Wednesday, April 11, 2018

As It Is In Heaven: True Security

In 2017, it was estimated that nearly $185 billion would be spent on advertising. (1)  This number counts direct mail, television, digital, radio, billboards, etc. $185 billion. The ads covered many of society’s wants like restaurants, movies, travel, and luxury cars. Other ads focused on our needs such as food, clothing, and medical supplies. Still other ads qualify as public service announcements which are designed to benefit society. $185 billion. That is 185 with nine zeros behind it. For perspective, that is more than 60% of the 2017 US-based revenues of Wal-Mart (2),  and is slightly more than the total revenue for Amazon last year.(3)  I have always wondered how much cheaper certain items would be if advertising was not involved. Of course, if we did not have advertisements, we may not know what we need to make our life complete. And isn’t that a part of the goal of advertising? Certainly, some companies and/or ads are clever and entertaining, but ultimately the goal is to sell you something. Really, it is about making you feel like you are missing out on something better than you already have or to remind you that you need more of what you have or need it again.

Truly, advertisers play to our insecurities in life. To use a key word from the passage we will cover this week, advertising causes us to be anxious or to worry. Why? Because advertising is about our future and humans worry about the future. When we see an ad, we must choose whether or not the product or service advertised meets our immediate or long-term needs or wants. If it might, then we must begin to consider how to make the perceived need a reality. Depending upon the item(s), such thought can often cause anxiety and even stress because we must make other choices (like with our budget or time) to satisfy a “need” that we might not have known existed prior to seeing the ad.

Depending on how our choices are made, more stress and more anxiety ensues. Consider the following related to home ownership. At some point, you saw an advertisement for a home. If you choose to buy a home, more more decisions are necessary like how to furnish the home. Over time, perhaps your thoughts changed on some matters, so based upon an advertisement you decided to repaint part of the house. Maybe an advertisement caused you to consider adding on to the house or building a shed (because it was on sale). Of course, you needed a lawnmower and yard/garden equipment for the outside, and new appliances on the inside. But thanks to advertisements, you knew just what items were on sale and where. But if you didn’t buy the home, you wouldn’t have cared about any of that. And if you didn’t have the home you wouldn’t have needed insurance to cover any losses that might occur. OK, I know this example is a bit extreme, and nothing is wrong with owning a home, but the point is that one decision (one choice) leads to so many others over time.

Last week’s message centered on three types of choices – the treasures we seek, the eyes with which we seek them, and the master we serve. This week’s message is really a sequel to that message because if we choose the way Jesus said we should, then our anxiety will fade away.

Before I get to Jesus’ words, I want to suggest that most people truly worry about three matters of this life more than any other – health, relationships, and money. Of course, money has multiple aspects such as food, shelter, and clothing, but ultimately all of that relates to the mammon Jesus mentioned in verse 24, and is the specific focus of His words we will review today. The problem with our society is that too many people put too much emphasis on these items. It is not enough to have shelter, we want a certain type and size of shelter. It is not enough to want clothing, we want a certain brand. Etc. And because of this, we worry, or as the ESV says, we become anxious. But when we remember who our provider truly is and from where providence (provide-ence) comes, then we need not worry. Why? Because we have placed our trust in the One who provides true security for all aspects of our lives.

Don’t Be Anxious About What You Eat Because Your Life Is More Than Basic Necessities
(Matthew 6.25)

Jesus begins by sharing that our life is more than what is seen. We tend to worry about what we will eat and drink because that reflects on our appearance, but for many it reflects their wealth as well. For instance, our friend Linus says that Kenyans believe those that are large are rich and those that are skinny are poor. The rich can afford the food they eat, the poor can’t afford food so they don’t eat.

But Jesus says that the basic necessities of life like food and water are not all that there is. Remember, just a few paragraphs prior, He has talked about fasting. Most fasting relates to food, but a few examples in the Bible exists where no food or water was taken during the fast. Jesus is expressing that for all of the concern that people place upon their physical health and diet, a spiritual aspect needs to be nourished as well.

Just consider the popularity of fitness centers in America. In 2015, some 55 million people were members of some type of fitness center.(4)  This number is fairly close to the number of people in churches and synagogues each week (if considering about 300 million Americans).(5)  Thus many people are very conscious of taking care of their bodies, but forget that their soul needs constant nourishment as well. To be concerned with basic necessities for the body without caring for the effects on one’s soul is to miss a big aspect of life’s true purpose.

Don’t Be Anxious About What You Have Because Your Life Is Worth More Than the Rest of Creation (vv. 26-30)

Jesus continues this thinking by showing that God cares for all parts of His Creation, but especially for humans – those made in His own image. God makes sure the birds are fed despite the fact they make no long-term provisions for themselves. God makes the flowers in the fields beautiful though they themselves do nothing to adorn themselves.

In both of these metaphors, Jesus uses a Jewish teaching principle called “how much more.” The essence is to share an idea and then to ask or show that something else is more valuable. In this case, humans are far more valuable to God having been made in His image, yet He cares for the smallest of birds and the most isolated of flowers. Knowing how much God cares for us shoul remove our unwarranted concerns over the most every matter – large or small.

Now, this passage does not say two important factors that some may claim. First, it does not say we should not work. It does say that the flowers do not toil, but birds do. Many birds work very hard and have little to show for it at the end of the day, but God cares for them. But we can also consider that birds do have instincts about the future because they fly south before the bad weather comes, so they do “plan” but they rely upon God.

