Sermon Series: Lord, I want to be better

Matthew 6:25-34
25 “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? 26 Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? 27 Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?
28 “And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. 29 Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. 30 If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? 31 So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

Each of us has concerns. Some of our concerns are greater and more pressing than others, but nonetheless, there are things that weigh heavily on our minds. If we stop and think about it, how much living have we lost on account of worrying? If you and I want to take back our lives from the control of worry then we need to start living now.

How do we accomplish that? According to Jesus, you and I need to know that God cares. In fact, God cares so much for us that God has already made provisions for our right now, today, and tomorrow. Jesus lifts up for us, using an analogy, the birds of the air. In His analogy Jesus points out “They do not sow or reap, or store away in barns, and yet our heavenly Father feeds them.” Let us consider all of the things we do that the birds do not do, and yet they get what they need. We work and reap the benefits of our work weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly and in most cases it never seems to be enough. Jesus says, the birds are not concerned with tomorrow, because they are focused on living in today. Whatever the needs of today are that is what consumes their focus. Think about it, if a bird needs a home it begins to build its nest today. It does not worry about where the resources are going to come from, the birds use whatever resources are available to build the nest it needs today. If the birds need shelter or a place to rest it finds the best available branch that offers the best possible covering today. If the birds need food they just take off in a direction and stop when they come to the food source where God has revealed and led them. Notice that in every case the birds do not stop living when confronted with a need or a challenge, but rather they just keep on living in the now. Jesus declares, are you and I not more valuable they the birds in the eyes of God? In other words, if God cares for the birds of the air that have a lesser ranking within the hierarchy of created order how much more does God care for you and me? Just like God feeds, leads, and guides the birds to the provisions He has made for them, God will also do the same and more for us. We need to know that God cares for us and because God cares God has already made provisions for you and me.

Next, Jesus lifts up by comparison how God clothes the lilies of the field. Jesus states they do not work or make their own clothing they just grow living in the now, because there is no guarantee on their life for tomorrow. As a result God dresses them. God provides the color and the beauty that makes them attractive. Jesus’ point is a simple one, if God does all of this for the birds of the air and the flowers of the field which are both lower than human beings in God’s eyes, why should we be concerned or worry about the things we need God to do for you and me.

Jesus proposes a better use of our time and energy is to “Seek first God’s kingdom and His righteousness.” Jesus suggests that we re-evaluate our priorities and reorder them. When worry and anxiety predominate our mind and consume us it is a sign that our priorities are out of order. It is a warning that we have placed material, physical, and human concerns above our primary focus.

And what should be our primary focus? According to Jesus our primary focus should be on pursuing the kingdom and righteousness of God. What exactly are the kingdom of God and the righteousness of God?

The kingdom of God is a new world order ushered in by God through Jesus Christ. In this new world order, the divine reign or rule of God through Christ Jesus has come into the world in kingly power. God’s kingly power through Jesus has come into the world to defeat the powers of evil and to give the people of God, while they are still alive, a taste of the greater blessings to come when God’s kingdom is fully established at Christ’s second coming. The kingdom is a present reality with a future conclusion. At present the power of God in Christ is both in and among us working to bring about salvation through the forgiveness of sins, restoration of all God’s creation, and eternal life for those who will inherit the kingdom in the future. There are also some pre-requisites for entrance and/or inheritance of the kingdom. The kingdom needs to be received before it can be realized or inherited. As a result, Jesus makes a personal appeal to all people to join and share in His kingdom. The appeal that Jesus makes requires and demands a response before anyone can be granted entrance into the kingdom.

Allow me to interject a word about the notion of universal salvation. Why would God in Christ permit anyone to enter His kingdom in the absence of a response? It does not make sense. Would you permit a complete stranger to enter your home? In the absence of a relationship we would not put our life or the lives of our family at risk in such a manner. So, why would we expect God to be any different? The offer Jesus makes is to enter into communion, fellowship and a personal relationship with God through Him.

After we have accepted Christ’s offer Jesus encourages us to pursue God’s righteous standard for our lives. In other words, part of our response is to pledge and commit ourselves to living life as God prescribes in accordance with God’s word. Pursuit of the righteousness of God leads to a desire to have our steps ordered and aligned by God through His word. It is the word of God that guides, directs, leads, and governs, how we live and interact with God and all of God’s creation. Jesus calls us to abandon following the world’s wrong way, and instead follow God’s right way. When we do that Jesus says we will experience and realize God’s providence. The providence of God is God’s foresight for our lives. It is God foreseeing our needs in advance and making arrangements to meet those needs. God’s providence is God orchestrating the events and affairs of our lives so that everything works out in accordance with God’s divinely established goals for us. According to Jesus wherever divine providence exists, it will also lead us into divine abundance. Jesus says, “All of these things will be given to you as well.” The words “As well” mean in addition to, something extra, or more than what we presently have. When we pursue God’s right way of living God will lead us into not only what we need, but also more than what we need. To put it another way, God’s right way of living leads us into the provisions and blessings of God. It leads us into provisions and blessings that God had stored up for us and we knew nothing about them, but because we pursue God’s right way, God lead us right to them.

And so, Jesus is speaking to us through this text loud and clear. He says, stop worrying and start living now. For as long as you and I live there always will be something to worry about and we cannot allow our worries to consume and predominate our minds. The reality is:

1. Worrying does not change anything – it will not make us younger or improve our situation or circumstances, but it certainly will cause us to age quicker and die faster.

2. Worrying is an indication that our fears are greater than our faith – fear and faith cannot occupy the same space. Fear usually does not factor God into the equation or reduces God while inflating the magnitude or severity of the problem. Fear makes God smaller and our problems bigger.

3. Worrying impedes, halts, and stops us from living – the moment you and I start worrying is the moment we have stopped living. The worst part is the time we lose we can never get back.

Jesus says stop worrying, and start living now!

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