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First Things First Make saving a priority

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Matthew 6:31-341

Introduction

What does your faith mean to you?

For many, it’s a comfort. In a crisis, facing a death, their faith sustains.

For some, it’s a tradition. It ties them back to their roots.

For some, faith is their fire insurance policy. It keeps them out of hell.

For many, faith is a nice activity to round out their interests. Everybody needs a little religion. It helps them to be a balanced person. Church is a great place to make some friends, hear some good music, and hopefully hear an interesting speaker. You should go sometime, if it’s convenient.

But for how many of you is your faith your reason for living?

Is your faith the reason you get up in the morning? Is it the major focus of your activities, your words, and your thoughts? Does it occupy the majority of your time when you’re not at work or taking care of living life? And even then, do your thoughts keep drifting back to issues of faith?

You know what? That’s how important your faith is supposed to be.

One other thing. God’s instructions make it clear that your faith is not something that you work out just between you and God. Your faith is meant to be carried out in the context of relationships with other believers. In other words, in a local church. That is the main context in which you pursue God’s purposes for your life: worship, fellowship, discipleship, and service. So for how many of you is your church a priority in your life? Does it occupy the majority of your discretionary attention, time, conversation, thoughts and resources?

Series: Finding Security in a Shaky Economy

Today we’re finishing a series about how to find security in a shaky economy. This is part of our study of Jesus’ words in Matthew 5-7, called the Sermon on the Mount.

We live in an unpredictable, unstable shaky economy. It’s always that way, though sometimes we’re aware of how unreliable it is and sometimes we’re not.

The Bible teaches that there is a way to find true financial security even in the midst of our shaky economy. And we’ve been examining four biblical principles about how to do that.

1. Choose the Right Bank.

First, it’s important to choose the right bank. Jesus says we can either keep our treasures here on earth, where they slowly disappear and eventually burn up in a great fire at the end of the world, or we can deposit our resources in heaven where they will last forever. We can use our earthly resources to invest in things that will last forever: loving people and helping them find and follow Jesus, developing the character of Christ in our lives, promoting and building God’s kingdom. Treasures on earth or treasures in heaven: we have a choice. One is secure forever. The other is not.

µ 2. Stick with long-term investments.

Second, stick with long-term investments. Jesus says, everyone has to make that choice between earth and heaven. Everyone needs to use money, but if you try to find your security in money, then it’s impossible to find your security in God. You must choose between them. Otherwise it will compromise your values, distort your spiritual perception and corrupt your behavior. You can be loyal to only one or the other.

3. Count on social security.

Third, count on social security. That doesn’t mean the social security of the federal government, but rather the security of God’s kingdom. Somehow God manages to take care of birds and flowers and you know what? He can also take care of the things we need like food and clothing. So instead of worrying about whether we’ll have enough to get by, we need to trust God to take care of us. When we worry, we’re really saying that we don’t think God is up to the task of taking care of us. It’s a lack of confidence in God’s abilities. We find true security by trusting God.

4. Make saving a priority.

Today we come to our fourth and final principle for finding financial security in a shaky economy. We need to make saving a priority. Of course, the kind of saving I’m talking about is not accomplished by putting your money in the local bank. It’s only what we invest in eternity that will last forever and will bring us true security. And Jesus says not only that we should invest in eternity (that’s what we studied the first week), but here in today’s verses,

First Things First

He says you need to make investments in God’s kingdom your number one priority. It’s vitally important to put first things first. And the only thing that belongs in first place is God’s Kingdom.

God knows your needs. (31-32)

We’re going to start with where we left off two weeks ago. Remember that Jesus has just reminded us of how well God takes care of birds and flowers. He’s reminded us of just how little we can accomplish by worrying about our needs. So he says,

Matthew 6:31-34 [31] So do not worry, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?'

[32] For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them.

When we recognize God’s abilities, we can be confident that God knows what we need and that he will take care of us.

Two weeks ago, we missed out on our clip from “Joe verse the Volcano”.

So today, I’d like to play it. Told he has only months to live, Joe’s been hired to jump into a volcano to appease the gods and rescue an island civilization from destruction.

[Clip from “Joe verses the Volcano”]

OK, this is a little farcical, but I think it makes the point. These two characters represent two basic approaches to life. Meg’s character is sure that, no matter what setbacks and disappointments they face, everything is going to work out all right. How? She’s not sure. But it will. Tom’s character is pretty sure that everything is going to be a disaster. So to him, the setbacks and disappointments are proof that they are headed for sure catastrophe. For him, it’s always going to be something.

Now of course, there’s a huge difference between this movie and the Christian faith. These people are putting their confidence in an unseen force and really good luggage. Some people trust in chance or in their intellect or in their own abilities or in their savings. But for the Christian, our confidence depends on what we know about God and his abilities.

