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One of my all time favorite foods is Hot and Sour soup. It’s a Chinese dish. I first discovered it when I lived in Boston. Now anytime we go out for Chinese food I try out the Hot and Sour soup to see how it compares. There are different styles and ways of making it and some are better than others.

Well, recently Marie and I were up in Carlisle and we decided to go out for lunch at a Thai restaurant. With my meal I received a bowl of Tom Yum soup. I had never even heard of it before. I wasn’t expecting much. But it was amazing! I was so impressed. It has a kind of citrus and ginger flavor to it.

I told my wife all about it and she tried it when we were out in Pittsburgh a few weeks back and she liked it as well. I remember saying, “Where has this been all my life? Why have I lived this long without knowing about this soup?”

This morning I can tell you all about how good Hot and Sour soup is, or how good Tom Yum soup is, and you can hear others talk about it as well. But here’s the truth: You will never know for yourself, until you try it. You have to taste it, and then you will see, I believe, that it is good.

In our Scripture for this morning, we hear the Psalmist talking about God in similar terms. Psalm 34:8 says, “O taste and see that the Lord is good.” Psalm 34 is attributed to David. And for sure David knew a lot about the Lord and his goodness. And here he is telling us from his own experience that the Lord is good. He’s saying, “I know. This is my testimony.”

But he us also inviting us to find this out for ourselves – “Taste and see.” He’s saying, “Experience the Lord for yourself and then you will know that he is good.”

What I want us to do this morning is look at three examples from David’s early life, of God’s goodness to him – so that we can hear and clearly understand his testimony to us. We begin with one of the most familiar of all Bible stories –

David and Goliath – 1 Samuel 17

David was just a young man and no one even knew who he was at the time. Goliath was a famous Philistine warrior. And he was a giant – nine feet, nine inches tall. And he was well armed:

  • He had a bronze helmet
  • He wore armor that weighed 125 pounds
  • He had additional bronze armor on his legs
  • He had a thick bronze javelin with an iron spear tip alone that weighed 15 pounds
  • He had a large sword
  • He had a shield bearer with him

He challenged anyone in Israel to come and fight him. And he did this for 40 days. And out of fear, no one would fight Goliath. And so he taunted the Israelites and the Lord God.

But David was not afraid. He said, “The Lord . . . will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine” – 17:37.

As David came out to face him, with a shepherd’s staff and a sling Goliath cursed him and insulted him. But David said, “You come to me with a sword and with a spear and with a javelin, but I come to you in the name of the Lord of hosts . . .” – 17:45.

Even though Goliath was older, bigger, had armor and more and better weapons – God was good to David. God saved David’s life and gave him the victory. Without a sword, but with only a sling and a stone.

Next comes the story of –

Saul’s rejection and persecution of David – 1 Samuel 18-20

After killing Goliath, David was famous. He became a part of Saul’s army, a leader and eventually Saul’s son in law. And we are told that David was successful in everything he did – 18:5; 14. And precisely because of this Saul became jealous. He was even afraid David might take his throne. He became paranoid – 18:6-9.

And in his paranoia, Saul determined to kill David. He made a number of attempts on his life:

  • He threw a spear at him and tried to pin him to the wall – 18:11
  • He sent him on a mission designed to kill him – 18:25
  • He threw another spear at him – 19:10
  • He laid a trap for him at his home – 19:11-17
  • He tried to catch him in the city of Naioth when he was with the prophet Samuel – 19:18-34

Saul wanted David dead.

In all this, David was falsely accused, even though he had been faithful to Saul in every way. He was rejected; his own father in law now hated him. He was made an outcast. He had to leave his wife and home and run for his life. And he was in constant danger. The most powerful man in the land wanted him dead. And he had spies and servants everywhere. As David said at one point, “there is but a step between me and death” – 20:3.

But as we learn in the story God watched over and delivered David from all of this. God spared him and saved him. God was very good to him in each of these instances.

And then for a final story, we have the very interesting episode of –

David and king Achish – 1 Samuel 21:10-15

This is actually the story that tradition connects with Psalm 34, our Scripture today.

David, trying to escape Saul’s grasp, fled to Achish, king of the Philistine city of Gath. He must have thought that this would be the one place where Saul could never get him, in the city of his arch enemy.

