Step Three: Plan for Daily Renewal
Once we have responded to God’s love and awakened to the everyday reminder of grace, the foundation has been laid to create a plan. The need for a functioning plan in our lives cannot be overstressed. Plans that contribute to health and well-being should include four steps. For our purposes, we want a plan that helps us to live in the beginning place, a plan that contributes to a rhythm of renewal. Redemption is something God accomplishes; renewal is something God gives us grace to pursue. We are all prone to entertain invitations that detract from and derail the life God wants for us. Thus, we need a plan that keeps us focused on seeking after the one who sought us first. A plan that includes:
Principles to Follow
What specific beliefs will guide to a rhythm of renewal?
A Personalized Approach That Is Functional
How can a plan be customized to your season of life?
A Process That Facilitates
How will you measure goals, progress, and health needed for renewal?
A Purpose to Fulfill
What does the renewed life look like?
The “principles” are those guiding ideas that we follow. The “personalized approach” is customizing the plan to your uniqueness. The “process” is the practical manner that facilitates execution, and the “purpose” is the finished goal we seek to fulfill.
In any planning process, it is always good to begin with the end goal of the plan. What is it that the plan seeks to accomplish? The answer to that question allows us to plan with the end in mind and stay focused on the end goal throughout all steps of the plan. We move forward when we clearly know the finish line. In other words, our best life now (the present) is determined by our best life then (the end goal of the plan).
So, to answer that question, let’s now turn to one of the most practical statements Jesus made concerning how we live: “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be provided for you” (Matt. 6:33). This is one of those sentences that gets extracted in isolation and ends up getting printed on everything from coffee mugs to scented candles. Now, I’m not throwing shade on merchandising, but the strength of this rule for living is found in taking a little deeper look than just the oft-tweeted portion. So, light a candle and grab your coffee mug because there is so much to be gleaned in this short declaration.
First, the seek first verse comes in the second portion of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, his most extensive sermon recorded by any of the gospel writers. This amazing verse is not an island but part of the mainland of spiritual principles guiding Christians in true righteousness. Preaching to a Jewish audience, Jesus is positioned as “the new Moses” sharing God’s message to an audience who felt intimately connected to the audience who would have looked to Moses for leadership. The parallel between Moses and Jesus shows the length to which God will go to enlighten. God wanted the Jewish people to see and understand . . . he likewise wants us to understand true righteousness.
Let us also understand that, just as the sun rises each day illuminating the earth, so we rise each day to seeking to be enlightened all the more in righteousness. Not to get too sophisticated but the verb “seek” is written in the present imperative tense in the Greek language. Meaning whatever is said is a command in the present and future. Followers of Jesus should be the most curious people on the planet because they rise with the seekers’ desire to know Jesus all the more. We are to seek and to go on seeking all that it means to live new in the grace of Jesus every day. As one scholar put it, “Grace kindles the desire and keeps it ever active in this life.”
Finally, while I love that the seek first verse appears in the larger context of the Sermon on the Mount, it becomes even more practical that it appears in a section dealing with worry and anxiety. The key to a worry-free life is a singular focus. The words of Jesus atop a mountain overlooking the Sea of Galilee echo down through the ages bidding us to give up our pursuit for survival. Survival is a dangerous game we were never intended to play. And yet, it is a trap we so easily fall into. And more years only makes it more complicated. It’s almost like the more birthday candles we have to blow out, the more fires we are trying to put out in our lives. The more we have that concerns us, the more concerned we become. “How am I going to get a job, pay the bills, find a spouse, keep my marriage healthy, choose a college, pay off college debt, send my kids to college!?!”
On and on it goes, and the whole time, Jesus is saying, “Consider the birds of the sky: They don’t sow or reap or gather into barns, yet our heavenly Father feeds them. Aren’t you worth more than they?” (Matt. 6:26).
Since you are more valuable than a bird, take heart that the God who created you has made a commitment to you. You are free to be curious and keep on seeking Jesus. God has taken care of the hard part, we don’t have to worry, just create a plan. A plan guided by the principles of Scripture, personalized to who you are, with a clear process, that enables you to fulfill the purpose of living in the beginning place. God redeems, and will give grace to those who plan on renewal.
Excerpted from Ten Steps to Your Best Life published by B&H Publishing Group.