The Kingdom of God. It is the place where the King rules and hearts adore Him. The Kingdom of God is not as much a certain place as it is meant to be every place. It is not so much outer space as inner space. This is the mystery of the Kingdom of God. This is what we are told to seek first.
Seek First. First priority. First thought. First thing. We are to seek not our desires, goals, purpose, plans, wants, needs, or anything short of the Kingdom first. What does this mean and what does it look like to live in such a way?
If the Kingdom is everywhere and within as much as outside of us, then there are some tangible applications to what Jesus means when He says “seek first His Kingdom.”
Application #1 Every Kingdom has a King. The rules and guidelines for life are set by the King. He determines what is important and what is not. We often like to be masters of our own domain. However someone who seeks His Kingdom first has surrendered his castle, fortress, home, etc. to the rule of the King. Begin to allow the Spirit of God to rule your life . Don’t cater to your preferences, desires, whims, or even beliefs about how God does things. Allowing God and His Spirit to move and work as they please is the only way to live within this Kingdom. The Kingdom of God only has one King and it’s not you or I!
Application #2 Govern your life by Sovereign Rule. We can find ourselves struggling to continue to do the right things. It is then we must remember Kingdom of God. People may wonder why we choose to be nice and give money to a homeless guys who is going to go and blow it on some cheap liquor. My response is that I am only responsible for what I do, not what He does. I can only obey God and seek to build His Kingdom. I must rest and trust in God’s great sovereign rule. God has the power to take my good (and my bad) and transform it into something beautiful. When I am seeking His Kingdom, even if I choose poorly and make a mistake, He will direct my path back to Himself. In other words, don’t fail to choose to do good for fear of it not working out. Don’t fail to give your absolute best when the results are not there or in your control anyway. Trust in His sovereign rule. When we are seeking his Kingdom, God will use even our worst failings to do something for which He alone gets credit.
Application #3 Give Him The Glory. God’s Kingdom is about God’s glory. It is a place where all attention is directed to God and all is done for God. We can easily fall into a trap of living out self-serving tasks in the name of Jesus. We can forget that the reason we exist is not for ourselves but for The King. When we choose to live for the Kingdom of God everything about our lives is used to simply direct people to the King. We don’t live for ourselves but for the King. We don’t serve ourselves but the King. We don’t accept praise but we give it to the King. All that we are and all that we have is for the King and to be used for Kingdom purposes.
In the Kingdom of God life is upside-down and inside-out. It is seen and hidden, eternal and now. The Kingdom of God is not only near you or in you…you are in it! So let God your King, let him rule and control each area of life and give Him glory in all that you do. When you do…you are seeking the Kingdom of God!
I haven’t played on any “real” teams for sports. I’ve done the church league thing and the pick-up games at parks or gyms but I can’t say that I’ve really been part of a team sport. However, I have been part of a team of people who have been given tasks to accomplish and goals to achieve. Learning to work as a team has been challenging and very rewarding.Regardless of the setting, learning and working in a team environment is essential not only for personal success but for Kingdom impact.
These four men were a team. They were connected, committed and creative in how they worked together to see their friend get to Jesus. We can learn some valuable lessons from their example.
Connected. They were connected in various ways. They obviously had a passion for their friend. They all shared a common heart for him, had some personal tie to him and investment in him. It wasn’t like he was just a common beggar to them: they loved him because they were connected to him. This particular connection to him lead them to be connected to each other. Make no mistake that networking and relationships are not by chance. God allows our lives to intersect with others that we may accomplish more for His Kingdom. God knew that this man would need 4 people to move him from point “a” to point “b” and then “c”.
Their connection had to be personal. We don’t have to look very far to see people’s whose lives ours can connect with and touch. The question is do we want to get “personally” or “emotionally attached”? I have to say that there is no other way to make a difference in someone’s life without some kind of personal, emotional, and spiritual connection. Jesus was often recorded as being “moved with compassion”. If we simply let our hearts be “moved” we will easily be able to see where and how we need to connect. Connections don’t have to be forced if they are felt. And don’t feel like you have to force a connection. That’s the beauty of teamwork. God has someone for the ones we don’t “connect” to.
Committed. These four men were committed in many ways. Not only were they perhaps financially involved in some way, they were personally committed. They invested themselves. It wasn’t like they paid someone else to move him; they did it. They rolled up their sleeves and got to it. They took him upon their shoulders and carried him to places he could not get to on his own. This required the commitment of a team. The paralyzed man would never see heights of a roof or the face of Jesus without these four friends. The man would never feel the healing touch of the Master without the human touch of a team.
We cannot underestimate the power, synergy and dynamic power of a team that works together, prays together, serves together and leads together. These four men were all doing their part in carrying the corner of the mat, bearing their share of the burden. They compensated for each other when one may have been tired or fatigued. They moved in sync in the same direction because they had a sure direction and purpose. All teams need this to accomplish the positive affecting of lives. If you are part of a team, you must learn to work together. If you are not part of a team, find one and plug in! Someone’s eternal destiny could use your strength, love and commitment.
Creativity. There is much to be said about the creativity needed in leading, serving and living for Christ. As was the case for these four men, they encountered a problem even though they were committed and connected. We have to realize that even though our team may have momentum, we must allow room for creativity. Crisis can either squelch or spark creativity; and it all hinges on your perspective.
Creativity is often hampered and hindered when we fail to change our perspective. What we must keep at the forefront of our minds is the fact that we have “a paralyzed man on a mat in my hands and we need to get him to Jesus.” Programs, techniques, traditions etc. are all good and have their space and time but we must allow for creative approaches to Jesus. These four men tried the usual approach: carry the mat through the front door, lay him at Jesus’ feet. Simple. Effective. Traditional. Usual. Expected. And yet it was not possible this time. Not because they did not try, mind you, but because everyone else refused to move! If people refuse to move when God is trying to work, the team, must go outside and around. There has to be creative movement to get to God and get others to Him.
What is so very impressive about these four men is that they didn’t argue or spend countless minutes trying to prove one was better than another. They didn’t stop to pray about each detail or even ask permission to remove the roof! They worked quick, made quick decisions…together. They all agreed on what was important and left the peripherals (and the roof) as an incidental issue that could be fixed. What they essentially came to conclude was that people are more important than things. They understood their friend was relying completely upon their creative genius to get him to Jesus. And it had to happen as a team! If it took four people to carry him it would surely take four to lower him! If ever their commitment and connection would be tested it would be in the midst of a crisis; we should expect no less.
Through an act of courageous love, these four anonymous (another interesting thought is no single one got all the recognition) men carried their friend to Jesus. Because of their connection, commitment and creativity a man was healed and forgiven. There was certainly much to talk about that day and it all started because of a group of men got together and wanted to do something for their friend. Come together. Get together. Get going. Get creative. Be connected and committed. Lower yourself to serve together and you may just find that God uses you to raise someone up!