Searching for the King and His Kingdom: How do I pursue God?
Jesus said to seek God’s kingdom and his righteousness first, then “all these things” will be added to us. What things was Jesus talking about?
First, He desires to take care of everything we need for everyday life: food, drink, clothing. Jesus says in Matthew 6:31 NIV: “So don’t worry about these things, saying ‘What will we eat? What will we drink? What will we wear?" These things dominate our thoughts when we aren’t focused on God. He knows our needs and promises to provide for us, if, and this is a big “if,” we are putting Him first.
But God is also talking about caring for our emotional, spiritual, creative, and intellectual needs. We are not created as one-dimensional beings, but we are created in the “image of God.” Our lives are enriched by the things God provides for us to experience – intellectual stimulation, creative license, and spiritual richness.
God gives us everything we need to live as He directs: “His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness.” 2 Peter 1:3 NIV
Jesus said, “Seek the Kingdom of God…,” not simply “seek God” or even “seek Me.” Why would He say that? What does “Seek the Kingdom of God” even mean?
The Kingdom of God is the realm of His wonder, His rule, and His authority. Seeking the Kingdom is seeking God in His totality.
His Kingdom is a real, spiritual place, where Almighty God, the Creator of the Universe, reigns sovereign and supreme.
Jesus told his followers, “ You won’t be able to say, ‘Here it is!’ or ‘It’s over there!’ For the Kingdom of God is already among you.” (Luke 17:21 NLT) Jesus’ death on the cross secured its establishment here on earth. Faith in Jesus Christ gives us the right to enter His domain, not just when we die, but now.
Philosopher Dallas Willard said, “We are built to live in the kingdom of God. It is our natural habitat.”
The Kingdom of God is both a present spiritual reality and a future inheritance; a realm where God has “delivered us from the dominion of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son,” (Colossians 1:13 NIV) and an eternal promise. “ Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. ” (Matthew 25:34 NIV)
The Kingdom is a promise for the present and the future. (See Gospel of the Kingdom: Scriptural Studies in the Kingdom of God by George Eldon Ladd)
We can be pretty hard to impress. But once our spirits are opened to the wonder, not just of God’s creation, but of who He is, we are forever changed. We yearn for Him, His presence, His overwhelming goodness, His love. Until you first experience Him, you don’t know what you lack.
Once you have tasted and seen that the Lord is good, hope is awakened to the soaring possibilities.
The Bible says it best in 1 Corinthians 2:9 NLT – “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined what God has prepared for those who love him.”
How Do We Seek God First?
“Seeking first the Kingdom of God” is a daunting challenge, one I’ve not always understood or known how to accomplish. How do I pursue God? Daily disciplines like Bible reading, prayer, and time alone with God seemed like great fiction – a fantasy world where real life didn’t happen. Like anything worth attaining, it took an act of my will to begin.
Setting a specific time to meet with God was a great step but I had to be flexible when family or work got in the way. God knows. Keep trying.
So how do we seek God first? These three key components helped me: increase your hunger for God, cultivate a thankful heart, and serve at God’s pleasure.
Increase your hunger for God
We need an insatiable hunger for God to pursue Him fully. The Greek word for hunger means “to crave ardently, to seek with eager desire.” God wants to birth in us a deeper hunger for His presence which will result in increased desire for holiness and truth.
“You will show me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.” Psalm 16:11 NIV
“Behold, you desire truth in the inward parts, and in the hidden part you will make me to know wisdom.” Psalm 51:6 NKJV
In the Beatitudes, Jesus said, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled.” Matthew 5:6 NKJV
So how do we cultivate a deeper hunger for God?
Pray – Start small. Focus your thoughts and heart on him. It’s not about how much time you spend talking. Communing with God isn’t about checking off the boxes of daily spiritual disciplines; it’s about having internal, spoken, or even written dialogue with the lover of your soul. Listen for God’s “still, small voice” speaking to your spirit. Revel in being in his presence. Play worship music and praise him. I've discovered I pray best by writing. Communicate with God in the ways that feel most natural to you.
Read the Bible – Start with the New Testament and the gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. These chronicle the life of Jesus and focus on his life and teachings. Follow a reading plan -- whatever works for you. Psalms and Proverbs always edify your spirit.
Fast from natural pursuits – Pulling away from our natural desires gives God room to move in us. Consider a period of fasting and prayer. Fasting traditionally means giving up food, but it also can be abstaining from social media, television, talk radio, excessive exercise, video games, or anything that steals your focus and fills your time. Fill your time with pursuing God.
Write in a journal – Put your most intimate thoughts and prayers in a notebook. Turn your attention to God and ask him for an increased spiritual appetite. Allow yourself to long for his presence. “ As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, my God. ” Psalm 42:1 NIV
Quiet moments with God will kindle a deeper hunger and make life worth living.