To some, our confidence is going to look like wishful thinking, foolish and unrealistic. But confidence in God’s abilities based on faith is anything but foolish. In fact, it’s actually foolish to put our confidence in anything else.

Make his kingdom your priority (33)

That’s why Jesus concludes his teaching about security with these astounding words:

[33] But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.

Each of us needs to establish what will be the priority of our lives. And Jesus tells us here what that priority should be. It actually has two parts.

God’s Kingdom. And God’s Righteousness.

These two ideas have been central themes in the Sermon on the Mount that we’ve been studying since January. But in case you weren’t here when we started or you don’t remember, let’s talk about them.

God’s Kingdom is his invisible government over each of us and over the whole world. One day, it’s going to be a visible government and it will be completely established, but right now, it’s actually already begun in the lives of each of us who have become followers of Jesus. God’s Kingdom is God’s work here on earth—His work in our lives and in the lives of the people around us. Remember Jesus started this teaching with the words, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” Or, If you’re spiritually bankrupt, congratulations! You’re just the kind of person who belongs in God’s Kingdom.”

Righteousness means innocence, a right relationship with God undamaged by sin or disobedience. Remember that Jesus taught us that unless our righteousness is greater than the Pharisees then we could not enter the kingdom of heaven. And he talked about a higher standard of righteousness—not just being careful to follow God’s instructions in an external, outward conformity, but also in our innermost thoughts, feelings and attitudes. He also told us not to acts of righteousness to show off to people how spiritual we are, but to do them solely to honor God.

Here in 6:33, Jesus comes to a climax of sorts in his teaching. He says that this kingdom of God that he’s been talking about and this righteousness that he’s been talking about—they need to be the priority of our lives. Our pursuit of this kingdom and this righteousness must take first place.

Why does he mention that here in the middle of a discussion about finding financial security—having what we need to take care of ourselves and our families? I think the reason he does is because so often people allow the quest for financial security to become the priority of their lives. The reason they get up in the morning is not to pursue God’s kingdom and God’s righteousness, but rather to go to work, to earn money, to pay the bills, to buy toys, and to set aside savings so that in the future they can pay more bills and buy more toys. For most people, financial security is the number one priority in their lives. But Jesus says, keep your eye on the ball. Instead of chasing after financial security, chase after God’s kingdom and God’s righteousness and let God take care of what you need.

When I was growing up, this verse had a profound impact on my life. Perhaps more than any other verse in the Bible, Matthew 6:33 set the course of my life. I was in my freshman year of premed at UCSD...

When you set your priority on God’s kingdom and God’s righteousness, it changes the course of your life. For me, it made the difference of whether I went into medicine. That’s not necessarily the same for everyone. Nothing wrong with medicine. Holly. It may change how you do medicine, and it will certainly change why you do medicine.

Have you made God’s kingdom and God’s righteousness the priority of your life? How has that changed the course of your life?

Don’t worry about your future (34)

There’s one final thought that Jesus adds to this discourse. At the end of chapter 6, he applies this principle to the future. Don’t worry about what you’re going to eat or drink or wear. In fact, don’t worry about anything in your future.

[34] Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

The idea here is that we can face the challenges of tomorrow whenever tomorrow arrives.

To worry about it now, is inviting more than we can handle.

This follows logically from the previous verse. We need to keep our focus on the kingdom and on righteousness. We should not be distracted by our daily needs and we shouldn’t be distracted by what might happen tomorrow.

Corrie Ten Boom. How could I have the strength to face execution?

God will give you grace just before you need it.

When we deal with the future, we tend to fall off the cart on either one side or the other. Sometimes people’s worry about the future paralyzes them from taking steps of faith because they want to see how it’s going to work out before they’re willing to trust God to work it out. Unfortunately, God doesn’t usually work that way. He frequently calls us to step out without any assurances except that he has promised to provide. How will it work out? I don’t know. But that doesn’t mean that it’s foolish to do it.

The other side people fall off is sometimes they are completely dependent on God doing everything and so they don’t even do what they can do. I think the Bible is clear that as long as we’re doing what is right, that we should do whatever we can do to plan, to prepare, and to work.

God didn’t give us gifts so we’d sit on them. He gave them to us to use to their fullest. Using them means taking some risks and it means working hard. Working hard is not a lack of faith. It’s responding to the opportunities that God has placed before us. Now when we get to the point that something is beyond our control, beyond our foresight, or beyond our abilities, then we need to recognize that God has that part of the job covered. We can’t work. We don’t need to worry. We just have to trust.

Proverbs 16:9 In his heart a man plans his course, but the LORD determines his steps.

