52 Major Stories of the Bible - Lesson 32
Worry carries the illusion that we have some control and that worry can accomplish something. Of course, it can do no such thing. Disciples are to have unwavering loyalty to God. As we see Gods care of his creation, we can rest assured that he will also care for us. Our focus is to be on his kingdom and his righteous; in return, he will simply give us what we need.
II. Disciples Have Given Their “Unwavering Loyalty”
A. Logic: (implied) God has already given us life/body
B. Two Illustrations From Nature
C. Seeing God in Creation
III. Repeats Theme (v 31) – Two reasons (v 32)
A. “For the Gentiles seek after all these things”
B. “Your heavenly Father knows that you need them all”
C. Good and Bad Anxiousness
D. “Do Not” Replaced by “Do”
Genesis 1 is the foundational chapter for the entire Bible. It not only tells us how everything started, but it establishes the basic teaching on who God is and who we are in relationship to him.
On the sixth day of creation we learn that people are the apex of creation, stamped with the image of God. This is the source of human dignity, and it is why we pursue spiritual growth, so we will look more like him.
Genesis 3 describes how Adam and Eve sinned, how their sin broke the relationship with God for them and for all people, and God’s promise of a redeemer.
Genesis 6–9 is not a children’s story. It shows God’s anger against our sin, and yet also shows that he is a redeeming God. Like Noah, it challenges us to step out in faith.
Genesis 12:1–15:6 focuses on one man, Abraham, who is part of the fulfillment of the promise God made in the Garden to redeem humanity. Abraham must do two things: believe, and act on that belief. When he does, God makes an eternal covenant with him and with all his descendants, Israel and the church. We too must follow the pattern of our father: believe, and act on that belief.
The authors of the New Testament refer to Abraham as the person with whom God made the covenant as the father of the nation of Israel. At the time God established the covenant, the man's name was Abram. God changed it later to Abraham and that's how he is referred to in subsequent references.
The story of Joseph in Genesis 37–50 is an account of God’s faithfulness to his promises to Abraham, his omnipotence (all-powerful), and his omniscience (all-knowing). Joseph’s brothers sold him into slavery, but God worked through their evil to accomplish good — the salvation of the entire nation of Abraham’s descendants. We too are called to faith in God’s promises.
In Exodus 7:14–Exodus 10, we read of God’s salvation of the Israelite nation. The Egyptians had enslaved them, but through Moses God punished the Egyptians with ten plagues and secured the Israelite’s freedom. God is faithful to his promises, and all praise and honor go to him.
The Ten Commandments, found in Exodus 20, are not rules to follow, but they give form and structure to how our love for God (the Shema) should manifest itself in how we treat God and others.
Moses wants to see God. Exodus 33 contains the account of how God could not let Moses see him or Moses would have died; but he does allow Moses to see the back of his glory. This is the essence of Christianity: a desire to see God. After all, God created us to have fellowship with us. We were created for community with him.
The book of Leviticus is consumed with the holiness of God, that he is separate from all sin. The sacrificial system teaches us that sin violates God’s rules, which extracts the high cost of death. But Leviticus also teaches us that God forgives, that a sacrifice can pay the penalty of our sin (if we repent), and in so doing prepares us for the cross of Jesus.
The Shema is the central affirmation of the Old Testament: “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one” (Deuteronomy 6:4). It calls us to rigorous monotheism in which we refuse to worship idols of any shape.
The book of Judges shows the necessity of covenant renewal, how each generation must decide for itself if it will follow God. Once the Israelites were given the Promised Land, for the most part they failed to renew the covenant and failed to receive the blessings from God. The same is true of our own families.
I Samuel tells of the shift from the nation being ruled by Judges to that of a king. Israel was supposed to be a theocracy, a kingdom ruled by God, and so the people’s desire for a king was a rejection of God. Saul, the first king, did not learn the lesson that God is still king, and what matters for us is to remain faithful. Unfortunately, many people make the same mistake as Saul.
