First Things First (Sermon)

Introduction

In 1988 the only a cappella song ever to become a number one hit on the Billboard Pop Charts was sung by just about every person, not only in America, but around the world.  Does anybody remember what that song was?  [Pause to allow someone to answer].    That’s right, “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” by Bobby McFerrin.   Frankly, one of the dumbest songs I have ever heard.

When you notice someone is anxious or extremely worried, would you ever give them the advice “Don’t worry, just be happy?”  I submit to you, by doing so, you will probably make things much worse.  I wish it were that easy, don’t you?

We all worry.   In our frail humanity, we are prone to want to control everything around us, and when we can’t, we worry.  I’m guilty as well.  I worry about my children; I worry about you, about this church, about the country!   Yet, the reality is that every time we worry or become anxious about something, we minimize our relationship with God.  When we worry, we say to God, “You are not in control.  You are not all-powerful, and You do not have my best interest in mind.”

Henry Ford, who I don’t know was a believer or not said, “I believe God is managing affairs and that He doesn’t need any advice from me. With God in charge, I believe everything will work out for the best in the end. So what is there to worry about?”  Wow!  A car manufacturer said that, not some ivory tower theologian.

We live in uncertain times.  There seems to be so much to be worried about in our day.  Yet, couldn’t any person throughout history say they were living in uncertain times?  The world is filled with problems.  Jesus even said we would have problems.  And so we worry, but worry eats at our spirits, our minds, and even our bodies.

When I was in Iraq, I was literally losing my hair. The stress of being in a combat zone may not have been evident in my behavior or my attitude, but it took a toll on my body.  I couldn’t sleep and parts of my beard no longer grew out because of stress and worry.

Can I share another quote with you from an unlikely source?  “There is nothing that wastes the body like worry, and one who has any faith in God should be ashamed to worry about anything whatsoever.”  Sounds like good Christian theology, but it was written by a non-Christian (Mahatma Gandhi).  How can non-Christians have such a good understanding and yet we Christians continue to worry when we have the all powerful God of the universe working on our behalf.  God is in control; he is managing affairs here on earth.  There really is nothing for us to worry about is there.  So, how do we deal with worry?

Let’s look at what Scripture has to say about worry and the key to overcoming it:

Matthew 6:25-27, 33

25 “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? 26 Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? 27 Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?  33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”

Prayer of Illumination

I want to focus on this last verse from our Scripture text this morning: “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well” (Matt 6:33 NIV).  This seems to be the key to conquering our incessant worrying.

Be Born Again

First of it all it seems that the Word of God is saying that the only way we can overcome worry is put God first by seeking the Kingdom of God.  But how can we seek it?  The Psalm portion this morning said that we are all sinners from our birth, and we are separated from God because of our sinful condition.

Also, in Psalm 14:2-3, the Psalmist says that, “The Lord looks down from heaven on all mankind to see if there are any who understand, any who seek God.  All have turned away, all have become corrupt; there is no one who does good, not even one.”

So, we in our sinful condition cannot even begin to seek God until there is a radical change in our inner-most person, not just in our disposition, but in our very souls and spirit.

Jesus said, “Except a man be born again, he cannot see the Kingdom of God.”    The NIV says “Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again.”   We cannot even see the Kingdom of God until God changes us.

While I was at Camp Dawson yesterday ministering to a female soldier, the reality of the necessity of God’s work in our lives before we can seek him was made manifest.  The young soldier I spoke to spent 45 minutes telling me her woes, and how every person around her had failed her.  I couldn’t get a word in edge-wise, but finally toward the end of her tirade, I asked, “But what about God?”  She replied incredulously, “What about God?”  So, I repeated myself, “How does God fit into your understanding of all of this?”  She had no clue what I was even talking about.  God was a non-reality to her.

You see, Jesus doesn’t say you must be born again as if there was something you can do about being born again.   The key to understanding salvation is to first understand that God has to change you first.  The Holy Spirit has to do a work in your life.  Our job is to respond to His work by repenting in faith.   And if you have placed your faith in Christ alone for your salvation, then you know that it was God who brought you to the place to see your need by regenerating your soul to even begin to repent.

Now that you have been born again, you seek the Kingdom because you can see it, and taste it, and understand it.  But until you are born-again or born from above, worry will be part and parcel of your everyday life.

