Seeking first things first
If you’ve visited the first two posts, you will have read that:
1. It is often sneakily right under our noses and in the midst of the mundane that God brings about the circumstances that most dramatically determine the course of our lives. When we come to a major crossroads, we can remember that God’s activity, caring watch, and often-unnoticed guidance has been routing us all along, lining up all the events that led to our moment of required decision and leading us in that moment still. (Full Part I here)
2. God gives us His Word, His Spirit, and a community of believers to help us make decisions, but even with those resources sometimes we may realize we’ve made initial steps in a direction that isn’t quite right, or something that we thought was a great idea doesn’t work out like we thought it would. In these cases, rest in knowing that there’s nothing you can do to eternally mess up God’s plan. His purposes will prevail, and His victory is sure. He may reroute you from what you thought was your intended destination, but keep seeking Him and you’ll never be rerouted from what was His. (Full Part II here)
One day I was with some friends and we were discussing the idea of seeking guidance from God, talking about how difficult and, frankly, frustrating it can be. As we were talking, it suddenly dawned on me just how many conversations I’d had like this, and how much time I had spent wrestling in prayer for guidance myself. Then I thought of the Bible and wondered if I saw the same thing reflected there. The apostles and early church do seem to spend a significant amount of time in prayer, and some of that time is indeed spent asking for guidance (Acts 1:24-25…though then they also cast lots to make the final decision, so that might be another conversation). Jesus also obviously spent a lot of time in prayer, though it’s hard to know if/how much of that was for guidance; He did pray all night before choosing the disciples (Luke 6:24-25) though He prayed a lot of nights and just a lot in general. So, at least in the little that we do know He prayed about, it hardly seems like a major focus.
We do, however, know how He taught us to pray:
“Our Father in heaven, Hallowed be Your Name Your kingdom come, Your will be done, On earth as it is in heaven, Give us today, our daily bread, And forgive us our trespasses As we forgive those who trespass against us And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil“
Reading it over, we can see there is a request for leading, but it’s not in regard to future decisions; rather, it is for keeping us in holiness in our daily thoughts and actions.
Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.
It can be so easy to get wrapped up in a hypothetical future, can’t it? Both our tendency towards anxiety and the lure of escapism can draw us into whiling away far too many hours either worrying or daydreaming about the days ahead. But Christ quite clearly warned us against this in His Sermon on the Mount:
25 “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? 26 Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? 27 Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?
28 “And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. 29 Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. 30 If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? 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. 33 But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”
As we discussed last week, God never commanded us to know the future. In fact, He directly warns us not to dwell on it. True, He has commanded us to wait on Him, but that is in order to find Him, not to uncover an exhaustive and finalized blueprint for all our future days. He did, however, commission us with very clear instructions about how to live our day-to-day lives. We are to love the Lord our God with our whole heart, mind, soul, and strength (Luke 10:27). We are to love our neighbours as ourselves (Luke 10:27). We are to act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly before our Lord (Micah 6:8). We are to honour our parents (Exodus 20:12, Ephesians 6:2). We are to submit to one another (Ephesians 5:21). We are to defend the rights of the poor and needy (Proverbs 31:9) and care for the orphan and widow (James 1:27). And we are to go out and make disciples of all nations, baptizing and teaching them in the Name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit (Matthew 28:19-20). When we lose sight of all that God has made explicitly clear by getting caught up trying to decipher the shadowy details of our lives that He’s clearly determined aren’t important for us to know, we unwittingly become incapacitated soldiers for the Kingdom that need the Healer to cure our blindness and set our hearts right again.
Our duty is not to be the captain at the front of our life expedition. And if we’re not the leader of the party, but rather following behind Someone Else, we don’t need to know all the steps ahead. He is our Shepherd, the Captain and Leader in the way we should go; our task is just to keep our eyes on Him, following Him where He leads us, seeking first His kingdom and His righteousness. And we are to do that today. We don’t have the ability to live any other moment than this one, we can only decide how to use what is in our grasp. Besides, as much as we worry or daydream about the future, when it does finally arrive it will very likely end up looking much different than we thought it would anyway.
Fortunately, none of it will be a surprise to the One who will lead us through it.