But then Achish’s servants told him who he was. “Hey, this is David. You know, the one about whom it is sung, ‘Saul has struck down his thousands, and David his ten thousands’?’ that is, ten thousands of Philistines. Here David is, the most famous killer of Philistines ever, looking for refuge from Philistines. And in the background it has to be remembered that Goliath was from this city of Gath.

When David heard this talk between Achish and his servants he became very afraid. He must have thought, “Wow, this was a big mistake! What was I thinking?” and, “How in the world am I going to get out of here? And his solution is certainly out of the ordinary. It says, “So right there in front of everyone, David pretended to be insane. He acted confused and scratched up the doors of the town gate, while drooling in his beard.” – 21:13 (CEV).

He put on quite a show! Achish was like, “I don’t need any more madmen in my kingdom. Don’t I have enough already?” And so he sent him away. He could have easily taken advantage of David being there, whether crazy or not, and killed an enemy. But somehow God used this unorthodox response of David to save him, keeping Achish from seeing the opportunity that was before him and rescuing David from a bad decision.

———————

Well, we could go on and on with stories of the Lord being good to David. But this is enough to make clear that David knew from personal experience that “the Lord is good.” God was kind to him. God took care of him. And God provided for him. Even in the midst of many troubles.

And what David is doing in Psalm 34:8 is inviting us to discover this as well – “Taste and see.” Find out for yourself. Don’t just listen to others.

Wherever you are at today, whether you don’t know anything about the Lord, or have heard things here and there – “Taste and see that the Lord is good.” Discover the truth and the reality of God’s goodness for yourself. If like David, you are facing an impossible situation – look to God for help. If you are afraid or have been rejected or have made bad decisions,  like David – ask God to help you. Enter into a relationship with God. Seek to walk in God’s ways and then receive of his care, his love and his provision, like David did.

William Higgins

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Fear or Faith?

Today I want us to think about fear and faith. Now usually we would say that the real enemy of faith is doubt, right? And maybe that’s correct, if we are talking about what goes on in our heads.

But, in terms of our hearts, I believe the real enemy of faith is fear. And this is our focus today. And what I want to say is that when it comes to being faithful to God, we have to choose between these two things.

Fear

– is an emotional response caused by a sense of impending threat or danger. Can you remember a time when you were truly afraid?

I remember almost drowning as a kid. I remember one night hearing what I thought was a voice in an old abandoned barn, which literally made the hair on the back of my neck stand up. I also remember being so afraid before giving a sermon in college, that my legs were shaking. I was sitting in front of the congregation and I had to put my hands on my legs to make them stop.

Fear is a powerful force. In Psalm 55 David describes his fear concerning his enemies’ plots against him: “My heart is in anguish within me; the terrors of death have fallen upon me. Fear and trembling come upon me, and horror overwhelms me.” – Psalm 55:4-5. It affects every part of him. In his heart he feels anguish, terror, fear and horror. And his body is trembling. Fear is a powerful force.

And there are lots of things to be afraid of in the world today. You just have to listen to the news. And as they say, ‘its not paranoia when someone is actually trying to get you.’ Our fears are not all misplaced. There is much evil and suffering in the world.

The question is how will we respond to these dangers: with fear or with faith in God?

In Scripture we see that –

Jesus confronts our fears

And he does so because they keep us from doing God’s will. A part of fear is that it causes us to seek to escape from or avoid what we are afraid of. And so if we don’t trust God and give way to fear we will avoid doing God’s will in our lives – at least those things that God wants us to do which cause us fear. Fear will cause us not to do God’s will. We end up making our own choices to soothe our fears.

Here are a couple of examples of Jesus confronting our fears:

Fear of lack. We often fear that we will not have enough to provide for our material needs. And this leads us to do wrong things like gear our lives toward seeking material things and putting our faith in our stockpile of material things, to take care of us.

But Jesus said, “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” – Matthew 6:25. Instead of fear about your finances, beyond whatever practical steps you need to take, at the core, you must trust in God’s provision.

And then there is the fear of death. This is perhaps the ultimate fear. We saw recently how Peter’s fear of death led him to make wrong choices. He denied he knew Jesus – to save his skin.

