Set Your Hearts
Set Your Hearts
Set Your Hearts
We’ve been spending the last three weeks on a very short passage of Scripture. Specifically, we were focused on last week, and we will be again this week.
We began looking at other things.
Last week we looked at “THE” thing, God’s Kingdom.
Today, we’re looking at how to set your hearts on THE thing.
As I’ve studied for these sermons I’ve been reminded of the depth of the Bible and it’s simplicity. Perhaps it is because of its simplicity that it has so much depth. As we read this verse there is so little there and yet so much.
But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.
Prior to the verse Jesus reminded us of the many things we seek after - Food, drink, clothing, and we were reminded not to be anxious for such things.
IF we’re honest, we’re worriers, we’re anxious people. We worry about our world, the environment, our well being, politics, our neighborhoods, kids, the elderly, our friends, family, our home, our retirement, our budget, our jobs, the list goes on and I could literally take up the time I have reflecting on the things that people worry about.
Worry - being anxious - takes us out of the present. It causes us to be focused on the what if’s, instead of what is.
The what if’s are in the future, or outside of our present moment in time.
The what is literally is right here, right now, right in front of us.
Worry is always directed toward tomorrow. But the goods are intended only for today in the strictest sense. It is our securing things for tomorrow which makes us so insecure today.
God has always called his people to live in the present. This quote reminds me of the Israelites leaving Egypt and the Lord feeds them. But he doesn’t give them enough to last the week, instead he gives them enough for that day.
In the Lord’s Prayer, Jesus taught us to pray asking for our “daily bread” not all that we need for the rest of our lives, this week, or even this weekend.
Give us this day our daily bread,
We are so focused beyond our circle of influence or even our sphere of time. We’re constantly bombarded from those who are not present with emails, texts, phone calls, and even in our own thought processes.
How do we negate all the influences from without and within that seek to take our hearts off the Kingdom of God?
seek first and foremost God’s Kingdom?
A spiritual life requires effort.
A spiritual life requires effort.
The truth is that the spiritual life that Christians often say they desire is not one that many willing to work for.
According to the Religious Landscape Study done in 2014 by the Pew Research Center, 70.6% of Americans identify themselves as Christian.
That same study showed that only about 1/3 of Americans identify themselves as reading Scripture about once per week. Historically many of those consider the reading we’re doing right here with the verse up on the screen as counting as that reading.
Without discipline and effort it is impossible to live a spiritual life.
As a pastor I’ve met so many people who say they really want to be spiritual people, and yet their lives demonstrate they are more willing to let the outside creep in.
The structure of this sermon series is based upon Henri Nouwen’s book “Making All Things New: An Invitation to the Spiritual Life.” In that book he says it so clearly:
A spiritual life requires discipline because we need to learn to listen to God,
“A spiritual life requires discipline because we need to learn to listen to God, who constantly speaks but whom we seldom hear.”
Focus - put away the distractions
Take your time - A wiseman once said, “Time is the currency of love.”
Ask Questions - Questions show interest and allow the speaker to know you’re listening, they also allow for clarification.
Repeat what you have heard with other words - Putting what you’ve heard into your own vocabulary helps you be sure you’ve understood what was said, AND allows the listener to correct any discrepancies.
Listening to God is the same, as you read Scripture:
Focus - get away into a place where you can be alone with God’s Word.
Take your time - read carefully, ruminate on the words that you are reading.
Ask Questions - What did this mean to those that were hearing it first? What does it mean for the church? What does it mean for me?
Repeat what you’ve read - put what you’ve read in your own words and think about them.
God invites us to be in dialogue. It’s not just a monologue of us praying to the ceiling - though it can feel that way. God invites us to pray back to him.
The discipline of praying and presenting our needs before God is important. It reminds us upon whom we are dependent, and it reminds us God is worthy of such trust.
Paul wrote to the church at Philippi:
6 do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
There’s that command not to be anxious again.
“in everything by prayer.” - yep pray about everything.
“and supplication” - what? supplication, that’s a big word. If you’re reading from the NIV it will read petition. The greek word is de-eh-sis, which means to ask with both the sense of humility (as in I need this and I know I can’t make it happen) and also sort of a begging - knowing who it is that can.)
with Thanksgiving - God is in control. When I’m looking for what to be thankful for, it is difficult to worry.
And there’s a promise in those words too. Look at vs. 7. “And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
The peace of God - it doesn’t make sense in our anxious world. But God’s kingdom is not of this world.
Listening and Praying are the WHAT of disciplines of living a spiritual life.
Now we get to the HOW.
Being alone, away from distractions allows a time and place for God.
Turn off the television, the radio, the phone, the computer, close the book (even your Bible) and spend some time in soliitude with God.
6 But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.
Solitude today is perhaps one of the most difficult disciplines.
“As soon as we are alone without people to talk with, books to read, TV to watch, or phone calls to make, an inner chaos opens up in us. This chaos can be so disturbing and so confusing that we can hardly wait to get busy again. Entering a private room and shutting the door, therefore, does not mean that we immediately shut out all our inner doubts, anxieties, fears, bad memories, unresolved conflicts, angry feelings, and impulsive desires. On the contrary when we have removed our outer distractions, we often find that our inner distractions manifest themselves to us in full force. We often use the outer distractions to shield ourselves from the interior noises. It is thus not surprising that we have a difficult time being alone,” (p.70-71). ~ Making All Things New, Henri Nouwen.
For some 5-10 minutes may all one can tolerate on a daily basis. Don’t give up. As you cultivate this discipline it will grow. You will find that you look forward to this time.
The discipline of solitude is imperative to developing your spiritual life, and learning to pray.
Just as it is important to spend time in solitude it is equally important to spend time in community. I’m not just saying to spend time with people, but among a group of people who are intentionally seeking to further God’s Kingdom by living lives in obedience to our Creator.
A worshipping community should seek to do exactly that. As your pastor one of my goals is to create space for you to hear and act upon the Word of God as a community and as individuals.
The Author of Hebrews wrote:
24 And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, 25 not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.
It reads a little different in the NIV:
24 And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, 25 not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.
Or how about the Message:
24 Let’s see how inventive we can be in encouraging love and helping out, 25 not avoiding worshiping together as some do but spurring each other on, especially as we see the big Day approaching.
One of my mentors once shared about how to become a Christian, he said: I would just tell people to read the Bible and do what it says.
We do that by listening to God’s word - while reading it, and praying over it. We do that by being alone, and in community.
We do that by individually and corporately being present and giving God room to speak as we live this verse out and trust in what it says.
33 But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.