June 7, 2010 David Balzer

Matthew 6:25-34: Escaping to ultimate freedom

The fastest growing market for new cars is SUV’s. Or sport utility vehicles. All wheel drive, SORT-OF off-road cars. Not STRICTLY 4WD. Designed to be comfy enough as you drive around the city during the week. But on the weekend, you can ESCAPE into the bush. They’ll carry your mountain bikes, your kayaks, or your surfboards. Katoomba on a Sunday morning is full of them.

Every car manufacturer makes at least one. Porsche, Mercedes and BMW make EXPENSIVE ones. Ford, Holden, Toyota, Mazda and all the rest make LESS expensive ones.

And I reckon part of the attraction is we want to ESCAPE. We want FREEDOM. Life is just getting BUSIER and BUSIER. We work longer hours, cope with more stress, take less holidays. We have more money, but less opportunity to enjoy it. More timesaving gadgets, and faster travel, but less TIME.

And people need a pressure valve. A way to release the anxiety. A way to ESCAPE. Escape the hustle and bustle. Escape the stress of modern living. Escape the worry of earning money, keeping up, maintaining standards. Escape to a simpler, more laid-back, more lifestyle.

And the way the ads paint it, the way to DO that begins with buying THE RIGHT CAR. Get AWAY from it all. Escape to freedom.

But is that REALLY ultimate freedom? You’ve still got to head back to work on Monday. And the same pressures and struggles are still there waiting for you.

But there’s OTHER sorts of escaping too. Some people try to get free from marriages, and think they’ll find freedom in a single lifestyle. Choose your own path, look after yourself, don’t answer to anyone. No one looking over your shoulder, no one to disappoint. But also no one to SHARE your freedom with. To ENJOY it with.

Others try to escape to freedom from CARES. And they escape into partying or or extreme sports. No commitments, no responsibilities. Just a chemical or situational high. But you always come OFF the high. Often with a bigger LOW than the HIGH you experienced.

Others are tired of the boredom of decades grinding away in the rat-race. And they escape to a sea change, or a tree change. But then they find paradise isn’t all it’s ed up to be.

But are any of those things ULTIMATE FREEDOM. Or are they just different forms of slavery? Changing ONE set of chains for ANOTHER?

Is it impossible to find something MORE out of life than what we experience? Is ultimate freedom possible?

Jesus had a unique perspective on life. He viewed it from inside AND out. From the perspective of ETERNITY, and from the day to day struggles. He’s been FREE from the struggles we face. AND experienced the WORST of them. He’s seen it ALL.

He’s seen what lasts. He’s seen what’s valuable. And what’s NOT. And, even from a distance of 20 centuries, and 15 thousand km’s, his words still ring true, and hold relevance for us today.

And here’s what Jesus says about escaping to ultimate freedom. Ready for it? “DON’T WORRY. Don’t worry about food, or drink or clothes. Worrying can’t add a single hour to your life. It achieves NOTHING. Your heavenly Father knows what you need. Instead of worry, seek his kingdom first – that’s what REALLY counts. And he’ll give you everything you need as well.”

THAT’S ultimate freedom.

It seems so simple. And yet so hard to do. Because worry is just such a , human thing to do.

  • $600 in bills. $400 in the bank. What do you do? Worry!
  • 40 hours of work in the week, 70 hours of things to do. What do you do? Worry!
  • Your ager is late back from the party. You can’t reach them. What do you do? Worry!
  • Your upcoming trip has connections and transfers and meetings and bookings. And you’re not sure whether it will all come together. What do you do? Worry!
  • That lump under your skin is getting bigger. The doctors aren’t sure what it is. What do you do? Worry!
  • The house is falling apart. The piers are sinking, the shower’s leaking, the circuit board is tripping, the lights are flickering, the plaster’s ing. What do you do? Worry!

What do YOU lie awake thinking about?

Instead, Jesus says, “Do not worry about your life. About food and drink and clothing. And then he goes on to give EIGHT REASONS WHY we’re not to worry.

Why are we not to worry?

a. Therefore

And the first is there in the very first word. THEREFORE. THEREFORE do not worry.

If you glance back up at the previous few paragraphs, we can see what the “therefore” is there for. Jesus is saying “Don’t worry about STUFF” because (v19) earthly treasures don’t last, so why bother fixating on them anyway.

He says don’t worry (v20), putting it in the positive, because you’re greatest treasure is in heaven. That’s something VALUABLE. Something WORTH losing sleep over. Something WORTH throwing you life into getting.

And he says don’t worry (v24), pointing out the contrast, because you can’t serve both God and money. If you WORRY, you’ll end up giving up on God, and focus on stuff instead.

Second reason we’re not to worry (v25). Is because God has already done the difficult thing, so doing the EASIER thing is SIMPLE for him. I think that’s the point of the end of v25.