Jesus tells us, “Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. . .” – Matthew 10:28, talking about persecutors. Instead of fearing for your life, you need to trust that God is watching over you and your life is in his hands.

There are many other fears we have:

  • fear of giving our lives over completely into Gods hands
  • fear of following a call to ministry
  • fear of stepping out of your comfort zone to serve God
  • fear of standing up for what is right before your peers
  • fear of witnessing to others about your faith in Jesus

The list could go on and on.

So let’s look now at –

How to overcome fear and trust God

1. You need to recognize the futility of your fear. It doesn’t actually help you. Jesus said, “And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?” – Matthew 6:27. And then he goes on to say, “If then you are not able to do as small a thing as that, (add an hour to your life) why are you anxious about the rest?” – Luke 12:26.

Fear as a response isn’t constructive. It doesn’t get us anywhere. In fact, it keeps us from being able to respond to the very real problems that face us.

2. Choose to trust in God. In our flesh we are weak and insecure. So, we will feel fear. But we can choose to trust in God nevertheless. What is important is not what we fell, but what we choose to do.

And God is worthy of our trust. After Jesus told us not to be afraid of death – he said, “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows.” – Matthew 10:29-31.

God loves us and watches over us.  Yes, we will go through hard times and we will experience fear. But we can choose trust in God anyway, because he will bring us through it all.

3. Fight your fear. This is a matter of spiritual warfare. Satan will tell you to fear, so that you don’t do God’s will. And so you must tell him to leave in the name of Jesus. And as I said, the flesh will cause you to fear. And so you must receive strength from the Spirit to do God’s will.

We have to rely on the authority of our Lord Jesus and the power of the Spirit to fight off our fears.

4. Nourish your faith in God. Jude 1:20 says, “But you, beloved, build yourselves up in your most holy faith.” There are things we can do to strengthen our faith:

  • Read and meditate on Scriptures that speak of God’s faithfulness
  • Remember past answers to prayer where God has come through for you
  • Keep your relationship with God strong through prayer and worship
  • Fellowship with other believers who can support and encourage you.

In all these ways we build up our faith in God, and thus overcome our fears.

And when we choose faith over fear –

We are free to serve God

We all remember the example of the disciples. When Jesus was arrested and killed they fled and hid in a room. John 20:19 says – “the doors . . . [were] locked where the disciples were for fear of the Jews.” They thought they may be caught and killed like Jesus was.

But later, empowered by the Spirit, they were courageous to stand up for Jesus. Acts 4:13 tells us that the Jewish leaders “saw the boldness of Peter and John” as they preached the gospel.

They chose faith in God over fear and were transformed. And we can do this too. We don’t have to hold back or waiver or cower in the corner. We can choose faith and be bold to do God’s will.

Finally, when we choose faith over fear –

We can have peace in our lives

– even in troubled times. I want to end with three Scriptures that speak to this:

Psalm 23:4 – “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.” He is going through the “valley of the shadow of death” but he still is at peace because he knows God is watching over him.

John 14:27 – “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.” We will have troubles in the world, but Jesus gives us a peace that allows us not to be troubled in our hearts.

Philippians 4:6-7 – “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. (That is, give it all into God’s hands). And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Instead of fear, we can have peace knowing that God will take care of our needs.

William Higgins

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I want to share with you a short devotional this morning. It’s really an invitation to prayer, and we will have time of prayer afterwards. The title, comes from Psalm 55:22, as we will see. We can all become burdened by . . .

The troubles of life

In contrast to some teachers today, Scripture is very honest in talking about life. It is not all rosy, easy and comfortable. And so we shouldn’t expect this, or be surprised when life isn’t all painless. Scripture teaches us that we will experience lots of hardships.

Psalm 90:9-10 says, “Our years come to an end like a sigh. The days of our life are seventy years; or perhaps eighty, if we are strong; even then their span is only toil and trouble.”

From the New Testament, Jesus tells us in Matthew 6:34 that “each day’s trouble is enough for that day.” He’s talking about taking one day at a time, but he is also saying that each day has trouble in it.

These scriptures are talking about troubles like:

  • health problems, the pains and weaknesses of our bodies
  • relationship difficulties
  • tragedies, including the death of loved ones
  • family difficulties, tensions and brokenness
  • and job stresses, which our current situation has made worse for some.