Update: When Dr. Mounce refers to "theodicy" at the first of the lecture, he means, "theocracy." We have updated the outline and the transcription. We will update the audio when we are able.
This is not a story primarily about a young man defeating a great warrior (I Samuel 16-17). It is an account of how faith propels us to trust God, no matter what the appearances.
Psalm 23 is David's cry of faith that his divine Shepherd will provide and protect him in all situations, and that God is lavish in his love for his sheep.
Psalm 51 gives the pattern for true biblical confession, which admits our own guilt and God's justice, makes no excuses, and appeals not to our good works but to God's mercy.
Solomon was the wisest of all people, and yet he died a fool because he ignored his own advice (Proverbs). It is not enough to know the truth; you have to do it. Wisdom begins with knowing that God knows best.
Job learned that bad things happen to good people and bad people alike. The question is, will you continue to trust God in the difficult times? Is he worthy of our trust when we don’t know all the answers and our lives are filled with pain?
1 Kings 14–18 tells the story of Elijah and his battle with false religion. The word of the day was “syncretism,” the mixing of two religions. In our day, we are faced with the same challenge, especially the mixing of Christianity and secular culture. Elijah challenges us to not have divided hearts or divided loyalties.
Isaiah 6:1-8 tells us of Isaiah’s visit to God’s throne, and there we learn the true meaning of worship: the cycle of revelation and response. As God reveals himself to us, and we must respond appropriately. It asks the question, ”How big is your God?”
Isaiah 52–53 give us one of the most exact and theologically helpful looks into the death of Christ. Isaiah prophecies about a servant who was to come, whom God would punish for our sins. This, of course, is a prophecy about Jesus. Here we learn that there is no sin God cannot forgive, and that peace comes not from within ourselves but from outside, from God.
Micah prophesied three sets of what we call a “Woe” (judgment”) and “Weal” (restoration). The Israelites believed all they had to do was go through the external motions of worship, and then they could live any way they wanted the rest of the week. This brings judgment, but with judgment God promises a future restoration.
Hosea prophesied to people who were caught in persistent sin. Their sin caught them in a downward spiral beginning with idolatry and enforced by luxury. But even at the bottom of spiral, after the people have experienced the necessary punishment, God is still present to forgive. Sinners are called “whores,” living unfaithful lives.
Habakkuk asks the question of why do the wicked appear to flourish and the righteous suffer. At the root of his question is whether or not God is righteous. Because Habakkuk asks in faith, God answers his question by telling him to wait. Eventually, the wicked are punished and the righteous are rewarded. In the meantime, the righteous person lives by their faith that God is a righteous God.
Jeremiah and Ezekiel prophesied before and during the exile, when God’s people were conquered by the Babylonians, preaching God's judgment as well as the promise of hope. The hope was the New Covenant where God's law would be written on the person's heart and empowered through the work of God's Spirit.
The book of Lamentations teaches us that there is an end to God’s patience with sin. It is a national lament in which Israel expresses their deep sorrow over sin. It starts by being honest about the cause of sin, not blaming anyone but themselves. But it concludes by expressing their faith in the God who forgives.
Back in Genesis 3:15, God promised to do something about sin. The Old Testament shows God working to keep his promise, a promise that is eventually fulfilled in Jesus Christ. But unlike popular expectation, Jesus was more than just a human being. He was fully God at the same time he was fully human. But it is not enough to know these facts; you must receive God’s blessing in order to walk in relationship with God.
The Old Testament ends on a note of promise, that God would send Elijah to prepare the people for their coming savior, the Messiah. This Elijah turns out to be John the Baptist, who prepares the people by teaching them about repentance. Much to their surprise, the people learned that being born Jewish was of no advantage, and that they too had to learn that they have nothing of value to offer God if they are to enter his kingdom.
