Do not worry, God will provide
[Ask the congregation for things that worry them in the world today.]
It seems clear to me: there are things in the world to worry about. Anyone who says that there are not is being naïve. *
Let’s look again at some things Jesus said
25 ‘Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? 26 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? 27 Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life? 28 ‘And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labour or spin. 29 Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendour was dressed like one of these. 30 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 — you of little faith? 31 So do not worry, saying, “What shall we eat?” or “What shall we drink?” or “What shall we wear?” 32 For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.
- What then are we to say about Jesus’ words?
- Is Jesus being naïve?
- Do worldly concerns not matter to him at all?
Or is this one of those cases where the global view that we now have makes the things that Jesus says seem a little parochial and not applicable to today’s situation? We don’t have to think for very long to realise that this isn’t the case.
Jesus, as a first century man, did not have the access to global news that we have, but he wasn’t naïve. He lived in an occupied country, where retribution following rebellion against Rome could be swift and savage. He may well have seen people crucified himself. He certainly saw the effects of crippling, debilitating disease. People who didn’t earn went hungry, and if crops failed people starved. There was plenty to worry about then.
So what was Jesus talking about; and how can this relate to our position, as individuals and as churches in today’s world?
The world belongs to God
Everything that Jesus says in this passage points us to the fact that God is ultimately in control.
It is God who gives life, who sets the birds in flight. Did you know birds are the only creatures to have feathers? (Oh I know there is some idea now that one or two dinosaurs may have had feathers.) Did you know there are at least eleven different kinds of feathers, all needed for different purposes on a bird’s body (although not all birds have all kinds)? We take it for granted that birds fly, yet what a remarkable ability that is. Moving into the Chilterns, Rosie and I are still being enthralled watching Red Kites soar and dive. God made them; and God provides for them.
Then Jesus says look at the meadow plants. They hardly last five minutes, yet the beauty of a meadow in summer can take your breath away. Who does not sigh with enjoyment each April, when our woods explode with bluebell flowers?
And look at each of us. Look around at the rest of the congregation. God’s done a good job, hasn’t He? He’s made all of us. But Jesus doesn’t stop there. He reminds us that God continues to care about the world that He has made.
This morning I woke to hear news of a pipe bomb in New Jersey, America accidentally bombing the Syrian army and bringing the current peace process into confusion, and I have a whole collection of personal decisions that that are the result things I have no control over. The world might, at times, look as if it is spinning into destruction, but God cared enough about it to send Jesus.
In Jesus, we see God’s plan for the redemption of the world. One reason for not worrying is because God’s hand is upon it. We belong to God If our scripture passage is about God’s hand upon the world, it tells us that God cares about us as individuals, and also that he cares about what is going on in our heads. Worries and anxieties can whiz round and round and make us quite incapable of actually doing anything. Have you ever seen anyone in a panic, or been in a panic yourself?
I panic when anyone in my family is hurting or in pain or in danger. When my children were small, if they hurt themselves badly, I would pretty much panic and fuss around and all my first aid training received as a Cub, Scout, Policeman, Swimming Coach, just went put the window as I would get into a flap. Put me near the edge of a cliff or on one of those rickety rope bridges with my small children, and I was glued to them, to make sure they would not fall. I remember fear and panic at the edge of a gorge, and on the top of Table Mountain, my girls probably wondering why on earth dad is gripping their hands so very tightly!
A couple went to Africa on a safari, and they learned a lesson about following the instructions of the game guide. One day the guide took them out to find a herd of elephants, but he made them promise him they would obey his rules. These were very specific rules. “First, if I say ‘Run!’ you run! Don’t pause. Don’t stop. Don’t take a picture. Don’t think you can hide. Don’t drop to your knees. You run! That’s law number one. Number two, when you run, when I say run, you follow me, the guide, exactly. Put your feet in my footprints. Follow me step by step. Don’t try to run in any other direction, because in a panic, you’ll either get lost in the bush, or, you’ll step on something you wish you hadn’t stepped on. Run when I say run and follow my steps exactly.”
Sure enough they came upon a number of elephants, and disturbed by them they started to stampede towards them. elephant herd and it stampeded. The game guide said, “Run!” and the husband was off like a shot, but the wife froze in her tracks from fear, panic. The guide screamed again, again, “Run!” She later said that at that moment, in spite of her fear, she had to move forward, had to start running, and that if she hadn’t obeyed she would have been trampled. ‘If I hadn’t followed exactly in the footsteps of the guide, I could have stepped on something nasty, or I may have run into the bush and got lost’. The said that the lesson she learned was in making the decision to obey, before she had found herself in the circumstance.
The future belongs to God
By now, you might be thinking, that’s all very well, but it doesn’t say anything about all the problems in the world. Today is harvest; but not everyone has a harvest. Those who don’t, have plenty to worry about. That’s when the last piece that Jesus says fits in. He says strive for the kingdom of God. What is the kingdom of God? It’s anywhere where God rules; so it can be in a church, or a home, or inside someone’s heart. One day, there will come a time when God is seen to rule everywhere. For now, it is up to us to be obedient to Him so that He can rule in our hearts. That’s where the not worrying part comes in. If we can stop worrying and thinking about our own concerns, and listen to Him, then we might hear what it is he wants us to do. And it is when many people start to listen to God, that the world begins to change into the kind of place that God wants it to be.
God has made the world so that there is enough in it for everyone, but not everyone has enough, because people are greedy and do not share. God says: ‘Listen; the world is mine; I made it; see how wonderful it is, in the tiniest detail. I want you to stop worrying about your own concerns and think of the needs of others; share with them; then there will be a harvest for everyone, and my kingdom will truly be seen on the earth.’
Let me end by sharing a verse of Scripture with you. It is from Ephesians 4:7.
- AND THE PEACE OF GOD,
- WHICH transcends
- ALL UNDERSTANDING.
- WILL GUARD your hearts
- AND YOUR MINDS
- IN Christ Jesus
- Philippians 4:7