In Matthew 6:33, Jesus told His disciples to seek first the kingdom of God and the things they had need of would be added to them. This verse has become a favorite of mine to share with people when they are seeking wisdom about a promotion, job opportunity, a spouse, or the necessary favor they need in some area of life. We aren’t called to seek after any of those things first. We are to seek the kingdom of God first and those things are added to us as a byproduct.
I love this passage because it calls people into a relational journey with God and not a formula to follow in order to receive answers to prayer. With that said, the phrase “seek first the kingdom” is a bit abstract, so I wanted to write this short article about what that looks like practically. This won’t be everything I know, but just a few things that will help you get started.
Romans 14:17 says the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.
This verse describes the nature of God’s kingdom. It is in the spirit. Jesus said in Luke 17:20-21 that the kingdom of God doesn’t come by observation, the kingdom is within you.
The eating and drinking described in Romans 14:17 is observable. God’s kingdom doesn’t come by observation. The irony is although his kingdom doesn’t start by observation, when we manage our inner world properly, it becomes observable. His kingdom is an inside-out kingdom and not the other way around. When the inner world of our mind, will, and emotions begin to align with His, His kingdom becomes observable in our lives ourselves and those around us.
So how do we do this? Look back at Romans 14:17. The kingdom of God is righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit. When we manage our inner world properly, God’s kingdom in our lives is righteous (the right way to live), full of peace, and joy. All three of these characteristics are observable in the life of a believer. Let’s briefly look at each:
Righteousness is the Greek word dikaiosýnē. It means God’s way of being right and doing right. Simply stated, God will never lead us to do wrong. This means if we think He is leading us to do something that doesn’t line up with scripture, we are not being led by His spirit – period! This word also emphasizes our dependence on Jesus. Faith in what Jesus did for us at the cross is the only way we can be right in this life. We should all have a place of woeful inadequacy when we think about our lives apart from Him. Our righteousness only comes from depending on what He did. When we realize this it keeps us from self-righteousness and self promotion. It should also keep us from doing works He isn’t authorizing us to do in order to obtain favor with Him that we already have. The overflow of knowing we are righteous is continuous good works at His leading. If you would like to learn more about your righteous position in Christ, check out this message I taught at Grace Life Church.
Peace is the Greek word eirḗnē, which means a state of tranquility and the exemption of rage, havoc, or war. As a passionate person, this one challenges me because I want to see God’s righteousness and kingdom in my life and sometimes when things aren’t happening fast enough, I can get really frustrated. This is a sign of havoc and war in my soul. If I don’t get this dealt with this on the inside, it will manifest on the outside in behaviors like rudeness, snappiness, impatience, and making rushed decisions. As much as God wants us to live victorious over sin, sickness, poverty, and problems, He never wants us to get into a hurry to end injustice. We must learn to stay dependent on Him and keep our inner world peaceful so we release His peace into the affairs of life.
The Hebrew word for peace is shalom, which means nothing missing and nothing broken. It comes with the idea of wholeness. When we let the promises of God make our inner world whole, we are positioned to take on the challenges of life. This is important to understand because God will often ask us to do things that initially make our outer world incomplete. For example, when He asks us to give an offering or turn the other cheek, we suffer loss. When we realize He will never ask us to do something that ultimately leaves things missing or broken in our lives, we have faith to obey His word. We can do this because we know He will restore the finances we gave or work in the relational situation where we turned the other cheek so we experience wholeness. If you would like to learn more about the peace of God, click here to check out this message I taught on the Kingdom of Peace.
Joy is the Greek word chará, which means calm delight. Jesus wants us to have joy. It’s so important to Him, Jesus said it was one of the reasons He answered prayer in John 16:24.
24 Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full.
This doesn’t mean God will give us anything we ask for in prayer. He will always answer the specific covenant promises in His word, but what do we do about our areas where His word isn’t specific, such as who to marry? In these cases, He will often lead us by joy or godly desire. Look at Psalm 37:4:
Delight yourself also in the Lord, And He shall give you the desires of your heart.
When I seek God and He becomes my delight above all else, He puts the desires in my heart He wants me to have. For example, one of the ways I knew I was supposed to marry Ashley was because of godly desire or a supernatural joy. When I spent time with God and He was my delight, I wanted to marry her. This is also how I determined He was calling me into ministry. Once we’ve determined God’s plans for our lives through our inward desires, Jesus wants us to pray. This is why Mark 11:24 says we should ask for things that we desire or bring us joy when we pray. God gives us the desire so we’ll pray for it.
I want to make one last point on joy. We must never allow our circumstances to dictate whether we have joy. It doesn’t mean we have to like it when we are in a tough financial situation or someone betrays us. It does mean we need to seek first the kingdom and begin to experience God’s peace and delight over our lives and know He will work the negative situation together for good. When we know that, we can have joy in any circumstance. If you would like to learn more about being led by joy, check out this message I taught at Grace Life Church.
I hope this article has helped you by providing insight into what the kingdom of God looks like practically in our lives. God wants you and me to seek His kingdom first. As we seek His way of being and doing right, His shalom peace, and supernatural joy in our lives we will see the things we have need of appear in our lives! If you’d like to learn more about how the kingdom of God works from the inside-out, check out this message I taught at Grace Life Church.