September 27, 2011

Sermon on the Mount Matthew 6:25-34


A few years ago, James, a friend of mine, and I went on a backpacking trip that lasted 8 days and covered 70 miles! It was the longest backpacking trip I had ever been on, and farthest I had ever walked. It was a blast. We saw some great views, drank some sketchy water, but had a blast!

As with any trip of this nature there is a lot planning involved...a ton of planning. When going on a trip like this you do all the expected pre-trip stuff...you find maps, make meal plans, travel arrangements, acquire permits...there is just a lot of stuff to do.

One of the most important things you do is make an equipment list. You make the list, you check everything off as you gather it together, and you check it off again once it has gone into your pack. There is nothing worse than being in the middle of nowhere and realizing you left something very important out of your pack!

But after this trip, I realized there was something worse than leaving something important behind...I realized that taking something you are never going to use on a trip this size is far worse. A trip that lasts 8 days and covers 70 miles is tough enough, but to do that trip with a pack that weighted over 90 pounds, and has stuff in it that I absolutely do not need or could find a way to live without...that is worse.

When I unpacked I saw all the stuff I could have done without. I could have made the trip easier by removing 10-15 or more pounds! The trip would have been more enjoyable and way easier.

Everyone of us has Life backpack that we pick up every day. And in that pack we put all kinds of things that are either necessary or they are things we could really just leave behind. There are good things like kindness, love, generosity, commitment, integrity...and there are bad things like fear, anger, unforgiveness, and today’s topic...worry.

Most of us know the things we could do without...things that only take up space and add unnecessary weight to our journey, but we don’t know how to get rid of them. They make it impossible for us to enjoy the trip God has planned for us.

This morning we are going to look at worry. We will discuss some of the things that worry reveals about us, and also talk about some solutions.

I’m sure you have all seen this sign...Don’t let worries kill, let the church help.

Clear communication is the most difficult task for any organization. I worked as a writer and editor for a time...so I know how easy it is to make mistakes like this. But they are still funny!

Let’s begin with our passage from Matthew and continue on the Sermon on the Mount.
Matthew 6:25-34

“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? 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? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?

“And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. 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?

“So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”
Last time we looked at Matthew 6:19-24, and talked about God’s command to store up treasures in heaven rather than on earth. To care more about the Kingdom and what God is doing than about what we are doing. The challenge is to make God our leader and His Kingdom our focus...rather than security, or the things this world holds up as treasures to be sought after.

Today’s passage begins with the little word “Therefore...” this means that this passage we are looking at today is founded on a principle found in the previous passage. Because Matthew 6:19-24 is true and should be a fact of life for the people of God’s Kingdom...then Matthew 6:25-32 is a natural conclusion. Because our focus is on God’s Kingdom...because our treasure is in heaven...therefore “do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear.”

For those sitting on the hillside that day, this addressed real concern about where their meals were coming from and whether or not they would have clothing. Farms provided the food needed to survive, but crops were susceptible to disease, lack or rain, and insects. One bad year could make food very scarce. Most people only owned a set maybe two of clothing...time and the elements took its toll on clothing and they would wear out.

For us, worry usually takes a different form. Most of us don’t have to worry about where our food and clothing are coming from, but we do have other things we worry about. The economy...our jobs...our mortgage payment...the kid’s college...if we are a business owner then our business. We find things to worry about.

Science has demonstrated that worry has some very detrimental affects on our physical being, but worry also has some very detrimental affects on our spiritual lives. It has a way of pointing out a few very important areas in our life that if we do not address them will hinder our spiritual growth. It reveals some things that are lacking.

1. Worry reveals our priorities.

When we worry we reveal the things that deep down we feel are important.

Take a moment and ask yourself, “What are some of things I worry about?”  Maybe on your notes jot down one or two. Nobody has to see it but you.

For Jesus’ listeners it was the necessities of life as it is still for many in our world. People just a few miles from here question where their next meal will come from and will they have the proper clothes to wear. That is we minister to people every month with our Food for Huber Outreach who are in deep need of the food we provide.

For some of us the worries are a bit different. We don’t have to worry about our next meal, but job and financial worries get at us.

No matter what it is that we worry about...Jesus challenges us to see it as not that important.

Now that’s tough. Because I worry about things because I think they are important, but Jesus says, “Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes?” He is talking to people who need food. They don’t necessarily know where their next meal will come from. They need clothes...otherwise they will be naked. These are two things that everyone would consider absolute bare necessities, and Jesus is saying, “There are way more important things.”

