Harvest Sunday, Matthew 6,v25-34, the Jesus Lifestyle (14), September 19th 2021

Harvest Sunday, Matthew 6,v25-34, the Jesus Lifestyle (14), September 19th 2021

How to stop worrying and start living, Matthew 6:25-34; Jesus Lifestyle 14,

September 19th 2021. Matthew 6:25-34. Harvest Sunday.

Father send your Holy Spirit, to teach us. As we dive into the Bible would you awaken our hearts, expand our minds and shape my identities and lives today. We want to live a Jesus shaped life … Amen.

Harvest Sunday

Harvest Sunday refocuses us upon our Father and his provision,

‘Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink, or about your body, what you will wear.’ 

Here Jesus is speaking about material worry. This is important. Those following him, they had left everything remember. He called Peter and Andrew ‘at once they left their nets and followed him.’ James and John when called, left their father, their boat, their source of income. There is no government support for these disciples. They do not have work.

Naturally what will happen? they may think.

But Jesus does not only say  ‘do not worry about practical important needs’, he also says ‘do not worry about your life.’

Now Life can bring worry.

Day to day worries or anxieties about exams, work, health or money.

Times of financial struggle – such as many have experienced during Covid-19 – led to anxieties;

Unemployment, debt, mortgages, how to get a house at all as a first time renter or owner, the ongoing worry over Corona – when will we see family, is it safe to go to the cinema etc.

Difficult or broken relationships can be a significant cause of anxiety.

There can be stress of being single, or being lonely. 

People may worry over their health, the approach of middle age or old age or death…

French Actress Catherine Deneuve was once called ‘the most beautiful woman in the world.’ She is now 77, and she said of growing old: ‘It worries me and it bores me.

It’s very painful to look in the mirror every day and watch yourself ageing.’’

(Quoted in Gumbel, Jesus Lifestyle, p.178).

Parents may be worried over the actions or futures of our children.

Worries can affect our physical and mental health and can even take years off a person’s life. The old English word – WYRGAN – from which we get the word WORRY – means ‘to strangle’.

Isn’t that so true? Worries often seem to seize us by the throat until we cannot think about anything else.

Jesus did not promise us an easy life or a stress free life. He used language of ‘taking up your cross’ and we live in a fallen world and we suffer its effects.  

Jesus had reasons to worry. He faced pressures of day to day living, and he had no regular income. He knew what it meant to have a close friend die; the responsibility to care for his remaining parent;  he experienced the pressure of being misunderstood; he regularly experienced conflict; he was someone mocked and threatened.

He knew the pressure of powerful temptations, of suffering and of living his life under the shadow of a cross. He knew he was going to die on a cross for the sins of the whole world. The whole human race depended on him. He, above all, had reason to worry.

Yet here Jesus tells us how to stop worrying and how to start living.

  1. Understand Life’s purpose.

To worry is to miss the real point of life. ‘’Jesus says: 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 important than food and the body more important than clothes.’

Life is far more important than material things.  When we sit back and consider it, often our worries are about relatively unimportant things such as food, drink, clothing, houses, money.

Jesus is saying – if we simply seek external things, we are missing the whole point of life. The point of life – is to have a relationship with God through Jesus Christ. ‘’For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.’’’ In Matthew 16:16 – ‘’For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world and loses his own soul.’’

Understanding life’s purpose protects us from unnecessary worry.

  • Keep Perspective

Worry feels right.  Yet Jesus asks us to go bird watching.

‘’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 that they?’’

This is your biblical mandate to bird watch!

Jesus says – who are you? Is God more interested in his pets than in his children? Birds are kept alive by food provided by nature. They have to spend a lot of time hunting and searching for their food. But it is there to be found. We should not simply sit back and say ‘God will provide’. The birds of the air work extremely hard but they are free from worry. Jesus encourages us to bird watch and to think about these facts.

He reminds us that we have a heavenly father. He  has been repeatedly saying ‘your father or your father in heaven’ throughout this chapter. He reminds us that we are valuable to Him! He cares for us.

We know he cares so much for us because he sent his only son to die for us – so we can feel secure. Romans 8 reminds us ‘if God is for us, who can be against us.’

Psalm 23”: ‘’The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not be in want … even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death I shall fear no evil, for you are with me.’’

