Who's in Control?
12 February 2017
Preacher | Rev Jeremy Groombridge
Who's in Control?
Matthew 6: 25-34 WHO’S IN CONTROL?
Two business executives meet for lunch. “How’s your health?”
"I feel great! Ulcers are gone don’t have a care in the world!"
"How did that happen?"
"Well, my doctor told me my ulcers were caused from worry. So, I hired professional worrier. Whenever something worrisome comes up, I turn it over to him, and he does all my worrying for me!"
"Wow, I’d like to hire someone like that! How much charge?"
"One hundred thousand pounds"
"How in the world can you afford £100,000?"
"I don’t know. I let him worry about that!"
Wouldn’t it be great if you knew someone who could handle all of your worries, anxieties, stresses. Good news is that our Father God, in Jesus Christ, promises to do just that!
Unreasonable, Unproductive, Unnecessary
Jesus declaration in the gospel is very clear. Rather than worry, he says, I want you to be hopeful. For everything else - including all the things you might worry about - falls into place when, with all your heart, mind and strength, you seek after God’s Kingdom and his righteousness.
Some passages in the NT are difficult to interpret, but this isn't one of them. And if we believe - as we do - that the Word of God is living and active (as Hebrews 4:12 tells us it is) then we can hear Jesus account in this part of the sermon on the mount, and trust what it says - in all its life-giving, leading, saving power.
Yes - we really can believe this. Indeed, if we do not, we are doubting - even rejecting - what Christ has to say. So when he says, in v 25, do not worry about your life - it isn’t merely advice. Its not just a suggestion - its a command. Indeed, in the Greek you’ll find this is presented as in theimperative. This passage comes immediately after Jesus' teaching on attitudes to, and the use of, money. You cannot serve God and Money. Therefore, he says - in other words, “for this reason”, you are not to be anxious about your life.
If you cannot serve two masters - God and Money - then (for the same reason) neither can you be anxious about your life - what you eat, drink, or what you will wear. Because if you worry about these things, you will be “pulled apart" (worry = merimnao). Its a habit, to be avoided.
Now lets face it, we all worry, don't we. We fret when something feels a bit out of our control don't we. Worry is when you cant do something about a situation - but you don't want to leave it up to God. That’s why it isnt a good thing. Someone once described worry as a gigantic fog that blankets a city for several blocks and can be 100 feet deep. But if you could take that fog and change it into water, it would fill up only a single glass. Worry - a gigantic fog that blinds you and causes you to take your eyes off the Lord.
I don’t think Jesus is saying here anything that justifies a reckless, wholly carefree existence. Neither is he saying we shouldn't be concerned about some things. Nor is he saying it's wrong to plan. Or to budget. Or to work hard - after all, even the birds of the air are not lazy. Even flowers and grass are virtual factories in their own way. What he is saying is that if, in our order of priorities, what we eat, drink, wear etc is what dominates our lives, our decisions, rather than placing our trust in him, and working for his kingdom - then that’s wrong.
Think how these words would have been heard by the listeners. Many had reason to worry about food, drink clothing - easy for us - we turn on the tap, and water comes out. Waitrose always seems to have plenty of stock on the shelves. We don't go without much (cf Julian and Ann M newsletters) The illustrations here aren't just pretty pictures - of birds, lilies, and grass. Jesus wasn't being sentimental here. Of course they are beautiful in themselves - so much so that they rival even King Solomon’s glorious apparel. They are spectacularly beautiful but they didn't make themselves that way by polishing and spinning and beautifying themselves. And of course they don't have mortgages or tuition fees and they don't worry about high blood pressure, or being overweight. But the point is, they were created the way they are by God and sustained by him. Then he argues from the less to the greater - we are more valuable than they are. Yes - the life he has breathed into us is more important than they - v 26b
Yet we still worry - as if we could add time to our lives by doing so! You cannot add beyond you're allotted days. So why would you worry about whether our hearts are going to stop tonight. Or whether our brain is going to cease working? Let me tell you something: theres no point at all worrying about the world ending today... It's already tomorrow in Australia.
Oh you of little faith! Too often our worrying is a demonstration of our faithlessness. Notice the reference to the Gentiles in 6:32a. If you don't know God as loving Father, then you will undoubtedly be tormented by worry, anxiety, in pursuit of food, drink, clothing and a 1001 other worldly desires. What Jesus is saying here is that by behaving like that we are behaving just like unbelievers, who place their future in fate and fortune.
So you could say that worry is atheism is practice. On the contrary, says Jesus, Your heavenly Father knows you need these things - he is a caring, providing, sustaining God. That is why I say we can be hopeful, rather than worriesome. We really do need to pause and ask the question where am I putting my faith? In what do I trust? Can you trust the creator God to sustain?
Then (v 33) comes a very important word: BUT seek first his kingdom. So there are some things we ought to be consumed by. Earlier in the sermon, he’s been teaching them to pray “Your kingdom come” - that his will may be done not just in heaven but on earth. Now he’s saying that is the priority, the first thing we should be seeking after. Kingdom business is the main thing we are about. It should be the litmus test of everything that we do - is it building God’s kingdom here in Sanderstead? When God is recognised as King, his rule of righteousness will prevail.
God promises to me our needs once we get this priority straight. I don't think it is coincidence that this is a promises limited to those who obey. Its not a blanket promise, but it is conditional. So often the things of this world are our pre-occupation; even in church, tradition becomes an end in itself; and we lose sight of our purposes which is to build God’s kingdom. God knows what we need (v 32); our focus should be to seek first the kingdom of God.
So there is one thing to be anxious about, one thing to seek, one thing to consume our energy. None of these lower things, like eating, clothing. But to seek the kingdom of God and his righteousness - with passion, in enterprise, everywhere. Then, as if to reinforce the message, Jesus repeats: do not worry. Tomorrow, he says, will care for itself. The problem with worrying about tomorrow is that you never run out of tomorrows. And as we all know, today is the tomorrow we worried about yesterday.
Worry is fear's extravagance. It extracts interest on trouble before it comes due. It constantly drains the energy God gives us to face daily problems and to fulfill our many responsibilities. It is therefore a sinful waste.
Mark Twain: I’m an old man, and I’ve worried about a great many troubles. But most of them never happened.
Each day has enough trouble of its own. What does that mean? Tomorrow will have its own challenges and burdens no matter how hard you try to prevent them. When that day dawns, God will give you the strength to get through it. Live your days in order as they are given. Stay in one square at a time. Worrying doesn't rob tomorrow of its sorrow; it robs today of its strength. The only right way to prepare for tomorrow is to take care in seeking Gods kingdom today.
Hudson Taylor, missionary to China and founder of what is today known as the Overseas Missionary Fellowship, gave this excellent advice: "Let us give up our work, our plans, ourselves, our lives, our loved ones, our influence, our all, right into [God's] hand; and then, when we have given all over to Him, there will be nothing left for us to be troubled about.”
In Philippians 4:6, Paul says “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, 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.” In other words, “if you hand everything over to God in prayer, He will provide you with peace of heart and peace of mind. And He’ll take care of all the other worries in your life, because verse 19 goes on to say that “my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus.” There can be no doubt that trusting God to provide eliminates the need for worrying. Cast all your cares upon him for he cares for you. Name the things that worry you. Hand them to him. Faith - forsaking all...