Perhaps the most common term used about Christians is being “born again,” or “reborn.” This comes from the account of the Jewish leader Nicodemus. Jesus tells him that if he is to enter God’s kingdom, he cannot get there naturally, through what he can do. Only the supernatural work of God’s Spirit in making us new — so new that it is a rebirth — can accomplish our salvation. All this is explained by the most famous verse in the Bible, John 3:16.
Do you want to be blessed by God? Jesus tells us how this happens with eight statements at the beginning of his famous “Sermon on the Mount.” Contrary to popular belief, blessing comes through recognizing our spiritual depravity, mourning over our sin, and as a result being meek, pure in heart, and pursuing peace. How will the world respond? It will persecute you, which is also a blessing.
Jesus teaches us that prayer begins with us orienting ourselves to our heavenly father, being most concerned with his glory and the advance of his kingdom, and concludes with our admission of total dependence on him for our physical and spiritual needs. Prayer is primarily about God.
Worry carries the illusion that we have some control and that worry can accomplish something. Of course, it can do no such thing. Disciples are to have unwavering loyalty to God. As we see Gods care of his creation, we can rest assured that he will also care for us. Our focus is to be on his kingdom and his righteous; in return, he will simply give us what we need.
Many years before Christ, God told Moses that his name is “I AM.” Jesus picks this name up to assert that he is in fact the Great I AM, and as such he says things like, “I am the bread of life,” “I am the light of the world.” The mystery of the Trinity is that there is one God, and yet God is three – Father, Son, Spirit. This is difficult to understand, and yet we should not expect to know everything there is to know about God.
When Jesus calls us to follow him, as one person has said, he bids us come and die. Die to our personal ambitions, and live daily as one who has died to himself and lives for God. Only disciples are in heaven.
What is the single most important thing you can do? What is the central thing required of us by God? It is to love him him with everything we are. Our love must be emotional (not just obedience) and it must be personal (loving God and not things about him). But if we love God, we must then love our neighbor.
Two major events await the disciples: the destruction of the temple and Jesus’ return. There will be signs, warning them to flee Jerusalem, which happened in A.D. 70. But there are no warning signs for when Jesus will return and this age will end. The disciple’s role is not to wonder about when this will happen — not even Jesus knows — but to live a life of preparedness.
In Jesus’ last teaching before his death and resurrection, among other things he taught the disciples about the coming Spirit who will convict the world of its sin, show the world Jesus’ righteousness, and convict the world of its coming judgment. We know this “Spirit” to be the Holy Spirit, the third person of the Trinity.
The greatest act of salvation before the cross was God freeing the Israelites from Egypt. To celebrate that event, God instituted the Passover celebration, commemorating God’s graciousness act of passing over the Israelite houses and killing the first-born of only the Egyptian homes. But now God is about to perform and even greater salvation event, Jesus dying on the cross. Christians are to celebrate Passover not looking back to Egypt but looking at Jesus’ death and forward to his eventual return.
The death and resurrection of Jesus is the culmination of not only Jesus' life but of all history to that point. Jesus died on the cross so that we can be friends of God, and he was shown to have conquered death by his resurrection from the grave. The temple curtain, which symbolized the separation between God and people, was torn in two, from the top to the bottom, and we can now live in direct relationship with God.
Jesus’ final act on earth was to commission his followers. Their central mission is to make disciples. They are to make new disciples by sharing the gospel and baptizing them; and they are to make fully-devoted disciples by teaching people to obey everything Jesus taught. Because God is sovereign over all, we must do this. Because he will never leave us, we are able to do this.
During the Jewish festival of Pentecost, 50 days after Passover, Jesus’ promise was fulfilled and the Holy Spirit came and empowered all of Jesus’ followers, giving them supernatural power to, among other things, speak in human languages they had not learned. Peter explains the phenomena as a fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy and then preaches the basic message found throughout Acts: Jesus lived, died, was raised form the dead, and therefore all people are called to repent of their misunderstanding of who Jesus is.
