“But seek ye first the Kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you” (Matthew 6:33, KJV).
I remember when I was younger (as in six years ago), I had a mountain of dreams and self-ambitions. I wanted to be fast, I wanted to be strong. I wanted to be good at singing, guitar, tennis, baseball, and volleyball. And I always thought that if I really dug deep inside, I would find the part of me that was capable of holding people spellbound with my music, or impressing them by tracking a speeding baseball through the air and bringing it to rest in my glove with an all-out diving catch.
Now that I’m old, compared to that fifteen year-old version of myself, I realize the shallowness of some of those desires and the errors in my method of realizing them. But that doesn’t mean I’ve stopped dreaming and goal setting. On the contrary, there are many different areas where I want to improve. Some of those areas where I see the need for progress include prayer, patience, fluency in Spanish, and discernment.
One and a half years ago I came to Mexico to care for abused children. And there are not many things about me that haven’t changed since that key event. Qualities that I viewed as “nice” and “something I could probably improve on” suddenly became mandatory, a matter of success or failure. But my method of “trying to find the patient part of me” was not working well.
I knew that God wanted me to become a better disciple of His and that some of the things I desired were qualities which all His followers should develop. Take, for example, what Paul wrote to Timothy, “But thou, O man of God, flee these things; and follow after righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, meekness” (1 Timothy 6:11, KJV). However, I wasn’t sure how to just BE that more patient, prayerful, and godly person that my children needed. So I just did my best day by day to care for my children with my heart and with my actions.
And God began to show me the principle of Mathew 6:33. As I sought God’s kingdom in the hearts of my kids, God began to add to me the things that I needed. As I focused on making the boy who sleeps above me an important part of my life, it became easier and easier to remember to pray for him. As I allowed the small one with the constantly moving hands to burrow deeper and deeper into my heart, I realized that my prayers on his behalf started to come from the same place. As the well-being of my children became more important to me than my own comfort, I found that patient and godly actions came easier than before.
Now I don’t want anyone to misunderstand me, I’m still a selfish and proud individual. But, by God’s grace, I now have another weapon, another principle to use on my behalf. And I believe this principle is instrumental for anyone who wants to grow as a Christian.
It is nearly impossible to grow spiritually if you are focused on yourself. You will not grow in love unless you practice it on the people in your life. You will not grow in patience until you learn to care for THAT person who requires patience. And you will not grow in righteousness until you care about not hurting Christ and His followers with your sin.
This is why Satan loves to tell us that we should not worry about others until we’ve fixed all of our own problems. He knows that if we never focus on others, we will never have anything but problems. Trying to grow without practicing on others reminds me of a game I saw in a science museum. Two people would sit across from each other at the table with brainwave-reading headsets on. The headsets measured the waves emitted from the brain while relaxing. And whoever “relaxed” the hardest, won. But the more you focused on the game, the less progress you made.
And I’ve been there. The harder I tried to fix my problems, the less progress I made. So, I realize that the probability of you learning something from the life experience of a twenty-one year-old is quite minimal. But I hope that this can serve as a reminder. If God has shown you an area that you are weak in, find someone that you can invest into in that area and I believe God will build back into you through those efforts.
Take the initiative! Find that way that you can build God’s kingdom, leave yourself behind, and God will add to you what is necessary.
--Written by: C.Y.