Jesus commands us his disciples to pray for his Kingdom. We are called to put his kingdom and its priorities first knowing fully well that God provides everything we will ever need. Yet despite of such assurance from, we often neglect to take hold of it and fail to live with contentment. This why Jesus intentionally circles back to this topic of anxiety to remind us about the importance to keeping our priorities straight. Part of God’s sanctifying work is so renew our minds and enable us to discern his wise and good will. This morning God reminds us in his Word of his Fatherly provisions.
Simply put, Anxiety happens we put our hopes on things other than God. It begins when we put on focus on the gifts rather than the Giver; it displaces God as the Master and Ruler of our lives. To cure anxiety, we need to remind ourselves about the futile nature of worrying. Jesus wants us to stop worrying by looking at how God takes care of his children. As believers, we put our confidence in God. Instead of worrying, we take hold of his promise to sustain and protect us not only in this life but also in the life to come. No matter what happens God will uphold us and keep us in his care.
Today, we will hear God’s Word preached to us in two sermon points: 1) The Disease of Anxiety; and 2) The Cure to Anxiety.
Let us study God’s Words in detail. But before we proceed, let us again pray…
The Disease of Anxiety
verses 19-24: “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. “The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light, but if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness! “No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.
Jesus moves to this topic about anxiety knowing well how Gentile pagans worry about their daily provisions. Anxiety like Hypocrisy is actually idolatry. It elevates created things as matter of utmost importance. It sees material provision as the all and be all of life. Anxious people tends to delegate so much importance to material possession that it becomes for them a source of security and confidence. God’s good gifts become their masters rather than goods serving them. Jesus reminds us his disciples to put on the proper perspective of life under God’s kingdom.
Jesus warns us his disciples against three factors affecting our proper view of God and ourselves. This leads to anxiousness. Dr. Ferguson listed them as: 1) Having your treasure in the wrong place; 2) Thinking about life in the wrong way; 3) Serving a master of the wrong kind.
First, we do not properly think about what is considered important in life. Jesus wisely declares, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also (verse 21)”. He understand that we are creatures made to treasure God as our ultimate source of joy and happiness. Yet because of sin and its corruptions, we do not properly desire him. Instead, we seek our security from other things aside from God. Because of it, we tend to foolishly desire for things that will not satisfy and instead of receiving rest and contentment from it, we become more insecure and dissatisfied. An idolatrous heart treasures thing that expire (moth and rust destroy) and are taken away (thieves break and steal). This is why Jesus commands us to properly put importance on God and His kingdom because it is the only source of lasting happiness; it does expire nor taken away. We become anxious because we run after temporal happiness.
Second, we do not see life as it matters to God. As a result of not properly desiring lasting happiness that comes from God, we tend to see life from a temporary perspective. We see life as a way to fuel our insecurities instead of seeking our contentment in God. Jesus uses the illustration of “the eye as the lamp of the body (verse 22)”. It is highly unusual metaphor for modern hearers but the eye means simply the organ we use to filter everything that comes in our body. It is the part that greatly affects the whole therefore we need to carefully see how we perceive life. According to Jesus, the eye can either give light or darkness. It means when we see life in the proper light we can perceive it well. We become anxious because we see life outside of God. Our temporal perspective clouds our minds and hearts. We cannot see beyond ourselves so we worry and become anxious.
Third, we do not consider God as our master. Jesus declares “You cannot serve God and money (verse 24)”. He states it as a matter of fact. God made us to worship him and him only and because of sin we tend to include in our worship things other than God. This is the classic definition of idolatry. Like Gentile pagans, we are used to serving idols and not the one True God. Unlike the Jews who received covenant revelation from God, those who converted to Christianity lived their lives prior to conversion in worry and anxiousness because we have been serving the wrong kind of master. We have become used to serving the things created rather than the Creator. We need to remind ourselves how God is the one serving our needs in order for us to properly serve him as our master.
Anxiety is a mind-set we need to put off. As Christians, we need to remind ourselves of our tendency to always doubt and worry. In order to do so, we need to put on the mind of Christ.
The Cure to Anxiety
verse 25-34: “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. “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.
