35 Now in the morning, having risen a long while before daylight, He went out and departed to a solitary place; and there He prayed. 36 And Simon and those who were with Him searched for Him. 37 When they found Him, they said to Him, “Everyone is looking for You.” 38 But He said to them, “Let us go into the next towns, that I may preach there also, because for this purpose I have come forth.” 39 And He was preaching in their synagogues throughout all Galilee, and casting out demons (Mark 1:35–39, NKJV).
There were great demands on Jesus’s time. He came to the world to preach “the gospel of the kingdom of God” (Mark 1:38, 14-15). People gathered around Jesus to hear His teachings and be healed (Luke 5:15). His apostles needed personal training before going into the world to preach the gospel, so He taught them privately (Luke 9:10). Religious opponents pressed against Him to undermine Him and His work (Luke 11:53-54). He saw long days and short nights. Yet, Jesus took personal time for prayer and meditation (Mark 1:35; Luke 5:16; Matt. 14:13). He managed His time effectively, even when everyone was looking for Him. He set and kept priorities for how He used His time (in Mark 1:38, Jesus chose to go to “the next towns” to preach even as people searched for Him in Capernaum, Mark 1:21-34). We all have demands on our time as parents, children, employers, employees, etc. Like Jesus, remember your faith priorities each day without distraction. Take time to pray, read God’s word, meditate, and serve others (1 Tim. 4:13, 15). “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness… (Matt. 6:33).” Redeem your time with wisdom and faith (Eph. 5:15-17).
33 But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble. (Matthew 6:33–34, NKJV)
Jesus said we must make the rule and reign of God and His righteousness the priority of our lives instead of the things of this world (Matthew 6:24-32). Daily priorities not only set what we pursue each day but also what we pursue our entire life. Priorities of a day turn into months, then months into years until finally, life ends. We are eager to set a lifetime goal of making God our top priority, yet we may fail to make Him and His will our priority each day. It is far easier to say Christ is a lifelong priority than to live that priority day by day (Luke 6:46; Matthew 7:21). How can we tell when we have fallen into this deception? By honestly assessing whether we are so worried and anxiously distracted by the troubles of each day that we push God’s rule and righteousness to the side (v. 34; Acts 24:25). When daily concerns are our most urgent priority, we are distracted and deterred from walking by faith. When that happens, God is no longer our priority. We are serving another master instead of the One who provides our daily bread and saves us eternally. Strengthen your faith and trust God every day. As your days turn into months and months into years, you will have eternal rest when death comes. (Sword Tips #1559, revised)
22 And see, now I go bound in the spirit to Jerusalem, not knowing the things that will happen to me there, 23 except that the Holy Spirit testifies in every city, saying that chains and tribulations await me. 24 But none of these things move me; nor do I count my life dear to myself, so that I may finish my race with joy, and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God. (Acts 20:22–24, NKJV)
What drives you to withstand trials, adversities, and obstacles of resistance to achieve your goal? Too often, we are driven from our spiritual goal to seeking first the kingdom of God and His righteousness by fear, by doubt, by uncertainty, and many other hindrances. Paul’s example helps us stay the course (cf. Heb. 12:1-2). 1) He was “bound in the spirit” (to go to Jerusalem, v. 22). His mind was set on things above (Col. 3:1-3). His obligation to Christ was fixed deep within his soul. 2) He was undeterred by personal hardship (v. 23-24). Fear of persecution did not pull him off course. He cared more about serving the will of God than his own life. 3) His goal was to finish his race with joy (v. 24). Paul would not just finish his race; he would do so with joy (2 Tim. 4:6-8). 4) The ministry the Lord gave him was more important than his life (v. 24). Paul’s priority to faithfully preach the gospel is evident from a review of what he endured for Jesus (2 Cor. 11:23-33; 4:7-11). Our faith will be tested. Will we be moved when our adversary puts the allurements of sin before us? Will we be moved when enemies of the truth put trials and persecutions in our path? Will fear of death move us away from finishing our race with joy (Matt. 10:28)? Or will we say with Paul, “None of these things move me?”
