Seek First His Kingdom
Seek First His Kingdom. Isn’t that a great sounding theme? But, what does it mean to you and me? How will our lives be affected by this mandate given by our Lord Himself? Will we choose to embrace it and let it transform our lives in every way? Or will it just be words that we think about for a while, but then can’t even recall what they were in a few short months.
Jesus spoke clearly to us in Matthew 6 concerning the cares and worries of this world. He knows we struggle and feel the burden of meeting our needs and the needs of our families in this life. He also knows that these concerns can be a distraction in our Christian walk. Listen to His words of comfort and promise from Matthew 6:32-33 (NLT):
“Why be like the pagans who are so deeply concerned about these things? Your heavenly Father already knows all your needs, and He will give you all you need from day to day if you live for Him and make the Kingdom of God your primary concern.”
Read those words again. Is the Kingdom of God your primary concern? Do you know how to make it your primary concern? It’s difficult to define what it means to live in a way that “seeks first HIS kingdom.” We need examples, role models, people who have walked this path ahead of us to show us how to do it. That’s what this study is all about. We are going to peer into the lives of those who have gone before us and have left trail markers to follow.
The title of this study is Portraits of Kingdom Living. Over the next several weeks we will study the lives of some who have chosen to make the Kingdom of God their primary concern. In our lives we have the same opportunity. This study is designed to lead you into God’s Word daily. Focusing our minds and setting our hearts on the things of God (Colossians 3) are the disciplines that will lead us to Kingdom living. God uses His Word to transform our minds and hearts into the image, or character of His Son. Will you make the commitment to be consistent in your study? Through God’s word He shows us how to Seek First His Kingdom.
Have you heard this familiar saying: “Fail to plan…plan to fail”? This is true when it comes to our personal time in God’s word. We need a plan. Do you have one? Take just a moment and think it through.
- When and where will you do your daily study? (Plan on 20-30 minutes per day.)
- How will you work on your memory verses?
- What arrangements do you need to make ahead of time to insure that you won’t miss your weekly meeting?
Thank you for choosing to be a part of this study. Our prayer is that you will grow in your personal relationship with Jesus Christ and your understanding of what it means to live in a way that seeks first His Kingdom. — Grace Cabalka
Paul: Worthy of the Call
I. DAY ONE
A. Focus: As we begin our study, it is important that we realize how powerful God’s Word is, and see that we get to know God Himself through our time in His Word. Meditate on Isaiah 55:8-11. The apostle Paul (also known as Saul) is a great person to start with as we begin examining the lives of those who chose to live according to the principles of God’s kingdom. As we look into his life, ask the Lord to give you insight into the process of becoming one who focuses on living as citizens of His kingdom
B. Feed: We are first introduced to Paul (Saul) at the stoning of Stephen in Acts 7. Stephen was a follower of Christ who spoke boldly about His Savior before powerful men. He confronted ‘religious men’ who rejected Jesus Christ. Read the end of his speech and the consequences he faced from Acts 7:51-56.
- As Stephen confronted these men, of what did he accuse them (vv. 51-52)?
- How did his audience respond?
- Read verses 57-60. How did the trial end?
- Who was there giving his approval?
- Read Acts 8:1-3. What began that day?
- What did Saul begin to do? How?
- If you were a Christian in that day (part of the church at Jerusalem), what do you think your opinion would have been of Saul?
- What was Stephen’s last prayer? (v.60)
- Stephen portrayed living for the Kingdom, and Saul witnessed his commitment. Think about the contrast of these two for a moment. Any thoughts? (See Isaiah 55:8-11.)
- Did Saul hear God’s word that day?
- What is your first impression of Saul?
C. Fill: It’s going to be exciting to watch God work in Paul’s life as we realize that it is God who is at work to make us His. Take a few moments and talk to God about your personal journey with Him. Are you open to whatever He wants to teach you? Express your thoughts to Him. You may want to start journaling about how He is speaking to you as you are in His Word.
D. Follow: Begin memorizing Matthew 6:33-34: The Key to the Kingdom
Seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. — Matthew 6: 33-34
II. DAY TWO
A. Focus: Meditate on Psalm 119:1-2. Is it your desire to be blessed? How can you? Ask God to give you the desire to seek Him with all your heart and the discipline to walk in His ways. Write these verses out on a 3 x 5 card and think about them all day.
B. Feed: Paul’s conversion story is told three times in the book of Acts. Once by the narrator and twice by Paul himself during speeches he gave. Each time it’s recorded we get a more complete picture. We are going to read all three accounts in the next 2 days. Read Acts 9:1-9. “The Way” was an early name for the Christian community.
- From verses 1-2, what was Saul (Saul is the Hebrew name for Paul) busy doing?
- Describe what happened next. (vv. 3-6)
- What else do you learn about this encounter from Acts 22:6-11?
- In Acts 26, Paul tells even more of what Jesus said to him. Read Acts 26:12-18.
- What was Jesus’ question to Saul when he blinded him? (v.14)
- “It is hard for you to kick against the goads” was a common proverbial phrase of that time. The picture is that of an ox moving against the sharp stick used to guide it. Why do you think Jesus would give the picture to Saul?
- How does Jesus instruct Saul in Acts 26:15-16?
- What was God’s plan for Saul according to verses 17-18?
- What about His plan for the Gentiles?
- Read Acts 26:9-11 and Acts 22:3-5. Was Paul at all sympathetic toward the Christian faith? What does he testify about himself in these verses?
- What obsessed Paul? (v.11)
- What stands out to you about Paul so far?