Seek Christ First

So, Jesus tells us to seek first God’s Kingdom.    After we are born again, we can then put our lives in Godly order.

But what does it mean to put God’s Kingdom first in your life?  I have seen many Christians approach this text in a falsely dualistic manner.  They think of life in compartments: religious life, family life, work life, recreational life, educational life….

So, they put Christ first in their religious life, but leave Him out of the other aspects of their lives.  Thus, you might hear some rather pietistic person say I put God first in my life, my family second, my work third, and my recreation fourth, etc.  The problem with this thought is that Christ is asking for our whole lives, not just our religious life.   He wants to be first in your family, first in your vocation, first in your recreation.

For centuries humans believed the world was flat!  And even after we discovered that the world was round, we still though the universe revolved around the earth.   Because we are so human focused, and not God oriented we believed the sun revolved us.  Isn’t that interesting, that until we are re-born, can we see that the world doesn’t revolve around us.   Just like the earth revolves around the sun, so should the entirety of our lives revolve around the Son of God, Jesus Christ!

Seek His Kingdom

Now, Jesus says, that for us to move from worry to peace, we will seek His Kingdom, meaning the Kingdom of God.  But once again we are speaking in terms that from a worldly perspective are not easily understood.

What and even where is this Kingdom of God?  Jesus said to Pilate, when asked if He was a King, “My Kingdom is not of this world.”   The Kingdom of God is not like the Kingdoms of this world.  It is a heavenly Kingdom that as we pray in the Lord’s Prayer should come to earth as it is in Heaven.  The Kingdom of God and Kingdom of Heaven are equivalent terms.   The Kingdom of God or Heaven is where the subjects (citizens) follow their King with great joy and boundless obedience.

Here it is friends, the simple definition of the Kingdom that Jesus speaks about so often: The Kingdom of God is wherever God’s rule and reign are occurring.  That’s why Jesus said to the Pharisees, ““The coming of the kingdom of God is not something that can be observed, nor will people say, ‘Here it is,’ or ‘There it is,’ because the kingdom of God is in your midst [or within you]” (Luke 17:21).  The Kingdom of God is within you, or as the worship song goes, “Heaven is in your heart!”

So, the Kingdom of God is the rule and reign of God in our lives, and wherever people who allow God to rule and reign over them, there is the Kingdom.

Henry Blackaby who wrote the book Experiencing God said, “Find out where God is working and join Him there.”  Find out where people who are allowing the reign of God rule their hearts and join them in the work of the Kingdom.

When you are born again and living by the Spirit of God you will be able to discern where the Kingdom is operating.  And ultimately, if you are allowing the rule and reign of God over your own heart, there is the Kingdom of God as well.

Seek His Righteousness

Jesus then says that we are to seek the righteousness of God.  We are to live in the righteousness of God.

The Apostle Paul said that those who have put their faith in Christ alone for salvation, will have the perfect righteousness of Jesus applied to them.  We can’t earn our way into the Kingdom of God [Heaven].  Jesus already paid our way.  We stand in His righteousness, so we seek the righteousness of Christ.

We worry about so much because we forget that we have been forgiven, we forget we have been cleansed, and we forget that have been made right with God.  Christ’s perfect righteousness has been applied to you.  You don’t have to try to appease God anymore; Christ did it all for you on the Cross.

So, all we have to do is:

1)      Access the righteousness of Jesus by putting our total trust in Him.

2)      Then we simply revel in the righteousness of Jesus, by expressing our ongoing gratitude to God in worship.  We continually say, “Thank you God for making me whole again, even though I am a sinner.”  Or as the Orthodox say in their prayer mantra, “Have mercy on me Jesus, a sinner.”  So, Christ’s righteousness is applied in our humble acknowledging of His perfection given to us by His blood.

3)      And third we rest in the righteousness of Jesus.  Sabbath rest.  The work has been done.  Jesus did it.  Rest in it; rest in Jesus.  There’s nothing to worry about.  Jesus has done it all, Jesus has paid it all; and, Jesus will take care of it all for you.

Conclusion

Jesus said, “Come to me all who are heavy laden and burdened with so many worries, and I will give you rest.”

Will you come to Him now?

Prayer of Commitment

© Paul Dordal, 2012

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