Sermons

Seeking First

Sun, Feb 05, 2017
Teacher: Mark Hull
Duration:28 mins 10 secs

Message text

SEEKING FIRST

TEXT: Matthew 6:26-33; Psalm 77:1-15

ILL. In the ancient Persian folktale, "Aladdin," Aladdin is the son of a poor tailor. After his father's death, a wicked magician, who claims to be Aladdin's long-lost uncle, persuades Aladdin to go after an old lamp hidden in a cave.

Aladdin gets the lamp, but suspicious of the magician's intentions, refuses to give it to him. The magician becomes furious at this & seals Aladdin in the cave, leaving him to die there all alone.

Well, to make the story shorter, Aladdin discovers that the lamp contains a magic genie with the power to grant wishes. And as Aladdin makes his wishes, he becomes immensely wealthy, marries the sultan's daughter, defeats a fiendish plot by the wicked magician, & lives happily ever after.

It is a fantasy that has captured the imagination of millions in many countries down through the centuries. Disney Studios took the story & made it into a hit animated movie found in the homes of many children today.

A. Why? Why the popularity of "Aladdin"? Well, I think there are a couple of reasons. First of all, we like to see the underdog come out on top, so we cheer for Aladdin.

Secondly, I think we like to day-dream about having our own magic genie, & having all our wishes granted.

But we're never going to have a magic genie. No one is going to appear suddenly & give us everything we want. It just doesn't work that way.

If we want something we'll have to work for it. If our hopes & dreams are ever to be realized, we have to put forth an effort to bring them to pass.

But I'm afraid that many have gotten their priorities confused. So much time is spent worrying about "things" that we lose sight of what truly matters. We seek gold while dismissing God. We seek health while neglecting holiness.

We seek the latest fashions while ignoring robes of righteousness, & many wonder why they can't seem to find happiness while ignoring God.

Of course, there are people hoping to "strike it rich," to make some "easy money," to win the lottery, to find the buried treasure. And they go through life, one day after another, hoping & worrying about what the future may bring.

Now with that in mind, listen to Jesus in Matthew 6:26, “Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, & yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?"

Continuing on in vs's 28-33, "See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these.

“If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today & tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will He not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?'

“For the pagans run after all these things, & your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first His kingdom & His righteousness, & all these things will be given to you as well."

PROP. It sounds like Jesus is saying that we need to discard our stress balls, our nervous stomachs & our manipulations, & allow Him to take His seat on the throne of our hearts. If we do, "… all these things will be given to you as well."

I. SEEK GOD FIRST

Notice again, Jesus tells us, "Seek first the Kingdom of God & His righteous-ness, & all these things will be given to you as well." But that is hard to do, isn't it? We just naturally seek "things", not God.

But "things" can never give us direction in life. "Things" can never comfort us in a lasting way. "Things" are just things, but God is God!

So often we focus on what we want & convince ourselves that what we want will remove whatever troubles us, & therefore we'll be happy. But when we leave God out of the picture, we find that is not true at all.

Think about Jesus praying in the Garden of Gethsemane. He knew what lay ahead - the cross, its pain, its shame, & its suffering. He wanted so badly for the cup of suffering to be taken away. And yet He prays:

"'Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.' An angel from heaven appeared to Him & strengthened Him. And being in anguish, He prayed more earnestly, & His sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground." (Luke 22:42-44)

SUM. Folks, we need to spend time in prayer, not just telling Him what we want, but seeking to learn what God's will is for our lives, what He is doing in our present circumstances, & where He is leading us.

We also need to spend time in the Bible, allowing Him to teach us about His love, His justice, His mercy, & His grace.

II. WHEN WE SEEK HIM, HE CHANGES US

Seek Wisdom
There’s a story about a proud young man who came to Socrates asking for knowledge. He walked up to the muscular philosopher and said, “O great Socrates, I come to you for knowledge.”
Socrates recognized a pompous numbskull when he saw one. He led the young man through the streets, to the sea, and chest deep into water. Then he asked, “What do you want?”
“Knowledge, O wise Socrates,” said the young man with a smile.
Socrates put his strong hands on the man’s shoulders and pushed him under. Thirty seconds later Socrates let him up. “What do you want?” he asked again.
“Wisdom,” the young man sputtered, “O great and wise Socrates.”
Socrates crunched him under again. Thirty seconds passed, thirty-five. Forty. Socrates let him up. The man was gasping. “What do you want, young man?”
Between heavy, heaving breaths the fellow wheezed, “Knowledge, O wise and wonderful…”

Socrates jammed him under again Forty seconds passed. Fifty. “What do you want?”
“Air!” the young man screeched. “I need air!”
“When you want knowledge as you have just wanted air, then you will have knowledge.”

Now when we seek the Lord, when we long to be in His presence, then we'll find that He is beginning to change us.

The things that used to matter most lose their power over us. The troubles that used to unravel us are put into His divine perspective & we learn that nothing happens apart from His knowledge.

Let me give you an example of what I am talking about. One of the most commonly experienced emotions is loneliness in the midst of trouble. When we go through troubling times we often feel so alone - our energy is gone, & we even wonder if God has forsaken us.

The writer of Psalm 77 experienced the same emotions. Listen to him, “I cried out to God for help; I cried out to God to hear me. When I was in distress, I sought the Lord; at night I stretched out untiring hands & my soul refused to be comforted. I remembered you, O God, & I groaned;

"I mused, & my spirit grew faint. You kept my eyes from closing; I was too troubled to speak. I thought about the former days, the years of long ago; I remembered my songs in the night. My heart mused & my spirit inquired:

"Will the Lord reject forever? Will He never show His favor again? Has His unfailing love vanished forever? Has His promise failed for all time? Has God forgotten to be merciful? Has He in anger withheld His compassion?"

