You know, people fall in love, have children, celebrate birthdays, take trips and sit on the porch on summer evenings, while listening to crickets. But inevitably, and to everyone, problems do come. Relationships flounder, jobs are lost, money gets tight, kids rebel, and through it all, even in the midst of friends and family, loneliness and worry can seem like all there is.
When life turns tough, it is easy to feel overwhelmed. Resources that once sustained you such as: relationships, self-confidence, work, and material possessions appear powerless. You long for an instant fix, something to take your problems and worries away. You need solutions. A solution not necessarily to give you that instant fix, for unfortunately, one does not really exist ¨C but to lay out practical steps you can follow. God in you is the aim towards the resolution of all of your worries, not just some, but all. It is God in you who can fill you with love, which will relax you, and it is all through His wonderful grace.
Let's read His Word, please stand and open your Bibles to Matthew chapter 6. Let's begin by looking at verses 25 - 34.
25 This is why I tell you: [Therefore.] ...
When you see the word therefore or this is why, you must ask, "What is it there for?" The overarching context for this "therefore" is based upon the entirety of the sermon, but its immediate context begins in verse 19 in regards to the heart and the listener's treasure. But let's finish reading our passage.
25 This is why I tell you: [Therefore.] Do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Isn't life more than food and the body more than clothing? 26 Look at the birds of the sky: They don't sow or reap or gather into barns, yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Aren't you worth more than they? 27 Can any of you add a single cubit to his height by worrying? 28 And why do you worry about clothes? Learn how the wildflowers of the field grow: they don't labor or spin thread. 29 Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was adorned like one of these! 30 If that's how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and thrown into the furnace tomorrow, won't He do much more for you, you of little faith? 31 So don't worry, saying, "What will we eat?" or "What will we drink?" or "What will we wear?" 32 For the idolaters eagerly seek all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33 But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be provided for you. 34 Therefore don't worry about tomorrow, because tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.
In our passage we see that Matthew is writing the words of Jesus on the Sermon on the Mount. This passage examines a cure for anxiety or worry. Jesus takes a look at the problems that the Jews were experiencing. Their concerns were for basic needs and getting ahead in life, which in this context was centered on their treasure, money. The root of the hearer's problems was that their hearts were in the wrong place.
Jesus initially questions their worry. He asks them a series of rhetorical question. "Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing?" Jesus follows this up by pointing out the provision that God gives even to the birds. He feeds them; he provides for them. The birds are not able to harvest. Jesus then asks them another rhetorical question and that is, "Are you not worth more than they?" Mankind is the crown of God's creation; of course we are worth more than the birds. We have the ability to love Him back. We have the ability to speak with Him. We are His image.
Jesus then looks at a different worry - their self worth. Jesus again uses a rhetorical question, "Can any of you add a single cubit to his height by worrying?" and, "Why do you worry about clothes?" Jesus uses the word picture of a wildflower in the field and Solomon to answer. "I tell you not even Solomon in all his splendor was adorned as one of these wildflowers. If that is how God clothes the field, which is here today and gone tomorrow, will God not do much more for you "you of little faith?" Jesus rent their hearts. He moved them emotionally into a realization that it is God who provides.
Simply put, these words that Jesus uses, "little faith" was to reprove his hearers in order to move them forward in their belief and faith. There were a number of times Jesus chided his listeners and his disciples, for example, the storm on the Sea of Galilee when He came walking on the water. The reason Jesus used this term was to get the people to think.
How many times have we seen in our own life where God just supernaturally comes in and provides for a need? Has he not been with you throughout your life? Think about what I had mentioned when I first started, I am not giving you an instant fix because an instant fix does not exist. This passage of Scripture gives you a resolution, a fix, and it is culminated in the first part of verse 33, "Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness," nine words that envelop the point of all that Jesus was iterating. Jesus recapitulates there is no need to worry about your basic needs, wants, desires, or even a greater status in life, but to seek God first. In verse 34 Jesus again tells the people not to worry because there is enough trouble that each day has of its own.
