Pursuit

So then, don’t worry saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear?’ For the unconverted pursue these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But above all pursue his kingdom and righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.
Matthew 6:31-33

The Christian life can be understood as a journey. Some things are necessary to stay on the journey, some things we do as entertainment during the journey, but all that we do is to ensure that our journey reaches it’s destination. If the necessities of our journey become the destination, we accumulate more and more necessities, but end up going in circles without actually reaching our destination.

My life works the same way. Eating, sleeping, working and playing are things that are necessary to keep me going to ensure that I get to His kingdom (Colossians 3:17). But the moment any of these things become the focus of my journey or pursuit, I find myself going in circles. I might accumulate more play, more work, more money, more cars and houses, but never get anywhere in His kingdom. The destination is lost.

The absolutely magical thing about this pursuit is that if we keep a steadfast focus on the destination, we will always have more than enough to keep going. I must keep my pursuit steadfast, but not for the sake of the necessities, for the sake of the destination.

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Practical Paganism

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, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.
Matthew 6:33-34

To worry is to anticipate potential lack in a negative way and focus on self-preserving behaviour. To live like a pagan is to worry about what we need. Pagans chase after provision for themselves. They secure stability for the future with their own hands. They engage their thoughts and actions on having enough; not having enough is not acceptable.

God knows just as well as they do that we all need these things. The difference is that the Christian runs after God and gets provision and stability from Him. This is the nature of His kingdom, as long as we seek His reign, we will come under His provision. To focus ourselves on self-preservation is to lose ourselves (Matthew 16:26). So why spoil today by worrying about tomorrow? We have enough to worry about for today, lets not burden ourselves even more by worrying about tomorrow. Let tomorrow worry for itself.

Again and again, I fall into this trap of seeing provision as something that comes from my own effort. I look at the savings we have gathered from our hard work and find comfort and security in the numbers. What a lie that security is! The truth is that it can all be swept from under our feet in a matter of seconds. We may stand on that little security that we’ve worked for, but God who is sovereign over all creation stands on the ability to give us all things. If we see ourselves as our own saviour from potential lack or harm, where then is the need for the true Saviour?

“But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness” is the key to freeing ourselves from being our own saviour.

Living in balance

“Two things I ask of you, LORD; 
do not refuse me before I die:
Keep falsehood and lies far from me; 
give me neither poverty nor riches, 
but give me only my daily bread. 
Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you
and say, ‘Who is the LORD?’
Or I may become poor and steal,
and so dishonor the name of my God.
Proverbs 30:8-9

In just about every offering teaching, we hear all forms of the words “abundance” and “overflow” being used on blessings we receive. What we like to hear is a “pressed down, shaken together and running over” kind of teaching (Malachi 3:8-12; Luke 6:38). If we are blessed to be a blessing as Abraham was (2 Corinthians 9:8-12; Genesis 12:1-4), then we should be as rich as possible so that our giving can abound right? So we desire greater and greater riches.

No one says mediocre is just as good. Living with just enough is some new sin that must be avoided at all cost. And if you are poor, you’re not living in God’s promises. We are led to believe that mediocre should not be in a Christian’s dictionary.

Few hear the seriousness in Jesus’ voice when he says “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.” (Matthew 19:24; Mark 10:25) Fewer heed 1 Timothy 6:9 – “Those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction.” Those are certainly not popular verses when it comes to offering teaching.

Proverbs 30:8-9 tells us that mediocre is quite alright and has spiritual benefits. God’s plan is that we are wholeheartedly happy with having just enough – what we need. And why not? Our dependence upon God is dependent on our refusal to depend on ourselves. And we know that He always meets our needs because He is a providing God (Philippians 4:19; Matthew 6:25-34; 2 Corinthians 9:8). So why chase after more than is beneficial for us to have?

I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.
Philippians 4:12-13

But don’t take Proverbs 30:8-9 to mean that we shouldn’t save and live hand-to-mouth; many other verses commend us to save up if we can (Proverbs 6:6-8, 21:20). Just as important as saving financially is investing spiritually by giving (Luke 12:21; Matthew 6:19-24). We give within our means (2 Corinthians 8:12) to help us and the community to keep that balance to stay in the just enough zone (2 Corinthians 8:13-15). That I believe is God’s plan.

So our lifestyle need not increase exponentially (and unsustainabily) when our income increases. Instead, our giving should increase “in keeping with your income” (1 Corinthians 16:1-2).

Semi-charmed kinda life

I want money, but I don’t want to work. I want time, but I don’t want to schedule. I want to cut corners, but I don’t want to be a bad person. I want to get buff, but I don’t want to work out. I want to be fit, but I hate to control my diet. I want a nice house and car, but I don’t want to pay for it. I want good infrastructure and safe streets but I don’t want taxes. I want a delicious meal and I want it now. I want to be affirmed of who I am, but I don’t want to grow to be more than I am. I want to realise my dreams and I want it to fall on my lap. I want it all.

None of us are exempt from wanting it all in this life. None of these things are necessarily bad. Having a house, owning a car, marrying a wife, being Godly, keeping fit are all good.

The problem with us is not that we haven’t got enough time in our 24 hour day or that we haven’t get enough money. The problem is that we want it all, we want it good and we want it now. We want to have our cake and it eat too. We want time, money and godliness with no effort. Anything that can bring comfort to bodies, anything that we can envision and anything that will affirm us as unique, extrodinary and beautiful individuals (1 John 2:15-17). Anything that can give us more of everything, bring it on!

I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.
Philippians 4:10-13 (TNIV)

I want to be content with this semi-charmed kinda life.