Any one or more of these can cause us to be burdened, weighed down, weary and weak.

But we are not only burdened with our own troubles, we also feel the weight of the burdens of other. And this is right and good, as Paul says in Galatians 6:2, “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ”

Jesus taught us to love our neighbor as our self, which is what Paul means by “the law of Christ.” And a part of what this means is helping others, standing with them when they are overwhelmed by burdens to help lighten the load.

But as we “bear one another’s burdens,” we do feel the weight of need of those that we love and seek to help.

So, when we are burdened with our own needs and the needs of others, we need to remember that . . .

God loves us

 . . . with an incomprehensible love. We know this because God gave us his Son.

As Paul says in Romans 8:32, “He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?”

If he gave us his most precious Son, how much more will God give us of his love and care as we walk through life’s hardships? God loves us and will take care of us.

Another thing to remember when we are burdened is that . . .

God is able to help us

We sometimes become overwhelmed by our troubles. We feel weak and unable to do anything. And often we are. But God is not helpless.

Jeremiah 32:17 says, “Lord, it is you who made the heavens and the earth by your great power and by your outstretched arm. Nothing is too hard for you!”

 Our God is the God who created the world! If God can create the heavens and the earth, how much more can God act in our situations to help us.

As our verse says, God has “great power” and “nothing is too difficult” for God. God is not overwhelmed. God is able to help us.

Finally, when we are burdened, we need to remember . .

God’s promises to us

Promises to help us in our hardships and difficult situations. These remind us that God is able and willing to help us and we need to keep them before us so that they sink into our hearts and mind. Here is one. 

Isaiah 43:1-3 says, “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name; you are mine. When you pass through the waters I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you . . . For I am the Lord, your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.”

We had a baptism service last week – a picture of passing through the waters. But we continue to pass through the waters in our Christian lives. We go through deep waters, times of testing and trials. Times of chaos that can cause us to despair.

But this promise teaches us that God is with us in these baptisms of suffering. And so we will not be swept away. But God will bring us through the deep waters. 

This is a beautiful promise that God will bring us up on the other shore of the deep waters and give us new life, a new hope and a future.

————————–

And so this morning, as you think of your burdens, as you think of the burdens that you are carrying for others, as you feel weighed down and weary, I want to invite you to come forward to pray and offer up your burdens to the Lord.

As Psalm 55:22 says, “Cast your burden on the Lord, and he will sustain you.” Pray to receive of God’s presence, love and help; for God’s sustaining mercy.

If you are not weighed down –  give thanks! But would you also pray for those that come forward? And would you pray for the list of needs in your bulletin as well as other needs in our church and in the world? Whether you come forward or whether you stay where you are, let us all now be in prayer. William Higgins

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Trust in the Lord with all your heart

I want us to look at “Trusting in the Lord with all our heart” this morning. We all have trying and difficult times that we go through. And some of us are going through them right now, whether known to others or not.

And in our times of testing and weakness, we need to be reminded to trust in the Lord.

I want us really just to soak in the Scriptures on this topic; to immerse ourselves in them this morning to help us and encourage us wherever we are at.

And so we will look at numerous texts from the Old Testament on this. I encourage you to let the Word work its way into your minds and then down into your hearts so that it can transform you; your outlook and your actions. And also strengthen you to carry on.

We begin with . . .

The meaning of trust

This comes from the words that are used in our verses that we will look at in a moment:

  • The word for trust used in most of these verses, means – “To trust in, rely on, or put your confidence in someone or something.”
  • Another word for trust in our verses means – “To take refuge in.”

Putting all this together into a definition: Trust means that you rely on God’s character and power to take care of you; that you look to God to care for your needs – your salvation, your help and guidance.

It’s definitely not just a feeling. It’s a choice that shows up in how you respond; how you act in concrete situations of distress and need.

Now lets look at how . . .

We can trust God in any situation 

First of all, when we are fearful of danger. In Psalm 56:3-4 David is dealing with the fear of what the Philistines, his mortal enemies, might do to him. He says, “When I am afraid, I put my trust in you. In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I shall not be afraid. What can flesh do to me?”

Psalm 91:1-4 says, “He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say to the Lord, ‘My refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.’ For he will deliver you from the snare of the fowler and from the deadly pestilence. He will cover you with his pinions, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness is a shield and buckler.” In the midst of the fear of snares, and deadly pestilence we are to trust in God to take care of us.