The church is not a building or an activity. The church is the sum total of all true believers. Christ is the head. We are the body. We are a family. We are the temple of God, the place that he inhabits.
Justification is the doctrine of being declared not guilty of our sins. It is a work of God alone; we do not help. In Romans 1:16–17 and 3:21–26, Paul makes it clear that this declaration of righteousness is based not on what we do (“works”) but on what we believe about Jesus (“faith”), that Jesus did on the cross for us what we could not do for ourselves.
We are not only saved by God’s grace, but his grace continues to sustain us throughout our life. One way that God’s grace shows itself is in how we give, financially. God’s grace enables to to both want to give and to be able to give. If someone is not giving, they should wonder about the condition of their heart and why God’s grace is not active in it.
In Romans 5–8, Paul reminds us of the many reasons why we are joyful. We are at peace with God. We are reconciled to him. We have been set free from sin. There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. The Holy Spirit lives within us. We are adopted into God’s family, assured that we are his children. This is the joy of the righteous life.
Paul wants the church in Philippi to understand humility. They should agree on one central focus, and that is a humility that stems from a right understanding of who you are in Christ. As an example, we look no further than Jesus, who is God, lowering himself to be human, and in return being exalted. In response, we should take great care at working out the implications of what it means to be saved.
Christians are people of the book. We believe that all of Scripture came from the very mouth of God. It is true in all it affirms and authoritative over our lives. The challenge is to come to the point where you really believe this.
The book of Hebrews is a deep theological study on the superiority of Christ over everyone and everything else. Interspersed throughout the teaching are the “Warning” passages in which the author encourages his readers to not fall away from their faith. If people do leave the Christian faith, they can have no assurance that they truly are Christians.
James tells us that there is nothing more difficult to control than the tongue. It destroys people’s reputation, often under the guise that what is being said is accurate. We are hurt, so we verbally lash out. We want to be well thought of, so we feign piety. The only way to gain any victory over the tongue is to work on the heart, since it is out of the heart that the mouth speaks. Unfortunately, gossip often is the natural language of the church, but there can be victory.
1 Peter asks one of the fundamental question of life is, how can an all-powerful, all-good God allow pain and suffering. It helps us grapple with this question by pointing our attention to the realities of our lives, especially the fact that we are exiles on earth and our true home is heaven. We are to recognize in the midst of suffering that God is still at work for our good.
The letter we call 1 John is primarily about love. We have been loved by God, and so we should love others as well. Love is not some simplistic emotion but it involves action: God loved us and therefore sent his Son. Love is the giving of oneself for the benefit of the other.
The Bible closes with the prophecy of how all things will end. While there are many questions as to the precise meaning of this book, it’s central message is crystal clear. God will not keep us from suffering and persecution; it is going to get worst; God calls us to be faithful in the midst of our pain. If we are faithful to the end, we will be rewarded. This is what we are waiting for, a new heaven and a new earth where there will be no pain, no sorrow, no sin. The Garden of Eden will be restored, at last. We were created for fellowship with God, and we long for the day when Jesus will return again and take us home.
The Bible is one continuous story filled with adventure, heroes and villains, triumph and defeat, good and evil, love and jealousy, plot twists and ultimately, a happy ending. As you read each of the short Bible stories along the way, you begin to see how the Bible stories combine to form the structure of the one big story. The individual characters and their experiences of tragedy and triumph draw you into their Bible stories and help you see the overarching themes of cosmic love, judgment and redemption.
Telling stories is an effective way of communicating ideas so you remember them. Immersing yourself into the 26 Bible stories from the Old Testament and 26 from the New Testament helps you to understand and internalize the character of God, the splendor of his creation, his love for humans, the evil and destructiveness of sin, the wonder of the plan of redemption and the completeness of restoration at the end of history.
Each of these stories can be considered as Bible stories for kids because the plot and main teaching of the story is something that most children will understand. They are also Bible stories for youth and adults because if you are wise, the examples you see and the lessons you learn will guide you for a lifetime.
