The Gift of the Kingdom! Luke 12:22-34
A certain man and his wife were taking their turn at what the man called “baby duty” in the church nursery. The man explains that “She does the diaper changes, I hold the babies when they are clean. It’s my idea of a fair division of labor. But one morning one of the babies I was holding wouldn’t quiet down. He was fussy, thrashing around. I’d rock him, I’d pat, I’d sing, but to no avail. I thought, “If only this baby would realize that we are looking after him. If only he would stop struggling and be calm. If only ….” That night the man could not get to sleep. Why not? A problem that he knew he couldn’t work on until the next day was working on him then. He’d fret, He’d fuss, and He’d thrash around. His wife woke and went right to the heart of the matter. “Why pray,” she asked not too sympathetically, “when you can worry?” She was right, of course.
The man began to visualize himself in the care of the Father. He knows what we need. He is telling us, “Relax, I’ve got you.” In some ways we are still in a spiritual nursery. We’ve still got a lot to learn.
The American Pastor of the latter century, A. W. Tozer, once wrote that “Happy is the man who is too busy to worry by day, and too sleepy to worry at night. If only we would stop lamenting and look up. God is here. Christ is risen. The Spirit has been poured out from on high. All this we know as theological truth. It remains for us to turn it into joyous spiritual experience.”
What is it that can stop us from worry? Our lives are hectic. The world around us seems to be flying by at a thousand miles an hour. The news reports a seemingly endless stream of chaos. How, on earth, are we not supposed to worry?
There is but one sure and completely remedy for worry; the assurance of God. So many Christians spend so much time worrying that were we able to harness the energy expended on such activity, there would be no limit to what we could accomplish. What can wash away all of my sin? Nothing but the blood of Jesus!
What can wash away all my worry? Nothing but the promise of God! This morning our focus will lie on the chief element of today’s text, that which lies at the heart of Jesus instruction not to worry, the gift of the Kingdom of God! This morning we will examine what the Bible has to say about the problem of worry and more specifically, what it has to say with regard to worries remedy.
The Worry Problem. We live in an age characterized by fear. Concerns, cares, and worries abound. Some of our concerns are very legitimate. If we are concerned about providing for our families we do a good thing. If we give care to the quality of work at our job or the level of care we provide to our children or grandchildren, we ought to be commended for such activity.
But care and concern are far different from worry. Care is rooted in love. When we love someone or something, love’s natural object is care. Concern, it seems to me, is a middle point on the path from care to worry. Concern is rightly an extension of care as we show careful attention to the details of how we might properly care for that thing or person which we love.
But concern which becomes compulsive, care which morphs into anxiety, changes from affection which rooted in love, to worry which is rooted in fear. And while fear takes many forms, fear is, at its core, at least in part, an acceptance of all of the negative possibilities in this life and a denial of the promises of God.
This is not to undermine the seriousness of the anxiety and fear that some people are captured by and that all of us experience at times in our life. Telling a person who is worrying simply not to worry, is like telling a dog caught in a trap not to chew off his foot. Even though he is doing damage to himself in the process, it is all that he knows to do to free himself from the bondage he is in.
This is merely to say that just as worry is the fruit of fear of the things of this world, so too, peace is the fruit of trust in the God who made it! Worry, I would suggest, is not merely the presence of fear, it is more specifically the absence of total dependence on God.
For the person consumed with worry, it is the same way, fear has laid the groundwork, concern has captured his or her mind, and finally worry and anxiety has taken hold; for many there seems to be no way out. I would suggest to you this morning that the only way to conquer worry is to learn to trust more fully in God.
There is the story of the four-year-old boy, named David, who at a family birthday celebration noticed the white hair of both his maternal and his paternal grandfather. “Why do you both have the same hair?” the little boy asked. “Perhaps your grandpa and I worry too much,” his grandfather said, “or maybe we went to the same barber.”
A few days later, one of the boys grandfathers took David to the barber. Most of the shop’s patrons had white hair, too. After David hopped on the chair, the barber asked, “What can I do for you, young man?” David replied, “I’ll have a brown haircut, please.”
In Matthew 5:33-36 Jesus says, “Again, you have heard that it was said to an older generation, Do not break an oath, but fulfill your vows to the Lord.’ But I say to you, do not take oaths at all – not by heaven, because it is the throne of God, not by earth, because it is his footstool, and not by Jerusalem, because it is the city of the great King. Do not take an oath by your head, because you are not able to make one hair white or black.” (NET)
We worry an awful lot in this life. Some people even worry terribly about such trivial things as having gray hair, or no hair at all for that matter. But here Jesus is making the point that we should be careful of making oaths or swearing to fulfill this thing or that because we do not even have enough strength to guarantee that we can keep an oath that we make.
He is saying, “Why do you swear by your head when you can not even control the color of your hair? Or why do you swear on your soul when you don’t even have the power to grant life?” We must learn dependence upon God.
We worry an awful lot about things that are out of our control but Jesus is telling us to learn total dependence upon God for everything in our lives. When we make promises and commitments we do well to depend upon God for the strength to fulfill them; not place the burden of worry upon ourselves by doing it all in our own strength. The Bible says that His strength is made perfect in weakness.
The greatest way to find strength is accept weakness. The greatest way to escape fear, concern, worry, and anxiety, is to learn dependence and trust.
A Call To Discipleship. In Luke 9:23-25 Jesus says, “Then he said to them all: “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it. What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit his very self?” (NIV)
It has been said that “Today is the tomorrow we worried about yesterday.” We do spend a lot of time worrying about tomorrow. We may spend so much time worrying about tomorrow that we miss the opportunities of today.
