Do you like sequential steps to follow? I do! If done right, they can make difficult processes easy and hard to complete projects manageable.
God is the master planner. The One who can see into the future and knows the first right step in every situation. And the amazing thing is He shares it with us! Trouble is, I get so caught up in life and whatever is going on that I try to make a plan instead of just following the steps He gives. Maybe you can relate!
I stumbled upon this verse a few months ago. God used it to reveal the way my heart naturally takes His good instruction and reorders it, resulting in life that is not the way He intended.
Seek God, all you quietly disciplined people who live by God’s justice. Seek God’s right ways. Seek a quiet and disciplined life. (Zephaniah 2:3a MSG)
There are three things that we are to seek.
- God’s right ways.
- A quiet and disciplined life.
I love the way the amplified version says this,
Seek the LORD [search diligently for Him and regard Him as the foremost necessity of your life]
Our focus and full attention should be looking for and finding God. He’s nearer than we often realize. He’s smiling, inviting, watching, pursuing, giving, receiving, holding back, and embracing every day of our lives. We’ll see Him clearly when we search diligently.
A necessity is an “unavoidable need”. For the last two weeks, my 3-year old’s favorite question is “Is this a bare necessity?” (Thank you, Bare Necessities from Disney’s The Jungle Book!) It’s led to many insightful conversations and questions. But what if we really viewed God that way? What if He really was the air we breathe, our daily bread, our foremost necessity? What difference would it make in our lives?
Seek God’s Right Ways
This instruction has to do with following God’s commands. But it also has to do with being the kind of person who lives the way Jesus lived. I was presented with this verse out of its context the other day and it made me stop and think.
Your attitude should be the kind that was shown us by Jesus Christ (Philippians 2:5 TLB)
I’ve only thought about this verse in relation to humility, which is the point of the wider passage. But it’s not a stretch to ask, “Are my attitudes the attitudes Jesus would have if he was in this situation?” This is what I want God to do in my heart. This is part of living life as He intended it. His right ways include doing justice, loving mercy and walking humbly with Him (Micah 6:8).
Seek a Quiet and Disciplined Life
In today’s world, the natural tendency is to seek popularity, status, and impact. But we were not meant to spend our days striving for success. We can embrace the actual life God has given us, not the one we want to build. We can find joy in ordinary moments, not just the spectacular events. The mundane moments are the sacred ones. The ones that together become our abundant, quiet, disciplined life.
Sequential and Interdependent
As I pondered this verse, I was struck by the order that these guidelines are in.
First, we seek God.
THEN we seek His right ways.
THEN we seek a quiet and disciplined life.
Not only are these guidelines sequential, but they are also interdependent. As I seek God, then I will naturally and willingly seek to do what He asks. His commands will be good. His way of life, His attitudes, will be easy and light. As I seek His right ways then I will naturally end up living a life that is less about me and more about Him and others. It will be a quiet life that is simple yet rewarding. A disciplined life that submits to His guidance and receives joy unspeakable in return.
I was also struck by the realization that my tendency is to reverse the order. I think it’s simply the condition and nature of our human heart. It’s easiest to seek what is a felt need. And this introverted, structured soul needs, and thus naturally seeks, quiet and rhythm. This performance-oriented soul is driven to do what is right. And so, I fabricate plans and set goals and schedule everything out, trying to control the external instead of seeking God and letting Him change the internal.
Here’s how it usually goes
FIRST, I try to plan a quiet and disciplined life (and am frustrated when the plan falls apart and fails to bring quiet into my world)
THEN I try seeking His right ways (which becomes a performance-oriented, burdensome weight that is impossible to carry)
THEN, desperation sets in and I seek Him (and find graciousness, mercy, wholeness, and help in spite of everything)
And in the seeking of Him, I find rest for my soul, grace-filled interactions with others, a love for what He loves and days that are ordered by Him.
This is the abundant life that Jesus came to bring. This is the life God intended. A life that only comes as we follow the course He laid out for us.
Seek God and everything else will fall into place.
Try to get everything to fall into place, and eventually, it will all come crashing down.
God’s guidelines are good and wise and perfectly ordered. They are designed to lead you to Himself so He can change your heart and you can enjoy the life that He has given.
Ask God to reveal ways you try to reverse this order. Ask Him what planning or striving you need to let go of today. Ask Him to give you a heart to seek Him. Spend a few minutes resting in His presence, enjoying His gracious words to your heart.