Oct 282016
 

worrying about tomorrowTherefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble. (Matthew 6:34)

We have now spent quite a number of weeks looking at all different aspects of worry and anxiety. Today I am going to wrap up this subject with an overview of what Jesus has been saying in these few verses and then finish with some personal reflections.

In these 9 verses (Matthew 25-34) Jesus has been showing the utter futility, for the believer, in worrying. Worrying cannot do you any good. Firstly, it’s not going to add any length to your life or improve it in any way. Secondly, look around you! See how God provides for and feeds the birds and clothes the flowers of the field. Thirdly consider that God is your loving heavenly father who loves you and wants to provide for you. You are far more precious than birds of the air or flowers in the field, so of course He will look after you! Conclusion; worrying is not just pointless it is counter-productive and demonstrates a distinct lack of faith!

When you look at these arguments, in the cold light of day, they make perfect sense. So why do we still worry?

I’m reminded of the story of Peter in Matthew 14:22-33. All the time he had his eyes and trust on Jesus he was able to miraculously walk on water, but as soon as he looked at the wind and the waves and the circumstances, he started to sink. I am convinced that is the same as our worry and anxiety. We have taken our eyes off God and started looking at all the circumstances. The answer of course is to spend more time with God; to read His word, pray, worship and meditate on His goodness.

This series on worry has come at the perfect time for me. I have just changed career and have started driving buses for a living. Before this summer I had never driven anything bigger than a small van and now I am driving double-deckers down some very narrow roads. The temptation to worry and be anxious has been huge. I can’t say it has been easy and I have certainly had my moments where I have lost some sleep and found it really difficult. But God has been so good and helped me as I have leaned into Him. I have had to constantly hand over my concerns to Him and press in through prayer, but He has been so faithful.

If you are finding life difficult, with worries and concerns besetting you, let me encourage you to draw near to God. He really is the only answer.

I’m just going to end with a few quotes which I found quite thought provoking:

“Worry never robs tomorrow of its sorrow, it only saps today of its joy.”
(Leo F. Buscaglia)

“Worry is like a rocking chair: it gives you something to do but never gets you anywhere” (Erma Bombeck)

“Fear can keep us up all night long, but faith makes one fine pillow.” (Philip Gulley)

I am no longer anxious about anything, as I realize the Lord is able to carry out His will, and His will is mine. It makes no matter where He places me, or how. That is rather for Him to consider than for me; for in the easiest positions He must give me His grace, and in the most difficult, His grace is sufficient.(Hudson Taylor)

And finally from the straight speaking John Stott

“To become preoccupied with material things in such a way that they engross our attention, absorb our energy, and burden us with anxiety is incompatible with both Christian faith and common sense.  It is distrustful of our heavenly Father and it is frankly stupid.”

 October 28, 2016  Posted by at 12:00 pm The sermon on the mount No Responses »
Oct 212016
 

seek first the kingdom of GodBut seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. (Matthew 6:33)

Today’s verse is one of the most well known in the bible. It can be found on inspirational posters and bumper stickers and probably coffee mugs. It is a great verse which rolls off the tongue, but what does it really mean? It is not always quoted in the context of worry, it is often just quoted as a nice thought, but if you have been following these blogs for the past few weeks, you will know that Jesus has been explaining why we don’t need to worry and this verse is a sort of summing up of what He has just been saying. Let’s break it down and look at it carefully.

Seek– To seek for something denotes action, it is not passive, not hoping that something will just turn up. It’s going ‘all out’ to get something. Jesus summed it up well in Luke 15 when He told parables about the lost sheep and lost coin. The searcher was single minded in their seeking, which is the sort of seeking Jesus is referring to here. It’s not a ‘one off’ seeking either, it’s a daily choice!

First– This is the thing we should be doing above all other things. Making it a top priority, not settling for a lesser target or compromising. We are talking about ‘the pearl of great price’ which takes precedence over all other things.

Kingdom of God– For many years I didn’t really understand what this phrase meant, but Jesus used the term a lot. In fact it was the central theme of His ministry. He would often say “The kingdom of God is at hand” or even “The kingdom of God is within you”. Many people have differed on the precise meaning of this term, but I think it is clear from the context of what Jesus was saying and doing. A Kingdom denotes a ruling and a reigning of a King. When Jesus demonstrated the nearness of His kingdom He would generally be; healing people, delivering them from demonic activity, working miracles or preaching the good news. You could liken it to heaven touching earth. There is no sickness in heaven and so when Jesus healed somebody he brought heaven’s kingdom down to earth. There is no lack in heaven and so when Jesus fed the five thousand he brought the provision of heaven down to earth and so on. He demonstrated love, joy and peace, all attributes of His heavenly kingdom.

When we seek God’s Kingdom first we are looking to act like Jesus in our everyday lives. It could be by; blessing people, providing for them, loving them, feeding the poor, helping the helpless, being kind, being generous and hundreds of other things that happen because we love Jesus and we want people to know and love Him too. It doesn’t have to be big things either. Just the mundane, every day, Christ-like attitude we demonstrate on a daily basis. It all shows a seeking first of Christ’s kingdom. It’s in every decision we make to do the ‘right’ thing. That leads me on to the last bit;

Righteousness– God’s righteousness is what we are given as a free gift when we are saved. It is nothing we have earned or could possibly attain for ourselves. One of my favourite verses in the whole bible is:

For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. (2 Corinthians 5:21)

Let that sink in; you have become the righteousness of God. God looks at you and sees the perfection of Jesus. But it is still something we need to take on, it’s a daily choice. We can choose to seek first and pursue God’s righteousness or we can just do what we want to do. Jesus is encouraging us today to seek first the better thing, to go after God and all He has for us with all of our might, to make it our top priority.

