“Do not seek what you are to eat and what you are to drink, nor be worried. For all the nations of the world seek after these things, and your Father knows that you need them. Instead, seek his kingdom, and these things will be added to you.”
(Luke 12:29-31 (ESV))
Sometimes, it’s the simple things that Jesus says that are the hardest to follow. Take, for example, the passage above. This is surely one of the most beloved sayings of Jesus. We can imagine Jesus, while standing in the midst of a prairie jeweled with wildflowers, the birds singing in the background, calmly teaching, “Consider the lilies of the field…” We read the passage and say to ourselves, “Oh, that’s really nice.” But do we apply it to our hearts?
If you stop and read this teaching (Luke 12:22-31) it will radically change your life. Jesus tells his disciples that they are not to be anxious about anything – what they will eat, what they will wear. The kingdom of heaven is about more than just food and clothing. All the anxiety and worry spent in providing these things, does it really help? The birds of the air don’t store up food, but God still feeds them. God clothes the flowers of the field, which are here today and gone tomorrow. If God so cares for the birds and adorns the grass, are you not worth more to God than these, will God not also provide for you? You can’t add an hour to your life by stressing, fretting, and obsessing over it, so why do you worry about the rest. When Jesus says, “the nations of the world seek after these things” he’s making a clear distinction. The nations of the world are not the kingdom of God. Without the assurance of faith that our heavenly Father will provide our needs, even our daily bread, then it would be only natural to worry and stress and even freak out a little bit. But since we have such a loving and sovereign God who provides for our every need, such behavior is unbecoming.
That’s why I think this passage is so difficult for us. How many of us know this passage but still get overcome by worry and anxiety? Tim Keller, in his book King’s Cross, says that worry “is rooted in an arrogance that assumes, I know the way my life has to go, and God’s not getting it right.” How many times have we said that to ourselves? We’ve got our lives all planned out. We know what needs to happen to find joy and success in life, to be secure and satisfied. Now why won’t God get with the plan? If God really wanted what was best for me, what’s with all this pain and loss, hardship and setback. If this is the way it’s going to be, can I really trust God with my life?
I think that’s really the heart of the matter here, what Jesus is really driving at. Do you trust God? Do you take Him at his word? Do you trust that God will provide your every need, your daily bread, that God has a plan to prosper you and to secure you in His fold?
That’s what it means to seek the kingdom of God. In the gospels, when Jesus talks about the kingdom of God, he is referring to God’s reign, rule, and God’s provision for His redeemed that flows from this rule. We are told to seek first God’s kingdom, not our own. We are told to seek first God’s kingdom, not the kingdoms of this world. When we seek after, long for, earnestly desire the kingdom of God, then everything else will be added to us. Unless you fix your eyes on Christ, the author and perfecter of your faith, you will, like Peter, look to the waves and be overcome by worry and anxiety.
So how do we seek first the kingdom of God and overcome all the worry and fears of this world?
First, know that Christ reigns and rules over you and for you? Ephesians reminds us that God has put all things under [Jesus’] feet and gave him as head over all things to the church” (1:22). The one who left the glory of God to dwell with us, to live for us and to die our death, lives now and reigns over us. He is the Lamb who was slain, who is now enthroned in power and might as our High King of heaven. If He lived for us, if He died for us, if He now reigns in power over us, what comfort and contentment, what rest and peace may we find in Him! He who proved his love again and again, will He not continue to prove His love to those who seek after Him?
Secondly, trust that the Lord will provide, and rest in his care. Knowing that our Lord reigns and rules over us gives us an endless source of contentment to face all situations, (Phil 4:11) and to rejoice in all our troubles (Rom 8:35). We know that even in adversity, God is working our sanctification (Heb 12:5-11), developing Christlikeness (Romans 5:2-5), and strengthening our faith (1 Peter 1:7). Because He has proven His provision in the past, we know that our God “will supply every need… according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus” (Phil 4:19).
Finally, turn to the Lord, cast your cares upon him. James tells us that one of the reasons we get anxious and begin to worry that God won’t provide is that “You do not have because you do not ask” (James 4:2). Do you take your concerns, your worries to the Lord in prayer? It saddens me when Christians don’t take their troubles to the Lord because they don’t think God cares. Paul tells us, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God” (Phil 4:6).
Friends, I know how difficult it is to let go of the worry, the anxiety. Without it, we feel like we’re not in control. But, honestly, if we cannot add an hour to our lives by being anxious, why do we worry about the rest. Oh, what release, what comfort, what peace we find when we lay these burdens down, and seek after the kingdom of God.
“Cast your burden on the Lord, and he will sustain you;
he will never permit the righteous to be moved.”