“A Precious Jewel” – Seeking God’s Kingdom
Over the past month, my mind has been constantly playing on repeat the song “You Are My All In All”. It was sung at a church service in August, and since then I have been unable to stop wondering what my life would look like if I lived out the words, “seeking you as a precious jewel, Lord to give up I’d be a fool, you are my all in all”.
I had the great joy of traveling to Alberta shortly after this became a phenomenon in my life, and I spent many days hiking in God’s beautiful creation mulling this over and over in my thoughts. “Do I really seek His kingdom first?” I found myself asking that question, and answering it with a very feeble “not like I should”.
Well how should one seek the Kingdom of God in one’s life? Jesus’ parables of the hidden treasure and pearl of great price came to mind during my days of walking through mountain meadows and forest glades. Should I stumble across it, I would feel compelled to sell my possessions to acquire it. Was I searching for objects of great value, this one, the Kingdom, would be worth all of them combined. It is an all or nothing prospect. Not that it took either person in the parable more than a moment to make up their mind, the Kingdom of God is worth all that we could own or possess. Its treasure is more valuable, and its beauty far more extravagant than anything in our current possession. However, for all my wanderings I never once stumbled upon any treasure. Being the pragmatic thinker God has made me to be, I also realize that while the rich young ruler was called to sell his possessions, that is not a requirement for all of us. God doesn’t want your money; he wants your innermost being to desire Him above all else.
As my thoughts returned to how we ought to seek God’s Kingdom, no new, fantastical ideas came to mind, but rather I was drawn towards old truths learned many years ago. A familiar proverb began engaging my thoughts, one I have long known but have never pondered at length, Proverbs 3:5-6).
Trust in the Lord with all your heart
and lean not on your own understanding;
in all your ways submit to Him,
and He will make your paths straight.
While not as flashy as some other 4-step programs about seeking God’s Kingdom, this one is a fine place for me to start. Being intentional in these 4 phrases from Proverbs is a breakthrough in allowing Scripture to affect your life, and in becoming more open to the Kingdom values we need to espouse.
* Trust in the Lord with all your heart
This first line required a considerable number of steps for me to process and think through for its meaning. Just like seeking God’s Kingdom with everything we have, what does it mean to trust God with all your heart? Thankfully we have the Scriptures to help us unpack these questions. I want you to think through what it looked like for Abraham, Moses, Esther, Mary, and Peter to trust in the Lord with all their heart, and then compare your notes with mine.
- God is seated on the throne of Heaven and Earth, and it is His final judgment which is the only one that matters. Though others may set up standards or measures by which they view your life, God alone has the final say on all matters, and it is His commands that matter the most. (Revelation 4:1-6)
- That same God has a love for you that goes beyond your current understanding and likely your capacity to understand. If we could grasp this better, if we truly believed it, our lives would have to change. (Romans 8:35-39)
- Because of His authority and his great love for you, He has a purpose for your life (which will be fulfilled). We must believe this if we are to trust in His ways for us. Your life has a purpose. Your pain has a purpose. You are not left to struggle through life alone, finding your way in the dark. (Ephesians 2:8-9)
- And lean not on your own understanding
Perhaps this is an instance of easier said than done. I know I am not all that bright, I am well aware of the mistakes I have made and continue to make in life, and yet I continually try to take the reins from God and control my own future. I am a sheep in desperate need of my shepherd, in spite of, or perhaps exactly because of, my wandering from His fold.
Proverbs 16:9 tells us that “in their hearts humans plan their course, but the Lord establishes their steps.” The fact is that some of us are going through life with white knuckles on the steering wheel. We know where we want to go, and we have a plan on how to get there. Another fact, according to Proverbs, is that God is the only one who can and will firmly establish the direction of your life. The sooner we relax our grip a little, and even consider some detours or pit-stops to view the scenery, the sooner we can start to ask (and really mean) for God to show us His plans. After all, the decision to follow Christ is not one made by worldly wisdom in the first place. (Isaiah 55:9), (Matthew 6:25), (1 Corinthians 1:18).