Jesus says when we put Him first, all the other stuff will be added anyway. We pursue the kingdom and we won’t be lacking in food, clothes or provisions. He takes care of all of that.

Next week, I’m going to attempt to sum up all we have been looking at over the last few weeks and again see why it is pretty pointless worrying about things. Until then..

 October 21, 2016  Posted by at 12:00 pm The sermon on the mount No Responses »
Oct 142016
 

Dont be like unbelievers1Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. (Matthew 6:31-32)

In our verse by verse study on the ‘sermon on the mount’ we have spent a number of weeks recently looking at the whole subject of worry. Jesus has stated clearly that worry is unnecessary based on the fact that we have a loving heavenly father who is ready, willing and able to provide for us and yet we can still find ourselves worrying unnecessarily.

As we draw to the end of this subject, I want to consider again what Jesus is telling us from the verses that are before us today.

Let’s start with His conclusion; we have a heavenly father who knows what we need.

We looked at a similar subject a few weeks ago when we considered the question why pray?

So on a similar vein, if God knows what we need, why do we need to ask?

· God is looking for humility – a trusting spirit. Asking Him for things is a humbling experience. We are admitting that we cannot provide for ourselves.

Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you (1 Peter 5:6)

· Trust – You come to Him trusting He will provide for you. You are showing that you believe in Him and His promises and His willingness to provide.

· Guarding against complacency. If God just handed everything to us on a plate we would pretty soon forget where it came from.

· Relationship. It says in the passage today ‘heavenly father’. He is a responsible and loving parent and part of our coming to Him is a development of that relationship. It’s not a good relationship if we always turn up with a list of requests and never want to spend time with the giver of those gifts.

If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him! (Luke 11:13)

Jesus is comparing God’s provision with what the Gentiles have to hope for. The word ‘Gentiles’ could also be translated ‘Pagans’ or ‘unbelievers’. Basically, anyone who doesn’t know God or have a relationship with Him. You probably know quite a few!

As I have said previously, we live in a society that is obsessed with ‘things’. Things to eat, drink or wear. Materialism. The daily pursuit of these things causes worry and anxiety and is ultimately unfulfilling. Those without God don’t have any trust that these things will be provided for them, they are left to fend for themselves.

The difference between a believer and an unbeliever should be stark, but sadly sometimes the difference is not obvious and not immediately clear. If we worry like unbelievers, what are we saying about God and His ability to provide? What sort of message are we sending out about His love and compassion?

We should be living in the reality of these verses. We have lasting hope and they have none. We have a heavenly father who loves and cares for us and they don’t. They have to rely on their own wit and abilities, we trust in the care of a compassionate generous father.

As we trust in the reality of these truths, we send a signal to the world of what they are missing. We are much more likely then, to have the opportunity to share with them the hope that they can have this relationship too. Let’s determine this week to live a life free from worry and full of trust and see what opportunities our father gives us to share this hope with others.

 October 14, 2016  Posted by at 12:00 pm The sermon on the mount No Responses »
Oct 072016
 

O you of little faithwill he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? (Matthew 6:30)

I wouldn’t say this is one of Jesus’ favourite phrases, but He does use it a few times.

When the disciples got anxious in the storm: And he said to them, “Why are you afraid, O you of little faith?” (Matthew 8:26)

When Peter started to sink after walking on water: Jesus immediately reached out his hand and took hold of him, saying to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” (Matthew 14:31)

And when the disciples completely misunderstand Jesus when they think He is talking about physical bread: “O you of little faith, why are you discussing among yourselves the fact that you have no bread?” (Matthew 16:8)

And lastly the parallel passage to the verse today in Luke 12:28

The other examples are Jesus talking to individuals. But today He is talking to a whole crowd from many different backgrounds. Did they all have little faith?

Jesus knows we have little faith, He knows because He made us. He knows our weaknesses and failures. I believe this phrase is a very gentle rebuke, where Jesus is tenderly pointing us in God’s direction and saying you can have more faith if you simply look towards Him. When you take your focus off your concerns and instead fix your gaze on Him as a loving heavenly father who is passionate about us and wants to provide for us abundantly, then faith will grow.

Jesus is not judging us, He is pointing us to the truth of His commitment for us. When we lose our trust in His commitment to us, it causes us to worry. Worry is doubting God. It is saying “I don’t think you can come through for me this time God” We often sort of believe that He can but doubt that He actually will. This is sin. This is placing the problems above our trust in God and doubting His willingness to help and His ability to fulfil His promises.

God never rejects those whose faith is weak, He wants to inspire them and to increase their faith

a bruised reed he will not break, and a smouldering wick he will not quench (Matthew 12:20)

As for the one who is weak in faith, welcome him (Romans 14:1)

But he does commend those who are strong in faith:

When Jesus heard this, he marvelled and said to those who followed him, “Truly, I tell you, with no one in Israel have I found such faith. (Matthew 8:10)

Then Jesus answered her, “O woman, great is your faith! Be it done for you as you desire.” And her daughter was healed instantly. (Matthew 15:28)

I am convinced that the more time we spend in Jesus’ presence; praying, reading His word and worshipping, the stronger our faith will become. Because our focus is on Him rather than the problems we are worried about. It’s all about shifting our focus.

It’s important to recognise that Jesus didn’t say “O you of no faith” as Christians we have enough faith to save us. That is the easy bit. To grow stronger we need to develop that faith by recognising that God cares for every area of our lives and is ready, willing and able to provide for us in every aspect of life.

 October 7, 2016  Posted by at 12:00 pm The sermon on the mount No Responses »