Seek First the Kingdom

Matthew 633b [widescreen]

Reading the Word

Matthew 6:25–34 (ESV)

25 “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? 26 Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? 27 And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? 28 And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, 29 yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 30 But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? 31 Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. 33 But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.

34 “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.

Understanding and Applying the Word

Jesus instructed his followers to not be anxious about life. He pointed out that God cared for and provided for the flowers of the field and the birds, so he would surely provide for his people. What, exactly, was Jesus getting at?

The key t understanding Jesus’ point comes near the end when Jesus said, “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all of these things will be added to you.” With these words, Jesus told his disciples that their decisions and choices should always be made with the aim to do what is right in God’s eyes. It may be costly at times to do the right thing, but Christ’s followers can rest assured knowing that their Father provides for their every need according to his plans and purposes. Therefore, we can seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness by always choosing what pleases God in every circumstance.

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Fear the Lord

Psalm 767 [widescreen]

Reading the Word

Luke 12:1–7 (ESV)

1 In the meantime, when so many thousands of the people had gathered together that they were trampling one another, he began to say to his disciples first, “Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy. 2 Nothing is covered up that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known. 3 Therefore whatever you have said in the dark shall be heard in the light, and what you have whispered in private rooms shall be proclaimed on the housetops.

4 “I tell you, my friends, do not fear those who kill the body, and after that have nothing more that they can do. 5 But I will warn you whom to fear: fear him who, after he has killed, has authority to cast into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him! 6 Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? And not one of them is forgotten before God. 7 Why, even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not; you are of more value than many sparrows.

Understanding and Applying the Word

Fear has a way of controlling us. We seek to please those we fear. It is the reason peer pressure is so strong. We fear the rejection of those we want to approve us. In today’s passage, Jesus warns against having our fear in the wrong place. We should not fear our fellow man. There is only so much harm that another person can do to us. Instead, we must put the fear of God as our greatest fear. After all, he is the One we will stand before and give a final account. He will be our final Judge. What good will it be if we please men, but we have failed to honor the Lord?

Who and what do you fear? Does your fear of rejection or persecution from others determine the decisions you make and the life you live? Seek to honor the Lord in every circumstance. Do not let your fear keep you from serving the Lord, but let it drive you closer to him.

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What Are You Afraid Of?

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Reading the Word

Psalm 118:5–9 (ESV)

5 Out of my distress I called on the LORD;
the LORD answered me and set me free.
6 The LORD is on my side; I will not fear.
What can man do to me?
7 The LORD is on my side as my helper;
I shall look in triumph on those who hate me.

8 It is better to take refuge in the LORD
than to trust in man.
9 It is better to take refuge in the LORD
than to trust in princes.

Understanding and Applying the Word

When I was young, I was afraid to be left alone in the dark. My mind could come up with some terrifying thoughts when the lights were off. However, my fears disappeared when I had someone with me. The presence of another gave me strength to face the dark and confidence that I was not on my own to face any lurking dangers alone.

The Lord has promised to never leave us alone. He is always beside us and goes into the darkness with us. He gives us confidence and he faces our enemies with us. “The LORD is on my side; I will not fear,” the psalmist says. How can we fear when the all-powerful King of kings is on our side? In Psalm 23, David writes, “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me.”

What are your fears? Know that you can face those fears with the Lord by your side.

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Have No Fear

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Reading the Word

Psalm 56:1–4 (ESV)

1 Be gracious to me, O God, for man tramples on me;
all day long an attacker oppresses me;
2 my enemies trample on me all day long,
for many attack me proudly.
3 When I am afraid,
I put my trust in you.
4 In God, whose word I praise,
in God I trust; I shall not be afraid.
What can flesh do to me?

Understanding and Applying the Word

Have you ever felt attacked or looked down upon for being a Christian? Have you ever been made fun of or left out because you are a child of God? What was your response? How did you find encouragement?

The psalmist reminds us that God is with his people. We do not have to fear the world or become discouraged. Our God is for us and we can trust in him! Do you believe that? How will it change how you live each and every day?

