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2006-09-10_Seek First_Matthew 6.25-34

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Seek First

Matthew 5:25-34   |   Shaun LePage   |   September 10, 2006

I. Introduction

A.   One of my favorite commands in the Bible comes from the lips of Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount: “Do not worry.” I think most of us see this as next to impossible—as though anyone who claims to obey this command is denying reality.

B.    A businessman ran into a friend of his—a stockbroker who had always had problems with ulcers and high blood pressure. “How’s your health?” the man asked his stockbroker friend. “Great, my ulcers are gone and I don’t have a worry in the world!” The man asked “How did that happen?” The stockbroker said, “It’s easy, I hired a professional worrier. Whenever something comes along that I need to worry about, I tell him about it and he does all of my worrying for me.” The business man couldn’t believe it. “That’s incredible. I’d be interested in something like that. How much does it cost?” The stockbroker replied, “He charges $100,000 a year.” The businessman then asked, “How in the world can you afford to pay him $100,000 year?” The stockbroker said, “I don’t know, let him worry about it.”

C.   But Jesus did not intend for us to deny reality in order to obey this command. He repeated Himself three times in 10 short verses. “Do not worry.” Is this possible? Can you obey Jesus’ command to not worry? I think Jesus knew this would be a tough one for most people. He used most of His words—nine out of 10 verses—to deal with the issue of worrying. Then, in one short verse He taught us how we can be free of worry—without denying reality.

D.   CPS: Jesus taught us to refuse an earthly perspective and pursue a heavenly perspective.

II.   Body—Matthew 6:25-34 (Go one section at a time.) This passage has two great commands: one negative and one positive. The negative comes first.

A.   “Do not worry”—Refuse an earthly perspective.

1.     (NASB95): 25 “For this reason I say to you, do not be worried about your life, as to what you will eat or what you will drink; nor for your body, as to what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?

a)    “For this reason I say to you…” What reason?

(i)   This links vs.25-34 with the previous passage—vs. 19-24. There, Jesus taught that storing up treasure in heaven is better than storing up treasure on earth. Seeing with spiritual eyes is better than seeing with physical eyes. Serving the God of heaven is better than serving the wealth of earth.

(ii) So, the natural question we would have is: “I agree that storing up treasure in heaven is better, and seeing with spiritual eyes is better, and serving the God of heaven is better, so how do I do it?” “For this reason,” Jesus gives us two commands: One negative (a put-off command) and one positive (a put-on command).

b)    “…Do not be worried…” Put off worry—do not do it! Easier said than done? Yes, but not as impossible as some of you might think. Jesus gives us some wonderful pictures here to understand how to put off worry. When we understand where worry comes from, we can begin putting it out of our life. Look first at the rest of this sentence.

c)    “…Do not be worried about your life, as to what you will eat or what you will drink; nor for your body, as to what you will put on.

(i)   First, He said, “Do not be worried about your life.” Second, He said, “Do not be worried about your body.” Two major areas of worry. We worry about our lives—the length of our lives. We worry about our bodies—the quality of our lives.

(ii) He got very basic. We are not to worry even about what we will “eat or drink” to sustain life. We are not to worry even about the clothing on our backs—what we will “put on” our bodies. This is the most basic possession affecting the quality of our lives. How well we will live? How hard will life be? That’s basic. Food, water and clothing. Jesus commanded us not to worry about basic needs.

d)    Maybe you’re thinking, “I don’t try to worry! I just do. It’s like headaches. I don’t try to get a headache—I just do. I can’t help it.” In a sense, that’s right. Worry—like a headache—just happens. But, they don’t just happen for no reason. Worry and headaches are the natural result of a certain cause. If you hit your head on something (as I have a tendency to do at a certain spot in our home), you’ll most likely get a headache. If you have clogged sinuses or some kind of physical deficiency, or lots of stress, you’ll most likely get a headache.

(i)   My wife, Beth, got an epidural when she was delivering Josiah back in 2002. The anesthesiologist made a mistake and drained out some of Beth’s spinal fluid. It was painful at the time, but the epidural soon kicked in and we thought it was all over. Josiah was born, they spent the night in the hospital and we took him home the next day—everything was fine…for a few hours. Soon after we got home, Beth was miserable—she had headaches unlike she had ever had before. If she was not flat on her back, she was in excruciating pain. Why? Because the fluid the doctor had accidentally drained was supposed to be around her brain. The loss of just a small amount of that spinal fluid caused her to have incredible headaches. She had to go back to the hospital where they did a patch of some kind and she was soon free of the headaches.

