♣ Do Not Be Anxious

“Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all…

But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” – Matthew 6:25-33

The Psalms sometimes speak of God’s creation and how He sustains it; He is Lord of it – everything in it belongs to Him, and every created thing is commanded to praise the name of the Lord, whose name is exalted and whose majesty is above earth and heaven. God knows His creation perfectly as well as the laws He designed and set in place to govern its existence and to bring about all He has willed before the foundation of the world.

Man is the highest in all of the world’s creation; man has been given a soul and is able to relate to God, has the image of God stamped within his DNA like no other creature on earth has. Therefore God is perfectly and intricately acquainted with man; all that he is and all that he needs to continue existing. God knows what His children need; man was made to rely on his Creator. Our existence seems insignificant when realizing that the world ran its course before we were born and will do so after our days as long as God sustains; we are here because God has willed our existence and has purposed to show us His goodness. The saints throughout the ages testify to God’s unfailing mercies, and ours will contribute as did King David’s: “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life.”

Since sin entered the world and man fell from his original glory and union with God, man has taken the course of independence; man loves to be in control and will sacrifice anything to be in control. Sin has so violated his relationship with God that he no longer is governed by God’s perspective; God altogether has become alien to man in his thinking since the fall. The union is severed until man is drawn by the mercy and grace of God alone into union with Christ through Hs atonement thus reconciling man to God.

Those of us who are in Christ still have the struggle with our fallen nature, and independence and pride can be one of our greatest conflicts. Worrying is a form of wanting to be in control of events, to have our own way, to master and conquer any hindrance that would pose a threat to our ego, our self-centeredness.

Jesus commanded us to not worry or be anxious about our life, but to reckon ourselves with the reality of God’s infinite care for us. Worrying is a form of not getting our own way and is a refusal and denial that God does indeed undertake for all of our needs. In short, our anxiety accuses God as being a liar. Let God be true and every man a liar!

It is expected of those who do not know God to worry, but for those of us who do need to heed that we are thus no different from the world: “For the Gentiles (pagans/unbelievers) seek after all these things…” As Christians we have no excuse to be full of anxiety and yet we can be so prone to it often times. The mercy and grace of God that sustains us despite our failings!

What fills our hearts – dread or confidence in His perfect care for us? No wonder Paul says, “If you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. SET your mind on things above, not on things that are on earth” (Colossians 3:1-2). ’What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ is the constant concern of unbelievers. ‘Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?’, Jesus asks. Life does not consist in these things though they help, they are only to assist in living. Michelangelo, that great Italian Renaissance artist, said, “The foot is more nobler than the shoe.” We hear it said many times that money cannot buy true love or friendship and that man’s life does not consist in the things he possesses. Some of us have the glimpse of realizing the most precious things in life lie beyond the material. In our fallenness, man has made the ‘material’ in life to replace real living. “Isn’t life more than these things?” How the young, rich ruler was so blind; possessions kept him back from experiencing abundant eternal life! “SET your minds on things above”, Paul says, “Not on things on the earth.” Why? “For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory.” We have died to the way this world thinks and what it builds its security around; we now have eternal life and are waiting for that moment when our bodies will be instantly changed into a glorious immortality – we have this treasure now in our earthen vessels; our treasure is not in material riches, in things that are going to fade away to nothing, but rather is in Him who is the Alpha and Omega, and as Peter says that we have been born again to a living hope, “…to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you” (1 Peter 1:4). Eternity is to be our focus, not the temporary and empty values of this world.

“Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?…Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?” I love the illustrations Jesus used and how they make us stop, think and consider; there is logic in what He said. God who cares for them will most certainly pay far more attention to us in what we need.

“Your heavenly Father knows that you need them all.”
“Your Father knows what you need before you ask Him.”

DO WE BELIEVE – REALLY BELIEVE – THAT GOD CARES FOR US?
Sometimes we panic in such a way as to remind God of our needs in our prayers as if somehow He’s absent-minded. Little faith resulting from little knowledge of God will not help us in our rainy days. Get to know Him!