We must keep that perspective – God is ultimately in control, even when we feel the pressure. He is the Sovereign Lord. And about those dark times, Roman 8 reminds us that ‘nothing in life or even death can separate us from his love’. And ‘We know that in all things, God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.’ 8:28. Keep Perspective

  • Be Practical

Worry is a complete waste of time. Jesus puts it out there: ‘’Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to your life?’’

Worry is unproductive and pointless.  Be practical he says. He says we cannot add anything to our life by it… in fact as we know, worry can subtract from our life, causing things like ulcers, or even heart problems.

Instead of worrying, it is better to be practical – take practical steps to look after ourselves. Watch what we eat and drink, make sure we get sufficient sleep, take regular exercise. If we do all this, we will perform better at work and are less likely to get ill.

Our spiritual health is also important. Paul says in 1 Tim 4, ‘For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come.’’

We need to find ways to replenish our emotional tanks – through spending time with friends, listening to music, reading,  going for a walk or a bike ride. How do you replenish your emotional tank?

Rick Warren – pastor of Saddleback Church says:

we should

‘divert daily – ‘ie do not work 16 hour days;

‘withdraw weekly’ – ie take a day off – keep the Sabbath as a rule not  just when it fits in.

‘abandon annually’ – take holidays (use your quota from your work), whether that is staying at home or going away.

And being practical includes, being honest, that some of the things we worry about, never happen.

Winston Churchill said: ‘When I look back on all these worries, I remember the story of the old man who said on his death bed that he had had a lot of trouble in his life,

most of which never happened.’

Mark Twain reflected: ‘’Most of my disasters,

never happened to me.’’

Be practical.

  • Trust God’s provision.

‘’And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labour or spin. Yet I tell you that Solomon in all his splendor was dressed up like one of these. 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? So do not worry saying ‘what shall we eat’ and ‘what shall we drink’ or ‘what shall we wear’? For the pagans run after all these things and your heavenly Father knows that you need them.’’

Harvest celebrates God’s provision. It can be that time to reflect back on how God has provided for you in the past 12 months. A time to stop and remember and give thanks. This action by us, grows faith for the future on how he can provide.  Harvest invites us to look at creation and notice as Jesus indicates – how God is at work and that he can provide.

Faith and worry are like fire and water. Faith involves trust in God’s care and provision.

To be a Christian, is to walk in that trusting relationship with God.

Jesus says: ‘for the pagans run after all these things and your heavenly father knows that you need them.’

A primary concern about material needs, is a characteristic of those who do not have faith in God.  We are called to be different. We have a heavenly father.

But we should not pretend that we are not worried or anxious about our needs, when we are. NT acknowledges we all can worry or be anxious. The question is what we do with it, when it happens…

1 Peter 5 – cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you’

or Phil 4: do not be anxious about anything but in every situation by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God, and the peace of God which transcends all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.’

For some people, physical action is helpful in giving worries to God. It can be like Hezekiah, in the OT,  taking the letter and folding it out before God, as if God did not already know – but it was part of presenting the worry to God.

Maybe you are worried about your home – hold your keys and put them before you as you kneel, laying it to God;

or your week ahead – or that meeting – put your diary or phone – before God;

your finances, as you pray, lay your wallet or purse down symbolically before God.

Some write prayers down and that act of writing it down, helps them cast the anxiety onto God. 

We have a heavenly father, and we have brothers and sisters. We do not need to cope with things on our own. For some, to come to a prayer ministry team can be of great help. So together, with others, to lay it before the Lord, a bit like Moses who needed the support of Aaron and Hur to lift his arms up to pray.

Or in our life groups – Paul shares for Christians to ‘carry each other’s burdens’ – we do have many around us – but our life groups are also a place where we have people around us, whom we can talk honestly with,  so we do not become isolated and the worries begin to strangle us. Trust God’s Provision.

  • Focus on the Present

In the first Kong Fu Panda film, Master Oogway says: “You are too concerned with what was and what will be. There’s a saying: Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, but today is a gift. That is why it is called the present.”

Worry is incompatible with common sense. Jesus says: Do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.’

 We will have enough to worry about each day. Tomorrow is a mystery.  God has given us our lives in units of 24 hours and we should take it one day at a time.