James 4:13-15 Now listen, you who say, "Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money." [14] Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life?

You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. [15] Instead, you ought to say, "If it is the Lord's will, we will live and do this or that."

Sometimes it can be difficult to navigate the difference between when we should be working and when we should be waiting on God. I think it’s kind of an art. It is a often a judgment call based on wisdom and experience. But as you practice following God, I think you begin to recognize that when you run up against things beyond your control, then it’s time to relax and wait for God to do His thing.

What’s Your Priority?

If God’s kingdom isn’t the priority in your life, then you’re not living out the Christian faith the way it was intended to be lived.

Feeling guilty? That’s not my intent. Some of you feel guilty way too easily. “It’s cold.” You feel guilty you didn’t get up and turn down AC.

Guilt can be a good warning from God that something needs to change.

So don’t let me make you feel guilty, but if you’re feeling guilty because God wants you to do something different, then listen to it.

What does it mean to seek God’s kingdom and God’s righteousness? It means to pursue them, to devote our priority time, energy, creativity, wisdom, experience, abilities, physical and financial resources to developing God’s Kingdom and demonstrating God’s righteousness.

This isn’t something you need to do in order to be saved and have a relationship with God. It’s something you need to do BECAUSE you’ve been saved and have a relationship with God.

Deposit Slip

To help us focus in on some specific applications of Matthew 6:33, I’ve got a little tool for you to use. The ushers are passing out some deposit slips for the imaginary institution called Spiritual Trust and Savings.

And I’d like you to take a minute to fill one out. We’re not going to collect this. No one’s going to see this except you and God. But I’d like you to think about the deposits you want to make in your eternal savings account this year. If God’s Kingdom and God’s Righteousness are your priority, then you need to be purposeful about storing up some treasures in heaven.

What kind of things can you deposit? The things that last forever can’t really be counted or even held. They’re invisible. But Paul says,

2 Corinthians 4:18 So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.

So let’s take a few minutes and I’d like each of you to work through this with me and jot down a few words that represent your intentional deposits into your heavenly bank account. Remember, your deposits in heaven are the things that last forever. So first of all, let’s think about

People you wish to impact

  • who are the people that you’re building into, serving?
  • who are the people that you’re helping find a relationship with Jesus?
  • Children, students, neighbors, a co-worker, your spouse?
  • Take a minute to write down the people you want to impact this year.

Character traits you wish to build

  • What does God want to change in your life? attitudes? traits? habits?
  • patience, anger, lust, greed, gossip, integrity, gentleness, compassion
  • Take a minute to write down the traits you want to develop this year.

Kingdom services you wish to perform

  • time regularly dedicated to worship: is coming to church a priority?
  • time in prayer, fasting, regular time to read your Bible
  • deliberate steps to fellowship and grow spiritually: join a mini church
  • our change in mini church
  • outreach opportunities, ways you can serve. Take a minute to write down the steps you want to take this year to build God’s kingdom.

Currency Exchange
Earthly Resources you wish to convert to heavenly resources

  • What are you converting from corruptible cash into eternal value?
  • Sell something? (like the early church),
  • if the kingdom is your priority, does your giving reflect that?
  • don’t have to give here, but may I recommend it? This is a great place to give. If you love this church, you should be supporting it so that we can continue to serve people who need to find and follow Jesus.

See this bulletin? You see we’ve got a gap between our expenses and our income. We’re not getting enough each week to cover all our expenses like the mortgage, the utilities and the salaries. You know what? I’m not worried about that. Really. If we need to, we can adjust our staff or our programs. We could always sell off some assets. We can expand or contract as required. What I’m more concerned about is that each of us is supporting this church financially in a way that reflects the fact that God’s Kingdom is the priority of our lives. That’s what’s really important. Take a minute to write down what you want to do this year with your financial resources and God’s kingdom.

I know we didn’t give you much time and maybe you’d like to have some more time to think about these questions. So I encourage you to take these deposit slips home and spend some time this afternoon or this evening thinking through these four areas.

We don’t do usually do this at our church. But I think today it would be appropriate to give you an opportunity to put some legs on the commitments you’ve just made. So in just a minute we’re going to pray and then Jeremy’s going to lead us in a song. And if you’ve made a commitment this morning and you’d like to seal it with some action, I’d like to invite you to bring your deposit slip up to the front here. You can kneel or stand or sit, but bring your slip up here and present it to God. Remember, don’t leave it up here—it’s just between you and him. But sometimes it helps to demonstrate a commitment with a physical action. So if you’ve made a commitment either this morning or sometime before to pursue God’s kingdom and God’s righteousness as the number one priority of your life, and you’d like to express that by coming to the front of the room, then I invite you right now to come forward, find yourself a spot, and talk to the Lord.

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