Click here to see how you and your small group can study these stories together.
<p>Course: <a href="https://www.biblicaltraining.org/52-major-stories-bible/bill-mounce">52 Major Stories of the Bible</a></p>
<p>Lecture: <a href="https://www.biblicaltraining.org/seek-god/major-stories-bible">Seek God</a></p>
<h2><span style="line-height: 1.5em;">Worry</span></h2>
<p><span style="line-height: 1.5em;">Have you noticed that we can worry about anything and everything? Our creativity as human beings is seen in all the ways in which we can find to worry about something. We can worry about paying off the new building even though it is not built. We can worry about getting married even when we have not learned how to date yet. We can worry about making ends meet, even when there is money in the bank, we can still worry about it. It seems that there is nothing that we cannot worry about. And I suspect that one of the reasons we are so creative in our worrying is that we like it. I suspect we like it because worry can carry the illusion that it actually accomplishes something, which of course it does not. Or more dangerously, worry carries the illusion that we are in control. And we like to worry. The Sermon on Mount is counter-cultural in what it teaches about worry. The Sermon on the Mount is counter-cultural in the extreme when it comes to its teaching about worry. In a nutshell, let me summarize what the Sermon says about worry. The kind of person who recognizes his spiritual poverty and trusts in God’s righteousness is the kind of person who will replace worry with faith as he seeks hard after God. In a nutshell, that is what the Sermon on the Mount is teaching about worry. Now let me unpack it. </span></p>
<h2><span style="line-height: 1.5em;">Disciples Have Given Their “Unwavering Loyalty”</span></h2>
<p><span style="line-height: 1.5em;">Jesus has been discussing for several paragraphs the fact that disciples trust Him and not mammon, not material wealth. He has been talking about how disciples have given their unwavering loyalty to Him as their King. And as that as the backdrop, we will start in Matthew 6:25. </span></p>
<h3><span style="line-height: 1.5em;">Logic: (implied) God has already given us life/body</span></h3>
<p><span style="line-height: 1.5em;">He is saying that because we have trusted in God and not in ourselves, therefore, that trust shows itself in a refusal to worry about the everyday necessities of life. Please watch the logic carefully because some of it is implied. The implied part is that God has already given us life. God has already given us our bodies. And certainly He will sustain the life that he has created with food, with eat and drink. And certainly He will sustain the body He has created with clothing. He is not only Creator but He is Sustainer and therefore you and I have no worries. </span></p>
<h3><span style="line-height: 1.5em;">Two Illustrations From Nature</span></h3>
<p><span style="line-height: 1.5em;">To drive the point home then, Jesus draws out two illustrations from nature. The first is in verse 26 when He talks about God feeding the birds: “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 of course the answer is “yes.” Then he adds parenthetically verse 27, “And which of you be being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?” Why would you want to worry? It does not do any good except perhaps to get you that ulcer you have always wanted. The second illustration is God’s clothing the flowers, starting in verse 28, “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?” If God cares for His creation, He will also care for you and me. In fact, He will care more for you and me because we are of greater worth. John Stott quotes Martin Luther. Luther writes, “You see, Jesus is making the birds our school masters and teachers. It is a great and abiding disgrace to us that in the gospel, a helpless sparrow should become a theologian and a preacher to the wisest of men.” Both of these illustrations, God feeding the birds and God clothing the wildflowers, are based on one fundamental truth and if we do not fully accept that fundamental truth then the flow of the passage breaks down and makes very little sense. The fundamental truth of this passage is that God does, in fact, feed the birds. And that God, in fact, does clothe the flowers. That is the underlying truth of this passage. What do you see when you see a robin tugging at a worm, or the wildflowers on the side of Mount Rainier? What do you see when you see pictures of distant galaxies or the infinite variety of all creation? What do you see? Do you see impersonal forces of nature and evolution just kind of doing what nature and evolution does? Or do you see the Creator and the Sustainer of all life? </span></p>
<h3><span style="line-height: 1.5em;">Seeing God in Creation</span></h3>