God will provide for our needs but it may entail by-passing certain comforts for two or even three years where you live only on the basic necessities. We’re not called to luxurious living as Christians; however, if one naturally lives in luxury, it’s not wrong so long as when God says to give it all up, there will be no hesitation; and, if a neighbor is living in poverty, we are moved with compassion to do all we can to relieve them. Are we attached to our material possessions or to Christ? A.W. Tozer wrote a brilliant chapter called, ‘The Blessedness of Possessing Nothing’ in what I would say is his best book – ‘The Pursuit of God’ – has much to say to us in our attitudes towards things we own.

If God sees it fit for any one of us to live sparingly for a while, don’t dare question His judgment, but thank Him for His discipline and mercy in teaching you to rely on Him alone; if your comforts are torn away from you, it is God’s favor in causing you to seek Him and Him alone; you’ll discover – in experience – that your all is in Him, not in friends, not in material possessions, wealth or popularity and status, but in Him alone. As the apostle Paul said, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord (1 Corinthians 1:31). Where is your security – in things or in Him?

It is in the tough, trying and soul challenging times that we discover His faithfulness; it is when we are brought to extremities that we learn that He is a very present help in trouble. Why the extremities? Why the prolonged waiting – isn’t that cruel? No! He is showing you that He is the only One who saves, delivers, lifts up and exalts; He is the only One who can turn our desert into an oasis. God will exhaust all human endeavor so that none other can take the credit but Him alone and no other person can take any part whatsoever of His glory. He alone knows the ‘whys’ and ‘what fors’: it ought to be sufficient for us to know that He is eternally righteous and perfectly wise in all His judgments – the One who fails not. “All now mysterious shall be bright at last.” Sometimes the delays in answer to prayer are meant to raise our expectations; we expect too little of our God. We settle for our perspective and plead for God to answer us now before our situation gets too difficult and messy! “Is there anything too hard for Me?” says the Lord…“Is my arm too short?”

Refusing to worry and trust God is extremely difficult when mortgage payments and utility bills are due, often overdue to be paid and you have no income whatsoever due to unfortunate circumstances leading to the inevitability of financial debt. What about those situations? It’s hard to cancel out worry and anxiety when a threat is posed to losing your home to foreclosure. I hear stories of it regularly in the media due to the present economic crisis we’re all finding ourselves in – in one way or another. It may ‘seem’ at times that God is detached from our immediate pressing concerns, especially when the clock has gone beyond the eleventh hour and struck twelve! But Christ’s command to not worry still stands in the most desperate cases. I’m reminded of a verse, ‘Leave to thy God to order and provide’, from the hymn, ‘Be Still My Soul’.

This does not excuse irresponsible living; if we live beyond our means rather than rightly prioritizing what our basic needs are, we can only expect the consequences – stress and pressure. We expect God to meet our wants rather than our needs; we expect a Mercedes Benz where we only need reliable transportation; we expect an extravagant home when we only need shelter and warmth; we expect to eat out in five-star restaurants everyday when a simple meal will sustain us… which shows our priorities are contrary to the word of God. Our mentality is: Why shouldn’t God give me a Mercedes Benz; why shouldn’t He give me a home in the best neighborhood in town; why shouldn’t He lavish me with the finest five-star cuisine for every meal; and why shouldn’t I dress like a prince or princess, after all I am a son/daughter of the King?! Some of us are like spoiled kids and we treat God as if He is some kind of ‘sugar-daddy’ and then wonder why our churches stagnate and smell rotten. We need to quit and repent of the, “O bless me, me, me, me” mentality and start thinking: How can I please God; how can I bless that man who can’t afford to pay his rent; how can I assist that elderly lady with her electric bill in order to keep cool this summer; how can I provide for that young mom whose husband left her with three toddlers to raise and she’s about to become homeless and meanwhile, is rummaging for food in the neighborhood garbage bins? What can I sacrifice in order to touch someone’s life? Who can I commit to for the long-haul until that person is back on their feet again? We never know true sacrifice until we ourselves feel the pinch; sacrificial giving means that we give the best we have, not meat that has been stored at the bottom of a freezer for the past five years and you only want to get rid of it as it’s taking up space; not clothes so worn and torn that it would worsen the state of a tramp. I have known a few people give to others because they cannot be bothered to take it down to the rubbish dump, and they give themselves a pat on the back. The impoverished don’t complain, they break down in tears because they received a pair of shoes, not concerned there are cracks in the soles! I fear that many in the world who do not profess an ounce of Christianity give better and more sacrificially than so many Christians do. What is the church really portraying here?