* In all your ways acknowledge Him
As my day of hiking through the Alberta mountains was drawing well into the afternoon, I was struggling to put firm action to this line . . . in all your ways.. Must I do only things that involve the Church or a Christian organization? Should I go around proclaiming Jesus to everyone I meet? Just what does it mean to acknowledge Him? We find some clarity in James 4. There he makes plain the difference between planning our course, and planning our course with an acknowledgement that God is ultimately in control of our steps. James takes no issue with the plans the people were making to “go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money” (James 4:13). Rather, he finds it repulsive that they have left out any mention of God in their plans as the one who will see them come to fruition, or perhaps even stop them before they even begin. We start to stray from seeking God’s kingdom if we stop asking the King of that kingdom what His will is, and instead determine our own priorities. As such, James goes as far as calling it evil to “boast in your arrogant schemes” while knowing that God has other plans for you.
I find this hits home especially hard when I think of the little things in my life that I fail to lay before God’s throne. A new phone, more electronics, a shopping spree, camping gear, gift card money . . . these are all purchases that I can easily justify; but I fail to ask God if He wills them for my life. Perhaps it is because I am afraid of the answer. I really wanted those new air pods; but if I know the good I ought to do and I don’t do it James would say that I have sinned, that I must start small, and that I must start now if I want to be able to discern God’s voice on matters of my life. If I want the kingdom of God more than anything else, surely my old corded headphones will get me through if He said no
* And He will make your paths straight
Oh, to have had straight paths on my journey! While the winding and disappearing footpaths made for a real sense of adventure on my trip, they were also the cause of many headaches. Wrong turns, lost paths, and countless backtracking were all the result of a path that was not clear, and certainly not straight. That’s to be expected when a trail takes the path of least resistance through the forest; but that’s not what you want when it is the path of your life. There are several references in the Psalms and in Proverbs to straight paths, and one of my favorites is in Proverbs 4:25-27. Let your eyes look straight ahead; fix your gaze directly before you. Give careful thought to the paths for your feet and be steadfast in all your ways. Do not turn to the right or the left; keep your foot from evil. For Solomon, staying on the path was a moral issue, not just one of logistics or efficiency. To turn from God’s path, or His ways, was to allow your feet to become subject to evil. My thoughts go directly to the book “Pilgrim’s Progress” by John Bunyan. Anytime Christian’s feet wandered from the path leading to the celestial gate, he faced grave dangers. Not that his time on the right path was free of adversity, he actually faced his greatest threats there, namely Appolyon; but, that is also where he found his greatest strength. It was always the fact that Christian could have saved himself from so many pangs that brought him the most remorse. You see, a straight and clear path means that you have a known direction and destination. Your energy need not be spent wondering if you are going the right way, or how much longer you should go before turning around. You can fix your eyes straight ahead, and regardless of whether you see a path under your feet, you will know the direction you ought to walk and can do so with the utmost of conviction.
Do not mistake this for a boring life. Simple does not equal boring or uninteresting, it only means you have more focus and a better assurance of what matters. If things are getting a little stale for you on this path I have a couple of questions for you:
(1) When was the last time you shared your faith with someone? If it has been more than a year, choose someone from your work this week to talk with about Jesus (did your heart just beat a little faster too?).
(2) What sin in your life is God looking to root up and throw out?
These are two simple questions; yet I doubt I will ever be done with them as long as I live on this earth, and I wouldn’t want it any other way.
One of the beautiful things about this way of life, this seeking after God’s Kingdom, is that when things become difficult or too hard to discern we can always start at the beginning with those 4 phrases from Proverbs:
Have you lost the path?
. . . Trust in the Lord with all your heart.
Are you scared by where your life has brought you?
. . . Lean not on your own understanding.
Do the decisions you make and the direction you point to only bring more dissatisfaction and disappointment?
. . . In all your ways acknowledge Him.
Do you wonder if you’ will ever figure out where you’re going?
. . . And He will make your paths straight.