Read Matthew Chapter 6 verses 24 to 34. Over these past weeks the interviewers' oft repeated question has been - "How worried are you?"
In the early part of Chapter 6 - from "The Sermon on The Mount" - Jesus has been speaking about - Giving verses 1 to 4 - Praying verses 5 to 14 - and Fasting verses 16 to 18. 'Secret' appears in each of these activities.
There is One who sees and hears. Jesus makes this so clear. God the Father sees when we mean business with Him. Those who did all this to be seen had already received their reward in full. There is One who watches and listens and notices and responds.
When we meet for worship and prayer - is this just something which only a few people do in our land today, which many consider irrelevant? God wants our heart and our love and our mind - and He wants to hear our voice.
Yes, it looks as if it could be a grim and bleak winter - but it needn't be so for you.
Jesus speaks about storing things up - and then our vision - and our service - and whom we will serve - God or money - a better word is 'possessions'.
Jesus draws contrasts - we can store up treasures here or in heaven - our vision can be clear or clouded - we can either serve God or mammon. How we decide affects the future - whether we are aware of it or not.
Jesus did not want these disciples to be spiritually bankrupt when it was all over down here - and we can apply that to ourselves. The challenge here to invest - investing money and time and ability and whatever else we have to invest.
Jesus wants His disciples to choose wisely.
It was Thomas Chalmers who started The Savings Bank movement in Glasgow for poor people to have something for when needed. Notice how Jesus says that we are not to save up for ourselves! In a sense Jesus is speaking about coveting. Are we able to give things up, or do they have a hold of us?
Verse 22 - our vision - imagery that has to do with lights and lamps has to do with our understanding.
Sin has a cataract effect - our spiritual sight goes that bit more cloudy. Jesus did not want His disciples to have a clouded vision. Where is our spiritual vision?
If there is something wrong with our spiritual sight, Jesus is able to correct us.
There are two treasures - two visions - two masters. What we focus on is important.
Verse 24 - Who has won your heart? Jesus does not want a little bit of our time or our talents - of our zeal or our thoughtfulness. He wants the lot. He came to buy the lot - to rescue and purchase everything - every part of me.
Jesus wants to bless every part of our lives - and that is why we cannot really serve God and possessions.
We can try and serve materialism - the tyrant of success - the slave master of achievement. We can serve all kinds of things - people's opinion - what others think of us. These are all possessions in a sense, and we can serve them - and Jesus says that just can't work.
It is no surprise that Jesus addresses these matters of the heart right at the beginning of His ministry. Matthew 22 verse 34 to 40 - Love the Lord your God.
This section is really all about our heart - Jesus wants us to be different on the inside - in our heart. Who is your master? What owns you? You could not have two masters then, and you cannot have two masters today.
Therefore - because of what I have already been saying - regarding giving and praying and fasting - do not worry - be different. He does not say - try not to worry or have you considered looking at life differently? No - it is a word of command - and also a word of comfort - a word to fortify and fortress.
Verse 25 - Jesus says to His disciples - "Do not worry". Jesus is not teaching His disciples not to care - nor to do nothing - but He is teaching them not to worry.
The birds have to go and find their food. Do not let your lives be dominated, ruined, or spoiled by worry - Jesus tells us why. Jesus is teaching disciples about anxiety.
Some six times, in this short passage, Jesus refers to being anxious - or worried.
Worry come from an old English word meaning to strangle or choke.
Jesus is challenging disciples about our pride - our faithlessness - the ways in which we can be so easily distracted.
This is not a nice psychological message. This is not some sweet and honey coated teaching. He is challenging our pride and faithlessness and independence.
Jesus sets before us a path - and a way to live - so that we can be fruitful disciples.
These things mentioned here are important, but they are not ultra-important.
"Therefore" - because of what I have been saying, let this follow.
Food and drink and clothing are necessary - but they are not the most important.
This all flows from which master we choose to serve.