I’m not saying that it’s wrong for Christians to own nice things; it’s wrong when a Christian lusts after them and turns a blind eye to a family around the corner who hasn’t eaten for three days!

The truth of the matter is, we were born for the glory of God; we eat to the glory of God; we are clothed to keep warm to the glory of God – everything we do is to be done with a motive to please God, not unto our selfish ends. God doesn’t clothe us so we can parade ourselves in a fashion contest, and neither does He financially provide for us to compete with the Joneses next door for a better looking yard, car, or even to clear out the QVC warehouse!

In Matthew 6:25 Jesus said, “Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing?” Is that to say that our heavenly Father does not care about food, clothing, finances and all other things we are in need of? He cares more deeply for us and all the details in our lives more than you could ever imagine. He knows ALL that we need and wants us to know that He will take care of us, but He wants us to go beyond that and experience that life is more than just satisfying our physical needs, and that life is in Him; He is the life! The chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever. He knows we need our physical needs met; He created us with an appetite to eat to survive; He created us that way. He even gave us taste buds to enjoy food, so don’t ever think for one second that God is a killjoy. He knows all the demands we’re under and all that plagues our lives to live in this world and He knows THE way to meet and provide for those demands.

Don’t you think that God who has gloriously saved us for eternity (chose us, redeemed us and will complete this work that He began within us) who were once under His wrath will care for – what in comparison are – the little things in our lives? Think about the birds being fed, the flowers He clothes… His care for us far outweighs all of that; He doesn’t miss an atom, neither does He neglect it; how can He forget us?

Matthew 6:33, “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you” can be so easily misunderstood; we need to be careful of where we put the emphasis. So many see it as operating a vending machine; if we do this – then we’ll get that; if we put God first – then we’ll get what we’re after. We have completely missed the point if that is our perspective. Jesus didn’t say that if you seek God first “then” He will provide, as if some magic formula is released. No! God sends the rain on the righteous as well as the unrighteous; God in His mercy sustains the earth and everything in it. This is known as common or general grace. Jesus was emphasizing the fact that while God will take care of our needs, our focus is to be on Him to seek how to glorify Him and what is pleasing to Him. Our concentration is our reliance upon Him and for His grace in our lives to walk worthy of His name. It takes me back to The Lord’s Prayer; we don’t rush into prayer offloading our concerns and anxieties, but first and foremost recognize who we are coming before – our Almighty God and Heavenly Father whose name we are to revere, to whom we yield and submit in worship and adoration. God is our first concern and His kingdom being established here on earth; His will and desires are our utmost priorities. These are just the preliminary steps to seeking first His kingdom and His righteousness. We are to love God with all our heart, soul and mind, to follow hard after Him, not just merely admire Him as so many do on a Sunday morning worship service but no obedience follows – “He who loves Me obeys My commands.” Obedience is the very heart of worship. We are to conform to the image of Jesus Christ, to His ways and desires over and above ours. We were created to bear and reflect His glory, which results in praise to God, our Father. God’s will is that He desires to display His glory through the Church – the body of Christ to the world, causing the lost to be reconciled unto Him, bringing in the entire elect that will usher in the second coming of Christ – the kingdom of God established on earth in full measure and to His desired end.

As the will of God is expressed through our lives individually and corporately as the body of Christ, we will look back in wonder and astonishment and realize that, indeed, God has gloriously provided for all our needs. In our refusing to be anxious, because of the assurance of God‘s care for us, our dilemmas and problems will phase into insignificance as we are liberated and constrained to labor steadfastly for His glory and honor.

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Posted on July 14, 2010, in ♣ Devotional and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. I’m enjoying your blog. This entry was very enriching.

    Jay

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