Going Deeper: 212 Degrees
Rev. Sandy Johnson
January 22, 2017
The earliest steam engines were scientific novelties created “in the 1st century CE, but it wasn’t until the 17th century that attempts were made to harness steam for practical purposes.” Over the following centuries the steam engine was revised and remade until it was used in major transportation.
Steam locomotives were first developed in Great Britain in the early 1800’s. These steam locomotives were fueled by burning coal, wood or oil to produce steam in a boiler. The steam then moved the pistons which were connected to the locomotives main wheels and the train would move down the track, pulling long lines of cars filled with goods, destined to be delivered down the line.
“At 211 degrees, water is hot. At 212 degrees, it boils. And with boiling water comes steam. And steam can power a locomotive. Raising the temperature of water by one extra degree means the difference between something that is simply very hot and something that generates enough force to power a machine – a beautiful, uncomplicated metaphor that ideally should feed our every endeavor – consistently pushing us to make the effort in every task we undertake. 212 degrees serves as a forceful drill sergeant with its motivating and focused message while adhering to a scientific law – a natural law. It reminds us that seemingly small things can make tremendous differences. ”
As we approach our new purpose for 2017, that goal of going deeper in our walk with Christ, we must recognize that it is in small efforts that we will push ourselves forward. It is in moving from simply thinking about things, to acting on things that a real difference will be noted.
Think of it like this, if your faith practices were restaurants, would they be a fast food or a fine dining experience? MacDonald’s or DeSimone’s (the steak house) at Railroad Pass? Are you a Taco Bell or an Evans Old Town Grille? Maybe something in the middle of the road; a Dillinger’s or Southwest diner. Sometimes you need things quick and cheap. Other times you choose to take your time, to devote some cash to a good meal.
Most of us find ourselves in the middle somewhere, a good meal at a reasonable price at a restaurant where you can get in and out in an hour. Functional, adequate, appropriate. There’s time and place for both – fast food and fine dining. The question is whether we spend too much of our spiritual eating-out budget on junk, or whether we are committed to health and wellness enough to invest in goodness, to strive for practices that bring glory to God and enrich our individual lives. Are we willing to make the effort to go from being simply hot water to a boiling caldron of H20 that will power us to do amazing things?
From our scripture this morning we learn that in our attempts to connect deeper with God, we should strive first for the kingdom of God. What does that mean? I can tell you it’s fairly straight forward. We are to seek God – seek a relationship with God, decide that we will live in a Godly manner, choosing to put God first in our lives. That doesn’t mean that we spend 24 hours each day doing the work of God, not many of us get to do that.
But it does mean that we spend our spare time in activities and projects that help promote God’s kingdom: taking care of God’s creation, promoting human rights and social justice, caring for and honoring relationships, volunteering to help the least and lost of the world, and sharing the Good News of Jesus Christ with our friends and family. When we put Christ first, when we strive first for the kingdom of God, God will take care of the details of our life. Matthew 6:31-33 says
31 Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear?’ 32 For it is the Gentiles who strive for all these things; and indeed your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things.
So God is saying here that he’s got us covered, right? He will take care of the details of our lives, we must not worry about those things.
33 But strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.
God wants us not to spend time with the little things, but focus instead on God’s things.
James 4:7-10 says it this way:
7 Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. 8 Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. 9 Lament and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned into mourning and your joy into dejection. 10 Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you.
“But how do we know if we’re truly seeking God’s kingdom first? There are questions we can ask ourselves. “Where do I primarily spend my energies? Is all my time and money spent on goods and activities that will certainly perish, or in the services of God?” Believers who have learned to truly put God first may then rest in this holy dynamic: “…and all these things will be given to you as well.”
“God has promised to provide for His own, supplying every need (Philippians 4:19), but His idea of what we need is often different from ours, and His timing will only occasionally meet our expectations. For example, we may see our need as riches or advancement, but perhaps God knows that what truly we need is a time of poverty, loss or solitude. When this happens, we are in good company. God loved both Job and Elijah, but He allowed Satan to absolutely pound Job (all under His watchful eye), and He let Jezebel, break the spirit of His own prophet Elijah (Job 1–2; 1 Kings 18–19). In both cases, God followed these trials with restoration and sustenance.
