God did not create you for mediocrity. God created you for greatness. Even children feel that. Ask any ten-year-old boy what he wants to be when he grows up and he will not say, “I want to be wishy-washy.” He’ll say, “I want to be a fighter pilot. I want to be an explorer. I want to build skyscrapers.” Then our culture trivializes us and beats us down. Look at the beer commercials during NFL games. What are they saying to young men? They’re saying, “You’re good for nothing but chasing girls in perpetual adolescence. Drink our beer and you’ll look cool while you waste your life.” God made us for more than that. God has a call on your life. It’s a call to greatness. It’s a call to service. God wants to make an impact through you. This church exists to help you follow the call and become the magnificent person God made you to be.
When Jesus came, he announced, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matthew 4:17). We look around at our city and we’re tempted to think, “Nothing ever changes around here.” But the truth is, a new power entered this world when Jesus came. He started spreading it when he poured out the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. That power flows out today through gospel-centered churches. God wants you involved. You don’t have to stand on the sidelines. You don’t have to look at other people God is using and wonder how that happens. You can be that person. God is ready to use you. How do you get there? Repent. The change you want to be involved in starts with you. Make the adjustments he wants you to make. If you will, he’ll use you, because the kingdom of heaven is here. It’s on the move. You can be a part of it. God wants you to be. He’s opening the door to you through the finished work of Christ on the cross. You need to step through that door. This morning I’ll explain how we all can do that in a practical way as we go into 2010.
Jesus is telling us here in Matthew 6:25-34 how to get untangled from the status quo, how to live in the new counterculture called the kingdom of God. He has one main point, and it’s surprisingly simple, in verses 25, 31 and 34: “Do not be anxious.” A major inhibitor in our lives is fear. We talk ourselves into a fearful contraction of our lives, we talk ourselves into withdrawing and saying No to wonderful opportunities. Jesus wants to talk us into a bold expansion of our lives. He wants us to get free of worry, so that we throw ourselves into advancing his kingdom.
Jesus understands how we think. He meets us where we are and helps us. We worry about economic survival, paying the bills, having enough plus a little more. We worry. But here’s the question he wants us to think about. Is that all God made us for – paying the bills? Is that all you really want out of your life – on your dying day ending up in the black? Is that the real drama of your life? Verse 25:
Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious 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?
In the previous paragraph Jesus told us we have to choose between living for money versus living for God (verse 24). Now in this paragraph he’s saying, “You can live in practical commitment to God, because God lives in practical commitment to you. You don’t have to grovel any more at the dictates of the idol Money. You don’t have to reduce your significance to bare survival. You can reach for a kingdom life, because God will back you up.” Verses 26-27:
Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?
Have you ever seen a worried bird? They’re constantly active, scratching around for their next meal. But they’re not nervously fearful: “I’m always one worm away from total starvation.” They’re thinking, “Well, what do you know – here’s another worm! Praise the Lord.” And they chirp and sing. We think, “Cute. But if the stupid birds could think, they would worry.” That is exactly the godless mentality that holds us back from living all-out for something greater than the next worm. Our fearfulness is functional atheism. Notice what Jesus says. He does not say about the birds, “Their heavenly Father feeds them.” He says, “Your heavenly Father feeds them.” Jesus sees God the Father as a big zookeeper with all these animals in his care. He feeds them every day at work. But at home he loves his kids. God maintains his creation; but in Christ he died for us. Jesus is calling us to pay attention to how God cares even for birds, so that we stop obsessing about physical things and start living for greater things, because we have a Father who cares about everything. Either we believe that or we don’t. If we don’t, let’s stop being Christians altogether. If we do believe it, let’s live like it. But the one thing Jesus won’t let us do is be halfway people who say we believe while we fearfully pad our lives with zero-risk self-protection. Verses 28-30:
And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?
Jesus uses another illustration of God’s care. He sees God as the ultimate fashion designer. I remember driving with Jani from San Antonio to Dallas one spring day and all the way we were gaga at the carpet of Texas bluebonnets covering the prairie. Can the fashion shows of Paris compare with the prairies of Texas in full bloom? And God just throws it out there. Those flowers are neither cultivated nor protected. They’re at the mercy of the elements. But God makes things live and thrive with beauty. It’s who he is. And if God “wastes” all that effort and imagination on Texas bluebonnets along the interstate, if God dresses them up so fabulously for so short a time, can’t we connect the dots with how God cares for us?
We do see a lot of suffering in the world. We’re always afraid that we’re next. We fear that God will fail us. So we over-focus on ourselves. But Jesus is saying, “The real crisis is not ‘O God of little provision’ but ‘O you of little faith.’” We have faith, enough faith to believe in God, but not enough faith to free us from our fears and how they rob us of our kingdom-first adventure. The God too many Christians believe in is a God who did things back in history but by now you just never know. So they come to church and they’re nice people, but their lifestyles are screaming out: “We are taking out insurance on the possible failures of God.” No wonder they never get around to living for him. Verses 31-32:
Do not be anxious, saying, “What shall we eat?” or “What shall we drink?” or “What shall we wear?” For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all.