We can also trust God when we are oppressed; that is, when we are suffering under those who do us wrong; who mistreat us. Psalm 9:9-10 says, “The Lord is a stronghold for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble. And those who know your name put their trust in you, for you, O Lord, have not forsaken those who seek you.”

Psalm 31:14-15 says, “But I trust in you, O Lord; I say, ‘You are my God.’ My times are in your hand; rescue me from the hand of my enemies and from my persecutors!” As the psalmist says, “my times are in your hands.” Our very lives are in God’s hands and so we must entrust God with our lives in these situations of trial.

We can also trust God when we need vindication; when we have been wronged and need God to intervene and make things right; to set things straight.

Psalm 37:3-5 is written about those  in Israel who are oppressed by the powerful and taken advantage of. It says, “Trust in the Lord, and do good; dwell in the land and befriend faithfulness. Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him, and he will act.” What is the desire of the heart of the oppressed? Deliverance and justice. The message here is – trust in God, and he will act for you.

We can also trust in God when we are confused; when we don’t know the right way to go. Isaiah 50:10 says, “If you are walking in darkness, without a ray of light, trust in the Lord and rely on your God.”

The familiar and beloved Proverbs 3:5-6 says, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.” God will show us the way.
 God will guide us and help us when we don’t know what to do; when everything is all darkness. As Proverbs says, when we trust in God, “he will make our paths straight.” He will show us the way.

Scripture also teaches us . . .

What we should not trust in

These are God “substitutes;” what we are tempted to rely on in our difficult situations instead of God. Or perhaps, when we don’t fully trust in God. We want God, but also a little bit more; something else to help us besides just God. We’re not sure God is enough so we need some backup, as it were. Here are five examples:

1) Our own understanding. This is our own human knowledge and wisdom. Proverbs 3:5 says, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding.” Proverbs 28:26 says, “Those who trust in their own wits are fools.”

God’s ways are beyond us. They are counterintuitive. They are upside down from our point of view. And so we can’t always trust our own thinking. We have to follow God’s way.

2) We are also not to trust in powerful People. Jeremiah 17:5 says, “This is what the Lord says: “Cursed are those who put their trust in mere humans, who rely on human strength and turn their hearts away from the Lord.”

Psalm 118:8-9 says, “It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in man. It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in princes.”

3) We are also not to trust in wealth. Psalm 62:10 says, “If riches increase, set not your heart on them.” This is always tempting for us. We look to our wealth to provide for us and give us security. But God is our trust.

4) We must also not trust in military power. This is the power of the flesh, of human force and violence. Psalm 44:6 says, “For not in my bow do I trust, nor can my sword save me.” Psalm 20:7 says, “Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God.” God is the source of our safety and protection.

5) We are also not to trust in mere religious institutions. In Jeremiah 7:4, the prophet said to those who thought that God would not judge them simply because the Temple was in their city, Jerusalem. He said, “Do not trust in these deceptive words: ‘This is the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord.’”

Instead of listening to God and obeying, they trusted in a building – to their own destruction.

Well, if these God substitutes – our wisdom, powerful people, wealth, the military, religious institutions, if these are things we should not trust in because they won’t come through for us. Let’s look now at . . .

Why we can trust in the Lord

First of all, because the Lord is able to help us. Isaiah 26:4 says, “Trust in the Lord forever, for the Lord God is an everlasting rock.” Psalm 62:8 along these same lines says, “Trust in him at all times, O people; pour out your heart before him; God is a refuge for us.”

God is solid as a rock – an everlasting rock, and he can give us refuge in any circumstance.

And not only is God able, God is faithful to help us. Psalm 9:10 says, “And those who know your name put their trust in you, for you, O Lord, have not forsaken those who seek you.” 

Psalm 22:4-5, taking a historical perspective says, “In you our fathers trusted; they trusted, and you delivered them. To you they cried and were rescued; in you they trusted and were not put to shame.”

God doesn’t change. God will not forsake us when we trust in him. God comes through for us to help us. God will deliver us, or God will go through the difficulty with us and bring us out on the other side victorious.

Lets end with some . . .