“These “negative” aspects of the kingdom run counter to a heresy which is gaining ground around the world, the so-called “prosperity” gospel. A growing number of false teachers are gathering followers under the message “God wants you to be rich!” But that philosophy is not the counsel of the Bible—and it is certainly not the counsel of Matthew 6:33, which is not a formula for gaining wealth. It is a description of how God works. Jesus taught that our focus should be away from this world—its status and its lying allurements—and placed upon the things of God’s kingdom.”
Now, I am a practical person. I hear all of these encouragements to go deeper, to put God first, but I need help making that happen. I need someone to paint me a picture, help connect the dots. I am a concrete thinker. Is anyone else like me? I’d like to suggest a few practical ways that you can put God first, that you can strive first for God’s kingdom. First and foremost, it a decision, a commitment and then it takes practice to engage in whatever you are doing. When we decide that we want to go deeper this year, we must “do” something different. If we keep doing what we’re doing, we’ll keep getting what we’re getting. So making the decision to seek the kingdom of God, comes with the commitment to ourselves that we will actually do something…something different.
Once we have decided to go deeper, to seek God’s kingdom, we must open the channels of communication with God, and the best way to do that is through prayer. The best way to pray is to simply do it. There are no “right prayers” or “right words” to share what is happening in your own heart. God already knows, but he likes to hear from you. It’s sort of like watching your children on Facebook – you can see what they are doing, but periodically you’d like to get a phone call or message from them, asking to catch up on things. God wants quality time, not the time left over at the end of the day when you’re exhausted and falling asleep. Like all of our relationships we must make our prayer time with God a priority. Schedule time alone with God when it works best for you and stick to your schedule. Think of new places perhaps you can pray – in the car while you’re driving (just don’t bow your head and close your eyes!), while walking or exercising, while doing work around the house or yard. For those of us who are working, take a break during the day and maybe just put your head down on your desk – others may think you’re grabbing a little nap, but you’ll know and God will know you’re spending time together.
Another way we open the channels of communication in our desire to seek God, is through reading God’s Word, spending time studying the bible, reading daily devotions and listening for God’s voice through the written word. Doing this with others adds another layer to our going deeper strategies, and that’s accountability. One of the best things we can do is meet in small groups with one another and share our journey with trusted friends. This could mean the men’s or women’s groups, the walking group, bible study, Sunday school, care ministry, grief or divorce support group, the book discussion group, or any other of our other groups. It is through the love and accountability of others, that we can be better than we are. Where we can be reminded to keep God at the center and not to stray.
In addition to connecting with God through prayer and bible study, striving for the kingdom of God means that we are not to get hung up on the things of this world. 1 John 2:15-17 says:
15 Do not love the world or the things in the world. The love of the Father is not in those who love the world; 16 for all that is in the world—the desire of the flesh, the desire of the eyes, the pride in riches—comes not from the Father but from the world. 17 And the world and its desire are passing away, but those who do the will of God live forever.
Scriptures like these help us remember that our focus must be on God and on his kingdom, and not on the trappings of society; chasing after those things that only make us look successful and neglecting the one thing that will save us, that will transform us, that will frankly blow our socks off! A relationship with Jesus Christ, where we surrender fully and completely to God’s will, seeking the kingdom of God in everything we do.
When we consider that steam engine, that pot of boiling water at 212 degrees, we can see what it takes to dive deep, to be all in and to seek first the kingdom of God. I think it is a fair question to ask ourselves at what temperature we are currently running? If 212 degrees, if boiling is a fully surrendered life in Christ, what temperature are you? What will it take to turn you up a few degrees? What will it take to push ourselves to the boiling point where we will experience God in the most sustaining, satisfying and life giving way imaginable. We can reap rewards of life on this earth, as children of a loving and giving God by applying a bit more effort, at work, at home and especially in our walk with Christ.
Let us pray: Gracious Lord, we want to be on fire for you, we want to be boiling and experiencing the fullness you offer us when we put you first. Give us the courage to examine ourselves and to do the things we need to do so that we can draw ever closer in our relationship with you. Bring us to boiling Lord Jesus! Amen.
 Parker, Sam & Mac Anderson. 212 Degrees: The Extra Degree
 https://www.gotquestions.org/seek-first-kingdom-God.html Accessed January 21, 2017