Don’t worry about food or clothes… Isn’t LIFE more important (or MORE) than FOOD, and the BODY more than CLOTHES?

Food and clothes are MINOR compared to the body and life. It’s not like a black and white contrast. One or the other. You can’t IGNORE food for the sake of living. You NEED food for life. I think Jesus’ point is that God has done the HARD thing. He’s given you LIFE. Breathed it into you. He’s turned bones, skin and tissue into a breathing, thinking, independent, relational self-aware being. How incredible is THAT? That’s the REAL miracle.

If he can do THAT. Do the BIGGER thing, then the SMALLER thing of providing food to keep life GOING is NOTHING.

Don’t worry about FOOD, because life is MORE than food, and God’s already given you LIFE.

Same with the body and clothes. The body is more than clothes. If God’s made your eyes, and your ears. If he’s made your hands that can wield an axe or thread a needle. If he’s made your brain and nervous system that can turn vibrations and pressure and chemicals and light waves into electrical signals that your brain somehow interprets to experience and make sense of his world. If he can do THAT, then the smaller thing of providing CLOTHES for your body is NOTHING.

How big is YOUR God? Worrying about stuff like leaking taps, or les, or lost keys is squashing God into a tiny box. A box that says he’s too small to do this, or change that, or provide this. Worrying makes God SMALL. How big is YOUR God?

Third reason not to worry. V26. You’re more important to God than plants and birds.

26 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 THAN THEY?

Same thing with the flowers down to v28. They don’t stress, or plan. But God dresses them beautifully. Then v30.

30 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,

They’re nothing more than a blip on the radar. Pop up then gone before anyone even notices. But God’s got them covered – literally. HOW MUCH MORE will he look after you?

Do you RECOGNISE your worth in God’s eyes? Worry is saying, “I’m not valuable enough for God to look after me”.

Fourth reason not to worry. There in v27. Worrying changes nothing.

27 Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?

You’ve got no real control on your life. So just let it go! Hand it over to God. Not only can worrying not ADD a single hour to your life, it can SHORTEN it.

Stress related illnesses are on the increase. Experts warn us that ongoing and unresolved stress can lead to high pressure, cardiovascular disease, and anxiety disorder that can sink into depression.

And so much of it is about stuff YOU CAN’T CHANGE. Instead, says Jesus, don’t worry about your life. Because worry can’t add anything to it.

Five. Worry is a sign of unfaithfulness (30).

30 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, O YOU OF LITTLE FAITH?

Faithfulness means TRUSTING that God’s got a situation in control. That he KNOWS, that he CARES, and that he got the POWER to CONTROL it.

Faith-LESS-ness means you DOUBT those things about God. And so you WORRY. You’re anxious about how YOU’RE going to fix something. You lose sleep about what might happen if situation A or situation B occurs.

Worry is the opposite of trust.

I guess it’s POSSIBLE to pray as well as worry. But it’s pretty difficult. You end up tying yourself in knots. Either God’s in control, and you hand stuff over to him. Leave it with him in prayer. Or he’s not, and you WORRY. You pray and SLEEP. Or you WORRY, and DON’T.

Phil 4:6-7 puts the contrast THIS way

6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

(Five. Worry is a sign of unfaithfulness.)

Six. Pagans worry. We’re supposed to be different. V31.

31 So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the PAGANS RUN AFTER ALL THESE THINGS, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them.

If you think the world revolves around YOU. That you’re FREE from answering to ANYONE. That YOU’RE the change agent for success. That you make your own luck. (Which is what non-Christians think).

And that, ultimately, it all depends on YOU…. Then you’re bound to WORRY. To fret. About whether you’ll be able to measure up. To perform at the right level at the right time.

And the bigger the goal, the bigger the worry.

Which doesn’t really sound like FREEDOM to me. More like a depressing sort of SLAVERY.

But Jesus is saying that HIS people should be DIFFERENT. When you belong to GOD. When you’re living life HIS way. According to HIS priorities. Building treasure in the kingdom of heaven, rather than collecting piles of rust and rubbish. Your life will look DIFFERENT. Different on the OUTSIDE. In the things you have. How you spend your time and your money. What things you make time for. And what you DON’T have time for.

But it will also be different on THE INSIDE. If you choose trust instead of worry. You’ll be different in the things you DON’T worry about.

Margaret Howard was telling me about her doctor at St George Hospital. He suspected Margaret’s melanoma had into her bones, and that was why the bone in her foot had broken. Margaret was quite CALM about it, and said her attitude was because she trusted God.

The doctor didn’t quite know how to take that. But he said Margaret reminded him of his mother-in-law, who was ALSO a Christian. And had coped well with a bad health episode. He said she’d given him plenty to think about.

We’re to be DIFFERENT from those around us when it comes to worry. Could people TELL that you’re a Christian by the way you deal with some of the hurdles in your life?