Promises for those who trust in God

  • Psalm 32:10 says, “Many are the sorrows of the wicked, but steadfast love surrounds the one who trusts in the Lord.”
  • Proverbs 29:25 says, “The fear of others lays a snare, but one who trusts in the Lord is secure.”
  • Psalm 125:1 says, “Those who trust in the Lord are like Mount Zion, which cannot be moved, but abides forever.” We are stable and strong with the Lord’s strength.
  • Jeremiah 17:7-8 says, “Blessed are those who trust in the Lord and have made the Lord their hope and confidence. They are like trees planted along a riverbank, with roots that reach deep into the water. Such trees are not bothered by the heat or worried by long months of drought. Their leaves stay green, and they never stop producing fruit.” We are rooted and nourished and bring forth fruit even in hard times.
  • Isaiah 26:3 – “You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in you, all whose thoughts are fixed on you!” God gives us of his peace in the midst of it all.

So, wherever you are at today, just as the Scriptures say – give yourself fully into God’s hands and trust in the Lord to deliver you, to take care of you, and to provide for you. He is faithful and he will surely do it.

William Higgins

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I want to share with you this morning about trusting God with our economic lives; with our concerns to provide for our needs, and the needs of our families.

There’s a lot of fear in the air these days regarding the economy. And things have taken a turn for the worse, as we see constantly in the news and perhaps you have seen in your own situations.

Jesus has a word to say to believers in the midst of all this. And this comes from Matthew 6:25-34. Below you can see the text and how it is outlined with its literary structure: 

A. Do not be anxious: “[25] Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life,
food: what you will eat or what you will drink,
clothing: nor about your body, what you will put on.
The more important: Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?

B. The birds: food
The example:
[26] Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them.
Argument from lesser to greater: Are you not of more value than they?

C. The futility of anxiety: [27] And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?

B. The lilies: clothing
The example: [28] And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, [29] yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.
Argument from lesser to greater: [30] 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?

 A. Do not be anxious: [31] Therefore do not be anxious, saying,
food: ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’
clothing: or ‘What shall we wear?’
The more important: [32] For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. [33] But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. [34] “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble. 

 Jesus’ focus in this passage is to call us to give up our anxiety and trust in God. We begin, then, with . . .

The problem of being anxious for tomorrow

Lets look at how this works. It starts with the fact that life isn’t easy. As Jesus says in v. 34, “Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.” Trouble refers to difficulties and misfortune. And given the context, these troubles certainly include providing for our material needs.

So Jesus is not naïve in his call to give up anxiety. The problem is real. Each day truly does have sufficient enough trouble in it.

Well, what happens is that all this trouble creates fear in us, which is the essential problem Jesus is addressing here:

  • the word “anxious” means fearful concern.
  • the admonition, “do not be anxious” occurs 3 times
  • the word itself occurs 5 times
  • specifically in v. 34, the focus in on anxiety over tomorrow

Jesus focuses on such basics as food and clothing, but there are more things that we fret about: housing, providing for children, having enough to care for our health needs, retirement and more.

The bigger point of 6:19-34 is that given these troubles & our fears our natural response is to store up lots of resources to calm our fears. Jesus refers to this in Matthew 6:19 when he talks about laying up “treasures on earth . . ..”

We want control over the future, to try to ease our fears. And the way we do this is by laying up resources for ourselves for the future.

If we don’t have enough to lay up, we are fearful. And even if we do have enough to lay up, we fear that it will be taken away somehow. So, we are fearful either way!

The result is that this seeking after and storing up of resources becomes the focus of our lives. Jesus says in Matthew 6:32, “For the Gentiles seek after all these things.” Jesus is saying that they are anxious for tomorrow and make protecting against future troubles the focus of their lives – storing up resources, or striving hard to do so.

What’s wrong with this?

This is, after all, just the normal way the world works. Well, again, if we look at the larger picture of Matthew 6:19-34 it is teaching us about how we view and use our money. So when we look at v. 24, (which comes right before our passage) what’s wrong with storing up treasures on earth is that . . .

1) We are trusting in another god to care for our needs. Jesus says in this verse, “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.”

When we store up resources to protect us against the future what we are doing is trusting in this treasure to be our god. This is idolatry. This is hatred of God. This is a breaking of the greatest commandment.

