Story 69: Resting from Worry

Matthew 6:25-34

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It is amazing how often worry can become the soundtrack in our brains. Why? It’s miserable. Is it because we think that if we worry enough we can fix the problem? Jesus is very clear about this. He says, “Don’t do it.” As psychologists and neurologists learn more and more about the toxic consequences of focussing our brains on worry, they show that Jesus has been right all along. And Jesus has shown us the way out of that trap…turn to His goodness and light…pray, worship, and allow your growing trust in Him to give you rest.

Let’s remember what we have read about in the Sermon on the Mount.  As we look at each little section, it is important to remember how it fits into the big picture of God’s Kingdom. For example, when Jesus tells us not to worry, it could seem like a pretty heartless thing to say. There are a lot of scary, painful, and enraging situations that can come up in this life. How are we supposed to not worry? A lot of people have used Jesus’ command not to worry to crush and silence people who are living in very difficult situations. That was not what the Lord intended. Long before Jesus said not to worry, He offered a whole vision of hope and blessings of His Kingdom. It shows us why we can trust in God’s goodness and how we can pray for the problems in our lives.

As Jesus spoke about life in the Kingdom of God, He was describing a radical new way to look at the world.  It was a life of utter faith in the power of God. The door into this Kingdom is a deep humility. Believers are not supposed to grasp and fight and compete for their own rights or their own desires.   Christians are to be poor in spirit before God, trusting Him to meet our needs and give us the desires that honor Him. That position of humility is actually the place of greatest strength as a human. When we tap into humble faith, we anchor ourselves on the power of God. It will give us the miraculous ability to respond to others with meek, transforming generosity and love instead of arrogance and envy and greed.

The great treasure is not gold or wealth or comfort. The great treasure is to be pure in heart. That means purity in our desire to please the Lord Jesus alone. It means pure hope in the great blessing that we will be able to see God.  Whatever we do in this life is meant to be an act of lavish, outpouring love and obedience to our Savior, and whatever the cost for that obedience, even if it is suffering and persecution, will ultimately be a blessing.  Those who are persecuted for the sake of Jesus’ name will receive a far greater Kingdom than anything they could win on earth!  They receive the Kingdom of Heaven! (Matt. 5:1-12)

When Christians walk in the pure goodness of God’s ways, they are not only being transformed by the Spirit inside their own hearts.  They are like salt to the world.  They bring flavor and preserve what is right among the nations where they live!  They are like bright lamps on a stand, shining the way to Jesus.

But there is always a terrible danger.  What if the followers of Jesus, his Church, follow in the same path as the sinful, proud Jewish leadership?  What if they take the sacred things of God and corrupted them for their own greedy, selfish purposes?  Jesus was breaking through the powerful deceptions of Jewish culture so that he could begin a new culture. He was bringing in a new Kingdom reign!

In Christ’s Kingdom, the Laws of God about murder, marriage, honesty, justice, and love were not just about outward justice between one person and another. They were issues of the heart!   God’s law was no longer going to be kept by a nation with an elaborate, formal priesthood performing ceremonies in a massive Temple.  This Law was going to be written on the hearts of everyone who put their faith in Jesus…each believer is a priest, bearing the light of God to the world, and a Temple where the Spirit of God resides.

The followers of Christ were going to be given a very special power so that they could obey their high and holy call. They were going to be given God Himself. Jesus was going to send the Holy Spirit. He would bring the transformation they needed, and He would bring the wonderful change.

The goodness of Christ’s followers in their generosity to the poor, their prayers, and their fasting would have nothing to do with impressing others or controlling God so He would give them what they wanted.  Their wholehearted desire would be totally focused on pleasing their Father in Heaven.  And they would protect those sacred offerings from being tainted by keeping them quiet and a secret.  They were deeply personal gifts to their King!

The real treasures of life in the Kingdom of God come through honoring the Lord with obedience.  Whatever false and temporary treasures exist on earth, whether it is money, beauty, or abilities, these are things that will pass away or be destroyed.  Eyes that see with pure, heavenly vision will understand how meaningless anything is that isn’t used for the glory of God.

Each of us can know where our treasure is by watching how we look at the world. The patterns of our thoughts will tell us where our heart is.  Is it full of God?  Does it long for the things of God?  Or is my hearts still so full of darkness that I care deeply about the things of this world?

Jesus made it very clear.  It is impossible to serve the Most High God and serve money at the same time.  One of them has to be given the position of Master, they cannot share the seat.   If God is given total devotion, money and the things it will buy must be rejected as a source of security and hope.  That belongs to the Lord alone.

If God is such a firm foundation, if believers truly have faith that He is alive and ruling from His throne and can be trusted, then why will they ever have to worry?  It doesn’t make sense! But Jesus knew how terribly difficult it is for us as we go through this life on earth. So He gave a message of compassion and encouragement for His faithful disciples:
“‘Therefore, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important 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? Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?

 

“‘And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies 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, oh 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 hi 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.’”

Wow. It is amazing to think that God is so completely trustworthy and that we can cast our lives on to Him in complete, total trust and hope. But when times come and we aren’t sure how God is going to provide for the next day or week, it is natural for our hearts to tremble in fear! Money is something we can hold in our hands. We can see how it will pay for us to have a place to live and food to eat. It is obvious how it can protect us from the ravages of this world. But even so, it is a false god. It can vanish just like everything else. The only true security is in the Lord who made everything. He often does not answer our needs in the obvious, natural way. He is supernatural, and what He wants for us is supernatural transformation!

God stands outside of time and space and rules over it all. He looks on His faithful disciples with great love, and He has plans for our lives. He has plans for your life. When hard things come, we are meant to look at them as opportunities crafted by our heavenly Father to teach us to lean on Him. We can pray with all our hearts. We can fast and seek and ask. And as we wait on our Lord and draw near to Him, we will learn to listen and know His answers. The hard times, when the problems of this world are scary, often become the most precious times because they give us the greatest gift…we gain faith, which is wroth more than gold. And through our faith, we grow closer to God.

Sometimes the best antidote to worry is to praise.  Here is a great song for that:

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