I’ve never thought of myself as an anxious person. Worry wasn’t something that seemed to define me as a kid. As I grew, I viewed fear as a weakness, something that would keep me from accomplishing what I wanted it. In fact, I wasn’t even sure what anxiety was until recently, when I hit burnout.
My life came to a startling halt with a brain injury, a church plant, two kids, and a kitchen under remodel. I could no longer handle the stress of it all. I believed myself no longer capable of “taking care of it.”
Anxiety came bubbling out of me like an over-pressurized can of soda, revealing such little faith and such great pride. The anxiety that crashed over me those few months of burnout challenged my view of seeking first the Kingdom of God. For years I had been asking:
How do we seek first the kingdom of God? What is the will of God? Am I accomplishing the will of God in my life? How can I please God?
As I pressed into these questions, I set bigger and better expectations upon myself around who I was supposed to be, how I was supposed to act, and what would please God.
At the end of it all, I found myself lonely, afraid, anxious, and wondering how I became so easily frustrated and stressed out all the time. It was in my valley that I began learning how to seek first the kingdom of God as Jesus talks about in Matthew 6:21-34. It did not involve expectations of perfection, but rather intimate knowledge of the King Himself.
Jesus Is the Kingdom Personified
Before we can answer how to seek first the kingdom of God, we must understand what the kingdom of God is. The kingdom was so important to Jesus that He mentions it 126 times in the ESV translation of the gospels. Jesus clearly wanted to get our attention and focus our gaze on the kingdom.
However, the kingdom is not a palace like the Windsor Castle, floating around in the heavenly realm. The kingdom of God, in the Bible, is simply God’s redemptive rule and reign. The word kingdom points directly to God’s kingship, or His rule, action, and sovereign governance over all created things.
In order to understand how to seek first the kingdom of God, we must know the King. Jesus is the Kingdom personified. The kingdom of God came to us through the Son of God. God’s redemptive rule and reign sent King Jesus as a ransom for many.
We learn in the Bible that humanity is sinful by nature and by choice — for all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). We were created as worshipping beings to reflect God.
However, when sin entered the world and stained our souls, our worship became swayed away from the Lord who deserved it, and into the hands of worldly pleasures. As Jesus states in Matthew 6:24, “No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other.”
In this instance, He is referring to money and God, but the principle stands true elsewhere. We are always worshipping, the question we must ask is, what are we worshipping?
One King Must Rule Our Hearts
The easiest way to find what master we are worshipping is by looking at our own hearts. Matthew 6:21 states: “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
Whatever we spend the majority of our time, effort, breath, and resources on is what we are ultimately worshipping. Therefore, we must ask, is Jesus our master, or is it something else?
Are we worshiping financial gain and security? Approval of people? Power and influence?
For me, in that season of burnout, I was allowing my emotions to rule me as I served the approval and influence of others. Although I masked my desires with good things, my intentions were not coming out of a heart that sought to serve Jesus as my King. They were coming out of a heart that sought to serve my own need to be heard, to be approved of, and to have influence.
The master of approval and influence did not lead me into peace, but great anxiety. When I found that my striving would never cease, I hit a wall. King Jesus, the God who sovereignly reigns over all created things, graciously began revealing the overflow of my heart. My anxiety told me that I no longer trusted the Lord to take care of my well-being. I was believing that I had to constantly prove myself to God and to others.
However, King Jesus told me that no effort of measuring up would ever satisfy. King Jesus is not satisfied with halfhearted worship, just as our hearts will never be satisfied worshipping anything other than Jesus. Therefore, we are called to seek first His reign — not as a genie in a bottle, or hazard insurance during destruction, but Him. We are called to seek and be satisfied by the King.
How Do We Seek and Be Satisfied by the King?
The entire Bible is designed and devoted to telling the great story of Jesus, and how His people can seek and be satisfied by Him. Reading the Word is the first and foremost way we can seek the Lord. However, here are three practical ways we can be intentional to seek and be satisfied in King Jesus:
1. Confess and repent of the other “master.” The Bible is very clear that we are to have one God. From beginning to end is the command to rid ourselves of idols. If there is anything in our life that we are treasuring more than Christ, then that thing has become a master and an idol keeping us from being satisfied in the King. If we find ourselves wrestling with the worship of created things, we must look to Jesus’ words: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matthew 4:17).
2. Submit all emotions and anxiety over to the Lord. Not only must we repent of the sin that so easily wells up in our hearts, but we must take our emotions to the Lord daily. In order to seek first the kingdom of God, we must make God the King of our emotions. He must rule and reign over them, rather than allowing our emotions to rule and reign our lives. Emotions, in general, are not sinful but were designed to point us back to our dependence on Christ.
Therefore, as we wrestle through our emotions, we must bring our honest thoughts and confessions to the Lord and allow His Word to speak truth over our feelings. This will lead us to be both satisfied in King Jesus and to seek Him more and more as we daily submit our thoughts and emotions to Him through prayer.
3. Faith forges the way to seek the Kingdom and frees us from all anxiety. In Matthew 6:24-34, Jesus speaks directly to the heart of anxiety. He knows that anxiety is an emotion. However, He attacks that emotion with facts, promises, and truths about who God is. God is sovereign over creation. He feeds the birds, dresses the lilies, and takes special care of His created world. Jesus knows that pointing us back to God’s promises will change our perspective and grant us freedom.
John Piper, in his message “Do not be Anxious About your Life” says it this way:
…instead of being anxious, “Seek first God’s kingdom.” In other words, when you think about your life or your food or your clothes or your spouse or your job or your mission, don’t fret about them. Instead, make God the king in that affair and in that moment, and hand over the situation to his kingly power and do his righteous will with the confidence that he will work for you and meet all your needs.
To seek the kingship of God first in every affair and every moment of life is a thrilling way to live. It’s full of freedom and peace and joy and adventure — and hardship, and it’s worth it all. If you believe in the kingship of your heavenly Father, you do not need to be anxious about anything.
Where faith in the promises of God is trusted, freedom is found. Therefore, we should pray for faith. Let us cling to His word, as faith comes from hearing, hearing by the Word of God (Romans 10:17). Let us devote large chunks of time to meditating on His Word and praying for His Kingdom to come, and His will be done on earth as it is in heaven (Matthew 6:10).
Let us cling to the final truth in Matthew 6:34 that all we need will be added to us. Let us submit our worries unto the Lord, for the day has enough trouble as it is. Let us run to the Lord with our emotions, let us seek after His reign and rule in our lives, and let us trust that He will give us everything we need to glorify Him — for His perfect plan and will.
Sources: Seek First by Jeremy Treat
Photo Credit: ©Unsplash/thkelley
Stephanie Englehart is a Seattle native, church planter’s wife, mama, and lover of all things coffee, the great outdoors, and fine (easy to make) food. Stephanie is passionate about allowing God to use her honest thoughts and confessions to bring gospel application to life. You can read more of what she writes on the Ever Sing blog at stephaniemenglehart.com or follow her on Instagram: @stephaniemenglehart.