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Sermon on the Mount: Don't Worry

"That is why I tell you not to worry about everyday life-whether you have enough food or drink, or enough clothes to wear. Isn't life more than food, and your body more than clothing? Look at the birds. They don't plant or harvest or store food in barns, for your heavenly Father feeds them. And aren't you far more valuable to him than they are? Can all your worries add a single moment to your life? And why worry about your clothing? Look at the lilies of the field and how they grow. They don't work or make their clothing, yet Solomon in all his glory was not dressed as beautifully as they are. And if God cares so wonderfully for wildflowers that are here today and thrown into the fire tomorrow, he will certainly care for you Why do you have so little faith? So don't worry about these things, saying 'What will we eat? What will we drink? What will we wear?' These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers, but your heavenly Father already knows your needs. Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need. So don't worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today's trouble is enough for today.

Don't worry. It seems a lot easier to just say those words and just let it go, but I have to say, this was a little challenging sermon to kind of wrap my brain around as I'm sitting at home pouring gas in generator to keep the refrigerator going and cleaning up debris and realizing that some of you probably experienced it a lot worse. Don't worry, Jesus says, Look at the birds of the air. They don't worry about these things. Look at the flowers and the grass of the fields. Well, if Jesus is using the birds of the air as part of his analogy and the plants in the world around us, the other night, the trees didn't fair very well, and neither did the birds based on the number of nests found laying in our backyard. And we have to look at a situation and think, Jesus says, Don't worry. And on the one hand, it seems as though it’s this blanket statement to cover everything, and yet we know that life has those moments that we can't explain or make sense of. Don't worry, we'd love to be able to embrace that fully. How do we do that? How do we live a life where we're not consumed by worry?

Well, we need to look back to what we talked about last week. I ended the sermon at the service by telling you that I played Little League baseball as a kid and reminded you that I wasn't that good. I’'ll remind you that again, in fact, my first year or two, I spent more time looking for four leaf clovers in the outfield than I did actually play baseball. But I did remember that statement, keep your eye on the ball, which is exactly what Jesus was telling us last week. Keep your eye on me, keep your focus and your attention where it belongs on me. And using that baseball analogy again, what Jesus is talking about this week when he begins addressing and bringing up this idea of worry, it's kind of like that chatter that all of the fielders are doing when a batter comes up to the plate. When they're out there saying hey batter batter swing, trying to get their attention, trying to distract them, trying to pull their attention away from that ball that they should be focusing on and getting ready to hit, and worry has that effect in our life.

Worry is that chatter that surrounds us that tries to pull our attention and our focus off of Jesus. Worry is something that can consume us. I print it off this list that I ran across that says, why is worry so detrimental to human thriving. Worry erodes faith. Worry destroys trust. Worry extinguishes His peace. Worry leads to anxiety. Worry fosters practical atheism. Worry robs us of joy. Worries foments a scarcity mentality. Worry blinds us to abundance. Worry kills extravagance, compounds insecurity, activates centeredness, germinate sins, squelches love. Worry focuses our attention on secondary issues, and worry keeps us from the Kingdom of God. Well, if that doesn't say enough of what all of those reasons, why worry is a problem. We can better understand why Jesus says not to do it. So there you have it. All of those reasons. Don't worry. Go forth and do that.

But again, Jesus, I don't get it. I don't understand how or why, or what. And so we need to revisit that verse, we ended on last week, where Jesus talked about that, we cannot serve two masters. That you can't love mammon or wealth, and God at the same time. That to do so pulls us away from that focus and that attention that God has invited us into where Jesus is saying, Keep your eye on the right thing, because that God-focused life is one that believes in trusting God. It's one that loves God above all things, that obeys God above all things and desires to become like God, not in our power and wisdom and all of those things, but like God in our capacity to love and care for others. But when we choose mammon, wealth over that true God, mammon calls us to seek happiness in riches, for what riches can obtain for us. Mammon means loving this present world and accepting its values. It means following this world by adopting its standards and adopting the values of this present age by conforming to its customs and patterns. But here's the thing, when we choose that master, when we choose wealth as the master of our lives, and we're not talking about the extravagant lifestyles of the live calls on the Rich and Famous, but rather we're talking about just anybody that sees their safety, their security, their future in wealth and wealth alone, whether it's a small amount or a large amount, when wealth becomes that means of our comfort and our security and our safety. Well, the only thing that that can lead to is this worry that Jesus is talking about.

Because as Jesus said in John 10:10, The thief comes to steal and to kill and destroy. Or even in the beginning of last week, store up for yourself treasures where moths cannot consume and rust does not destroy. The treasurers and the security of this world is a very temporary thing, and that leads to worry, we worry about... Well, the market hold or will the lights come back on? We worry about things of this world when our security and safety are rooted and grounded in the things of this world. And yet Jesus points us to the world around us, to the birds of the air and the flowers in the field that says, Look, look how beautiful those flowers are, they don't worry about going to the right store and finding the right outfit to wear. Look at the birds, they're not worried about where their next meal is coming from, or will they have shelter? There's a trust that's implicit in this world that God has created, and part of our human dilemma is that we try to break free of the trust that we should have in God and in God alone.

