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First Things First

by Julius Hovan

(Transcribed from the Words of Life Radio Program)

      It is a delight to welcome you to this Words of Life broadcast and we are glad you have tuned in.  Maybe you were just flipping around on the radio dial and you landed on this station.  We hope you will take time to stay tuned and we believe God will bring a blessing to you if you will listen as we share from God’s holy Word.

The book of Matthew, the first gospel in the New Testament Scriptures, records much of the sayings of our Lord Jesus. And reading from the sixth chapter of Matthew’s gospel beginning with verse 25 we would like to share this Scripture and draw some things about what should be first in our lives in putting first things first.  Listen to the words of Jesus.  “Therefore I say unto you, do not be anxious for your life, what you should eat or what you shall drink, nor yet for your body what you shall put on.  Is not life more than the food and the body and raiment? Behold the birds of the heaven. They do not sow, nor do they reap. They do not gather into barns and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of much more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add one cubit to the measure of his life?   Why are you anxious concerning raiment? Consider the lilies of the field how they grow. They toil not, neither do they spin. Yet I say unto you that even Solomon in all of his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is and tomorrow is cast into the oven, shall he not so much more clothe you, oh ye of little faith? So do not, therefore, be anxious saying, ‘Well, what are we going to eat or what are we going to drink or wherewithal shall we be clothed?’ For all these things do the Gentiles seek after. Your heavenly Father knows that you need these things.”

And here is our key verse.  “But seek ye first his kingdom and his righteousness and all these things shall be added unto you. Therefore, do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious enough for itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.” That is a reading of the Word of God.

     Lord, we ask you to bless this Word to our hearts today as we hear it read and understand what it means and give us faith to put our trust in you. Bless the listeners of this broadcast today that they might receive a blessing and be drawn close to you we ask in Jesus’ name. Amen.

Jesus, in this passage, is teaching us about anxiety that we can have about our daily needs, food, clothing, shelter. Now, to be sure, in some parts of the world and even in America where this broadcast is going out, there are those who are having a problem with having adequate food and clothing and shelter because of the tremendous economic crisis that is facing our world today.  But Jesus gives us this teaching to cover a wide variety of things. And then he sets forth the priority that we are to have for all of our life. He calls for a long term style of life that helps us deal with these issues.   In other words, if we put the right thing first, the other things can fall in place.

A good friend of mine said his mother taught him that if he would button the right button into the right hole at the top of his shirt, all of the rest of them would be correct as well. And so it is. If we will put first things first in our lives with regards to spiritual matters, as well as physical, the Lord will be there to assist us.

Our emphasis this morning is going to be on that 33rd verse. “Seek ye first his kingdom and his righteousness and all of these things shall be added unto you.”  There is reference here to a kingdom. We are to seek first God’s reign in our lives. If there is a kingdom, then there is a king. There is somebody of authority. There is a ruler in that kingdom.  And in this case in the spiritual realm, God, indeed, is king and ruler and we are to be submissive to him.

In the case of those who call themselves Christians, he is none other than the one we call King of kings and Lord of lords.  And the central purpose of God’s redeeming plan through the Lord Jesus—think carefully about this—his main purpose is not to make us happy, not to even make us free of trial and pressure and difficulty, but his desire is to establish the rule of Jesus Christ in our lives, in our hearts and eventually throughout the universe.

The apostle Paul makes it clear in Philippians two beginning in verse nine. God has highly exalted him, that is Jesus. He has given him the name above every name. Now look what is going to happen. That in the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven and earth and under the earth. And every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

And so God’s purpose in working in our lives and meeting and supplying our needs is that Jesus would, indeed, be Lord in our lives. The apostle Paul, writing to the church in Rome says this in Romans chapter 14 and verse 17.  For the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.   And in the ninth verse of that same chapter he writes: For to this end Christ died and lived again. That is, he rose from the dead.  That he might be the Lord of both the dead and the living.  As Paul refers here to the death and resurrection of Jesus, he makes it clear that because of what Jesus has done at Calvary and in his victory over death and the grave, he has the right to be the Lord in our lives.  It is because of that perfect life that he lived, that victory over sin and Satan and death and the grave that we may overcome. What he did for us will mean nothing if we do not allow him to be the ruler in our lives.

I would suggest to you there are at least four things that this means.

First, it means that God is enthroned and he is first in every department of our lives.  God is on the throne.

Second, it means that when God is enthroned, self is dethroned. I must get out of the way. My will must be set aside so that God’s will can be done.
Third, when God the Father is exalted, fear is excluded. I need not live my life in fear and anxiety and frustration when I live with my trust in he who is the supplier of every need.

Fourth, not only when God is enthroned, not only when the Father is exalted and fear is excluded, not only is he on the  throne and I am out of the way, but when grace has dominion in our lives, sin no longer is burdening us as it once did.

I am afraid, as I have experienced for many years in Christian ministry, for too many who call themselves Christians, the position that Jesus has in their lives is somewhat like the Queen of England. She reigns. She is queen, but she does not rule. There are others who do the ruling.  She has the title, but she does not have the total authority in the lives of the subjects of that nation.

My friends, Jesus will not accept a secondary position.  And so the searching question for me and you this morning is this.  Is Jesus Christ the Son of God truly Lord in me?  I love the words of a little song that says:

Jesus, be Jesus in me.

No longer me, but thee.

Resurrection power fill me this hour.

Jesus, be Jesus in me.

     If we are going to put first things first, then God’s kingdom, the rule and reign of God in our hearts, must be a priority.   But, next in this passage, Jesus refers to not only God’s reign, but God’s righteousness.  One commentator sums this up when he says, “This righteousness is whatever conforms to the revealed will of God.”  We know what it means to be right.  We know what it means, as a general rule, when that which is right is compared to that which is wrong.  So there is that which is right, that which is righteousness, and that righteousness conforms to the revealed will of God.

