HG054.5 Matthew 6:19-34
19 “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; 20 but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. 22 “The lamp of the body is the eye. If therefore your eye is good, your whole body will be full of light. 23 But if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in you is darkness, how great is that darkness! 24 “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon. 25 “Therefore I say to you, do not worry 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? 26 Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? 27 Which of you by worrying can add one cubit to his stature? 28 “So why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; 29 and yet I say to you that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 30 Now if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will He not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? 31 “Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. 33 But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.
A young man who was applying for a job in a factory in Swansea turned up to be interviewed by the chairman of the company. The young man found himself in the presence of a nervous, fidgety man who looked like he was struggling with heart-burn. “The only vacancy here,” he told the applicant, “is Managing Director. The man that takes the job must shoulder all my cares.”
“That’s a tough job,” said the applicant. “What’s the salary?”
“I’ll pay you a million a year if you will really take over all my worries.”
“Where is the million coming from?” asked the applicant, somewhat suspiciously.
“That my friend,” replied the owner, “is your first worry.”
((Revised and updated by me.) Tan, P. L. (1996). Encyclopedia of 7700 Illustrations: Signs of the Times (p. 1642). Garland, TX: Bible Communications, Inc.)
Today I want to talk about this season of the year which for many here as well as ‘out there’ is a time of great stress, anxiety, worry, concern, tension, insecurity, pressure and depression. On Radio 4 they were saying that in the last two months the amount of unsecured debt across the nation went up by 10% and that over 80% will struggle to pay their bills this month because of their expenditure in December. I would like to help those of us here to see things in a more biblical and more stress-free way. This is not a sermon about a stress-free life for that is impossible. There were times of stress for many biblical figures including Jesus so no one is exempt from these feelings or the situations that cause them.
Today I want to give you hope because we have a God who is totally and absolutely reliable no matter what happens in our lives.
Last Sunday I heard the true story of how a man and a woman who had very little money went shopping for their groceries. When they had got home she put the food on the kitchen table to put the food away. But it was exhausting going shopping so she made them both a cup of tea and they went into the front room to relax. In the ensuing conversation the wife remarked how all they had in the world was the penny left in her purse after buying their needs. And so it was whilst they were having their cup of tea they heard the bin men outside and realised they had forgotten to put out the rubbish. The wife said to the man that the rubbish is in a couple of carrier bags of rubbish in the kitchen, so the man rushed in and took out the rubbish just as the bin men were driving off.
Can you take these? He asked - and they said ‘sure, throw them in the back’. Which he did and immediately the truck crushed the rubbish. He went back in to finish his tea whilst his wife went off to the kitchen to put the food away. By now, and you already know this, I’m sure. The wife called to the husband in a panic. Here is the rubbish but where is the food? The stress was so much that she broke down in tears.
Now, that same morning a woman from the Church went shopping in Waitrose and whilst there she had the distinct impression that all the shopping she was going to do was not for her as was her original intention but for a certain couple who were really going to need it. And so she filled an old TV box, the kind before flat-screen TVs, you remember, that had very wide backs and dropped it off at the door of this man and woman whose food had been carried off by the bin men. Their Aldi shopping had been replaced by Waitrose and in greater quantity.
Oh how we worry unnecessarily for the evidence is that God provides.
Christmas itself is stressful for we get caught up in the moment and a consumerist mentality that does not do our mental health any good as well as our pocket. Many people get into debt just because of Christmas and take out loans that they will still be paying next Christmas. Are Christians immune? No. But we all assent to the fact that Christmas is supposed to be about the person whose name we mention every time we say the word Christmas – Christ!
Once Christmas Day is over what is remembered? Our gifts? For a while maybe but how quickly normality returns. Surely we will remember more about how things were with our families more than what we received.
This month, the month of January, sees the biggest jump in suicides in the year. The stress seems to be heaped on when suddenly we have to pay our bills and we are in debt to our eyeballs. Reality has suddenly caught up. Are we any different from those in the world?
We should be. We are supposed to keep things in perspective - we, as God's people, we are to be about God's Kingdom first. This life is very short and giving unnecessary attention to physical wants and needs can cause us to stagnate from being healthy, fruitful Christians. LISTEN! The cares of this world can really overcome us - a world in which we are strangers - a world that can consume us - but this world is not our home! We belong to a heavenly country. So, friends, stop giving it so much attention!
The choice given by Matthew here is stark: God or money. God or the world. It is stressful for a Christian to try to live for both. Why? For it is impossible. Our hearts belong to God and Heaven or to ourselves and earthly things.
Maybe you’re thinking it is a bit late telling us this now! But no! This is the time for this sermon. Why? Because God is in the business of redemption. We all make mistakes but we can readjust at any time. This is called repentance. Let’s pay off our debts and resolve not to go there again.
In the meantime we do not need to be concerned. The word “worry” is derived from an old Anglo-Saxon word meaning to strangle or to choke? This surely reminds of the parable of the sower where the thorns choke the fruitfulness of the seedlings equating it with the cares and concerns of this world.