16 Then He said to him, “A certain man gave a great supper and invited many, 17 and sent his servant at supper time to say to those who were invited, ‘Come, for all things are now ready.’ 18 But they all with one accord began to make excuses. The first said to him, ‘I have bought a piece of ground, and I must go and see it. I ask you to have me excused.’ 19 And another said, ‘I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I am going to test them. I ask you to have me excused.’ 20 Still another said, ‘I have married a wife, and therefore I cannot come.’” (Luke 14:16–20, NKJV)
We are masters at making excuses. The great supper and the invitation to come to the prepared feast is figurative of the kingdom of God and God’s invitation to come to His feast of salvation and “eat” in His kingdom (Lk. 14:15; cf. Isa. 55:1-4). God’s invitation to salvation from sin is sent to every soul, yet few come. Many still say, “I have other, more pressing things to do.” “Necessary” things. “Important” things. “Valid” concerns. Yet, every excuse belies the greater value we place on ourselves instead of on the kingdom of God. (Gaining the whole world is not worth losing your soul, Matthew 16:26.) The host told his servant, “none of those men who were invited shall taste my supper” as a result of their excuse-making rejection of his invitation (Lk. 14:24). God has prepared everything for your salvation in His Son (Matt. 11:28-30). Do not refuse His invitation. Believe and obey the gospel, and enter the kingdom of God (Mk. 16:15-16; Col. 1:13-14).
Because of laziness the building decays, and through idleness of hands the house leaks. (Ecclesiastes 10:18, NKJV)
Apathy is harmful to spiritual health and vitality. Apathy in this context is “an attitude of indifference and unconcern toward spiritual things. It generally ignores spiritual matters in order to place a greater emphasis on material things” (“What Is Wrong With Christian Apathy?,” Biblical Proof). Spiritual indifference is one of the besetting sins in our age of affluence, convenience, and leisure. Like ancient Israel, it is easy to become “at ease in Zion” and neglect “mercy, justice and faith” toward God and fellow human beings (Amos 6:1-6). Often generated by pride, it robs Christians of giving due time and attention to spiritual responsibilities and opportunities (Amos 6:7-8). We succumb to spiritual laziness when we are quick to address material concerns yet neglect our spiritual needs. Our hedge against spiritual apathy is to “seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you” (Matthew 6:33). Faith, activated by godly priorities to the will of God, helps guard against spiritual decay (see Romans 12:1-2).
18 Now these are the ones sown among thorns; they are the ones who hear the word, 19 and the cares of this world, the deceitfulness of riches, and the desires for other things entering in choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful. (Mark 4:18–19, NKJV)
When thorns and thistles take over a field, the crop will not be productive. Weeds choke out the good plants, robbing them of nutrients, rain and sunshine, until eventually they die. Christ used this to describe the heart that is so crowded with internal influences that no room is made for the word of God to grow and bear its fruit in one’s life. We must make room in our hearts for the word of God, otherwise, our overcrowded hearts will choke out God’s word from our lives. Jesus identified 1) The cares of this world, 2) The deceitfulness of riches, and 3) the desire for other things as the culprits we must weed out of our hearts. Life is brief and uncertain, so live for heaven (Col. 3:1-4). Riches are deceptive, and will never satisfy our yearnings of eternity (Eccl. 3:11; 5:12). Desiring other things instead of seeking first God’s rule and reign in our lives will always choke out the word of God from our lives (Matt. 6:33). Pull out the weeds from your heart, lest you wither and die spiritually.
2 “Thus speaks the Lord of hosts, saying: ‘This people says, “The time has not come, the time that the Lord’s house should be built.” ’ ” 3 Then the word of the Lord came by Haggai the prophet, saying, 4 “Is it time for you yourselves to dwell in your paneled houses, and this temple to lie in ruins?” 5 Now therefore, thus says the Lord of hosts: “Consider your ways!” (Haggai 1:2–5, NKJV)
The remnant of Israel had returned to Jerusalem from Babylonian exile more than fifteen years earlier. As the people settled in and refurbished their own houses, the temple of God was still in shambles. Instead of hastening to rebuild God’s house, the people made excuses as they ran to finish their own houses (Hag. 1:7-9). God’s prophet rebuked their negligence, prompting them to action (Hag. 1:14). Even now, there are Christians who are more concerned with their personal affairs than they are with the house of God, His church. They do not faithfully worship God nor put His business above their own. Consequently, God’s house (the church) lies in the ruin of neglect. If this describes you, then it is time to “consider your ways,” repent, and put the Lord’s will first, before your own interests.
31 Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. 33 But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.” (Matthew 6:31–34, NKJV)
What is the primary aim of your life? What, more than anything else, drives you, motivates you, compels you to action? Unbelievers crave (“seek”) material things that satisfy their momentary desires. Disciples of Jesus hunger for the rule and reign of God in their lives. Our priority is to be upright before God and men in word and deed. We trust our heavenly Father to supply our daily material needs. So, we strive not to “worry” about (be distracted by) things beyond our power and control. We meet our daily responsibilities and challenges with faith in God. So, again we ask, what is most important to you? Are you really living for heaven, or for this earth? Your daily decisions, words and deeds show your true answer. Walk by faith, not by sight (2 Cor. 5:7).