Saturday, August 27, 2016

27 August 2016
“But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you. Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.” Matthew 6:33-34 (KJV)
"Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit”— yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.” James 4:13-15 (ESV)
            Good morning, welcome. Today we finish out the week by finishing out chapter 6. In this chapter Jesus has emphasized the heart attitude; the importance of a proper disposition before God. We have seen the folly of piety for show and futility of chasing material possessions; neither of which bring any lasting satisfaction to us or pleasure to God. In point of fact, the heart set on these things is always seeking the approval of others, always anxious-a condition Jesus will now address.
            I’m not usually one to quibble over translations. I use the NRSV because it just feels comfortable to me. In this case, however, I think vs. 34 in the King James most accurately captures the point-take no thought. It personifies the day, picturing each day as something perfectly capable of caring for itself without any help from us (and hints that, perhaps, the morrow already exists somewhere, it just hasn’t come round to us yet). Which it is; or rather, God is capable of ordering our days according to His plans, requiring faithful obedience from us and nothing more.  
            Jesus makes a sort of lesser to greater argument here. If the Father cares for the birds and the lilies-minor things, from a human point of view-if He cares for these, how much more will He care for His children (remember, we have already seen that He provides for all humankind-good and evil). Furthermore, if we are limited in what we can accomplish on our own, God is unlimited in what He can accomplish on our behalf. The promise is this-seek the Kingdom, strive to place ourselves under God’s rule and He will take care of the rest.
            Here we must be careful to note what God is not promising. He is not promising prosperity or abundance of possessions. In fact, we have already seen how easily these things distract us from seeking God. The promise is that God knows what we need. By seeking Him first we receive Him and the other as well. I will say it again, because it is important-God supplies our needs. He is not promising an easy life of riches and luxury-if you are finding yourself going through difficult times it is not because you do not have enough faith. Trial and suffering have a purpose which we may never understand on this side. What Jesus is saying is trust God first, seek Him first, put Him first. And, if, God choses to bless you in abundance, don’t forget to share.
            So how do we do this? Good question. I still, to this day, find myself lying awake at night, giving thought where I ought not to be giving thought. I believe the antidote to worry-giving bad thoughts, anxious thoughts-is to make a habit of giving thought to God. Let this idea of ‘giving thought’ sink in for a few minutes. Giving thought to God is a habit to be developed, a discipline to be cultivated. This is why remembering scripture, memorizing scripture, is so important. Gradually, as we fill up our mind with God’s words-His thoughts, which He gave to us-we learn how to drive worry out by letting God in, giving thought back to Him.
             It is a process and we will not always succeed; we can expect to be overwhelmed from time to time. That’s ok, trust in the unseen doesn’t always come overnight. The more we practice, the more experience we have with God’s reliability, the more trust builds. Brick by brick we build a wall of confidence in the Living God. Remember, we are not looking for easy solutions; we are seeking God’s presence and learning to find assurance there.
             By the way, as Rick Warren says, if you can worry, you can meditate. If you can daydream, you can meditate. Memorizing Bible verses is a form of meditation-focusing the mind on the words, the thoughts. When distracting thoughts come-and they will-simply acknowledge their presence and return to your memory words. Trying to force distractions-or worry-away only serves to focus the mind on what you are trying not to think about or worry about. If you are focusing on God’s thoughts you are not focusing on your thoughts or worries, you are focusing on God. And that, after all, is the goal, right?
            Monday we begin the last chapter in the Sermon on the Mount. We have been pretty much focusing inward for a little while; next week we will get back to reaching out, God willing. Thanks for joining me; have a blessed Sunday. Don’t forget to worship with your brothers and sisters.

May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God the Father, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all. JRG

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