Standing Still in God’s Will

What would happen if we just stood still?

Matthew 6:32 says, “For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them.”

This verse prompts us to ask two questions…

First of all, what are all these things that the pagans are running after?

Second, why are the pagans running after these things, and not believers?

What is Jesus actually talking about here, and why is it so distinct that He points out that one group of people, those who do not put their faith and trust in Him are the ones who run after these things, whatever those things are.


What does it mean to “run after?”

If we start by looking at the context that this verse rests in we see that Jesus is referring specifically to food, drink, and clothing. And these three things are really representative of basic human needs. This can be expanded to include things such as shelter. Obviously, you can’t live without food, you can’t live without water, you can’t live without clothing, and it’s very, very difficult to live without shelter. Jesus is talking about all of those things that are necessary to human life.


Why is running after these things pagan? After all, we need food, we need clothing, we need all these things. Even as followers of Jesus Christ, we don’t have a supernatural ability to live without food or to live without shelter. We must have these things if we’re going to live everyday life in the world that God has put us in.


This makes another question come to the forefront. What does it mean to run after something? The Greek word behind this concept of running after something has a deeper meaning. It means to seek diligently, to wish or crave for something, or to demand or clamor for it. In other words, we can see that this is not just simply working hard to provide for our needs at a job or to look after the daily aspects of human survival. That’s not what Jesus is talking about here. The words “to run after” literally mean to be wholly devoted to something.


If you have someone in your life that is a very dedicated sports fan, meaning they follow their team all the time, no matter if they are winning or losing. They know when the games are they know who they’re playing against. They know what television station is carrying that game, and they have plans to watch it. Think about the mental time and energy that is invested into following a team through an entire season like that. Now, what if we applied that to everyday life? Most of us know people who are committed to gaining more “stuff” in their everyday life. In fact, “stuff” is what it’s all about. To them, more “stuff” equals more happiness, more “stuff” equals more success, and more “stuff” for them equals more fulfillment in their mind. And yet, seemingly, they never reach a point where the “stuff” actually accomplishes anything that they were hoping it would accomplish. What really begins to happen is that the “stuff” begins to take over everything else, the “stuff” begins to overwhelm the rest of their life; and in order to keep up their need for more “stuff,” they must put more time and more investment and more work into gaining the necessary finances to acquire those things.


What do you invest in?

This is what Jesus is really talking about when He talks about “running after.” So, with that in mind, why is running after stuff, running after the desires of this world a distinctly a pagan activity and something that the children of God should not partake in? Specifically, there are two reasons why followers of God should not be running after stuff. First, running after stuff takes time and energy. It is something that we must put enormous quantities of ourselves into. To chase down the next promotion, the bigger house, the better car, the better boat, the second house…all of these things are going to require time and energy from us. The more possessions we have, the more we are owned by our possessions, not the other way around.


If you’re a homeowner or you know a homeowner, you understand this idea. There’s always something to be done around the home. There’s always a new project, some maintenance to be done, or something to be repaired. It seems to be an unending process. It is not that this process of taking care of our things is bad, but if we are focused fully on gaining more and more and more, soon, the necessary list of things that we have to do just to maintain what we own becomes overwhelming. It takes up all of our time and energy just to maintain the earthly kingdom that we have built, which we can’t take with us and which will ultimately go to someone else or end up being destroyed or lost in the end.


In fact, in Ecclesiastes, one of the wealthiest and wisest men in the history of the world actually spoke about this topic when he talked about all the things he had accomplished. He lamented how at the end of it all, all the great works he had done and all the magnificent things he had built, none of it could go with him, and all of it was going to be given over into the hands of someone else. He wasn’t going to have control over it or say over it! It was all going to be lost to him. All the time and effort that he put into building and acquiring these things were going to be wasted because it wouldn’t matter in the long run.


The passive idolatry of modern society!

The second reason that kingdom followers are not supposed to chase after gaining more stuff from this world is that it shows that we have a lack of faith in God’s love for us and His promise to provide for us, given to us in His Word. God knows that we need things if we’re going to do His will. God knows that we need food and shelter and clothing. And He knows that we need money to pay our bills in this world. God provides for us. God even gives us the ability and talent, and skill to go out and work a job, but when we pursue these things, to the exclusion of pursuing the things of God, we prove that we lack faith. We say that God is not able to adequately take care of our needs and that we must take steps to provide for our own needs.


The sobering part about this is that, if you reduce it down to its very basic core belief, this is actually founded on idolatry. What we do when we put stuff, and the acquiring of stuff ahead of God is we worship our things, we worship the needs that we have, we worship the process that we have set up to gain the things that we want by putting those needs, those desires, and the process by which we gain those desires, ahead of seeking God’s kingdom and doing His work. Now you might say, “Whoa, hang on a second. I’m not worshiping stuff. I’m not worshipping my job; I don’t go to my house and bow down and worship my house or sing praise songs to my boss at work. I do that in church on Sunday, I go to God’s house, and I worship Him, and I sing praises to Him. In my home, I pray, and I give glory to God.”


