How I learned to stop worrying and love the Lord…

“Do not seek what you are to eat and what you are to drink, nor be worried.  For all the nations of the world seek after these things, and your Father knows that you need them.  Instead, seek his kingdom, and these things will be added to you.”
(Luke 12:29-31 (ESV))

Sometimes, it’s the simple things that Jesus says that are the hardest to follow.  Take, for example, the passage above.  This is surely one of the most beloved sayings of Jesus.  We can imagine Jesus, while standing in the midst of a prairie jeweled with wildflowers, the birds singing in the background, calmly teaching, “Consider the lilies of the field…”  We read the passage and say to ourselves, “Oh, that’s really nice.”  But do we apply it to our hearts?

If you stop and read this teaching (Luke 12:22-31) it will radically change your life.  Jesus tells his disciples that they are not to be anxious about anything – what they will eat, what they will wear.  The kingdom of heaven is about more than just food and clothing.  All the anxiety and worry spent in providing these things, does it really help?  The birds of the air don’t store up food, but God still feeds them.  God clothes the flowers of the field, which are here today and gone tomorrow.  If God so cares for the birds and adorns the grass, are you not worth more to God than these, will God not also provide for you?  You can’t add an hour to your life by stressing, fretting, and obsessing over it, so why do you worry about the rest.  When Jesus says, “the nations of the world seek after these things” he’s making a clear distinction.  The nations of the world are not the kingdom of God.  Without the assurance of faith that our heavenly Father will provide our needs, even our daily bread, then it would be only natural to worry and stress and even freak out a little bit.  But since we have such a loving and sovereign God who provides for our every need, such behavior is unbecoming.

That’s why I think this passage is so difficult for us.  How many of us know this passage but still get overcome by worry and anxiety?  Tim Keller, in his book King’s Cross, says that worry “is rooted in an arrogance that assumes, I know the way my life has to go, and God’s not getting it right.”  How many times have we said that to ourselves?  We’ve got our lives all planned out.  We know what needs to happen to find joy and success in life, to be secure and satisfied.  Now why won’t God get with the plan?  If God really wanted what was best for me, what’s with all this pain and loss, hardship and setback.  If this is the way it’s going to be, can I really trust God with my life?

I think that’s really the heart of the matter here, what Jesus is really driving at.  Do you trust God?  Do you take Him at his word?  Do you trust that God will provide your every need, your daily bread, that God has a plan to prosper you and to secure you in His fold? 

That’s what it means to seek the kingdom of God.  In the gospels, when Jesus talks about the kingdom of God, he is referring to God’s reign, rule, and God’s provision for His redeemed that flows from this rule.  We are told to seek first God’s kingdom, not our own.  We are told to seek first God’s kingdom, not the kingdoms of this world.  When we seek after, long for, earnestly desire the kingdom of God, then everything else will be added to us.  Unless you fix your eyes on Christ, the author and perfecter of your faith, you will, like Peter, look to the waves and be overcome by worry and anxiety.   

So how do we seek first the kingdom of God and overcome all the worry and fears of this world? 

First, know that Christ reigns and rules over you and for you?  Ephesians reminds us that God has put all things under [Jesus’] feet and gave him as head over all things to the church” (1:22).  The one who left the glory of God to dwell with us, to live for us and to die our death, lives now and reigns over us.  He is the Lamb who was slain, who is now enthroned in power and might as our High King of heaven.  If He lived for us, if He died for us, if He now reigns in power over us, what comfort and contentment, what rest and peace may we find in Him!  He who proved his love again and again, will He not continue to prove His love to those who seek after Him?

Secondly, trust that the Lord will provide, and rest in his care.  Knowing that our Lord reigns and rules over us gives us an endless source of contentment to face all situations, (Phil 4:11) and to rejoice in all our troubles (Rom 8:35).  We know that even in adversity, God is working our sanctification (Heb 12:5-11), developing Christlikeness (Romans 5:2-5), and strengthening our faith (1 Peter 1:7).  Because He has proven His provision in the past, we know that our God “will supply every need… according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus” (Phil 4:19).

Finally, turn to the Lord, cast your cares upon him.  James tells us that one of the reasons we get anxious and begin to worry that God won’t provide is that “You do not have because you do not ask” (James 4:2).  Do you take your concerns, your worries to the Lord in prayer?  It saddens me when Christians don’t take their troubles to the Lord because they don’t think God cares.  Paul tells us, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God” (Phil 4:6). 

