Summary: Seek first the Kingdom of God.
"First Things First"
In the ancient Arabian folktale, Aladdin, Aladdin is the lazy son of a poor Chinese tailor. After his father's death, he meets a magician who says that he is Aladdin's uncle. The magician convinces Aladdin to go after a beautiful lamp that is hidden in a cave. When Aladdin gets the lamp he refuses to give it to the magician. The magician becomes furious and seals the cave, leaving Aladdin to die. In despair Aladdin cries and wrings his hands, bringing forth a genie from a ring the magician had given him. The genie frees Aladdin from the cave and soon discovers that the lamp also produces a magic genie when it is rubbed. The genies grant Aladdin his every wish, and he eventually becomes immensely wealthy and marries the daughter of the sultan. Aladdin is able to overcome every foe with the power of the lamp. All wonderful children's tales have a happy ending and Aladdin goes on to live a long, happy life and succeeds the sultan to the throne.
The story of Aladdin is so wonderful and entertaining that Walt Disney grabbed the story and made a hit movie that graces the homes of millions of Americans with small children. I was wondering this past week while I was studying our Scripture in Matthew 6, "What would happen if God showed up and told you, 'I want to give you three wishes, whatever you ask I will do.'" What would we wish for? What would you desire if you could have anything that you wanted? That is a scary thought isn't it? I mean, we all talk about having what we want, but if we were really given the opportunity to see our dreams come true, what would we wish for? What would you ask God for? Would my wishes reflect what God desires for my life?
I think I can say with confidence that what the average American would desire would be to have more money, a happy marriage, compliant, well-adjusted children, good health, the alleviation of all of our troubles, the absence of pain, a long life, and endless happiness. Probably most church folks would ask for the same things. I want us to examine "first things first" this morning and seek to determine what would be on God's list for our lives.
It is important for us to take the time to seek what is on God's heart, because His list should drive and shape our prayers. We should not be praying for what we want, we should be praying for God's will to be done in our lives.
Jesus said, in Matthew 6:25-33, that the things of this world, our concerns for what we want in life, should not capture our hearts. What should fascinate us, serve as the focus of our prayers, and finalize our priority list are the things of the Kingdom. We must keep first things first as we seek God in prayer. Follow along with me as we read Matthew 6:25-33.
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 important than food, and the body more important than clothes? 26Look 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? 27Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life? 28"And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. 29Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. 30If 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, O you of little faith? 31So do not worry, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?' 32For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. (Matthew 6:25-33 NIV)
Jesus' teaching in Matthew's Gospel strikes at the heart of our lists of things we desire most in life. What Aladdin's magical lamp would provide for most Americans, would in most cases have no resemblance to the list Jesus would most desire for us. You can see from looking at Matthew 6, the human heart has not changed one bit. We spend so much time worry about life and the things of this world that we lose sight of what truly matters. What has captured our hearts also captured the hearts of those in Jesus' day and that is why He encouraged them to seek first things first.