<p><span style="line-height: 1.5em;">As we look at Creation we must learn to see God. When we look at Creation we must learn to see that the Creator is also the Sustainer and is busy at work. Sometimes when we look we see God working in supernatural ways. We see God giving life to a newborn baby that should have died. We see God stretching out His hand and stopping the truck that is sliding into your car. Sometimes when we look at creation, we do see God working in these, what we call supernatural, what perhaps could better be called unusual or extraordinary ways. As we look at creation we must also learn to see God working through the “laws of nature.” The laws that God established and the laws that God still superintends. What we call the laws of nature (and don’t let your high school science teacher tell you differently) are still supernatural. Gravity does not work because mass attracts. Gravity works because God says mass should attract. It is God; it is not “Mother Nature” who oversees the cycle of life that produces worms for the robin and photosynthesis for the plants. It is God at work creating and sustaining His creation. We must learn to see God at work supernaturally in both the mundane and the unusual, the ordinary and the extraordinary, all of which, are supernatural because God feeds the birds, Jesus says. And God clothes the flowers, Jesus says. It is only when we see that God does, in fact, feed the birds and clothes the flowers, that we will then be able to see that God also feeds me and God clothes you. Sometime His sustaining work will be through ordinary means of which there is no such thing. Sometimes He will care for us by giving us a certain genetic structure, a certain kind of intelligence, a certain set of experiences in life that enable us to function as an individual. He gives us our education and He gives us our job. With these ordinary (which are supernatural to the eyes of faith) means we are called to work. We are called to work as diligently as the birds work. In fact, Paul tells the Thessalonian church in II Thessalonians 5:8, “If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat.” This is not an excuse to be lazy. Sometimes He provides for us through ordinary means and we are to take advantage of those in a good sense and work on them, yet at other times He will take care of us through extraordinary, unusual, wonderful surprises.</span></p>
<p><span style="line-height: 1.5em;"> I remember a friend of mine in graduate school. His name is Gene and someday I would like to write a short story about Gene and the Giant Turnip. He had no money. His folks were not believers and not in favor of him getting his schooling. He was going home one day and he found a giant turnip by the side of the road. He and his wife ate it for three days. At the end of three days a gift came from his home church, out of the blue, with enough money to get him through the next month. We can take those kinds of stories and multiply them by the thousands and by the millions as God takes care of his creation, as God sustains His creation, through not only usual but unusual ways. The meaning of this passage is that our Heavenly Father created us and He has committed to provide for us and, therefore, we must not worry. </span></p>
<h2><span style="line-height: 1.5em;">Repeats Theme (v 31) – Two reasons (v 32)</span></h2>
<p><span style="line-height: 1.5em;">Jesus then repeats His theme in verse 31, “Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?” And then He continues with two more reasons why. </span></p>
<h3><span style="line-height: 1.5em;">“For the Gentiles seek after all these things”</span></h3>
<p><span style="line-height: 1.5em;">The first is, “For the Gentiles [the non-disciples of Jesus Christ] seek after all theses things.” Those that do not know God through Jesus Christ are justifiably preoccupied with survival, because God has made no promise, no commitment to them, no commitment for food and no commitment for clothing. He will send the rain on the just and the unjust, but He has no commitment like this to them. So they are justifiably preoccupied and thinking that there is nothing more to life than food and clothing. But when you and I worry about food, when you and I worry about clothing, we look and we sound just like them. And that cannot be because we are counter-cultural. That is the Sermon on the Mount, right? We are supposed to be different. We are the salt of the earth. We are the light of the world. We are set apart. We are in the world but not of the world. We cannot afford to look like the world. The minute we start looking and sounding and smelling like the world, then we no longer are salt and light, and we no longer can perform our function in this world. We cannot afford to look like the Gentiles look. </span></p>
<h3><span style="line-height: 1.5em;">“Your heavenly Father knows that you need them all”</span></h3>
