In the heart of the Sermon on the Mount, one of the most important teachings of Jesus, he gives us a plan for our life. He says, “But seek first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness….” (Matthew 6:33 NIV). In one sense, this is also a description of Jesus’ life.
Jesus came die for our salvation. He fed the hungry. He healed the sick. But they were not the driving force of Jesus’ life.
In John 6:38, he says, “I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will, but the will of him who sent me.” So, for Jesus, a life of surrender, a life of doing the Father’s will, is why he came to earth. That thought framed all the decisions and actions in his earthly life.
Near the end of his life, as he is praying in the Garden of Gethsemane, his prayer demonstrated that he had not lost sight of his purpose, “Father, not my will, but thine be done.”
According to Paul, in 2 Corinthians 5:15, “And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again.” (NIV).
This sounds like a goal we might want to strive for, but how do we make this a reality?
How do we keep our focus on God’s will for our lives when there are so many other things vying for our attention, such as: Excelling in our careers, parenting children, nurturing our marriage and friendships, paying bills, maintaining a house and a yard and serving in the church.
According to bestselling author Gary Thomas, the first step is being focused in freedom. “What tears me apart is that we live with a myriad of expectations,” he stated. “It is literally impossible to please everybody. For me, magnificent obsession completely freed me up when I realized I [wasn’t] created to make my parents proud of me, to make my kids feel loved, or to make my wife happy. I was created to do the will of God. Now, God’s will might be to make my parents proud, my wife happy, or my kids feel well-loved. But ultimately, there is an audience of one that I’m to please. And so, it’s a very freeing thing that I’m removed from all these expectations so I can focus on: ‘What is God’s will for me right now?’”
Dee Eastman adds, “It’s really about first things being first. I don’t have to worry about all the other things, if I get the thing of seeking him first, feeling a heart devoted to him, and experiencing an ongoing relationship with him. Then he gives me the power, the strength, the ability to do the rest. So, it is very freeing. I love the picture of really focusing on him first.”
Oswald Chambers wrote this in one of his books, while referring to Matthew 6:33, “Our Lord teaches that the one great secret of the spiritual life is concentration on God and his purposes. Concentration on God is of more value than personal holiness. God can do what he likes with the man who is abandoned to him. God saves us and sanctifies us, then he expects us to concentrate on him in every circumstance we are in.”
Fortunately, we are all given different gifts. So the second step is to focus on serving God with the gifts we’ve been blessed with. If you’re good at leading, lead a small group; if you’re good at writing, write for the Storytelling Ministry. If you’re good at gardening, volunteer to work on the church landscaping. If you’re musically gifted, join the worship team. None of us are good at everything, so thankfully we don’t have to serve on every ministry in need…only where we have God-given talents to share for God’s glory.
John the Baptist knew what he was called to do and he knew what he wasn’t called to do. It’s not being slack, it’s just recognizing this is the role God has given me and this is the only role I have to play right now. That allows us to be focused. So we need to find our role and be faithful in it. Just realize that our role will likely change at different stages of our lives. Singles and retired people, for example, may have the freedom to serve in ways that young couples with children in school may not have.
“And there’s not a comparison with that, added Dee Eastman. “How freeing to not have to compare myself to somebody else’s spiritual gifts or chapter in life or anything.”
Gary found the following modus operandi helpful in staying focused on the will of God:
- Listen to God in the morning. I say, Lord, what does it mean to seek your kingdom first today? Is it one of my family members who need extra care? Is it to spend some extra time with you to get my heart realigned? Is there someone I’m to reach out to?”
- Check-in at noon to assess how you are doing. I might say, “Lord, am I being faithful to what you have called me to do today?”
- Re-evaluate at night before going to bed by asking, “How did this day go? What could I do better tomorrow?”
You might think that such a lifestyle is a burden; but Gary doesn’t think so. He feels that it is a great privilege to know and do what God expects of him, which is demonstrated by his comment: “I feel it is so cool, that God, the God who created me, the God who runs this universe, the God that one day all creation will bow down to, will say to me, ‘Gary, I’m using you today.’ To me, it’s like, ‘Wow! This is what I was created for!’”