That one statement has said that worry is practical atheism. That no matter how much we profess our belief in our love for God, practical atheism means that our actions convey that maybe God isn't enough, that maybe God isn't sufficient for all of our needs, that maybe God doesn't love us enough to provide for us. Wesley in his sermon on this, talked about this problem that we have, he says, Your father in heaven knows that you have need of all these things, and he has pointed out to you an infallible way of being constantly supplied with them. He says, Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all of these things will be added unto you. He said, It's an affront to God though. It's an affront to the gracious governor, and the wise Defender of all things, necessarily implying that the great judge does not do right, that he does not order all things well, it plainly implies that he is wanting either in wisdom. If he does not know what things we stand in need of or in goodness, if he does not provide those things for all who put their trust in him, that would be practical atheism, of assuming that God either doesn't love us enough or isn't capable it.

And yet, Jesus points us to the remedy of that, Jesus points us to that remedy when he offers those words, seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness. Seek first the kingdom of God. You've probably seen lists of people putting their priorities in order in their life, Well, God is first in my family, second and my church is third, and so on and so on. As far as ordering their priorities, the US Marine Corps has that as a motto of priorities for their efforts and endeavors of their commitment and loyalty to Unicorn God and country. There are all sorts of hierarchies and rankings and listings of these priorities. And so Jesus begins by saying, Okay, first, seek the Kingdom of God and His righteousness. And then he said, Second, but he didn't. For Jesus, there was no priority. There was no hierarchy. There was no ranking. He says, First, seek the Kingdom of God and His righteousness.

Now, if anybody was studious and taking notes, they probably already had a number two written on their paper or a stone tablet or whatever they would have been keeping notes on, and they waited. And Jesus said nothing else. Because this takes us back to Jesus’ point last week. Of what is the focus? What is the priority? What is the single most important thing before us? And it's God. It's God and God alone. While we have other things that are important to us, while our families matter deeply to us, our jobs, our church family, our country, so many other things. Jesus says, Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness. That priority, that goal needs to be the goal for all of those other aspects of our lives. Seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness in your church. Seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness in your family, in your finances, in your school, in your workplace, in your neighborhood. Seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness in all aspects of your life. And then all of these things will be added unto you as well. It's about that priority.

It's about not listening to those voices of worry swirling around us that are saying, Yeah, but what if... Or, what if this were to happen? Or What if that doesn't? And they're trying to pull our attention away and distract us, worry diverts our attention from God, worry robs us of peace, and worry says that God isn't enough. So what is our answer? What is our remedy to worry when it attempts to creep in our lives? It's not to try harder. It's not to seek out more stuff. It's to seek God. Because in doing so, we discover the peace of God, we discover that God is with us. We discover that even in the midst of trials and challenges and hard and painful things that we're not alone, that God's love, prevails, that there is a strength that we didn't know we had, that there are friends and people who love us that we never counted before. That even in the midst of those difficult things, when that worry starts to creep in, may we hear Jesus speaking those words to us, Don't worry, don't worry because you're not alone, don't worry because you are loved, don't worry because God is sufficient in these moments that you will face. It's not a get out of jail free card. It's not a vaccine or prevention from any tough stuff happening in our lives, but rather it is the way in which God has promised to be with us and see us through those moments.

Disciples of Jesus learn from experience how faithful God can and will be in those moments of life. Wesley described this unaltered undeviating focus upon God as righteousness. Wesley said that righteousness is the fruit of God reigning in the heart. And what is righteousness, but love? The love of God and of all mankind flowing from faith in Jesus Christ and producing humbleness of mind, meekness, gentleness, long-suffering patience, deadness to the world, and every right disposition of the heart toward God and toward one another. And by these, it produces all holy actions whatsoever are lovely or of good report, whatsoever works of Faith and Labor of Love are acceptable to God and profitable to humans. Righteousness is the fruit of God reigning in the heart.

Jesus called those disciples and they left behind their livelihoods, their families, their home communities, to follow this traveling preacher, caught up in this message that he was proclaiming, desiring something different, something more out of this life that they were living. And so they had taken those steps of committing themselves, to him, to those who have taken up their cross and decided to follow Jesus, to those who have looked back and thought, Boy, is it worth it? Am I willing to pay this price? Jesus says, Don't worry. Trust me, believe in me. Follow me. Jesus ends this passage by saying, Do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own, today's trouble is enough for today. It almost seems like a pessimistic statement, but the truth of it is, Jesus is saying, much like he did in that Lord's Prayer of, Give us today the bread we need for today, he's saying, Don't worry about tomorrow, because today has enough for you to attend to, but we're not attending to it alone by God's grace and strength. We face the challenges of life, and long when we hear His words, I don't worry, there will even be times where we can say and be happy, because there is great joint peace that comes from knowing that God is with us through all things.

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