<p><span style="line-height: 1.5em;">But then there is a second reason, he says, “Your heavenly Father knows that you need them all,” and as He has been arguing, our heavenly Father has committed to providing them all. To worry is to call into question the love and the promise and the provision of God. To worry is to call into question the love and the promise and the provision of God. To say it another way, to worry is practical atheism and an affront to God. This is why in verse 30 Jesus says, “oh, you of little faith.” This is one reason I have my astronomy picture of day site that I love to go to. As I look at pictures of God’s galaxies and stars in this universe, I am reminded of the very God that created and sustains nebulae that I will never see, is in fact, the God who created me, and, is in fact, the God that sustains me. Who has committed Himself to me and I cannot act like an atheist. I cannot act, I must not act like I do not believe the God of the universe and worry. </span></p>
<h3><span style="line-height: 1.5em;">Good and Bad Anxiousness</span></h3>
<p><span style="line-height: 1.5em;">Now there is an anxiousness that is good, is there not? We have other words for it. We call it concern or something. We certainly have concerns that are valid. We have a concern that calls us to work hard every day as unto the Lord and not be lazy. We have concerns for our own sin and for the needs of others. There are concerns that are valid, that are scriptural, and that are supposed to be part of our life. We are not supposed to go through life with our eyes shut just grinning all the time. That is not the Biblical picture of life. But there is an anxiousness that comes from lack of faith. There is an anxiousness that comes when you and I are convinced that the God who gave us life will not sustain that life. It is a lack of faith that dethrones God. And I crawl back up on the throne of my life and I try to take charge and one of the characteristics of my kingdom is that I like to worry. When you and I live this kind of self-centered, faithless, anxious life then we have become narcissistic atheists. </span></p>
<h3><span style="line-height: 1.5em;">“Do Not” Replaced by “Do”</span></h2>
<p><span style="line-height: 1.5em;">Fortunately, the negative “do not” that runs through this passage of this point is replaced with a positive “do” in verse 33, “But, [in contrast to a life of worrying and a life of little faith] seek first above all things the kingdom of God and His righteousness and all of these things will be added to you.” Please remember the context of verse 33. You and I recognize our spiritual impoverishment. We are poor in spirit. We understand that we have nothing in and of ourselves to deal with our sin that we can offer to God and earn our salvation or even earn His favor. We are spiritually impoverished, to the point that we mourn over our sin and the sin of this world. And because there is nothing that will fill us in ourselves naturally, we hunger and we thirst for God’s righteousness. We pray, “may Your kingdom come, may Your will be done.” We are people who have chosen to trust God, rather than to trust ourselves; and therefore, rather than worrying about the necessities of life, things that God has committed Himself to care for, rather than worry, we fill ourselves up by seeking God’s kingdom. It is first and foremost in our hearts and our minds and in our tongue and in our actions, we seek His rule, His dominion in my life. We seek it among ourselves as brothers and sisters in the church. We seek God’s rule and reign in our neighborhood and to the very ends of the earth. We seek first, above all other things, to fill ourselves up with God and making much of Him. And we seek for His righteousness. We seek that God’s righteous standards be established and followed, that He be seen to be holy and that it’s His righteousness that people see in my life. That it is His righteousness that we see in one another’s lives. Ultimately, someday it is His righteousness that we see in every corner of the earth, that when He comes back again that every knee shall bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. How much better to do that then worry? We want to be people pursuing God in spirit and truth (Matthew 6:33). We want to be people who pursue God, who seek His kingdom, His reign, His rule, and His righteousness above all else. We want to fill ourselves with the love and a trust and a pursuit of God because He has enabled us to do that; a God who has given us life and has promised to sustain that life as He sees fit. That is the kind of life in which there is no room for faithless worry. The promise is that as we seek Him, as we fill ourselves with God, as we make much of Him and His righteousness, all of these things will simply be added to us. As we seek, He gives us our needs, not our greeds. He gives us our needs sometimes through that which appears to be mundane and yet is wonderful beyond description and sometimes He gives through unexpected. He will give all things we need for life and for body. That is the promise of the God who creates all and sustains all. Do you believe this? </span></p>