The cure to anxiety is no to worry. It sounds simple but of course, it often hard to apply. Jesus mentions it three times in this section. In verses 25, 31, 34, Jesus states “do not be anxious” and explains the proper mindset of properly viewing our lives under the God’s kingdom. Dr. Ferguson again listed four ways: 1) Look at the whole of life; 2) Look at the nature of life; 3) Look at the Lord’s generosity; 4) Seek first the kingdom of God.
First, we are called to look at our lives from the eternal perspective of God and his kingdom. Jesus commands us to see life in its proper perspective. He wants us to see God as our Father who provides our every need. Yes we need to food and protection but from an eternal perspective, these things while important will never be as important than God himself who himself provides for our every need. We need to forget that we are only in the receiving end of thing and never the producing kind. God made us for himself. We were created for the purpose of worshiping him and for this end, he provides the means. He alone sustains us. The moment we forget this important perspective we tend to forget our place in this world. We act as if we are the ends and God is the means; We fashion God after our own image. We make him an idol rather than the one True God. Jesus reminds us, “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?” The answer to this obvious rhetorical question is no. God values his creation and as agent of his kingdom, we are valuable in his sight.
Second, we are called to understand the futility of worrying. It does not lead to anything productive. Instead of getting busy with thing which we cannot do anything about, we are called to trust God’s goodness and wisdom. Of course, this does not mean we live our lives recklessly and tolerate laziness. Anxiety is produced by pride in our plans and capabilities. With a highly developed sense of self-importance, we tend to think we can solve our own problems by simply controlling and anticipating every situation and circumstances. Yes there is a place for thinking ahead and planning properly our resources but again, our tendency to put our confidence in them is the problem. As reformed Christians, we put value in our doctrine of God’s sovereignty and providence. But only when we truly apply them in areas petitioning for our needs and provision we can understand ourselves if we truly believe them. Jesus asks us this question, “And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? (verse 27).” The answer again to his rhetorical question is we can’t. It is futile to think we can do a better job planning and managing our own affairs instead of God who is our creator and sustainer.
Third, we are called to recognize the generosity of God’s grace. Our eternal needs are more important than our temporal needs. The logic is simple and Jesus uses an argument known as “from lesser to greater”. God redeems us from our sin and misery. He did so out of sheer grace and none of it we deserve. God bestowed to us the greater blessing of salvation and eternal life. If God provided us more than we will ever deserve, then surely he will sustain us and provide even for our temporal needs. Since God in his wisdom and care led us to conversion to faith and repentance all coming from good providence, how much more can we expect from God with regard to our material needs. Jesus commands us to pray for both our physical and spiritual needs because God faithfully provides both of them. He reminds us, “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 (verses 28-31).” Jesus encourages us to recognize how God lavishly bestows to us his grace so let us trust that he will provide our every need.
Finally, we are called to properly order our lives with God and His kingdom as its first priority. To seek God and his righteousness means to pray and live for God’s name, kingdom, and will. Jesus calls us to live our lives from the eternal perspective but not to the neglect of our physical needs. The conjunction “and” is used to connote a continuing relationship. It is not a contrast or comparison. Taken as whole Jesus says, “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you (verse 33).” Jesus commands the first “seek first God and his kingdom” and he promises the second “all your needs are taken cared of”. The exhortation is grounded on a promise. And with everything Jesus explained from this section, God enables us to do the first (seek God) and he also guarantees the second (provision to our needs). God cures of our anxiety by sanctifying us with his grace.
ZCRC(Imus), Jesus concludes, “Therefore, do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble (Matthew 6:34).” He commands us to seek God and his kingdom first and exhorts us to trust his provisions. So let us hear God’s word and believe them for the one who speaks is good, wise, and true. May the Lord continue to bless us with presence. Amen.
Reuel Dawal is the Minister of the Word and Sacraments at ZCRC. He was an intern prior to being ordained and installed as the church's new pastor. He is currently finishing his Biblical and Theological Studies at the Miami International Seminary (MINTS) online. He and his wife Yeng are married since 2017 and lives in Imus, Cavite.