(ii) The point is, there’s always some reason why someone gets a headache. Stress, head injuries, careless doctors—there’s some reason. If we understand those reasons, we can prevent or treat headaches. If we understand why we worry, we can prevent or treat worry. Jesus gives three reasons in vs.25-32 that help us understand why we worry:

(a)  Look at the question Jesus used to finish v.25: “Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?

1.     What’s the expected answer? Yes! Life is “more than food and the body is more than clothing”! There are more important things in life. And with this question, Jesus gets at the first reason why we tend to worry: 1. We worry when we have wrong priorities. When food, drink and clothing—the stuff of earth—becomes our priority in life, we will worry. Life is more than food and the body is more than clothing!

2.     The word “more” highlights the fact that Jesus is talking about our priorities. Are food and clothing necessary? Yes, but there’s much more to life than these things. This should remind us of the last passage when He spoke of “treasures in heaven” and contrasted these with “treasures on earth.” There are much more important things for us to be concerned about than the concerns of this life. And the more stuff we have, the more worries we have. I believe we have great liberty when it comes to possession of personal property. It’s not a sin to own a nice car or a nice house or a 50” HD Plasma television if you can afford them. But with more stuff comes more worries and more distractions from what is really important. Even a 19” black and white TV can do that.

(b)  For the second reason we worry, look at vs.26-27: “Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they? 27 “And who of you by being worried can add a single hour to his life?

1.     Here, Jesus tells us 2. We worry when we have a wrong view of self.

2.     In v.26, Jesus used a wonderful illustration from nature. “Look at the birds…” He said. They don’t have farms. They don’t have barns for storing up the food they need. They live from day to day. How? “Your heavenly Father feeds them.” He takes care of the birds. What a tender, loving image this gives us of our “Heavenly Father.”

3.     Look at that question at the end of v.26: “Are you not worth much more than they?” What is the expected answer? Yes! You are worth much more than birds. Please don’t miss the significance of this. We live in a world where the only religion one can legally promote in public schools is evolution. The only state-sanctioned belief system teaches that humans are just animals. This is why we have “animal rights activism” in our time. It’s only logical—if man is simply one of the animals—to conclude that dogs, frogs and hogs are just as valuable as humans. But the Bible makes it clear that man is “much more valuable” than the animals. Man was created in the image of God and is not an animal.

4.     God—our Heavenly Father—cares much more for humans than He does for birds. Here is what Jesus was getting at: We worry when we have a low self-worth. In other words, if you begin to think you are nothing in the eyes of God. So unimportant that He could never have time for you. He’s too busy to be concerned about your needs. Too important to be bothered with providing you food, drink and clothing—you will worry. But Jesus says this is wrong. He said, “Don’t worry. The Father takes care of little birds. Surely, He will take of you who have been created in His image.”

5.     But there’s more. Look at v.27. “And who of you by being worried can add a single hour to his life?” Yes, you are created in the image of God, but don’t get all puffed up and proud. You were created in the image of God, but you are not Him! You are not God. You will die when God decides you will die. Not one hour sooner or later. You are not an animal, but you are His creation. You cannot add a single hour to your life! To worry about how long you will live is forgetting or denying the Lordship of Christ. When you think you are in charge of your life—in charge of making sure you have all you need, making sure you’re safe, making sure you’re healthy, all these things—you have a wrong idea about your self-worth and you will worry. You are attempting to do God’s job. And one thing I’ve learned about humans—we make very poor gods.

6.     Listen to Romans 12:3: “For through the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think more highly of himself than he ought to think; but to think so as to have sound judgment, as God has allotted to each a measure of faith.” Get that phrase, “think so as to have sound judgment” in your brain. It literally means to “be sober.” To not think like a drunk. A drunk either dives into the deepest depression—thinking he is worthless trash—or he thinks he thinks he can fly like Superman, sing like Sinatra or drive like Mario Andretti. Both extremes are wrong. We need to think soberly. We need to recognize our great worth as human beings—especially as children of the Heavenly Father who adopted us in Christ—and we need to recognize how humble and needy we are before our Heavenly Father.