Seven. We’re not to worry because God knows what we need (v32).

31 So don’t worry, … the pagans run after all these things, and YOUR HEAVENLY FATHER KNOWS THAT YOU NEED THEM.

It’s the same thing we saw two weeks ago when it came to praying. We don’t need to keep asking over and over again. God already knows what we need. So we can just ask SIMPLY, QUIETLY, and TRUSTINGLY.

If you TRUST the person delivering the goods, you won’t WORRY. That’s how the whole system of ebay works. You give positive or negative feedback to whoever you buy or sell from. If someone’s got GOOD feedback from previous buyers, you can be pretty confident you’re goods will be delivered without hassle.

But if there’s BAD feedback, you might get burned, and so you’re CONFIDENCE about things turning out will be dented.

With God, we’re not to worry about getting what we need because God KNOWS what we need. And his feedback record, to put it in ebay language, is millions of transactions with a 100% positive rating.

(7. We don’t need to worry because God already knows.)

The 8th reason Jesus gives not to worry is because worry distorts the importance of the present (v34).

34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

It’s a pretty realistic comment from Jesus. He’s certainly not saying we shouldn’t worry because THE CHRISTIAN LIFE IS ALWAYS A BED OF ROSES. He’s saying there’s trouble TODAY. Christians aren’t SPARED that. But give your mind to TODAY. Approach TODAY’S mountains trusting God to deal with them. It’s just nonsense to worry about TOMORROW before it’s even arrived. Wait until then. If God’s looked after TODAY’S problems, then if he brings more along tomorrow, then he’ll provide for you then, too.

They’re 8 reasons not to worry. But HOW can we go about not worrying? What POSITIVE hints does Jesus give for moving towards the freedom he’s thinking about?

How do we not worry?

It’s there in v33. A great verse to memorise, if you’re going to memorise any in these chapters. How do you escape the pit of worry? Read it aloud with me (v33)

33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.

God’s kingdom is the things and situations and opportunities where God is ALLOWED to be KING. And God’s RIGHTEOUSNESS is the way of life God wants for his people. Pursuing THOSE things should be our number one concern. Pursuing HIS way. HIS plans. HIS obedience. HIS priorities. HIS decisions. Make it PRIMARY. Number one. FIRST CHOICE.

That’s the key to escaping WORRY. To finding ultimate freedom. Do THAT, and God promises to throw in all the little stuff you need to get by.

HOW can you seek those things? How do you work at changing your heart? Your priorities and goals. Your concerns. The things that occupy your daydreams.

You’d do worse than reading these three chapters 5-7 every day for a month. Write them out long-hand. Stick them on the toilet door. Read them before you go to sleep each night, so they fill your head.

And you’ll be well on the way to at least KNOWING what God’s righteousness is about.

Get these words under your skin, hard-wired into your brain. So they become second- re. Study them. Organise to meet with other Christians who want the same thing. Encourage each other. Keep each other accountable. Pray together, handing over your worries and concerns to God.

Seek these things FIRST, and you’ll begin to find that the words of JESUS will replace the words of PEOPLE. The PRIORITIES of Jesus will begin to replace the PRIORITIES of people. And the CONCERNS OF THE KINGDOM will begin to replace the WORRIES OF THE WORLD. And you’ll begin to experience ultimate freedom.

A few chapters on from here. Ch 11:28-29 Jesus says these words.

28 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

Being Different

Is that where YOU are? Totally depending on God, not a care in the world? If I’m honest with myself, I’m often nowhere NEAR that.

I wonder about myself, and so I wonder it about the rest of you… whether we’re any different from the world around us. Whether our values are just like the pagans as well. Whether, if we calculated some statistics, there’d be even the slightest hundredth of a percent difference in the size of the house and the size of the mortgage and the size of the worldly ambitions… between us Christians. And the pagans.

Because there should be. As those who say we follow Jesus. As those who say we really are hungry for righteousness. More than we’re hungry for riches. Who SAY we seek his kingdom and his righteousness FIRST. I wonder even if we started doing little things like avoiding the urge to upsize… if when interest rates go down, some of us decided to sponsor a kid with Compassion instead of buying a bigger house… or putting in some time leading a Sunday School class, instead of putting in the extra hours in the office.

But somehow, for so many Christians, if it gets in the road of enhancing the lifestyle, it’s not on. Because you don’t have time. Because you’re so busy converting time into money. Because you’re looking for FREEDOM in the prison cells of earthly treasure and earthly worries.

But if God’s righteousness is number one, then that should LOOK LIKE something in your life. Does it? If you had to DEFEND yourself in court on charges of being a Christian, what EVIDENCE would you be able to present. Evidence that people could see and measure.

Jesus’ promise is SURE and CERTAIN. Will you TRUST him?

33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.

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