Life is about more than just food and clothing. It is about more than our jobs, the economy, the business, the church we are planting. Jesus challenges us to change our perspective by challenging our sensed need to worry and then making us answer the question, “What is REALLY important?”

Jesus challenges whatever we put up as worry-worthy by pushing us to reevaluate our priorities. Not what do I think is important? But what is REALLY important?

So what do we do when we find that our priorities are out of whack?

As we grow in our spiritual maturity...worry should become less of a problem. Not because we don’t care, but because we get our priorities straightened out as we center our lives more and more on what Jesus wants.

Jesus’ answer is for us to focus on those things that are truly important. In verse 33 Jesus says, “Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” Seek first the kingdom...He is saying that if we change our priorities and put God’s Kingdom, God’s values, and God’s righteousness first...we will not have to worry about the necessities of life. Why? Because everything will be in the right perspective, and all our needs will be taken care of.

If we want God’s Kingdom to be the priority then there comes a time when we realize we have to make God’s Kingdom count for more in our lives than just a visit to church on a Sunday morning or joining in on an occasional outreach.

We find ways to serve in and with our church on a regular basis. We find ways to serve our neighbors and community in Jesus’ name without the Church. We make spending time with God a priority...not so we can be a good little Christian, but so we can hear His voice and follow His leading. We implement His teaching in our lives and let it become the standard for how we act. We tell others about what God has done in our lives.

When God’s Kingdom is the priority we ask “Father, what do you want to see done?” more than we ask, “What do I want to happen?”  It becomes more about what He wants than what I want.

The things we worry about reveals our priorities and what we think really matters, but it also reveals something else.

2. Worry reveals our helplessness.

We worry because there is absolutely nothing we can do to change the situation we are worrying about. If we could change it, we would be out there doing something about it. But worry is what we do when we feel helpless. It is what we do when we have to let go of our control of a situation.

In this morning’s text, Jesus points to something very obvious when he says, “Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?” The obvious answer to this is...we can’t. We can’t add a single hour...in fact, the opposite is true. Worry will suck the life out of you, and take years away from you. Proverbs 12:25 reminds us of this fact when it says, “Anxiety in a man’s heart weighs him down...”

In some translations there is an addition to this section of the passage that says, “Who of you can add a single inch to his height?” This would be a useful thing for the vertically challenged, but again, the obvious answer is “You can’t.” Because if someone who is short could add an inch, I believe they would...but alas they cannot.

And just as you cannot add a single hour to your life or an inch to your height our worry accomplishes nothing. It only reminds us that we are helpless.

Jesus uses the birds of the air and the flowers of the field as an example. Birds don’t sow or reap or store food in barns, and yet they are fed, housed, and cared for. The flowers of the field don’t labor or spin clothing, and yet they are more richly dressed than the richest of people. Both birds and flowers are absolutely helpless to accomplish what they need to survive in life.

I hate feeling helpless. And I think admitting that you are helpless and that you hate feeling helpless is really the first step for overcoming this aspect of worry.I want to get in there and do something. I want to do something about the situation...but worry happens precisely because I can’t do anything.

A few months ago I had a cancer scare. So what did I do? I worried about all the things that I had absolutely no control over. I couldn’t control whether or not it was cancer. I couldn’t control whether or not I needed treatment. I couldn’t control whether I would live or die. I was helpless.

And you are completely helpless when it comes to all the things you worry about in life too...

We have no control over whether we get that job or not. We put our best foot forward, but we are helpless.
We have no control over whether or not we will be laid off. We work to be the best employee they have, but we are helpless.
We have no control over the other drivers when our children go out. We teach them right from wrong and safe driving techniques, but we are helpless.

Whatever it is that you worry about...can you really do anything about it? And yet we worry about all the things we are completely helpless to control. Recognizing our helplessness leads us to our next revelation...

3. Worry reveals our trust level with God.

Worry demonstrates that we really have not yet grown to trust God. It sounds harsh when Jesus says to his worried listeners, “O you of little faith.” I bristle with that...but I bristle because it points to a wound I don’t like to have touched. It reminds me that I do not yet trust God as I should. And if we are ever going to grow up in our faith, we must learn to trust God.

There are two beliefs that really stand in the way of our being able to trust God.

  1. We don’t believe He is good.
  2. We don’t believe He will be good to us.

Before you jump too quickly to deny or defend...think about it.

Sometimes we don’t believe that God is good. We believe he is out to get us for our sins. We think He is loving maybe, but good?