The second reason storing up treasures against the future is wrong is that it means . . .
2) We stop being generous with the needy. We have to hold onto our resources to soothe our fears over tomorrow.

This again comes from the larger context of Matthew 6 in vs. 19-20. “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth . . .  but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven . . ..” This last phrase is a way of talking about giving alms to help the needy.

Jesus is saying, don’t let fear over tomorrow stop you from giving to the needy. This is to hate our neighbor. This is a breaking of the second greatest commandment.

Now all of this raises some issues and so let me make . . .

Two clarifications

1) Jesus isn’t forbidding all storing up, but keeping above what we need against tomorrow. Turn with me to Luke 12:16-21, a passage that in Luke is connected to the teaching of not being anxious.

“And Jesus told them a parable, saying, ‘The land of a rich man produced plentifully, and he thought to himself, ‘What shall I do, for I have nowhere to store my crops?’ And he said, ‘I will do this: I will tear down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I will say to my soul, Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.’ But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’ So is the one who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God.”

The farmer isn’t condemned for having the first barns with crops stored up for his legitimate needs; feeding his family for the year. He is condemned for building bigger barns to keep the excess abundance for himself – vs. 18-19.

So Jesus’ teaching is, don’t store up your excess, beyond what you need, out of fear for tomorrow.

Now, this raises lots of questions, of course, with regard to standard of living: “What do we really need?” and “What is excess?” In our culture, to function, we do need more than just food and clothing, but we certainly need much less than what most Americans think. And we do need to learn to set aside self-indulgence and live more simply than we do.

2) Anxiety for tomorrow is different than planning and preparing for tomorrow. You might get the wrong impression from Matthew 6 that we should not even think or plan for tomorrow.

  • The KJV translation for “do not be anxious” is “take no thought for”
  • The birds don’t “sow or reap or gather into barns” and the lilies “neither toil nor spin”

But again in Luke 12, the farmer is not condemned for planning and preparing – for planting, watering, working ahead in the year so that he would have something for when things don’t grow.

No, this is not a condemnation of all storing up or thought for tomorrow. The contrast of this passage is not between: anxiety that leads to thinking ahead, working and storing up what you truly need – verses – faith which leads you to do nothing for tomorrow.

The real contrast is between: anxiety that causes you to focus on, trust in and hoard your resources – verses – faith that causes you to focus on and trust in God, and to be generous with others.

Finally, lets look at . . .

Why we should give up our fear and trust God

1. Because life is about more than our material needs. This comes from the two A sections in our outline.

Jesus says in the first A section (v. 25), “Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?” In other words, even if we are ‘dirt poor,’ with only have food and clothing, we still have our life and can have joy in serving God. (Remember, Jesus was dirt poor).

And also, from the second A section, Jesus teaches us that life is not about seeking after material things, but about seeking the kingdom of God and his righteousness (v. 33). We can’t let our fear lead us to get focused on what is not important. What is important is God. And we can have God without material possessions.

2. Because our anxiety doesn’t solve anything. This comes from the center point of the outline, letter C.  Jesus says in v. 27, “And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?” In the parallel passage in Luke 12:26 he adds a second question, “If then you are not able to do as small a thing as that, why are you anxious about the rest?” If our fear can’t add a single hour, how can it help us with providing for our material needs?

Our fear and worrying about tomorrow is futile. It doesn’t actually help us.

3. Because God will provide for our needs. This comes from the two B sections:

  • God provides food to the birds, and we are more valuable than birds – v. 26
  • God clothes the lilies, and we are more valuable than grass – vs. 28-30

As Jesus says, “Your heavenly Father knows that you need” material provisions – v. 32. And so we should not be those of “little faith” – v. 30.

This is how we break free from our fear, and all the problems it leads to. We break free of fear by choosing to trust in God.

Let’s end with God’s promise to us in v. 33 –

  • “Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness . . ..” Jesus is saying, give yourself fully to God, focusing your life on what God wants for you.
  • “ . . . and all these things (the material provisions you need) will be added to you.”

Let us live into this promise and trust in our heavenly Father to care for us.

William Higgins

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Psalm 23 is the best known and loved Psalm of all. I want us to look at it this morning, so that we can be encouraged in our faith.

The following is the text broken down by how it is put together: (more…)

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