Why do people need to seek the kingdom of God? Shouldn’t it just be there, for everyone to see? But we are in occupied territory, under enemy control. If you lived in occupied France in 1942 and wanted to join the Resistance, you would’ve had to seek it. It is the same here. People who want to join the kingdom of God must seek it. People have the ability to ignore it, if they want to – for the time being. They can go about their daily lives, worrying about their daily troubles, and imagine that that’s all there is to it. God won’t force his kingdom down anyone’s throat. Anyone who chooses to be part of the kingdom has to seek it.
But how do you do that? How do you seek his kingdom? Let me offer some suggestions. First, volunteer for duty. Tell God that you want a kingdom assignment. Then do what he gives you to do. But keep in mind that God operates on the principle: “He who is faithful in little will be faithful in much.” So if God gives you something little to do – visit a sick church member, talk to a relative about Jesus, or drive someone to a doctor’s appointment; whatever it is – do it. If you won’t obey in a small thing, you won’t be given more to do.
Along with that first is a second, corresponding, principle: “To him who has, more will be given.” When I was still a fairly new Christian, I asked the pastor of our church if there was something I could do to help. He suggested I paint the trim around the church education building. It needed extensive scraping and caulking before it could be painted. So I went down to the church, day after day, to work, all by myself. It was a pretty thankless job, but I had volunteered for duty and this was my first assignment.
Perhaps I’m in my fortieth year of pastoral ministry because I said yes to that job. Who knows? I just know that kingdom assignments are not always exciting or esteemed. But the one who is faithful in little will be give more to do.
How can you seek the kingdom? First, try volunteering for an assignment, and when God gives you one, do what you’ve been given to do. Second, hang around people who are known to be activists in the kingdom, and learn from them. Imitate them. Do what they do. Join them when they gather. When the church comes together, it is a kingdom gathering – a meeting of the Resistance – in the name of the Prince of Glory.
Third, be on the lookout for fresh recruits. Tell your friends and family how good it is to be in God’s kingdom, with Jesus as your leader. Invite them to join up.
But most importantly, put your confidence in Jesus Christ, the Captain of our Salvation and the Leader of God’s Kingdom. He is the way into the kingdom. No one else has the authority to admit you. Trust him. Listen to what he says – the Gospels are the easiest place to do that – and learn from him.
To seek God’s kingdom is to seek his rule, first over your own life, then over the sphere of your influence. To be in his kingdom is to be his person, under his orders, representing his name.
But Jesus also tells us to seek his righteousness. So we seek his kingdom – his rule over us – and his righteousness – his character in us. And the two go together. Those who seek his kingdom are transformed in their hearts and minds, and those who are transformed in their hearts and minds see with increasing clarity how to live and serve in the kingdom of God.
It is important to note that we are to seek his kingdom and righteousness first, not second. “First” can refer either to first in sequence or first in precedence; first in time or first in priority. And the truth is, if we don’t give priority to seeking his kingdom, we’ll never find it. “Seek second the kingdom and his righteousness” and you’ll be wasting your time. But that’s the way God intended it. The half-hearted, the religious dabbler, the spiritual dilettante never see the kingdom. “The kingdom of heaven,” Jesus once said, “is like a treasure hidden in a field.” Any number of people can pass right by it and never know it’s there. It is the one who hungers and thirsts for righteousness that is filled, not the one who nibbles at it. It is “he who seeks [who] finds,” not he who daydreams. The promise is: “You will seek for me and you will find me when you seek for me with all your heart” (Jeremiah 29:13). If you’re going to be a kingdom person, it’s going to take all of you.
But is entering the kingdom worth it? I think of a line by Bernard of Clairvaux: “To those who fall, how kind thou art; how good to those who seek. But what of those who find? Ah, this, nor tongue nor pen can show.” You were made for the kingdom. Life will never work right outside the kingdom. You will never be your true self anywhere else. Is it worth it? I know the answer to that question: Yes, and a thousand times over. But I can’t answer that question for you. You will have to answer it for yourself.