However, Jesus isn’t just talking about the idea of giving worship to something; what he’s talking about is sacrifice. See, the idolatry of running after something, pursuing the possessions of this world, has to deal with what you sacrifice your time, your energy, and your resources to. Whatever you sacrifice to. That is what you worship. If you sacrifice your time, your resources, and your energy to gain things from this world, to gain more stuff, bigger stuff, better stuff. If your whole mind is consumed with laying up things for the future, storing up things for yourself, or building up an earthly kingdom for yourself, then in reality, you are sacrificing to the idol of self and the idol of materialism. This behavior supplants God on the throne of your heart and turns you into an idol worshiper. That is why the idea of chasing after stuff is distinctly pagan because it is pagan to worship anything other than God.


Don’t run; stand still!

So, that leads us to yet another question. What is the opposite of running? Well, the opposite of running is standing still, or perhaps a better way of saying it is resting. I can distinctly remember years ago when I decided that I would start running. Running is not something that I am given to it is not something that I enjoy having suffered from juvenile asthma in my life. Running is something that I literally hate. However, while I was in college, I decided that I would try to build up my ability to run. The only problem was that, while I was running, the only thing I could think of was resting. I just wanted to rest at the end of that run, and I became quite adept at running. I was able to run far, I was able to run fast, and yet the only thing I longed for the whole time was rest.


The opposite of running after the things of this world, of chasing after more stuff, is resting in God’s promise to provide for His children. Now don’t misunderstand me; resting does not mean that we sit at home and wait for God to mail us a check so that we don’t have to work. Resting in this context means a laying aside of all anxiety, of all the stress and worry, of pursuing after the things that we need and the things that we desire. It means placing all our hopes, our wants, our needs, and our dreams in the hands of God and trusting that He is good and that He will give us everything that is good for us in abundant measure and nothing that is bad for us. Even when it doesn’t look like that in our everyday life, we trust that He knows better because He has an eternal perspective; He is able to look forward and see where each thing that He gives us will bring us in our walk with Him and how it will bless us in eternity.

Rest in God’s sovereignty…

Resting in God means resting in obedience to God. We don’t sit down and do nothing because that would be disobedience. Instead, we rest in God in active obedience, trusting to Him all of the things that we can’t solve on our own. We give up those stresses into His hand, and we say, “God, we rest in you, and while we rest, we obey your will and calling on our life, whatever that might be; whether it’s a call to work, a job, a call, to be in ministry, a call to raise a family, no matter what that call is, without worrying about all of the nuances that we need to fulfill that calling.” Instead, we take those worries and put them into the hands of God, resting obediently in the hand of God. The most amazing part about resting obediently in the hand of God is that it increases our faith because, in order to rest, we must cast off the cares that would overwhelm us if, like the pagans, we were just pursuing the stuff of this world. If we were worrying about all of our needs and how we were going to get the next day’s needs, or the next month’s needs, or how we were going to build a bigger retirement account or buy a better house.


See, when we give all those things up by resting obediently in the will of God, we are free from all that anxiety, and we can move forward in confidence, knowing that when we have a need, God will put that need in our hand so that we are able to do His will in obedience. The more we rest in Him, the greater our faith will grow in Him because we will get to watch Him provide for our needs over and over and over again, and the less anxious we will be when those needs seem to come at the last minute because we will have confidence that God never misses a need. In fact, earlier in the same chapter of Matthew, Jesus addresses this by saying that when we pray to God, we don’t need to tell Him over and over and over again what we need because we don’t need to convince Him. God knows our needs before we even pray. He loves hearing about our needs, just like a father loves to hear about the needs of his children, the hopes of his children, the dreams of his children, even if he knows about them already. Knowing doesn’t change his enjoyment in fellowshipping with his children and hearing about their needs, their hopes, and their dreams. We don’t need to try to persuade God of our needs. We don’t need to try to convince Him to bless us. He already knows our needs.


Wait confidently for God to provide!

Now, how can we be so confident in Him? How can we know that He will always be there to provide? When, through faith, we rest obediently in God, we put ourselves in a position to be blessed and provided for by Him. We open opportunities for God to supernaturally pour provision into our life. We know this to be true when we read the story of Abraham offering up his son Isaac on the altar before God in obedience to God because God wanted to test Abraham’s faith. See, God never ever intended Abraham to kill his son on the altar. That was never in play. That was never part of God’s plan. God wanted to know that absolutely nothing that Abraham had was more important than his worship of Yahweh. So, He put him to the test, and in the end, He stopped him when he saw that Abraham was not going to withhold anything from His hand. He supernaturally stopped him and provided Abraham a ram for the offering so that he could make an offering of worship before the Lord. This was significant because while walking up the mountain to perform the sacrifice of his son, Isaac, Abraham had answered his son’s question about what was going to be sacrificed by saying that “God Himself would provide a lamb for the sacrifice.” Abraham called that place “the Lord provides,” and the Scripture says, “In the mount of the Lord, it will be provided.”


This truth really leaves us with just one more question. Do you run after stuff, or do you rest on the mountain of the Lord, where He will provide all that you need?