7.     You are not pond scum, nor are you the Lord of heaven and earth. You’re more important than the birds. Don’t worry that you’re too unimportant for the Father to care about you. But you can’t add a single hour to your life. Don’t worry, thinking the responsibility for everything is on your shoulders. We worry when we have a wrong view of self.

(c)  One more reason why we worry. Look at vs.28-32. “And why are you worried about clothing? Observe how the lilies of the field grow; they do not toil nor do they spin, 29 yet I say to you that not even Solomon in all his glory clothed himself like one of these. 30 But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, will He not much more clothe you? You of little faith!31 Do not worry then, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear for clothing?’ 32 For the Gentiles eagerly seek all these things; for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things.”

1.     Great images! The “lilies and grass of the field”; “Solomon in all his glory”! Picture it—a field covered with flowers. I think of a field I saw last fall here in Kansas—covered with sunflowers. I think of the Texas highways in Spring—covered with blue bonnets for miles and miles. Wild flowers? Nope! “God clothes the grass of the field”. These flowers were not formed—as the evolutionist would say—through the principle of the survival of the fittest (natural selection) but by the creative hand of the Creator. The evolutionary faith system cannot explain the vast amount of beauty in the world.

2.     The dandelion, for example, makes a pretty little yellow flower which is beautiful to children (such as my little girls)—despite the fact that it is not received with the same enthusiasm by adults (such as myself) who know it is just a weed. It does not change the fact it is beautiful. And, it is unnecessary for this weed to be beautiful. It is self-pollinating. It does not need to be beautiful to survive (as the evolutionist would say). It is beautiful because God “clothes the grass of the field.”

3.     Dr. Gary Parker, the head of the science department at Clearwater Christian College in Florida makes this great observation: “One…special feature of creation is so obvious we often fail to notice it: its beauty. I once took my invertebrate zoology class to hear a lecture on marine life by a scientist who had just returned from a collecting trip to the Philippines. Toward the end of his lecture he described the brightly colored fish he had observed at a depth where all wavelengths of light were absorbed except for some blue. In their natural habitat, the fish could not even see their own bright colors, so what possible survival value could the genetic investment in this color have? Then he challenged the students to pose that question to their biology professors. When my students asked me, I couldn’t help thinking of Genesis 2:9, where God is described as creating plants both “pleasant to the sight and good for food.” (answersingenesis.org)

4.     Why do we worry? 3. We worry when we have little faith. Little faith in what? Little faith in God to take care of us. Little faith that God will provide for us. If God clothes the flowers, don’t you think He can—and will—make sure your basic needs (such as food, drink and clothing) are taken care of? If God cares for the flowers of earth that are so unimportant, don’t you think He can—and will—care for you who are very important to Him? Believe. Have much faith—not little faith. Look at how He finished v.32: “Your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things.” Trust Him! Exercise faith instead of worrying.

(d)  There they are: Three reasons why we worry. We worry when we have wrong priorities. We worry when we have a wrong view of self. We worry when we have little faith. When we turn these around and get right priorities, a proper view of self and much faith, we are rejecting an earthly perspective.

B.    When we come to v.33, we find the “Put On” Command: “Seek”—Pursue a heavenly perspective. Jesus was warming us up for this command in v.31 when He said, “the Gentiles eagerly seek all these things…” referring to food, drink and clothing. His point is: You’re different. Followers of Jesus Christ have right priorities. A correct understanding of themselves. Kingdom-minded disciples have much faith. Look at this great command in v.33: “But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” This is a heavenly perspective. If you can live according to this command, your life will never be the same.

1.     He said “Seek first.” That’s a matter of priority. In other words, 1. Choose higher priorities. You need food, drink and clothing. It just isn’t your “first” priority, Christian! We talked about fasting a couple weeks ago. Why fast? To show God that food is not your first priority.

a)    Sure, you have to work to earn money to buy food, water and clothing. In fact, it’s a sin to be lazy. It’s a sin to mooch off others when you’re old enough and healthy enough to work. It’s a sin to be lazy and not provide for your family. Robert Frost once wrote, “The reason worry kills more people than work is that more people worry than work.” When Jesus said in v.31, “Do not worry then, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear for clothing?’” He was not saying, “Be lazy, stretch out on the hammock and wait for food, water and clothes to drop out of the sky.”

b)    He was saying, “Choose higher priorities. Seek God’s kingdom and His righteousness first.”