C. Fill: Do you wonder who was praying for Paul? Jesus taught His disciples to pray for their enemies and those that persecute them. From a human point of view, Paul was a lost cause, but not from God’s viewpoint. Is there someone you feel is too far away from God to ever turn to Him? Write their name in your journal and begin praying for them. Let Paul’s testimony encourage as you pray.
D. Follow: Think about the way in which God called you to be His child. Can you write it out in a paragraph or two? Keep memorizing Matthew 6:33-34.
III. DAY THREE
A. Focus: Let Psalm 119:9-16 guide you in a time of prayer focusing on the ways of the Kingdom of God. What practical suggestions does this psalm give?
1. Read Acts 9:10-19 along with Acts 22:12-21.
a. Whom did God send to commission Paul?
b. What did he tell Paul? (Acts 22:14-16)
c. Why was Ananias hesitant in going to see Paul?
2. Read Acts 9:19-22. What did Paul do after he re-gained his strength?
a. Read Acts 9:23-30. Describe what took place in the days following.
b. Did Paul’s life get easier once he became a child of God?
c. How would you describe his life at this point?
d. If you were in his shoes, would you be tempted to doubt that God was in control?
3. Scripture says that Paul fearlessly preached the word of the Lord. The book of Acts is exciting to read and challenging to consider as we see all that Paul endured for the sake of the gospel. Let’s read one account in Acts 16:16-31.
a. What did Paul do that led to his arrest?
b. What did the crowd do to Paul and his companions? And, where were they taken?
c. What happened about midnight?
d. What was the jailer’s response? What did he do?
e. After being stripped, flogged, shackled and imprisoned, do you think you would feel like singing? What do you learn about Kingdom living from this account?
4. Read Psalm 34:1-10. How are the promises of this psalm confirmed in the story of Paul in prison?
C. Fill: Do you have a situation in your life where you feel trapped or helpless? Maybe you’re struggling in a work environment, or have a relationship that is causing you pain. Perhaps you’ve been treated unfairly. Will you choose to praise God in the midst of the pain and stand on the promises of Psalm 34? Verse 19 says, “a righteous man may have many troubles, but the Lord delivers him from them all.” Turning our focus to the power of God diffuses even the worst fear. Follow Paul’s example, and try singing praises to God in the midst of your pain. Use Psalm 34 to guide you.
D. Follow: In your journal, write what you are learning about Kingdom living from Paul. Ask God to help you learn Matthew 6:33-34 by heart so you can apply it today.
IV. DAY FOUR
A. Focus: Make Psalm 119:33-40 your prayer as you open God’s Word today.
B. Feed: Paul’s story is one of drama and excitement, but he learned that day in and day out it was a choice of his will to follow Christ and live by the principles of His Kingdom. Every letter he wrote to the various churches he ministered to speaks of his decision to “die daily” to himself. He understood that he did not deserve to be a part of God’s family, but that he was saved by the gift of God’s grace alone (Ephesians 2:8-9). At one time he was obsessed with persecuting Christians, now he is compelled by the love of Jesus.
1. Listen to Paul’s understanding of God’s grace as you read Ephesians 1:3-10. Write out a phrase for each of the following verses stating what God has done for us by His grace:
a. verse 3
b. verse 4
c. verse 5
d. verse 6
e. verse 7,8
f. verse 9
g. verse 10
2. Why do you think it is so important to have a good grasp on the grace of God in our lives if we are to live for Him?
3. Paul quickly learned that living according to the principles of God’s Kingdom in this world is a spiritual battle. He talks of ridding ourselves of sin, and clothing ourselves with the character of Jesus Christ (Colossians 3). He exhorts us to be aware of the devil’s schemes so we will stand strong. He knows that God can and will give us everything we need to live according to His word. Slowly read through Ephesians 6:10-18.
a. Are we able to stand against the devil’s schemes? How?
b. List the armor that we are to put on daily:
C. Fill: Truth, righteousness, peace, faith, salvation. Do you know what is true according to God’s word? Do you understand that because of Jesus’ death in your place you are righteous before God? Do you have the peace that comes from the gospel (the good news) of Jesus Christ? Is your faith set securely on the true promises of God? Are you convinced that God has made you His child and your salvation is sure because of the blood Jesus shed for you? Paul built his life on these promises. Will you? It’s okay if you don’t understand it all. Paul didn’t either at first. Talk to God about what you’re learning and invite His Spirit to lead you in this process of learning to live according to the order of His Kingdom.
D. Follow: In your journal, write any questions you have, or new insights you are gaining. Keep memorizing Matthew 6:33-34.
V. DAY FIVE
A. Focus: At the end of each weekly lesson, on Day Five, we are going to take some time to listen carefully to the word God has given us in that lesson.
So we must listen very carefully to the truth we have heard, or we may drift away from it.
Jesus said that we build a strong foundation as we put His Word into practice (Matthew 7:24). This part of the lesson is a little more abstract than Days One through Four. There are no right or wrong answers. The goal of this day is to solidify in your mind and heart what you are learning from God’s Word.
1. Look back over your lesson for this week. For each day’s lesson, write one or two key points:
a. Day One
b. Day Two
c. Day Three
d. Day Four
2. What verses seem to stand out to you from your study?
3. Why did you pick these verses?
4. What is one lesson or principle you want to remember from your study?
5. How will you apply this lesson to your everyday life?
B. Summary: Paul’s Portrait of Kingdom Living
- What did Paul’s life teach you about living with the Kingdom of God as your primary concern?
- Conclude this lesson by discussing what you’ve written above with your Father.
- Write out your memory verse below:
Anyone who listens to my teaching and obeys me is wise,
like a person who builds a house on solid rock.
(Matthew 7:24 NLT)
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