again?
It is so easy to trust God and to tell others to trust God when we have just come through an example of His provision. Yet, it becomes difficult to practice patience, hope, and surrender when we are in the middle of waiting on Him again. We find ourselves making impulsive decisions and acting out of selfish ambition. We seek to please the world and gain their acceptance. Our behavior is dictated by our desire for control and for answers. We may pray to God, and we may truly seek His plan, purpose, and will for our life, but we forget to just simply seek Him. Our obsession with receiving an answer blinds us from simply resting in His presence. That is just what satan wants: to distract you from following God’s first and greatest commandment: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind” (Matthew 22:37 NIV).
Now you’re saying “Ok, that’s great Bailey, but what if I seek God first and still never receive an answer or don’t receive the answer that I want?” When we aren’t seeking God first, we sometimes think He doesn’t answer. He might have answered already, but we missed it because we weren’t walking closely with His Spirit. When we aren’t searching after God, He is sometimes hard to find. His voice becomes unfamiliar to us, making it harder for us to discern between our own voice and His. Our lack of communication with Him creates distance in our relationship with Him and causes confusion.
A lot of times God does answer, and the reason we find ourselves confused and thinking that we did not receive an answer from Him is because it is either not the answer we wanted or it did not come in a way that we were expecting. If it is not the answer we wanted, we had never fully surrendered and given it over to God to begin with. What He wants should be what we want, and if we are seeking His kingdom and righteousness first, His answers won’t seem as daunting as they may seem had you not been following Him leading up to that point. Lisa Chan says it so beautifully in You and Me Forever: “The promise is not that we will always get the answer we desire, but that God will hear. He will listen to your cry, and if your desire is to live for Him, He will lead you in the right way.”
If your answer came in a way that you weren’t expecting, then your heart was anticipating something other than God showing up. You weren’t preparing yourself for His coming. Your gaze was elsewhere, and you confined God to your standards of how He can and should show up in your life. God doesn’t really have a track record of showing up in ways that we expect. Really, we should just have no expectations except for the expectation that God will show up and fulfill His promise. We must wait in hopeful trust and expectation on the Lord. Hoping or praying for something specific that you want for your own selfish reasons hinders you from receiving what He wants to give you. It causes you to put God in a box, and think that He is only capable of giving you what you think He should give you. What He wants to give you is much greater than what you are capable of asking for, but apart from that, praying specifically for what you want creates a shift in your heart and motives. You want what you are asking for simply for no other reason than the fact that you want it and it’s what you think is best. Our hearts should long for what God wants and has for us. When our prayers shift from hoping that God will give us the answer we are asking Him for to waiting in hopeful trust that He IS going to work for our good no matter what the outcome is, we receive the patience to wait for His plan to unfold. It may not unfold into the answer we thought we wanted, but we receive the blessing of God’s answer, which, without fail, always trumps our desired answer. When we truly believe and have faith that God is in control and wait in hopeful trust on Him because we know He will always pull through, we don’t need to stress about the answers we think we need right this very second. We know that no matter what, when we are seeking Him first, He will always be there, and He will always provide. He will show us mercy and grace, not giving us what our sinful hearts do deserve, and blessing us with more than we deserve.
I truly believe that if we are genuinely seeking God and seeking to do all things with the intention of glorifying Him and being in His will, He blesses that. We often become so afraid of being outside the will of God, that we miss out on His will for us to follow Him. We become obsessed with the idea of not knowing which option is the best option and which is option is what God wants, that we miss valuable time that we could have been spending with our Lord. We may have 2 or 3 great options to choose from in a decision. It could very well be that all 3 of your options are options that God has provided for you, and no matter which one you choose, He will bless it and He will use it in His purpose. That is the blessing and curse of free will. I am the most indecisive person in the world, so that much freedom to make a decision is not appealing to me. I’d rather God just tell me which one to choose. Sometimes there are 3 great options, and 1 best option. No matter what, if you are seeking after God, you are walking closely with His Spirit. This gives you a better chance of hearing from Him, but this also means that you are making decisions with Him in mind. And when you keep Him in mind, He provides and blesses. He redeems and restores if it was the “wrong” decision, and provides if it was the “right” decision. No matter where you find yourself, God is good and God is love, and He will bring you through if you give everything to Him and seek to glorify Him with your life.
“For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts” (Isaiah 55:9).