In my early years as a Christian, someone shared a Bible verse that has always stuck with me. “Prepare your work without and make it fit for yourself in the field, and afterwards build your house.” (Proverbs 24:27) This isn’t really an admonition to farmers and ranchers. Maybe if I bring in another verse that’s perhaps more familiar to you, the idea will be clearer. Jesus said, from the Sermon on the Mount, “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things shall be added unto you.” (Matthew 6:33)
It’s easy to agree with this in principle but, for most of us, much more difficult to do. Because it goes against our human nature and it surely goes against “the course of this world” (Ephesians 2:2). Our unregenerate human nature says to seek first our own, whatever that may be. Food, clothes, money, reputation, everything. And every voice from “this present evil world” (Galatians 1:8) will chime in with harmony to this.
But God’s voice and His ways are contrary to this. Our self and our world says, “Hold on to what you’ve got. You deserve it; you’ve worked hard, now enjoy it.” But Jesus said, “Give and it shall be given unto, good measure, pressed down and shaken together shall men give to your bosom, for with the same measure that you give, it shall be given to you.” (Luke 6:38) And this admonition is all through the Bible, Old and New Testament.
For me, I’m thankful that the Christianity I originally was led to was a discipleship, Christian-service Christianity. I’d seen so much of the insipid once-a-week Christianity when I was growing up and it didn’t show anything to me of a true, powerful, righteous God. So for me Christianity and discipleship Christianity are not the same thing. Jesus said to them all, “If any man will come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow Me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it. But whosoever will lose his life for My sake, the same shall save it.” (Luke 9:23 &24) Needless to say, this is ludicrous to the average worldling and even a lot of Christians secretly cringe at statements like this from Jesus.
It’s like what I wrote about a few years ago in “The Multitude and the Disciples”, not so many people really wanted to follow Jesus up the mountain to hear the greatest sermon ever preached. “Seeing the multitude, He went up into a mountain. And when He was set, His disciples came unto Him.” (Matthew 5: 1 & 2) It doesn’t say the multitude came to Him on the mountain; it says the disciples did. And it’s still the same today.
And for the disciples of Jesus, these verses I’ve mentioned are first grade principles on which we base our lives. We don’t build our house first; we take care of the fields. In this case, they are His fields. Jesus told Peter three times, “Do you love me?” Peter said yes three times. Each time Jesus answered with “Feed my sheep.” (John 21:16 &17) He didn’t tell him to go back to the fishing business. He didn’t tell him to go back to Capernaum and take care of his physical family. He told him to feed His sheep. And in Peter’s case, he seemed to do that and continue to do that the rest of his life until he ultimately died a martyr’s death for Jesus.
So Peter did what Jesus told His disciples to do, he “sought first the kingdom of God”. And it cost him. Continually and a lot. Just like it has for other disciples of the Lord for the last two thousand years. But it’s those folks, those few who have carried the banners of the Lord and the love and truth of God to the ends of the earth, generation after generation up to our times. And there are still folks like that today; not just Christians, not just believers, but disciples and followers of the teachings of Christ.
I hate to say it and this might offend some. But going to church once a week to hear the sermon will not necessarily be what it takes to be a disciple of the kind the early Christians were. You may get a little spiritual feeding, they’ll pray and sing and you may find the warmth of the Lord there. But often it doesn’t go much further than that. In most churches, you won’t learn how to lead the unsaved to Christ. They figure that’s what the preacher is for. Just bring your friends to church and that’ll do it. So, sadly, many modern Christians are not equipped to really serve the Lord and to “bear much fruit” (John 15:8) which is one of the criteria of being a disciple, according to Jesus.
Hopefully some people are seeing this. They are seeing that their Christianity and religion has been pretty much “skimmed milk” and they are looking around to find the kind of discipleship they read about in the Bible.
As the darkness and foreboding of this world daily increases so rapidly, there’s no greater time when the light of the love of God is needed in each Christian to shine more brightly and vehemently than ever before. May God help each one of us to “prepare our work without and make it fit for ourselves in the field (the spiritual fields of sowing and reaping for Him) and afterwards build our houses”. God help us to seek first His kingdom now like never before. Let it not be said to our generation, as it was to God’s rebellious people of Jeremiah’s time, “The summer is past, the harvest is ended, and we are not saved.” (Jeremiah 8:20)