Jesus says, “The pagans run after all these things (the food and clothes), and your heavenly Father knows that you need them.” Do you see that...Jesus says, “Your heavenly Father...” This is someone who cares for you. Someone who knows what you need before you need it.

Someone who cares for you...like a Father. Maybe not like your father...if you had that kind of Father. No, this is someone who loves extravagantly and completely.

But probably the deeper issue is that we need to believe that God will be good to you.

I find myself believing that God is good, but when I worry...it usually centers around me not believing that God will be good to me. I believe He does wonderful things for other people...but not me.

So in the midst of everything we are worrying about...we are wrestling with these two false beliefs, and find that God’s primary way of teaching us to trust Him is to come to us in situations where you need to trust Him, and watch what He does. He uses these tough times in life to help us understand more clearly His goodness and His desire to be good to us.

It is in the everyday situations of life that He asks us to trust Him. And only by trusting Him in these situations are we able to grow in our trust levels for Him.

Psalm 9:10 says, “Those who know your name will trust in you, for you, Lord, have never forsaken those who seek you.”

Those who know God...those who know what He is like...those who have seen him in action in the past...are able to trust God in the present. Why? Because when you know Him you know that He has never forsaken those who seek Him.

When you know someone...when you have seen their character in action and watched how they respond...it is easier to trust them. The same goes with God. So Psalm 9:10 says, “Those who know your name will trust in you...”

Worry puts our focus in the wrong direction. It wants us to think that we are on our own and that we have to have the strength or the ability or the expertise to do something, that somehow our worry will do something in the situation. But worry accomplishes none of that. We simply have to trust.

I’m not talking about a simplistic theology of Jesus take the wheel...that’s not what the Bible teaches at all. No, we are responsible for our actions. God expects us to do our best in following Him, but in the midst of the situations of life we learn to trust God by not worrying and depending on Him.

The people of Israel learned to trust by remembering all the things God had done for them.  They look at all the times God had worked for them in the past, and believed that He would continue to work on their behalf in the future. Many times in the Psalms and other Old Testament books they recounted over and over and over all the times God had worked on their behalf. But when they failed to remember they failed to trust, and they got into trouble.

Psalm 106  says, “When our ancestors were in Egypt, they gave no thought to your miracles; they did not remember your many kindnesses, and they rebelled by the sea, the Red Sea. Yet he saved them for his name’s sake, to make his mighty power known. He rebuked the Red Sea, and it dried up; he led them through the depths as through a desert. He saved them from the hand of the foe; from the hand of the enemy he redeemed them. The waters covered their adversaries; not one of them survived. Then they believed his promises and sang his praise.”

The listen to verse 13: “But they soon forgot what he had done and did not wait for his plan to unfold.” And so Psalm 106 continues with God acting, the people cheering, and then forgetting and grumbling and worrying.

The key to trusting God is learning to remember. To take note of all the things He has done on our behalf. I keep a journal, and write the stuff down. I also stuff things into it that I use to remember what God has done for me. I have a photocopy of a check where God provided money that I needed for a mission trip. I use whatever I can to help me remember

I know that when I start to worry...when I start to loose my trust in God’s ability to take care of things...the I have forget to look at what He has done in the past to care for me.

Conclusion

Fighting the battle against worry is not easy. It will creep in, and find a way to stick around. So much so that sometimes it seems impossible to get away from it, but this is why God asks us not to do it alone.

The Apostle Paul faced some big challenges in his ministry. He faced some situations that I hope to never face...but he says a couple of important things about worry.

Philippians 4:6-7, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

and Galatians 6:2, “Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.”

Paul’s priorities were right. He knew there was nothing he could do about the situation. He knew he needed to trust God...so in every situation he prayed with thanksgiving...and he depended on others to help him carry the load.

There is a lot to be worried about in our lives, and worry, if don’t deal with, will eat away at us. It is extra baggage on the journey of life that we simply do not need. But often we will hold on to our worry...like Gollam in the Lord of the Rings holding on the ring that was causing him to waste away. We will hold on to our worry.

And the answer is to cast our anxieties on God in prayer and thanksgiving for the things we do have...and to depend on others. That’s why small groups are important for us as we move forward as a church. They become places where we can pray together, develop friendships, and carry each other’s burdens. They become places where spiritual growth happens.

This morning you might be carrying some worries around with you. There are some things in life that keep you always on the rocks, and worry is eating away at you. I want to invite you to cast your anxieties and worries on God...maybe you need to rearrange some priorities...maybe you need to acknowledge that you are really helpless in the situation...or maybe you need to raise your trust level in God.


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