This does not mean that we should not think about the future.  In the King James it says ‘take not thought for the morrow’ but that is misleading. The Greek says ‘to take no anxious thought ‘ about tomorrow’. 

It is not an excuse to do nothing or be irresponsible about life.  The Book of Proverbs reminds us that planning is vital and we need to make wise provision for the future. 

We know that one way to avoid later stress, is to look ahead and plan.

But Jesus reminds us to focus on the present – the gift of today. 

‘’Worry does not empty tomorrow of sorrow; it empties today of strength.’’ (Corrie ten Boom)

Focus on the Present.

  • Sort out your priorities

If you were following along, you probably thought, he skipped a verse… Here we go.

 ‘’But seek his kingdom and his righteousness and all these things will be given to you as well.’’

This is about getting our ambitions and our priorities right.  Some ambitions are relatively simple – food, drink, and clothing; some are bigger – a bigger house, a new car or motorbike, greater salary, reputation or power. But these are self centred and meaningless ultimately.

Jesus says to his disciples as they listen, we take on a different set of responsibilities, which are far more exciting and challenging. He calls us to the great adventure, the noble ambition – to seek his kingdom.

The Greek can be better translated – continually seek, keep on seeking. It is an ongoing action. Today – seek the kingdom; tomorrow seek the kingdom, in 2022 seek the kingdom…

This is not a one off decision or choice, but ongoing continual.

We are to seek his rule and reign in our lives, in our marriages, in our homes, in our family and lifestyles.

We are to seek his rule and reign in the lives of others – in our friends, relatives, neighbours, work colleagues and in the communities within which we are rooted.

We are to make the most of every opportunity.

We are to seek – continually – his righteousness in our lives and in our society. We should seek to see his standards universally accepted, and invest our time, energy and money in this pursuit. There are many men and women who in God’s strength have made a great impact on the society around them.

William Wilberforce – as a Christian Member of Parliament – devoted his life, as did many in his generation, to seeking God’s standards in their society. He campaigned for 45 years for the abolition of slavery. The necessary act of parliament ‘The Slavery Abolition Act of 1833’ was passed three days before he died.

As Christians today, we face up to poverty, the breakdown of marriage and the abuse of children,

to human trafficking and sex slavery, to anti-semitism, to environmental damage,

and we determine to do something about them.

We need to make the most of our time, energy and money. We can all make tomorrow better.  Do what you can, where you are, with what you have.

Jesus promises that if we get our priorities and our ambitions right, then ‘all these things will be given to you as well’ – namely all the little worries will be dealt with.

Lesser ambitions are still fine,  provided these lesser ambitions serve greater God centred ambition.

Jesus says if we take on his priorities and make them our greater ambition, then he will provide us with everything else we need.

The wealthy Baron Fitzgerald had only one son and heir. His son died after leaving home. This was a tragedy from which the father never recovered. As his wealth increased, the Baron continued to invest in paintings by great masters. When he died, his will said that all paintings were to be sold. Because of their quality and artistic value, messages were sent out to museums and collectors advertising the sale.

When the day of the auction came, a large crown gathered. The lawyer read from Fitzgerald’s will. It instructed that the first painting to be sold, was that ‘of my beloved son.’ The portrait of Fitzgerald’s son, was by an unknown artist and was of poor quality. The only bidder was an old servant, who had known and loved the boy. For a small sum of money he bought it for sentimental value and the memories it held for him.

The lawyer again read from the will: ‘Whoever buys my son, gets all.

The auction is over.’’ Quoted in Gumbel, ibid., 185.

On Harvest, we remember the wonderful promise: Jesus said, ‘seek and keep on seeking his kingdom and his righteousness and all these things will be given to you as well.’

So Understand Life’s Purpose

Keep Perspective

Be Practical

Trust God’s Provision

Focus on the Present

Sort out your Priorities

That is how to stop worrying and to start living.

Shall we pray.

Lord Jesus, I fix my eyes on you,

the author and perfector    of my faith.

Today I make you my greatest ambition ‐ I will seek your kingdom and your righteousness. 

I choose to trust you to provide for my needs.

Help me to make the most of our time, energy and money.

Use me to make tomorrow better. 

Help me to know you more clearly, love you more dearly  and follow you more nearly,

each and every day. Amen.