Tuesday, May 24, 2011


We're in a series called Destinations in our church, where we've been looking at the concept that "direction determines destination" in life - that no matter how good our intentions are, the direction we're headed in life is doing to determine where you and I eventually end up. For example, it doesn't really matter if you intend to run a marathon - if you're spending your free time sitting on the couch eating a bag of Cheetos and watching Sportscenter, it's very doubtful you'll ever cross the finish line (unless the EMS happen to carry you across on a stretcher).

According to Jesus, the destination in life that we should be striving to arrive at is this crazy idea called the Kingdom of God. Christ said that the Kingdom was near, close, at hand, and even in our midst. He also taught his disciples to pray that the Kingdom would one day be fully on earth, just as it is in heaven. The Kingdom is God's way of doing things, or God's pattern and design for the way that you and I are to be living life, and it's almost always completely backwards and upside down to the way the world works.

In Matthew 6:33, Jesus told his disciples (and a bunch of other people who were listening), "Seek first the Kingdom of God," and all the other stuff they were worrying about in life would fall into its intended, God-designed place.

But the problem with seeking after God's way of doing things first is that there are a ton of distractions - things that are always trying to catch our eye and lure us off this narrow path. In Matthew 13 Jesus told a story of a farmer scattering seed on different types of soil. One seed feel among the thorns, and even though the plant began to grow, the thorns came in and choked the life out of it. Jesus later explained to the twelve that the seed was like those who received God's way with a ton of energy and excitement - until the worries, temptations, and distractions of life came in a choked out all those good intentions.

Some distractions are obvious - such as deliberate sin or stubborn rebellion against God. But other distractions are more subtle. Take, for example, the story of the great banquet in Luke 14, where a master was throwing a huge party and invited several people to come and join in the feast.

However, one by one, he received word that people weren't coming. We hear about three responses. One man bought a field and felt the need to go check it out instead of attending. Another had just acquired some oxen and wanted to take them for a test drive, so he declined. Finally - and I have to say, this is my favorite - one man simply replied by saying, "I have married a wife. I can't come." The story ends with the master bringing in the poor, broken, and outcast from the streets to enjoy the feast, instead of those invited.

Whether it was a newly purchased plot of land, a yoke of strong oxen, or the warmth of family at home, all three individuals in the story were distracted by things that weren't necessarily evil or bad. In fact, they were good, respectable, decent things. Yet, they became so focused and consumed with those good things that they missed out of something far greater.

C.S. Lewis once wrote, "Indeed, if we consider the unblushing promises of reward and the staggering nature of the rewards promised in the Gospels, it would seem that Our Lord finds our desires, not too strong, but too weak...like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased."

Stories like those in Luke 14 call us to ask tough questions of ourselves. How often are we guilty of allowing our own pursuits of wealth, security, and accomplishment distract us from God's definition of success? How often do we allow our own careers and professional aspirations to drain us of the time and energy that God would have us use elsewhere? How often do we use our busy family lives as an excuse to completely neglect our relationship with God?

Nothing is more important than God and God's Kingdom. Not our security. Not our careers. Not even our own families (Matthew 10:37).

We must remember that Jesus' command to seek first the Kingdom of God - God's way of doing things - is a command that comes with a promise. If you pursue God's way of life, everything else will fall into place. But we have to seek God's way first.

There are two things we should know by now about God's way of doing things. First, God's way is almost always backwards and upside down from the way you and I would do things, and from the way the world thinks things should be done. Second, it's always better than anything you and I could come up with.

It's always backwards, but it's always better.