The day of Jesus' teaching more than likely would have been a typical day in the region, windy, hot, dry; the people listening were more than likely hungry and thirsty, dressed in ragged robes, with the question in their minds, "What about us?" "What are we going to eat, drink, and how are we going to dress ourselves? We only have these ragged clothes," while there were others in the crowd wondering, "How much can I store up where my family and I won't have to work hard in the near future? Where can I store up the provisions from my work?" When Jesus comes to this point in his sermon, which is the key verse of the entire sermon, all their questions are answered, seek God in everything. Jesus talks about our attitudes and how to be blessed, to be salty and the light of the world, our heart is the problem towards sin, to speak truthfully, to love even our enemies, to give, to pray, and to examine our heart that we serve God and not earthly possessions. He culminates it all into the need to seek God, His Kingdom, and His righteousness.
Our fallen condition of worry is exacerbated by a reluctance to come to God. God has the aspiration to provide and bless His people. God desires to reveal Himself to His people in a special way; through provision and the action of His love.
So what does it really mean to seek God, His kingdom, His righteousness, and His provision? The first word, "seek," means to seek in order to find out by thinking, meditating, reasoning, and to inquire into. The tense is present and active, and it is an imperative, it connotes the vital nature of actively seeking God. This verb use depicts that this "seeking" is not just a one-time thing, but a consistent behavior.
So, what about the kingdom of God? The word used here for "kingdom" means: royal power, kingship, dominion, or rule. In essence, this word points the listener and reader to God Himself, not an actual, physical kingdom. Now, the Jewish idea of the kingdom of God was a physical kingdom. It meant to them that the king would be their coming Messiah, the territory was their Promised Land, as was given by God through Moses, and conquered under the leading of Joshua 40 years after the Exodus from Egypt. The subjects of this kingdom were they themselves, the Jews. The laws would be those that were given by God at Mount Sinai through Moses, and prescribed by the Pharisees, Sadducees, and scribes. But, now, the kingdom of God, especially for the Christian, is a time in which there is a yearning for Christ's return and the setting up of his glorious, powerful, dominion here on earth, which is through his grace.
Now, what about righteousness? In the book of Romans it states that Abraham believed God and it was counted unto him for righteousness. In Isaiah it states that we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousness is as filthy rags. But, as it should be known, it is about what Christ has done, his finished work, his death, and a real resurrection; that is His righteousness for He did so without sin. His accredited righteousness is we having a right standing before God. His righteousness is the forgiveness of sin. We must shift our focus onto Him rather than on earthly things because of His righteousness, and that through the perceiving and receiving of the grace that is bestowed to His people through his provision of the finished work.
Now, this is awesome, in this case this word, "righteousness," is a noun. With it being a noun it means it would be a person, place, or thing. Since righteousness is a noun and it is a thing, that would mean that it is tangible; that means it is something that can be held onto. So, I have to ask, if righteousness is tangible, how much righteousness are you holding onto?
Jesus promised that if we actively seek God, then He would provide for all our needs. Look at history, the history of the Jews, God's people; God provided for His people since Abraham. God provided for his people in the Exodus from the bondage and suffering they endured in Egypt and the increasing worry about not having anything to eat or drink. God provided manna in the wilderness even with complaints about not having meat to eat. God provided water from the rocks even in the midst of complaints against Him and his provision. He provided for His people by proceeding in front of them in battles as Joshua led the Hebrews into the Promised Land. God provided the Law to the people. He provided a means for the remission of sin through the sacrificial system in the Old Testament and through His own sacrifice of His Son, Jesus. He is our ever-present provider, for even David, the illustrious, noblest, and grandest king in the history of the Jews, in Psalm 139:7-16 wrote, and I'll paraphrase, "Where can I go or be that you are not there?" God is our ever-present provider. He's imperially powerful. He is the road to righteousness, and He is the only one able to supply all of our needs.