The call of God upon our lives is the call of the disciple, the pilgrim on life’s journey. The Bible says that perfect love casts out fear. The present reality of our circumstances, whatever they may be, may very well warrant fear, worry, and anxiety, but our perspective is not supposed to be limited to what our fleshly eyes can see. We have been given a much greater gift than merely that.
Helen Keller is quoted as replying to a question in regard to the tragedy of her having lived her entire life blind, as having said, “It is a far greater tragedy, those who live their entire lives with sight and yet can not see.” True vision is found through the lens, not of circumstance, but of faith.
While the world around us may seem upside down from our perspective, we have to remember that we have been given the gift of the “upside down kingdom” of God! When things look like they are at their worst, pay attention, the Lord is at work. When things look to our human understanding as though they could not get any worse; watch closely because God has something in store for you.
The gift of the Kingdom. The Lord is always at work in our circumstances redeeming them for His ultimate glory and our ultimate satisfaction in Him. “Jesus did come, not as a warring king on a horse or in a chariot, but as a gentle and peaceable King on a donkey’s colt, just as Zechariah 9:9 had predicted. Jesus knew that those who would hear him teach at the Temple would return to their homes throughout the world and announce the coming of the Messiah.” (LASB)
In today’s Scripture reading, Jesus tells us, “Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom.” I remember when I was a child I used to try to figure out what the presents under the tree were. When my parents weren’t home or I had a minute near the tree alone, I would poke at the boxes under the tree. I would lift them up and shake them to hear the sounds they made.
A soft but firm package just the right size was no doubt a pack of socks. A long oblong box which made several different sounds when shook was very likely a board game. I had it down to a near science; an art form at the very least! The larger the box and the more ornate the wrapping, usually meant the greater the gift.
With the gift that we have received from our Heavenly Father none of these theories hold true. The gift of the Kingdom of God was ushered in by a King riding on a lowly donkey. The gift of the greatest worth was put on display as Jesus rode on a borrowed donkey; it wasn’t even His.
But O, it was His! As are all things! Because riding on that donkey was no mere Rabbi from Galilee. Indeed, He was then and is now the King of Kings and Lord of Lords! Why should we not worry? Why should we abandon fear? For none other reason than because we have received the gift of the Kingdom from God; our Heavenly Father; the very creator and sustainer of all that is!
“As they approached Jerusalem and came to Bethphage and Bethany at the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two of his disciples, saying to them, “Go to the village ahead of you, and just as you enter it, you will find a colt tied there, which no one has ever ridden. Untie it and bring it here. If anyone asks you, ‘Why are you doing this?’ tell him, ‘The Lord needs it and will send it back here shortly.’” They went and found a colt outside in the street, tied at a doorway. As they untied it, some people standing there asked, “What are you doing, untying that colt?" They answered as Jesus had told them to, and the people let them go. When they brought the colt to Jesus and threw their cloaks over it, he sat on it. Many people spread their cloaks on the road, while others spread branches they had cut in the fields. Those who went ahead and those who followed shouted, “Hosanna!” “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” “Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David!” “Hosanna in the highest!” (Mark 11:1-10 NIV)
Hosanna is a Hebrew phrase which is a shout of praise to God. Today, this Palm Sunday, our hearts cry out Hosanna, blessed is He who was and who is to come! Fear, concern, worry and anxiety over the affairs of this life all fade away in the light, that radiant light, which emanates from the crown of our king.
Only it is not a crown of gold and jewels, but a crown of thorns and righteousness which declares to us that the King has come. He has come in the midst of our fears and anxieties, He has come with the saving power of His very blood as He rides through the gates of Jerusalem this Palm Sunday on His way not toward His rightful throne, but toward our rightful Cross.
The King we serve has served us with the offering of His life as a ransom for our sin. Hosanna in the highest! Our redeemer has come, our savior has arrived to rescue us from the bondage of sin and to redeem us into life eternal and a life victorious even now. We are no longer strangers but friends of God; sons and daughters; heirs with Christ to the Kingdom!
Today, let us renew our commitment to living in the freedom with which Christ has set us free! Amen.
I heard the story of a family who was sitting on the couch one evening chatting as families will sometimes do. In the middle of a given conversation the little preschool aged girl spoke to her father and said very sweetly, “Daddy, you’re the boss of the house, right?” Her father proudly replied, “Yes, I’m the boss of the house.” But then the little girl quickly burst his bubble when she added, “That’s cause Mommy put you in charge, huh Daddy?”
It is important that we know our place and station in life. It is equally important we know who is actually in charge; that we know who it is that is on the thrown. Today, as we draw near to the time of the celebration of the Sacrament of Communion, I want to encourage you to examine your own heart and who it is who is seated on the throne in your life.
Christ has set us free and we are free indeed. But it is not for freedom’s sake alone that we have been made free. Indeed, it is for righteousness sake and today I want to encourage you not to consider your own worth as though any of us is worthy to partake of such a blessed offering as the very blood of Christ, the Son of God, and the Lamb without Blemish or Spot, the Lamb of God.
I want to invite you to consider His righteousness which covers us through faith. As we partake of the cup of Christ let it be that we who are free in Christ may partake not merely of drink and food which symbolize His sacrifice, but that we may, by faith, partake in the newness of life which He offers.
I Corinthians 11:20-28: “When you come together, it is not the Lord’s Supper you eat, for as you eat, each of you goes ahead without waiting for anybody else. One remains hungry, another gets drunk. Don’t you have homes to eat and drink in? Or do you despise the church of God and humiliate those who have nothing? What shall I say to you? Shall I praise you for this? Certainly not! For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, "This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me." In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, "This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me." For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes. Therefore, whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord. A man ought to examine himself before he eats of the bread and drinks of the cup.” (NIV)