George Everard, 1885
"Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness — and all these things shall be added unto you." Matthew 6:33
In these words we have the secret of a truly successful life. They were given by our Lord as an antidote for care and anxiety. He was surrounded by those who had but an uncertain and precarious livelihood. Most of them were fishermen, and, consequently, from day to day were dependent upon the catch they might have. So naturally they would be anxious about food and clothing and other needful things. But our Lord teaches them to look at the lilies and the birds of the air — and to trust in a Father who knows all their needs.
Then He gives the one right aim. He tells them how best they may ensure the supply of their daily needs, and freedom from the burden of care. It seems to the eye of sense a very circuitous path and a very doubtful one, but to the eye of faith it is seen to be the right and safe one. Our Lord would mean something of this kind: Make it your chief business to secure the kingdom of God and the righteousness in which you can stand before Him. Lay up treasures in Heaven. Seek in constant prayer His favor and blessing, and go forth into the world to honor Him, to extend His empire over the souls of men.
Thus living for truth and godliness, leave the rest in your Father's hand. He will not forget you. He will not leave you short of anything that is truly needful or desirable. He will give you first a place in His favor, and in His kingdom, and the righteousness that will fit you for it. But He will give you more. These lesser things shall be added unto you. If He gives the best — He will not withhold lesser things. He will give you food and clothing and all that He sees you to require. No good thing will He withhold from those who walk uprightly.
Never forget that the possession of God's favor and righteousness is of first importance. Imagine, for a moment, a trial coming on in the law courts on which a very large property depended. It may be, an estate worth five thousand a year would be adjudged as yours — or would pass entirely into other hands. Many lesser matters you might have in hand, but would you not feel that until this was decided, it was your wisdom to leave no stone unturned to secure a favorable outcome? And you would be right in doing this. No man would blame you for taking the very utmost pains to secure valuable property to which you believed you had a just claim.
Now apply this to higher things. There is an inheritance beyond all price, for which you may put in your claim. It is an inheritance of peace, and heirship in God's kingdom, an inheritance of rich promises whose value none can determine — an inheritance of a life and glory which never fades. This you may gain or lose according as you act now. Is it not wise to give thought and time and real effort to make it your own? Is it not wise to secure the one Advocate who never loses a cause, or fails a client that puts a case into His hands?
Be assured, my young friend, that everything compared to this is mere child's play. Your brightest prospects, your most promising schemes of self-advancement, your highest honors at school or at the University, however really important they may be for this present life — are not to be weighed in the balance with the possession of the love of God and the everlasting consolation it ever brings with it.
Therefore let this bright star of divine truth be your guide. Seek first God, His kingdom, His righteousness, His favor, His peace.
A friend, whom I greatly esteem, was married a short time ago, and perhaps it might help you if I told you about something that occurred at the wedding breakfast. A few rich acquaintances had suggested that after their marriage he and his wife should give less time to Christian work — and go out more into the gaieties and amusements of the world. So he told his future partner to put over the place where they would sit, a placard which had been sent to her from London as a present. So there it was put up just over their heads. "GOD FIRST!" My friend, when thanking those present for their good wishes, pointed to this, and told them that it was the motto which he and his bride had determined to follow through life.
Let it be yours likewise. It will lead you to a noble and useful career. In whatever quarter of the world you may be, whatever your calling or profession — a soldier, a clergyman, a physician, a lawyer, a merchant, a tradesman; whether you may rise to a high position, or tread a humble path — put God First, and His presence and favor shall be as a crown of glory on your head.
Remember the promise, "Those who honor Me, I will honor; but those who despise Me shall be lightly esteemed." (1 Samuel 2:30)