Cultivate a thankful heart
Make a habit of telling God how much you appreciate the little things, the big things, and everything in between. Don’t focus on the difficult issues. Laser in on the things you love: a beautiful sunset, puppy snuggles, a smile from your ornery neighbor, hot water (my personal favorite for a soak in the tub), refreshing sleep, sushi with a friend, a good book on a rainy day. You get the point.
Some practical ways to accomplish this include:
Journal your thankfulness. Write down all the things you are thankful for that day. When life gets tough, read back through the pages and reminisce on God’s faithfulness.
Use social media to post your thankfulness. Cyberspace will appreciate your positive contribution.
Thank someone in your life every day. Make it a point to thank at least one person for their positive contribution to your world: the postal service worker probably doesn’t get appreciated much, or the check-out person at Walmart, or your child’s teacher. How about that grumpy co-worker who seldom gets thanked? Thanking someone will brighten their day and your attitude.
Serve at God’s pleasure
Be willing to put feet to your words. Full committal requires action on our part. Reading a book requires our time. Putting the words we read into constructive forward movement requires action. God expects us to serve each other.
"You foolish person, do you want evidence that faith without deeds is useless?" James 2:20 NIV
I can purchase the cross-trainer shoes and the proper workout clothes, research exercise facilities, and talk about hitting the gym, but until I do it, none of the health benefits will be evident in my life.
What obvious basics are you not walking out in your spiritual life? Here are some steps you should make sure you are taking:
Ask Jesus to live in your heart – If you haven’t taken this step, it is the doorway to your life with God. You can’t get to know someone you’ve never met. If it’s been a while and you need to get reacquainted, make sure He knows the door is open to Him.
Ask God to guide you to a Christ-centered church – The Church was His idea. It’s the best place to learn and grow in your relationship with God and others. Do it God’s way and go, regularly.
Find opportunities to serve others in your church – Let the Holy Spirit lead you to the right avenues for your service. Don’t put parameters around what you will or won’t do, even if it’s directing cars in the parking lot on Sunday mornings, greeting at the door, or stuffing envelopes. No matter your professional or economic status, your service in the church is more about the humble attitude of your heart than about your abilities to contribute.
Serve your family, friends and neighbors with your whole heart - Service begins at home and is the best training ground for wider service. We must tend our small backyard garden well before venturing to nurture and harvest acres of ground.
Find Your Place in the Body of Christ
“We need what you carry on your life.” – Lisa Bevere
You need to take your place in the Body of Christ; others are depending on you. God has a spot reserved that only you can fill with your unique talents, perspective, and anointing. Finding your God-ordained place for growing into spiritual maturity is important to God, crucial for you and life-giving to the Body of Christ.
“The human body has many parts, but the many parts make up one whole body. So it is with the body of Christ.” 1 Corinthians 12:12 (NLT)
That chapter goes on to talk about how the human body has hands, feet, eyes, internal organs, and all are part of the physical body. No part is dispensable! Our bodies wouldn’t function as God designed without all our parts.
So it is with the Body of Christ.
Learning who you are in Christ is important but finding that place where you can develop into a fully functioning hand, foot, liver, or big toe is critical to your spiritual growth.
Pull out all stops on pursuing where God wants you to learn, grow and serve. Let God direct you, then put down roots, and let the watering begin.
During the summer after my junior year in high school, I was sitting on the driveway early one morning, waiting for my ride to cheerleader practice. The sky was pinking over the horizon directly in front of me, and my thoughts turned to God. Where did I find him, I wondered? How would I know when I had found my place to learn, grow, and serve? I wanted more of him, desperately, but I had no idea where to look
He spoke to my heart, words I knew were in the Bible, but with my limited knowledge, I wasn’t sure where. He gave me a clue where to start my journey with these words: “You shall know them by their fruits.” (It's found in Matthew 7:20.)
The God of the Universe punctuated his whisper with the sun peeking over the horizon, sending magnificent rays of light behind the magnolia trees and ordinary brick homes lining Dogwood Street.
In our quest for God and to find the best place to grow and serve, look for fruit, not just high-sounding words. Look for substance and people putting feet to their faith. Look for truth in action. Look for changed lives.
God’s Spirit is like the wind in the trees. You can’t see the breeze but its effects are obvious through the swaying branches. We will not always understand how God moves, but the fruit will be plain to see – love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. (Galatians 5:22-23 NASB)
Follow God’s leading, relish the road, and relax in his love. Seasons are inevitable. Enjoy each moment, each passing breeze, fleeting but beautiful.
“Earth's crammed with heaven, and every common bush afire with God; But only he who sees, takes off his shoes - The rest sit round it and pluck blackberries, and daub their natural faces unaware.” – Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Aurora Leigh
Walk out your journey in wonder.