He is comforting His disciples as He draws alongside them to strengthen them, and us - to heal the world that will be reached through His disciples.
We live among people who are so anxious, worried and pre-occupied.
The seed can grow - but thorns and thistles can also grow and choke the seed - the cares and worries and the deceitfulness of riches. Jesus did not want His disciples to be like that. That was not what the light of the world was to be like. Disciples were to be different. Matthew 13 and Matthew 5.
These things can be causes for worry and anxiety for many - but they are not to matter most in your lives. Jesus gives three reasons as to why we should not worry. Jesus provides a cure for anxiety, as He points out how valuable we are to God. Look at how important you are to your heavenly Father. God knows what you need, and He can deliver.
He feeds the birds and clothes the flowers. He looks after His pets and His garden.
Our worrying is saying - I do not really believe that God is able to look after me in these different ways. Peace and calm and poise are all involved as we accept these words of Jesus. So many people are anxious.
Look at the Cross if you want to know how much you mean to God.
He re-orders our priorities - is life not more important than food - and the body more important than clothes? We become worried about things which are not really very important. Jesus wants us to have a sense of what is truly important - His kingship - His rule - His government demonstrated.
He is so realistic. Worry does more harm than good. He seeks to establish a daily trust - give us the bread we need for the next 24 hours. You cannot do anything about tomorrow anyway.
To sum up - Jesus is teaching about - a cure for anxiety - re-ordered priorities - a realism to be established in the minds of His disciples - so do not worry.
Do not be anxious about tomorrow - do not worry about tomorrow - because that can paralyse your today.
What is preached points us to the preacher - Jesus so depended upon the Father. He knew His own worth in the eyes of God the Father.
"Do not worry about your life - what you will eat - or about your body and how you will clothe it." These words are being spoken to disciples - they are for us.
Jesus is saying to us - Follow Me and I will help you avoid all worry.
Wealth can be as much a problem to those who have a lot of money as well as those who do not have much. Those who have plenty and those who have very little - tend to worry. Jesus is saying "Don't worry - rather trust."
Life is more than food and clothing. Life is more than physical and material. Food and clothing should not be a priority concern.
There is a spiritual dimension which must not be neglected - rather, it has to be fed good food. Jesus is encouraging His disciples to be concerned about their spiritual growth and development and well-being.
Look at the ravens - they don't do a lot of work - they don't sow or reap - they accept their allotted place in the economy of Creation - and GOD feeds them.
"How much more valuable you are than birds!"
Jesus is warning disciples here about the futility of worrying. Can you do anything by worrying about it? Can you lengthen your life by worrying about it? No - rather the opposite - you will shorten your life by worrying about it.
Jesus is teaching us that worry is absurd - pointless - it will wear you down and achieve nothing. Jesus wants to deliver us - release us - and save us - from worry.
On He goes to say to us - look at the flowers - they are beautifully clothed - and yet, they are so temporary. And it is GOD Who clothes them in all their splendour.
Do you think our Heavenly Father will take more care of His garden - His animals and pets - to the neglect of His children? No. No.
Jesus teaches us that worry is simply the result of a lack of faith. Worry is a choice.
Have faith in God - be dependent upon GOD - rely upon Him - trust Him to provide.
Do not be over concerned about what you are going to eat and drink and wear.
The pagan world runs after all these things.
And if you really need something - ask DAD. Your heavenly FATHER knows that you need food and clothing! Wonderful!
Listen to Paul in Philippians Chapter 4 - Worry about nothing - Pray about everything - Thank God in all things - Keep your mind on good things - and be content.
These produce - quiet thoughts - and a heart at rest - guaranteed by God.
"Do not be afraid, for I have redeemed you.
I have called you by your name - you are Mine.
When you walk through the waters, I'll be with you,
you will never sink beneath the waves.
When the fear of loneliness is looming,
then remember, I am at your side.
"Do not be afraid, for I have redeemed you.
I have called you by your name - you are Mine."
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