Our focus has been, by far, too heavy on our worries of today and tomorrow. The perspective of the Christian in reference to worry is completely different than those who are not Christians. The pagans/Gentiles have no hope; all they know, or knew, was the worry about their issues and how they could get ahead in life. The perspective of the Christian is that, yes, there are issues, but God will provide, for He is our hope, and He bestows upon His people His grace, blessing, and provision.
Seeking God is to be first and foremost since He is the center of our world. By having God in the center he permeates all other aspects of our lives. Our life can be illustrated by a circle; it is dependent upon where God is in our circle. God radiates the size of our circle, but if God is on the fringes of that circle His radiating presence does not fill our circle; He only fills a small area. If God is at the center of our circle then He is able to radiate to all parts or facets of our life. Paul wrote in his letter to the Colossians, that Christ/God should have first place in everything. So, where is God in your circle?
Matthew gave us Jesus's words in order to rouse our hearts, to intensify, and strengthen our faith. Jesus gave the sermon to the crowd in order to reach into their hearts and alter their behavior. Jesus spoke to the crowds to show that God is ever-present and that He will supply our needs, but need not worry because God has the desire to provide. The whole point is that Jesus wanted to alter the perspective of the people, to alter their thinking, and to alter their behavior of the heart. Jesus wanted their focus to be on God, not that God is transcendent, but is ever-present, and to have Him in the center of our lives, for as a father desires to provide for his children, God desires even more to provide for His children. Remove the focus on your worries and seek God. Jesus promised that if we do then God will provide.
There were so many issues of the day with the Romans, the Greeks, the Hellenists, the Samaritans, the political regime, drought, taxes, and oppression that the people's focus was on those issues, and their desire was to provide and to get ahead in this life, but Jesus's sermon moves to shift the focus onto God in continuously seeking Him rather than these worldly issues of the day.
In looking at my own life I see that my mind is too habitually on my circumstances. The question that needs to be answered at this point is, "What principles can I follow to make seeking God a consistent part of my life?" My answer to you is: spiritual disciplines. As you may have noticed, this is not an instant fix, but through spiritual disciplines and the practice of them, seeking God and placing Him in the center of your circle is the fix. The spiritual disciplines that I am speaking of are reading God's word, prayer, fellowship with other believers, and to worship God with all your heart and soul, for He is our God, and He is our praise.
Take an additional 15 minutes in the morning when you get up to read His word and pray. When you pray follow the ways of the writers of the New Testament: pray in Jesus' name (John 14:13-14), pray with praise and thanksgiving (Colossians 4:2), pray with the right motive (James 4:3), pray with right relationships, prayer is to be directed by the Holy Spirit, and pray the Word of God (James 4:2-3). The LORD told us through 2 Chronicles 7:14, "If My people who are called by My name humble themselves, pray and seek My face, and turn from their evil ways, then I will hear from heaven, forgive their sin, and heal their land." What an awesome thought. Arrive to your local church early in order to fellowship and pray with other believers, your brethren. Offer yourself as an offering of praise when you worship Him. Give Him everything you are.
We need to seek God, His kingdom, and His righteousness first and foremost because He deeply desire to provide for all of your needs. The best way I have found is through the spiritual disciplines. Our fallen condition of worry is exacerbated by our reluctance to come to God. Desperately God desires a relationship with his people. It is all about Him and His desire to bless you, but He wants to be your focus. The way we actively seek Him is to be consistently reading His Word, being in prayer, fellowshipping with other believers, and being consistent in our worship unto Him with all of our heart and all of our soul for He is our God, He is our praise. Give Him this additional 15 minutes every day and see how much He will bless you and provide for you. Be active in these disciplines. Seek Him continuously. Read His Word, be in prayer, fellowship with other believers, and worship Him with all your heart and soul. Don't stop for He is our God, He is our praise.