<p><span style="line-height: 1.5em;">Sometimes when I look at my life, and I like to worry, I have to wonder if I really believe this. My maternal grandmother always had a saying, I think I shared it with you earlier, that if we worry about something long enough it always works out. You should always say it with a smile though. I wonder as I look at my life and how I spend my time, whether I really believe that God will provide for my needs. I also found myself asking if I really believe this because I find myself wondering, “Don’t saints die from starvation?” “Don’t saints die from exposure?” If you know church history, the answer is “absolutely.” It is a difficult question. I am not sure that I have an answer that I am fully comfortable with, but I do know that part of the answer lies in verse 25 because the implication of verse 25 is that life is more than food, that we do have everything we need for true life, that life is more than clothing. We have been clothed with His righteousness. That is certainly part of the answer. Another part of the answer is that there is enough food, and there is enough clothing for the saints in this world. The problem is not God’s provision, it is the distribution. Those who have it will not share with those who do not. Perhaps the problem of this passage is more our lack of missions then lack of God’s provision. Something to think about. Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things will be added unto you. I do not know about you, but that should be freeing. You should feel that this is an issue you deal with. You should feel like layers of an onion, the pieces just falling off your back. You are still called to work hard, if you do not work hard you are not supposed to eat, it is your problem in a sense, Paul says to the Thessalonians. But we have trusted God; we can allow Him to do His work in sustaining His creation. Let’s not be practicing atheists. Let’s not do that. Let’s not act like there is no God or that He does not care or He that he is not powerful enough to sustain His creation. Let’s not act like that. Rather, let’s be joyful about asserting our own impoverishment and God’s riches. Let’s free ourselves from the illusions that come with worry, illusions of control, illusions that it does something. Let’s learn to see God at work everywhere, in every way. Let’s let the birds and the wildflowers become our teachers and let’s replace worry with trust in God’s provision and care. This does not happen overnight. It is a process that begins with a correct understanding of myself, that I am impoverished, that I am called to mourn over my impoverishment. As you and I hunger and thirst, then we will fill our hearts and we will fill our minds with Jesus and we will find that He does satisfy our hunger. He does refresh our thirst. He does clothe our bodies, and with that we will be content. </span></p>
<h2><span style="line-height: 1.5em;">Memory Verse</span></h2>
<p><span style="line-height: 1.5em;">“But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you” (Matthew 6:33). </span></p>
<h2><span style="line-height: 1.5em;">Reflection Questions</span></h2>
<li><span style="line-height: 1.5em;">Give ten examples of times when you worried about something, and the worrying actually worked. Give ten examples of times when you worried about something, and it only made it worse. </span></li>
<li><span style="line-height: 1.5em;">How can we come to a deeper understanding of the fact that if we are the right type of person (e.g., “poor in spirit”), that “therefore” we will be able to live a life free from faithless worry?</span></li>
<li><span style="line-height: 1.5em;">How can we learn to see God in creation? What practical steps can we take? How does the secular world fight against us doing this? </span></li>
<li><span style="line-height: 1.5em;">What are ways in which God supernaturally sustains his creation in both mundane and unexpected ways?</span></li>
<li><span style="line-height: 1.5em;">Why do non-Christians (i.e., the “Gentiles”) worry so much about the necessities of life? Does this give us any inroads in witnessing to them?</span></li>
<li><span style="line-height: 1.5em;">What are some practical ways in which we seek for God? What tends to distract and discourage us from doing so? </span></li>
<li><span style="line-height: 1.5em;">Have you ever known a believer for whom God did not provide sufficient food and clothing? Is there ever a time when God will not do so, and if so how would you deal with the situation?</span></li>