But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you.
Yesterday we reflected on the uneasy feeling that many of us are struggling with as we look at the state of the world, the church, the economy, our own lives and our faith. Yesterday, we pointed out problems and asked rhetorical questions. Today (and for the next few days) we’ll talk about what we can do about it.
The answers, of course, come from the Bible, as they often do. That’s why spending time reading God’s Word is so important. In fact, I was reading some of the Old Testament today about how God’s people were exiled to Babylon for hundreds of years. They had an uneasy feeling for generations.
I take comfort in the words of the Old Testament prophets. Their words, from thousands of years ago still speak to us today. The Old Testament prophet Habakkuk wrote:
Through the fig tree do not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines, the produce of the olive fail and the fields yield no food, the flock be cut off from the fold and there be no herd in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will joy in the God of my salvation. God, the Lord, is my strength; He makes my feet like hinds’ feet, He makes me tread upon my high places. Habakkuk 3: 17-19.
Even when everything is going wrong, we still to find joy in the Lord. And yes, that’s hard.
And the Prophet Isaiah wrote:
But now thus says the Lord, He Who created you, O Jacob, He who formed you, O Israel; “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. When you pass through the waters I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you. For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.” Isaiah 43:1-3
No matter the hardship, we are redeemed by God. He knows our name. He is our Savior.
Today’s verse from the Gospel of Matthew gives us the most succinct answer for what to do in times when we feel uneasy—turn it over to the Lord. Seek FIRST His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you.
I talk to people every day who are stressed out. They are still burned out from Covid, struggling not only to catch up but to not drown in work, struggling with work/family balance, have no time for themselves, are going to food for their stress (and putting on weight in the process) and would do anything for a chance to just stop and breathe. Many of you are probably nodding your heads, like “check, check and check.” Hopefully many of you feel comforted knowing others are feeling the same uneasiness you are. This is where it’s really hard to believe. Because God’s going “I got you,” and you (and me) are saying “I’m just not seeing it God.” And this is where real faith comes in. Either we believe in Him, or we don’t. It is not just enough to believe in the times everything feels good. It is even more important to express our faith now, in the times when we feel uneasy.
I enjoy sharing pieces of my life and ministry with the Prayer Team. Though I have never met many of you, because of your prayers for me, and my prayers for you, I feel like we know one another, enough for me to share pieces of my life and ministry with you. A few weeks ago, when I went to confession, my spiritual father told me to do as many services as possible, because the more often I’m in front of the altar, the more I’ll realize who is really in charge, and it’s not me, it’s the Lord. While you may not stand inches from the altar as a priest does, you stand less than a hundred feet in front of the altar and the same applies to you, as applies to me. Get there as often as possible—to commune, to pray, to feel encouraged by the presence of others—but also to be reminded who is in charge—Him.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gone anywhere but to His Kingdom and His righteousness with my problems. I’ve gone to the gossiping, cursing, and self-loathing. I’ve gone for the ice cream (or whatever your vice is) or the mindless YouTube videos (or whatever your distraction is). And I’ve failed to do the first thing we are supposed to do when we feel uneasy, which is to take it to the Lord. So, I’m heeding his advice and going to the altar. Does it take away all my uneasiness? No. Is it giving me strength to get through each day? Yes.
Lord, lots of people reading this message today feel uneasy, about all kinds of things. Please Lord, comfort those who need comfort, give encouragement to the ones who need encouragement, provide reassurance to those who are uneasy. Help us to trust You more fully and more deeply. Help us to go to You especially when we are struggling. You have told us to seek You and Your kingdom and Your righteousness first and all the other things will be added to us. Help us to seek You first, and add to us the things we need, whatever it is that we need that avails to our salvation, and whatever it is we need, today, just to get through the day. Amen.
When you feel uneasy, go first to the Lord. Seek Him first and let everything else fall into place.
Fr. Stavros N. Akrotirianakis is the Proistamenos of St. John Greek Orthodox Church in Tampa, FL. Fr. contributes the Prayer Team Ministry, a daily reflection, which began in February 2015. The Prayer Team now has its own dedicated website!
Fr. Stavros has produced two books, “Let All Creation Rejoice: Reflections on Advent, the Nativity and Epiphany”: “https://amzn.to/2t1rXwh and “The Road Back to Christ: Reflections on Lent, Holy Week and the Resurrection.” https://amzn.to/2WAcfG0
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