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Living Without Fear

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Reading the Word

Luke 13:31–33 (ESV)

31 At that very hour some Pharisees came and said to him, “Get away from here, for Herod wants to kill you.” 32 And he said to them, “Go and tell that fox, ‘Behold, I cast out demons and perform cures today and tomorrow, and the third day I finish my course. 33 Nevertheless, I must go on my way today and tomorrow and the day following, for it cannot be that a prophet should perish away from Jerusalem.’

Understanding and Applying the Word

It is interesting that some Pharisees went to Jesus to warn him about Herod. The Pharisees did not like Jesus. Were they genuinely warning Jesus? Were they simply trying to scare Jesus away?

Jesus was not concerned with the news the Pharisees brought. He was not afraid of Herod. By calling Herod a “fox”, Jesus communicated that he felt Herod was insignificant and without honor. Instead of running away in fear, Jesus intended to continue doing what the Father intended for him. He would finish his course.

Jesus was sold out to do the will of the Father regardless of the opposition. No earthly ruler or power could prevent that. He did not fear others and neither should we. We too must be willing to live fully for our Lord knowing that he is the one truly in power and control. We have no reason to fear those who are opposed to Christ. Our God reigns!

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Living Without Fear

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Reading the Word

Luke 12:4–7 (ESV)

4 “I tell you, my friends, do not fear those who kill the body, and after that have nothing more that they can do. 5 But I will warn you whom to fear: fear him who, after he has killed, has authority to cast into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him! 6 Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? And not one of them is forgotten before God. 7 Why, even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not; you are of more value than many sparrows.

Understanding and Applying the Word

Fear can be paralyzing. I have experienced it myself. When I was young and had the chance to ride a roller coaster for the first time it took me several times waiting in line and backing out before I finally was able to work up the courage. Thankfully, my older sister was patient enough to keep going through the line with me each time. I have also seen it in my children in different circumstances. When they are afraid, it is almost impossible to get them to continue the task at hand.

Jesus knew that fear would be a factor in his disciples’ lives. They would be afraid because of the external pressures and consequences of living for him in a world hostile to Jesus. Aware of this, Jesus tells his disciples that the only proper fear is fear of the Lord. God is the final judge and will decide the eternal fate of every person. The world may pressure, persecute, and even kill us, but that is all it can do. Only God has the authority over eternity. And as we live our lives in fear of the Lord, we need not fear the future. God cares for the sparrows and we are of much more value than the sparrows.

What is keeping you from living all out for the Lord? What keeps you from sharing the gospel with others? Is it fear? We only need to fear the Lord and live in obedience to him. When we do that, there is nothing to be afraid of.

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The Blessed

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Reading the Word

Psalm 128:1–6 (ESV)

1 Blessed is everyone who fears the LORD,
who walks in his ways!
2 You shall eat the fruit of the labor of your hands;
you shall be blessed, and it shall be well with you.

3 Your wife will be like a fruitful vine
within your house;
your children will be like olive shoots
around your table.
4 Behold, thus shall the man be blessed
who fears the LORD.

5 The LORD bless you from Zion!
May you see the prosperity of Jerusalem
all the days of your life!
6 May you see your children’s children!
Peace be upon Israel!

Understanding and Applying the Word

This psalm tells us that the one who fears the Lord is blessed. To “fear” God is to understand who we are in relation to him. He is our Creator, the one who sustains us, and the one who is Judge over all. We are called to live in obedience and will one day give an account before the Lord.

The psalm describes blessing as prospering in our work, being fruitful in our families, and living long lives. This is wonderful! However, when we consider what we read elsewhere in Scripture (e.g. Psalm 127), we know that this psalm is not offering a guarantee of such blessing. We are sinful and our lives are filled with disobedience, wrong thoughts and feelings, and improper motives. We do not fear the Lord as we ought. The blessings that we receive are by God’s grace.