What is the solution to all this for it is obvious that we all get concerned, worried, stressed and pressured?
The answer is given in:
6 Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; 7 and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.
My friends, when Paul wrote about being anxious for nothing; to not worry about anything; it is because we have a great and awesome God on our side. Has Paul a right to speak about this? What was his state of affairs when wrote these words? He was in prison with the sentence of death hanging over him – is there anyone here who is in such a dire situation? Not much can compare with the plight that Paul was in. There are people in this world who are in a far more dire situation than you or I will ever be in and has not God provided us with everything we need and more beside? For God’s love is unconditional.
To worry proves we have not yet trusted God with our situation. I am sorry to have to call it what it is but to worry is unbelief which the bible calls sin. We don’t trust God but we trust ourselves to sort things out. Only on Wednesday I was talking about the error so prevalent here in the West of self-reliance. We trust ourselves to sort out everything instead of God who is really the only One in control.
Please listen carefully to what I am about to say:
We need to be those who pray through to God until we get an answer from God instead of being so self-reliant. And God will come through for you. This is exactly what Paul was writing to the Philippians about. The Greek indicates that they were habitually worried and Paul is writing to say: “now, that’s enough!” Pray and plea with God and let your situation be known to God – then God’s peace will rest upon you and in your mind so that you can simply relax and let God sort it out. Do you think you can do it better than him?
I said at the beginning that Jesus himself was stressed. According to Luke 22 Jesus sweated blood in the Garden of Gethsemane; this is hardly surprising considering that He was on the precipice of carrying the sins of the world. For the first time in all eternity Jesus was going to be torn from that relationship with His Father and be rejected. Do we not realise that Jesus has done this so that we don’t have to carry the burdens and stress of the day? Indeed Jesus had every right to be stressed in His situation. But what can justify our stress?
Psalm 37:5–8 NET
5 Commit your future to the Lord! Trust in him, and he will act on your behalf. 7b Wait patiently for the Lord! Wait confidently for him! 8 Do not be angry and frustrated! Do not fret! That only leads to trouble!
Worrying doesn’t resolve stress it only causes harm.
Another key to overcoming worry is in the same Philippians passage: we are told to pray with thanksgiving. Have we forgotten to be thankful to God? Thank God for saving you. Thank God for your life. Thank God that he cares for you. Thank God for a roof over your head. Thank God for the food on the table. Thank God for…now you fill in the blanks. How easily we forget God, His provision, His love, His forgiveness, and His patience with us.
Yes, we are to make that special prayer for the supply of our need whatever that they be. It may not be about money but about relationships or health or any other thing that touches our lives. Then this peace that is given to us becomes a fortress for our minds – the word ‘guard’ is a military term – nothing from outside can get in except that which is given by God. It surpasses and exceeds the situation we are in. His peace exceeds knowledge and overcomes it! His peace trounces our circumstances.
Live as if Jesus was crucified yesterday, rose today and is coming back tomorrow (Luther).
Tomorrow he may come again and take us to be with him where there will be no more crying or pain or death. When we are dead there are no more worries. Are we not those who have been crucified with Christ and no longer live?
Are we really going to worry about our life here on planet earth? This is no platitude – no cliché – we are here for such a short time and we will wonder what we worried about – doesn’t our experience of God say He never lets us down? This certainly is the experience of all who have gone before us. Our Father in heaven knows everything about us from the number of hairs on our head to the number of pennies in the bank – and he cares for YOU.
5 Let your conduct be without covetousness; be content with such things as you have. For He Himself has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” 6 So we may boldly say: “The Lord is my helper; I will not fear. What can man do to me?”
No matter what happens we still have God on our side.
33 But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.
We can be stressed about all sorts of things for all sorts of reasons which can tie our hearts and minds up in knots doing mental gymnastics and God knows this – so he provided a solution that doesn’t dismiss our situation but gets us through it victoriously – and it is up to us to put it into practice.
Let me finish with a story from 1906 by an evangelist called Charles Alexander:
I was standing at a Bank counter in Liverpool, waiting for a clerk to come; I picked up a pen and begin to print on a blotter in large letters, two words, which had gripped me like a vice: PRAY THROUGH. I kept talking to a friend, and printing until I had the blotter filled from top to bottom with a column. I transacted my business and went away. The next day my friend came to see me, and he said he had a striking story to tell me. A business man came into the bank soon after we had gone. He had grown discouraged with business troubles. He started to transact some business with the same clerk over that blotter, when his eye caught the long column of PRAY THROUGH. He asked who wrote those words, and when he was told exclaimed: That is the very message I needed. I will pray through. I have tried to worry through in my own strength, and have merely mentioned my troubles to God; now I am going to pray the situation through until I get light.
This story caused an Edna Worrell to write a hymn which we are going to right now and then we’ll pray: (Don’t stop praying)