Second, this passage does not suggest that those who follow God will have picture-perfect lives. Consider the grass mentioned in verse 30. One day it is alive and has no cares and the next it is gone – having been burned up. As humans, and even (especially) as Christians, we will go through trials and we will experience pain, but that does not mean we should worry about what is to come. Rather we know that our Father cares for us and will see us through if we keep our focus on Him.

Don’t Be Anxious About Being Cared For Because Your Faith Should Set You Apart From Others (vv. 31-32)

It is that focus on God that separates us from the world. Notice that in verse 30, Jesus chastises His hearers for not having sufficient faith. Just before the climax of this sermon about seeking God and His righteousness (which we will see next week), Jesus mentions that the Gentiles (those unbelieving, uncouth individuals), ask the same kinds of questions and seek after the same items – food, drink, clothing, shelter, etc. The Gentiles worry (i.e. are anxious) for such items, but God’s children are to trust the provision of their heavenly Father. In fact, verses 31 and 32 echo the prayers mentioned in verses 7 and 8. God already knows what we need, so while we are to ask, and we can ask repetitively if needed (consider the parable of the persistent widow, Luke 18.1-8), we need not worry if God heard our prayer and/or if He cares. He did and He does. But how He answers will be up to Him.

In fact, the reason our faith should separate us from others is because we know God can provide. Someone who does not believe in God must make life happen for themselves or hope that luck is on their side. But for the child of God, we must know that our Father loves us, knows us, and wants to provide for us as He sees fit, not necessarily as we desire. And thus, as we focus on God, we find our true treasures, and our true security. Why? Because we are seeking heavenly treasures, not the things of the world.

How would having a knowledge of the glory of the Lord affect this teaching?

Is the glory of the Lord real in your life? I believe the more we understand His glory, the more we will trust in Him for all of life’s needs. Worry will not get us the good life. Indeed, it will keep us from it. You have heard me say many times that those in Kenya have less in their homes than we do in our silverware drawer. You have now heard similar testimony from Mike, Roger, and Rick. In fact, one pastor asked Rick if his wife had more than one dress. He was also asked how many rooms his house had. Rick’s answer caught the pastor off guard – upstairs or downstairs.

As we move towards the conclusion of this message, let me provide you with a couple of pictures to consider. We must remember that these verses today do not stand alone in the Bible. In fact, they are very near the prayer Jesus taught His disciples to pray – a prayer that asked for sustenance, a prayer that asked for forgiveness, and a prayer that asked for deliverance. Only one-third of those requests relate to the material world around us, yet make up the vast majority of our worry.

See, the reality is that the more we have, the more we worry. Don’t get me wrong, the Kenyans and others in this world worry, but the worries are different. I believe their worries are more in line with what those in Jesus’ audience were thinking that day. Where will my next meal be? Will I have enough water? Etc. For us, it is, What will I wear today? What can I make to eat? Etc.

My goal is not necessarily to make you feel guilty, but to make each of us think. For those who have been given much, we must be about giving back. I am thankful our church does that in so many ways throughout the year with our various offerings. But we must not forget. And we must consider that when we worry about not having enough or having the right thing, most of us have far more than most people throughout the world. So, do not be anxious. Focus on God.

The medical word has labeled anxiety as a disorder for many types of disorders which relate to being fearful, worry, or the similar. I have said many times that just as people take medication for other internal organs such as the heart, belief does not negate the need for medications for the brain. Certain medical conditions exist where the brain must be medicated and it is not a matter of belief that will cure it. But, and this is important, and I had not put this into the same context before. Just as God gave a series of “Do not” commands on the mountain to Moses, Jesus (as the Son of God) gives a “Do not” command to His followers. Does that mean that “Do not be anxious” should be considered in the same light as “Do not lie” or “Do not steal” or “Do not commit adultery.” I think so because ultimately it is saying “Do not have any gods before me” which is the choice Jesus places before His listeners with their choice of masters between God and money (v. 24).

Much of our worry comes from a misplaced trust. While advertisers may entice us, it is our choice on what, on in whom, we place our trust. When we place our trust in earthly treasures, then we will worry when life doesn’t go our way. But when we place our trust in God, we know that whatever happens to us on earth will – good or bad – pales in comparison to the treasures we will have in eternity.

The truth is that we can only find true Security in the Father who loves us beyond the Son who overcame death...and in the Spirit who guides us into all truth. When we seek our security in God and keep our focus upon Him, we will have no reason to be anxious.

So, with that said, our JOURNEY letter for today is: RREVERE

When we truly revere God, then the world passes from our minds. Many have experienced this for a moment, maybe an hour, but Jesus wants it to be for a lifetime.

Based upon today’s message, how can we raise the bar and live on earth as it is in heaven?

As we consider worry, I have used a word repeatedly today. That word is concern. Worry is simply concern that has gone out of control. But concern has two elements, where worry only has one. See we can’t worry about what has happened in the past, we can only be concerned about it. We can be concerned about the future (which includes learning the outcome of something that may have already happened), but this often becomes worry. Worry is worthless because we can’t change the past, and 90% of our worries about the future never happen.

So, learn what concerns you have. Take inventory on what concerns you from the past. You cannot change it, but you can learn from it. Then take inventory on what worries you about the future. Why do these matters concern you? What, if anything, can be done? If something can be done, DO IT, and stop worrying. If something cannot be done, what use is there in worrying? After you have identified these areas of concern, begin to purge them from your life by acting upon your concerns rather than waiting with worry for them to happen to you.


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