We have a song that we share, Trust and Obey. And that song still says it well.  When I put my trust in the Lord and when I live in obedience to him, then I am allowing him to reign in my life and I am seeking what is right and what pleases him. Jesus said back in the Sermon on the Mount in the fifth chapter of Matthew and verse six, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness.” And so I want to seek first God’s reign and then I want to seek God’s righteousness.
Does this describe my spiritual appearance? Does this describe my appetite, that I thirst after those things that are in the will of God?  If not, then it explains the emptiness that is in the lives of too many Christians. They are dissatisfied with life and with their Christian faith. And what a sad state that is.   There is a God shaped void in our lives that can be filled with the resurrection life of Jesus and the result of that is satisfaction and peace and joy.  When we seek God’s righteousness, Christ is the very essence of this righteousness. And the Scriptures constitute this righteousness and it will explain and reveal to us what this righteousness is really all about.

And so it is we are dressed in the righteousness of Jesus Christ when we become Christians, when, by faith, we put our lives and our souls and our very being in his hands. We allow him to be Lord and we confess him as that in our lives. We want him to be our Savior to cleanse us from sin. And then we obey and are baptized into Christ, raised to walk in a newness of life.  And the Holy Spirit then guarantees this experience of right living and knowing and doing the will and righteousness of God.

And so it is the life of God that we possess. We reside in Christ. This life is revealed there.  It is revealed in Scripture.  You can study the Word of God and find the truth about Jesus who is the way and the truth and the life and you will there find out how to come into a relationship of faith with our heavenly Father and his Son the Lord Jesus. And then this will be realized in you, because the Bible says that when we are baptized into Christ we receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. It is that power of God that comes into our lives, that gives us strength that we do not possess, power to overcome selfishness and sin and Satan and this terrible system of the world.

And so what is our priority? We want to seek first the reign of God in our lives and we want, along with that, to seek his righteousness, his will in our lives.  The conclusion, then, of that 33rd verse is this.  As we seek the reign of God and his righteousness we are in the position to seek God’s resources.  Remember, he says there in that sixth chapter and in that 33rd verse that we are to seek first his kingdom and righteousness. Our Heavenly Father knows that we have to have food, clothing, shelter. God surely understands that.  But when we allow the reign and righteousness of God to have their place in our lives, then we have available the resources of this great God of ours.

What a cure this is for the ills of the life of fear, of discouragement, of defeat, all that God is and all that he has and all that he can do is at our disposal.  What about your life this morning?  Do you live in fear of maybe life itself, not knowing what tomorrow holds?  Maybe you are living in a circumstance where finances are tight and jobs are scarce and many problems exist with you personally or in your family. These things produce discouragement and eventually we get defeated in life and we do not even want to continue to live.

Here is the answer to that. To give God his place in our lives and to allow his will, his righteousness to be a priority for us. The 32nd verse of this passage we read says, “For all of these things the Gentiles seek and your Father knows that you need these.” God knows what we need.  He has created us and made us. He knows what we need to exist, to live. He knows what we need to be satisfied and to have real joy and real peace in our lives.  And so what does he do? He takes care. If he will take care of birds—and he does—if he will make such a beautiful thing as a lily that puts forth no effort but to grow and to produce itself by the power of God, how much greater are we than the birds or even the lilies. And if he is faithful to care for birds and lilies, how much more to those of us created in his very image, those who put their trust in him, those who allow him to reign, those who will obey his will and live in his righteousness.

Now I would point out to you that there is a point in which we are given the righteousness of Jesus. That is what we have. That is what is given. We cannot get that on our own. But then we are to live a righteous, a right kind of life. And Paul tells us in Philippians 4:19 that for those who do allow God to reign, those who do make his will a priority, he will supply all their needs according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus.

Think of the riches that are in glory where God is. Think of our wonderful Lord Jesus Christ and the glory that he possesses and the power and love that he possesses for us and we can go and reap the reward and draw out of the riches that he gives us.

The Hebrew writer tells us in Hebrews 11:6 God is a rewarder of those who seek him.  Are you seeking God’s reign in your life?  Are you desirous of his will and his righteousness to be in your life? To honor him thusly is to be honored and blessed by him.  To give God his rightful place in our personal lives, in our family lives, in our business, whatever it is, is to result in being blessed, not only with the temporary blessings of life, but with mercies and spiritual benefits that last throughout all of eternity.

And so here from the very mouth and lips of Jesus Christ, the perfect Son of God, here is his Word to our hearts today.  Will you accept God’s rule in your life? Will you acknowledge God’s requirement for his righteousness?  You don’t have any of your own. He demands righteousness and then he gives it to us if we come to him. And then we are in the position to appropriate God’s resources.

A dear friend of mine who has taught me much about the things of the Lord says,

“Seek God first.  He is your friend.

He is faithful. He is good.

Trust God now and to the end.

On his Word, the saints have stood.”

 

And so it is that through the centuries since Jesus was here, the saints of God have trusted in God and in Jesus Christ and in the Word of God. They have learned to trust, to be obedient, to live lives of righteousness. And these begin at your conversion.  If you need help doing that, find a good, Bible believing church. You can write to us here at Words of Life and we can help you make that decision to make Jesus Christ Lord in your life and you will reap the blessings of that.
Thank you for tuning in today and may God bless you is our prayer.

 

                                            Julius Hovan preaches for the Bohon Church of Christ, Bohon, KY.




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That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

2 Corinthians 12:10