We also must remember that we live in a sinful world where things often seem unfair. Those who are good struggle and those who are wicked seem to prosper (read Ecclesiastes for reflection on this truth). In the end, we must realize that the great blessings, prosperity, and peace that we long for will not be realized until we are with Christ in the new heaven and new earth. In the new creation there will be no sin, the wicked will be judged, and God’s people will experience true blessing and fellowship with the Lord. What a day that will be!

**Shaped by the Word is a daily Bible reading devotional. Please use the links at the bottom to subscribe to this page. You can also share this post with your friends through social media using the buttons below. Thanks for reading!

Who Can Stand?

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Reading the Word

Psalm 76:7–12 (ESV)

7 But you, you are to be feared! Who can stand before you when once your anger is roused? 8 From the heavens you uttered judgment; the earth feared and was still, 9 when God arose to establish judgment, to save all the humble of the earth. Selah 10 Surely the wrath of man shall praise you; the remnant of wrath you will put on like a belt. 11 Make your vows to the Lord your God and perform them; let all around him bring gifts to him who is to be feared, 12 who cuts off the spirit of princes, who is to be feared by the kings of the earth.

Understanding and Applying the Word

Who can stand before God when His anger is roused? The answer is “No one.” When God comes to judge the world, all will fear Him and recognize Him as the true King. In light of this, it is best that we turn to Him now.

Many deny that God could display wrath. Yet, the Bible is clear that one day God will pour out His wrath on unbelievers who have not turned to Christ for forgiveness. The cross is a picture of that wrath as the Father poured out His wrath on His Son, Jesus Christ, who stood in the place of all sinners who would place their trust in Him. For those who refuse to turn to Christ in repentance and faith, God’s wrath will fall on them. When that day comes, all will fear the Lord and know that He is the Judge and King.

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Fear and Trust

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Reading the Word

Psalm 53:1–6 (ESV)

1 The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.” They are corrupt, doing abominable iniquity; there is none who does good. 2 God looks down from heaven on the children of man to see if there are any who understand, who seek after God. 3 They have all fallen away; together they have become corrupt; there is none who does good, not even one. 4 Have those who work evil no knowledge, who eat up my people as they eat bread, and do not call upon God? 5 There they are, in great terror, where there is no terror! For God scatters the bones of him who encamps against you; you put them to shame, for God has rejected them. 6 Oh, that salvation for Israel would come out of Zion! When God restores the fortunes of his people, let Jacob rejoice, let Israel be glad.

Understanding and Applying the Word

This psalm contrasts two groups of people: those who are fools and ignore God and those who trust in the Lord. The first group says that there is no God and feel they can do as they please. They commit themselves to all kinds of evil and have no fear in doing so. On the other hand, God’s people often suffer at the hands of the foolish. Because of this suffering, God’s people often fear those who are committed to evil.

This psalm tells us that the wrong group is fearful. The foolish do not fear, but should because they will answer to God for their sin. God’s people have no reason to fear. Verse 5 reads, “There they are, in great terror, where there is no terror!” God will take care of his people and he will bring those who practice evil into judgment.

Who or what do you fear? Who or what are you trusting in? Fear the Lord and trust in him. He will protect and he will save.

**Shaped by the Word is a daily Bible reading devotional. Please use the links at the bottom to subscribe to this page. You can also share this post with your friends through social media using the buttons below. Thanks for reading!

No Fear of God

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Thank you for reading Shaped by the Word. I do not publish devotional content on Sundays, but I do post a suggested reading. We are working through the Book of Psalms in 2018. If you have not already subscribed to this page, please do so and plan to read along with us each day! Thanks again!

Reading the Word

Psalm 36:1–4 (ESV)

1 Transgression speaks to the wicked deep in his heart; there is no fear of God before his eyes. 2 For he flatters himself in his own eyes that his iniquity cannot be found out and hated. 3 The words of his mouth are trouble and deceit; he has ceased to act wisely and do good. 4 He plots trouble while on his bed; he sets himself in a way that is not good; he does not reject evil.