2.     He said, “Seek first His kingdom and His righteousness…” That’s a matter of viewing one’s self correctly. 2. See yourself as His. Understanding that you belong to God—“you cannot serve two masters.” He is your Master. You are His slave. Your worth—your value—is found in relationship to Him. He is central. He is Lord. He is where our focus must be. See yourself in light of who God is. Yes, you have to take care of your “kingdom”—so to speak. You have to eat. You need water. You really need to wear clothing. But when we see ourselves as His, we see ourselves rightly. We will have a right view of self.

3.     He said, “Seek first His kingdom and His righteousness…” His “kingdom” is a higher reality. A world we can’t see with our eyes. His “righteousness” is a higher morality. A life whose benefits and rewards don’t always come in this life. It’s all a matter of faith. It requires—not little faith—but much faith. “His kingdom” is invisible to us. “His righteousness” does not always feel right. It contradicts our own righteousness and seems so different. So awkward. So wrong. It requires faith. Faith that the God who takes care of birds and flowers cares infinitely more about His children. He’ll make sure you have the things you need. This is what Jesus meant when He said, “…all these things will be added to you.” God cares. He’ll take care of your needs. Again, that’s faith. Faith that “seeking” this higher life is far more important and valuable than “seeking” the earthly life that looks so fun and so easy and so fulfilling. We can see that life. We can’t see Him. We can’t see the “treasures in heaven.” We can see the “treasures on earth.” Wealth and how full of life people who have it seem to be. 3. Exercise much faith. To make God’s kingdom and God’s righteousness our first priority is to “exercise” much faith.

4.     Look at v.34: “So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” How does this fit? I think it’s very important.

a)    You might be listening to all of this thinking it’s all very sweet and utopian…but it sounds so simplistic and unrealistic. The obvious question is, “Why don’t some people have food and drink and clothing?” Honestly, many times we don’t know. That’s still a matter of trusting our Heavenly Father—that even if we don’t get what we need—that He still cares. Perhaps the most caring thing He can do is take someone home to be with Him. Sometimes people don’t have what they need because they’re not putting their faith in Him and He is showing them their need for Him first and foremost. Sometimes people don’t have what they need because God’s people aren’t giving the way we should—we’re not by being generous with our time, talent and treasure.

b)    Almost as a general rule, though, Jesus tells us that if we get our priorities straight, put God’s agenda ahead of our own and trust Him, our earthly needs will be provided. But, He doesn’t say we won’t have “trouble”—this is where v.34 fits in. “Each day has enough trouble of its own.” Being free of worry does not mean we will be free of trouble. It simply means we will have a higher perspective on that trouble. In fact, knowing each day is going to have trouble should remove all the mystery. You know you’re going to have trouble—why worry about it. Just deal with it when it comes. Also, that trouble should drive us to “seek” His kingdom and righteousness—His higher reality and His higher morality. It should remind us that we’re pilgrims in this world. Strangers and aliens who cling to the promise that our Heavenly Father will someday bring us home to a place free of trouble. So, don’t worry. Seek first God’s kingdom and God’s righteousness.

III. Closing

A.   I believe v.33 is the key verse in the Sermon on the Mount. I believe it is the key to the Christian life. There is no better verse for briefly explaining how we are to be different than the world around us. How we are to use our time on this planet. It describes the life of faith that we are called to live.

B.    Dr. E. Stanley Jones—one of the greatest missionaries of the last century—once wrote, “I am inwardly fashioned for faith, not for fear. Fear is not my native land; faith is. I am so made that worry and anxiety are sand in the machinery of life; faith is the oil. I live better by faith and confidence than by fear, doubt and anxiety. In anxiety and worry, my being is gasping for breath—these are not my native air. But in faith and confidence, I breathe freely—these are my native air. A John Hopkins University doctor says, “We do not know why it is that worriers die sooner than the non-worriers, but that is a fact.” But I, who am simple of mind, think I know; We are inwardly constructed in nerve and tissue, brain cell and soul, for faith and not for fear. God made us that way. To live by worry is to live against reality.”

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