Friends, I know how difficult it is to let go of the worry, the anxiety.  Without it, we feel like we’re not in control.  But, honestly, if we cannot add an hour to our lives by being anxious, why do we worry about the rest.  Oh, what release, what comfort, what peace we find when we lay these burdens down, and seek after the kingdom of God. 

“Cast your burden on the Lord, and he will sustain you;
he will never permit the righteous to be moved.”
(Psalm 55:22).

SDG

More Recommended Reading

Every now and then I like to share with you the books that I have read.  I do this not to say, “Hey look at how much I read,” but, rather, to encourage you with some of the resources that have been an encouragement to me and to my ministry.  I hope that these resources will be a blessing to your faith.

Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Prophet, Martyr, Spy, by Eric Metaxes.  ”In Hitler’s Germany, a Lutheran pastor chooses resistance and pays with his life… Eric Metaxas tells Bonhoeffer’s story with passion and theological sophistication, often challenging revisionist accounts that make Bonhoeffer out to be a ‘humanist’ or ethicist for whom religious doctrine was easily disposable… Metaxas reminds us that there are forms of religion — respectable, domesticated, timid — that may end up doing the devil’s work for him.” — Wall Street Journal

One of the hardest things for a biography is making the written account of a life seem worthwhile reading, but that is precisely where Metaxes’ book excels.  Giving a comprehensive view of Bonhoeffer’s life, theology, work, and passion, the book makes you feel a part of the story more than a distant observer.  And while you know how the story ends, you find yourself praying for the impossible, for escape, release, for freedom and love to triumph (which, in some ways, truly does).

King’s Cross: The Story of the World in the Life of Jesus, by Tim Keller.  I have really come to enjoy Tim Keller’s writing.  In books like The Prodigal God, and Counterfeit Gods Keller applies great perspective and insight from Scripture to our lives today.  King’s Cross is not different.  Walking through the Gospel of Mark, Keller shows how Christ has come to cut through all the layers we have used to insulate our broken and dying souls, so that he might bring us to new life.  “Keller shows how the story of Jesus is at once cosmic, historical, and personal, calling each of us to look anew at our relationship with God.”

 The Purpose of Man: Designed for Worship, by A.W. Tozer.  We all can recite the first answer of the Westminster Catechism, “Man’s chief end is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.”  But what does it really mean that our purpose in life is to live for God’s glory?  Tozer, a minister in the Christian and Missionary Alliance from 1919 to 1963, argues that in the Garden, man did not have to ask what it meant to worship God, because he lived with and communed with the very presence of God.  But since the fall, this sweet communion has been lost, and with it, we have also lost our very purpose in life.  Tozer suggests that Christ overcame “death and rose again from the grave… that he might make worshipers out of rebels.”  A powerful yet easy read, I highly recommend this for anyone who is interested in regaining a passion for worshiping God.

 Love Wins: A Book about Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person who ever Lived, by Rob Bell.  Okay, a disclaimer first.  I cannot wholeheartedly recommend this book.  As a matter of fact, I pretty much disagreed with everything written in it.  I did not appreciate Bell’s use of Scripture (taking things grossly out of context, or basing an entire argument on one verse while ignoring other passages that might contradict his conclusions), neither do I think that his “deconstructionist” (my term, not his) view of the Church, the Faith, or the Bible is at all helpful to the Kingdom of God.  I do not recommend this book to those who are not well versed in Scripture or secure in their reformed faith.

Still, I pass it along to you for this one reason: often times we who think we know what we believe and why need to be challenged out of our complacency (which was one of the reasons I attended Princeton Theological Seminary).  Being confronted by something that goes against everything you believe can sometimes help you come to articulate and reform your faith.  Bell’s book on Hell has done that for me.  There were times I couldn’t stand the book.  I’ve highlighted and written my comments throughout his pages.  But, praise the Lord, Bell caused me to go back to the Bible and reread what I thought it said, discover what it doesn’t say, and reevaluate my beliefs accordingly.  In that regard, I cautiously recommend this book (just don’t let your evangelical friends catch you reading it).

Good Reading!

SDG