Do you hear the anguish? His soul was troubled. He wondered if God had forgotten him. He thought maybe God's promises had failed. And at times we feel some of the same anguish as well.

Then he began remembering what God had done. “Then I thought, ‘To this I will appeal...’ I will remember the deeds of the Lord; yes, I will remember your miracles of long ago. I will meditate on all your works & consider all your mighty deeds.

“Your ways, O God, are holy. What god is so great as our God? You are the God who performs miracles; you display your power among the peoples. With your mighty arm you redeemed your people..."

What a beautiful turn of events! How I long to see that transformation happen in our lives. Prayer changes things. Prayer changes us.

Prayer draws me into the will of God & shows me where I have gone wrong, & then gives me the desire to walk in His will.

Listen to Psalm 119:57-64. "You are my portion, O Lord; I have promised to obey your words. I have sought your face with all my heart; be gracious to me according to your promise. I have considered my ways & have turned my steps to your statutes.

“I will hasten & not delay to obey your commands. Though the wicked bind me with ropes, I will not forget your law… I am a friend to all who fear you, to all who follow your precepts. The earth is filled with your love, O Lord; teach me your decrees.”

What motivated him to turn towards God & not to delay in obeying His will? What stirred him to give God praise & thanks for His righteous laws? What enabled him to see that the earth is filled with God's love?

I think that the answer is evident - when he prayed, when he sought God with all his heart he began to realize just how much God really cares for him.

III. IT'S NEVER TOO LATE TO SEEK HIM

But there are those who do not feel worthy to seek the Lord. They feel that their lives are such a mess, or that they have neglected God for so long that surely God would not listen to them when they come to Him in prayer now.

Yet there is absolutely nothing you or I have ever done that God does not know. He sees our deeds, He knows our hearts, & that we're sinners. That is why He gave His Son to die for our sins.

Jesus didn't die on the cross because we were good people. He died because we're sinners - sinners without hope apart from God.

ILL.    A Lady once told about inviting a friend to attend a Wednesday night bible study. The man told her that he hadn't been to church in years & because of that didn't feel right about going to church now. She said, "He didn't feel worthy even to go on Wednesday night, much less Sunday morning."

Oh, how I wish that man could understand the love of God! I wish he could realize that God is yearning for him to lift his face to heaven & cry out for the Lord. I wish he could realize that we come from a long line of sinners going all the way back to Adam, & that God delights in sinners coming home.

I wish he could know the story of Manasseh, an evil king who finally sought the Lord. For those of you unfamiliar with Manasseh let me tell his story.

Manasseh was the son of Hezekiah, one of the great & good kings of Judah. But Manasseh, even though he came from a godly home, turned his back on God. He became king & ruled for 55 years, the longest reign of any king of Judah.

But his reign was a horrible time for the nation as he deliberately tried to drive out the worship of God from the land. Jewish tradition says that he had the prophet Isaiah put to death by being sawn in two.

And modern historians have called him the "Nero of Palestine." You can find his story & a description of his detestable practices in 2 Chronicles 33:1-10.

Listen as I read parts of it to you. "Manasseh was 12 years old when he became king, & he reigned in Jerusalem 55 years. He did evil in the eyes of the Lord, following the detestable practices of the nations the Lord had driven out before the Israelites.

“He erected altars to the Baals & made Asherah poles. He bowed down to all the starry hosts & worshiped them... He sacrificed his sons in the fire in the Valley of Ben Hinnom, practiced sorcery, divination & witchcraft, & consulted mediums & spiritists.

"Manasseh led Judah & the people of Jerusalem astray, so that they did more evil than the nations the Lord had destroyed before the Israelites. The Lord spoke to Manasseh & his people, but they paid no attention."

Manasseh did all of this evil, & then one day the king of Assyria came & conquered Jerusalem. Vs. 11 tells us what happened.

"So the Lord brought against them… the king of Assyria, who took Manasseh prisoner, put a hook in his nose, bound him with bronze shackles & took him to Babylon."

Manasseh was now a prisoner. His power was gone. His arrogance had vanished. He was finally willing to listen to God.

So vs's 12 & 13 tell us, "In his distress he sought the favor of the Lord his God & humbled himself greatly before the God of his fathers.

“And when he prayed to Him, the Lord was moved by his entreaty & listened to his plea; so He brought him back to Jerusalem & to his kingdom. Then Manasseh knew that the Lord is God."

Notice: when Manasseh "sought the favor of the Lord his God & humbled himself" he found God available. There was no probationary period due to Manasseh's terrible sins. There was no waiting period - God answered Manasseh's prayers & restored the kingdom to him.

And when Manasseh returned to Jerusalem vs's 15-16 tell us, "He got rid of the foreign gods & removed the image from the temple of the Lord, as well as all the altars he had built on the temple hill & in Jerusalem; & he threw them out of the city.

“Then he restored the altar of the Lord & sacrificed fellowship offerings & thank offerings on it, & told Judah to serve the Lord, the God of Israel."

Did you notice? Vs. 13 tells us that God was moved by the prayer of Manasseh. God can be moved by our prayers, too. If you're not a Christian, won't you lift up your eyes to Jesus this evening?

Regardless of your circumstances, won't you recognize your need to be a follower of Christ tonight?

We desperately need to seek God with all of our hearts so that we can learn His ways & allow Him to reveal His purposes for our lives. Won't you come to the Lord & watch Him work in your life?

INVITATION

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Reference Sermon

Melvin Newland

25 January 2017

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