Who are “the Gentiles”? Not an ethnic group but a spiritual group, people who don’t believe they have a Father in heaven caring for them. To Them, God isn’t real enough to feel like a guarantee. So they have no logical reason not to make survival the focus of their selfishly padded lives. And they do. They go after it. Everywhere people are hustling, building, working, creating, reaching, inventing, composing, saving, hoarding. But the energy inside is so often anxiety. And that fear doesn’t fulfill people’s dreams; it keeps people from their dreams. They’re thinking, “I’ll get around to what my heart longs for later, when I can afford it, when I retire. I’ll make a difference then. But right now, I have to save for the kids’ college and a gazillion other things. Some things just have to wait.” Why do people give up like that? Because they feel alone in the struggle of life. The bills are more real than God. But Jesus is saying, “That’s the Gentiles. But it’s different with you. You know that nothing will ever separate you from the love of God in Christ Jesus your lord. He has your back. Now believe it, and aim higher. Use your life for something grand and glorious.” Verse 33:
But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.
Jesus is contrasting two agendas for life: the Gentiles seeking survival, kingdom people seeking impact. The Gentiles – their version of this verse is, “But seek first a good job, comfort, predictability, security, and then add in the spiritual things as you can.” Some of us live that way. And it isn’t working. Let’s face it. But kingdom people seek first God’s impact through them, because he says he’ll throw the other stuff in too. God is promising us everything we need to live for a cause that will still matter a bazillion years from today, if we’ll reach out and take it. As C. S. Lewis said, “Aim at heaven, and you’ll get earth thrown in; aim at earth, and you’ll get neither.”
Here is something that has never occurred to the Gentile outlook on life. The Bible says, “All things are yours” (1 Corinthians 3:21). Your Father owns everything. He is managing everything with you in mind. He treats everything as yours. Here’s how Jonathan Edwards put it:
God three in one, all that he is, all that he has, all that he does, all that he has made or done—the whole universe, bodies and spirits, earth and heaven, sun, moon [and] stars, land and sea, fish and fowls, all the silver and gold, kings as well as ordinary people—are as much the Christian’s as the money in his pocket, by virtue of his union with Christ, who owns all things. So the Christian possesses it all, more than a wife owns the share of the best and dearest husband.
God is ordering everything with you in mind. In Christ, not only is justification yours; Saturn is yours. Everything you worry about losing or not getting either is or will become yours, if you will give yourself to the will of God. He will give you everything you need for the life mission he has sent you on, if you’ll accept that mission. He has thought of everything. Trust him. Live for him first.
Too few Christians feel that confidence. Too many Christians are wasting their lives obsessing about things God has already taken care of. How can we make sure we don’t rob ourselves of our opportunity? And 2010 will be an unrepeatable opportunity for you and me to make a difference for Christ. How can we do that?
We’ve got to feel the power of the two key words in verse 33. One, “seek.” We saw that word in verse 32 where Jesus describes the world of business. The word “seek” is the opposite of “drift.” Seeking is about intentionality and aggressiveness and risk and boldness, as we see in the world of business every day. People create traffic jams on I-65 to seek things that are passing away. This word “seek” tells us to go after God’s kingdom and righteousness with intentionality and aggressiveness and risk and boldness. Let’s create a new traffic jam moving in a new direction, because God is already taking care of the lesser stuff and now he’s calling us to go after a higher cause. The word “seek” means bending our lives around to press God’s kingdom forward in 2010.
Second word in verse 33: “first.” “Seek first . . . .” Something in your life in 2010 will come first. As you make out your monthly budget on a legal pad or a Word document, however you do it, something will come first, something will appear as the first line item in your budget. Is your monthly budget saying “Christ first,” or is your monthly budget saying “Me first”? It’s one or the other. And the question is, What do you believe about God? If you believe that God cares for you, how can you write out a me-first budget? Don’t waste your 2010 on me-first priorities. God has made no promise to underwrite a self-centered lifestyle with his provision.
Now, about how you use your time – as you plan your weekly schedule for 2010, with work and school and everything else, what comes first? What is your first time commitment, around which you fit everything else? You’ll give your biggest chunk of time to work or school. But which allocation of your time do you decide on first and protect thereafter and other things have to fit in and adjust around that central, immovable commitment? Jesus is saying, “Schedule your life for kingdom expansion first, and I’ll help you find time for everything else you need to do.”
As you enter 2010, don’t drift. Seek God’s kingdom and righteousness first. Treat the rest as “all these things” that “will be added in.” But something in your life will come first. And whatever you put first is what you really believe will take care of you. Is it a partnership that will make your life magnificent?
Thanksgiving is already over. Christmas will be here soon. Then the New Year. 2010 can be a great new year in your life. The kingdom of heaven is at hand. You can be a part of it. You can rise above the mundane. You can give yourself away. We want, in 2010, to make Immanuel a church our friends love to come to. And one reason to love it is that here our lives can make an eternal impact. We’ve only begun. There is so much to do, most of it beyond our four walls, out in the community serving others. Here is how we can all seek first God’s kingdom and righteousness in 2010. We need five things. One, prayer, so that we move forward in the power of God and not our own strength. Two, funding, so that we can get beyond survival mode and give money away for Jesus’ sake. Three, good ideas for ministry improvement and expansion. Four, leaders to implement those good ideas. Five, volunteers to help turn those good ideas into reality. And what’s it all for? Jesus, community, mission. Let’s seek it first. It won’t be easy. But our Father will make the difference.