Focus in life: Single-minded concern for the Kingdom

"My God will meet all of your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus" -- Philippians 4:19

What does Philippians 4:19 mean for us today?

Week 27 (July), Commentary on Philippians 4

In the late 1870s, Methodist pastor Phineas F. Bresee got involved in a gold mining venture in Mexico. He even took a smaller church so he would have time to devote to the promising venture. It looked as if he was going to get rich. Then disaster struck the mine, and Bresee was left penniless.

In the embarrassing wake of that financial ruin, this Methodist preacher left the Middle West to go follow Jesus' instructions to seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness.

Most Nazarenes are familiar with how God, at this point, began to bless and multiply the ministry of a man who now had a single-minded concern for the kingdom.

Unfortunately, not every preacher has been able to extricate himself so cleanly from this pitfall. Riches can easily become a rival to God with promising ministerial careers vanishing in a swirl of dollars.

On the other hand, Jesus' words in Matthew 6, a chapter that is part of the Sermon on the Mount, weren't meant only for full-time Christian workers. Even though almost everyone in the world seems to be frantically grasping for "these things" Jesus said that none of His children should do so. The Master knew that a person's values and his character are wrapped up together. So when He warned that the heart must not be anxious about the things of this world, he was speaking to every Christian, not just to full-time Christian workers.

To be sure, in saying, "Do not store up for yourselves treasure on earth" (Matthew 6:19), Jesus wasn't trying to crush out all desire for personal ownership. Nor was He preaching self-denial as a means of salvation. But our Lord did know that obsession about possessions would deter us from having a single-minded concern for His Kingdom and its righteousness. By single-minded, I mean a concentration focused on one aim or purpose.

While on home assignment, I was often saddened to see the control of mammon1 in the lives of many American believers -- believers who have been blessed with so much materially.

The dominant concern of many conversations seemed to be "I just can't make it on what I'm earning." I often discovered that what people were really saying was, "My standard of living isn't rising nearly as fast as I'd like it to."

Once in a while, I find myself wondering, What if every believer was as concerned about improving himself spiritually as he seems to be about improving his bank balance?

In His Sermon on the Mount, Jesus is calling us to a single-minded concern for His kingdom. He is calling us to make spiritual gain the real treasure of our hearts. He is calling us to a complete consecration. He is calling us to commit ourselves totally to His ways, to His plans and purposes, and to embrace His will as our own.

Why do so many Christians fall short in their commitment to be perfect as the Father in Heaven is perfect? In Matthew 6, Jesus indicates that one of the main obstacles to that "perfection" is the continuing influence of mammon.

Maybe we've never found ourselves at the point of financial ruin like Phineas F. Bresee. Still, our Lord calls us to make the same choice Bresee made. Remember, the price of adventure and fulfillment in Christian living is the price of adventure and fulfillment anywhere else: single-mindedness. [ more on Phineas Bresee ]

   1Mammon: a Syrian term for money or riches; hence materialism and wealth (Luke 16:9, 11). In Paradise Lost, John Milton depicts Mammon as a spirit who looks forever downward at Heaven's golden pavement, rather than upward at God.

Discussion Questions

  1. How would you explain the phrase "single-minded concern for the Kingdom of God" to someone? How can Christians cultivate this mindset in their daily lives?
  2. In what ways can materialism and wealth distract Christians from their commitment to God's ways and plans? What steps can Christians take to guard against this?
  3. Can Christians pursue financial success and still maintain a single-minded concern for the Kingdom of God? If so, how can they balance these seemingly conflicting priorities?
  4. What implications does the assurance of Philippians 4:19 have for how we approach our finances?
  5. What can we learn from the example of Phineas F. Bresee and his decision to leave behind a promising career in pursuit of a single-minded concern for the Kingdom of God?

    -- Howard Culbertson,

I wrote this devotional article while Barbara and I were serving as missionaries in Italy, It was originally published in Standard, a weekly Faith Connections take-home curriculum piece for adult Sunday school classes produced by The Foundry..

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