Be Not Anxious
Matthew 6:25-34 - A Message by Pastor Eric Chang
We continue to study the words of life, the wonderful teaching of our Lord Jesus, in Matthew 6:25-34. It says here:
Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you shall eat or what you shall drink, nor about your body, what you shall put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? 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 one cubit to his span of life? 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 men of little faith? Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek all these things; and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things shall be yours as well. Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Let the day’s own trouble be sufficient for the day.
Here in this passage of the Lord’s teaching, He is speaking to us about the meaning and quality of life. As always in Jesus’ teaching, He deals with the really fundamental matters of life. You see, in this passage He teaches us what is the great hindrance to life as a whole, to spiritual life in particular.
Anxiety And Faith Are In Contrast
The problem with mankind is that he is tied up with anxiety. Anxiety is not necessarily a certain feeling, but anxiety is a state of mind, that is, always worrying about what is going to happen tomorrow. The first thing we have to see about this whole passage is that Jesus is speaking about the contrast between anxiety on one hand and faith on the other. If you have anxiety, that means you do not have faith. If you have faith, you do not have anxiety.
Anxiety means to be anxious, to be worried, to be concerned about things which are to come. It is worrying about where I am going to get enough to eat, worrying about the clothing that I have to wear, worrying about the future. Will I have enough money to finish my studies? Will I have enough money to see the doctor if I get sick? Will I have enough money when I retire? Will I have...? And so, it goes on and on. It is anxiety. It is worry. Worry is the enemy of faith. But it is the enemy of all life, not only of faith.
1. The Threat Of Anxiety - Uncertainty Of The Future Brings Anxiety
So, the first point we can see in this section is the threat of anxiety. Anxiety is the uncertainty that threatens you all the time. You see, we as human beings simply do not know what is going to happen tomorrow. Do you know what is going to happen tomorrow? Do you know what is going to happen today? Even this evening? We never know, do we? We never know what to expect because the future is always uncertain. So we are always seized with a sense of uncertainty. And uncertainty brings insecurity and insecurity brings anxiety.
Do not tell me you are not anxious. As soon as the exams come, I see many people disappear from the church. Anxiety! You are worried. Why are you worried? You are worried you might not pass the exam. You are worried you might fail. The anxiety hangs over you all the time. The best student cannot be sure that he will certainly pass. He cannot be sure. I have known some of the finest students, the most brilliant students, scholarship students who failed their exams. You do not have to be [a genius]; you know, a genius can fail exams, too. And some of the guys who do not seem to do very much work, for some unknown reason, they seem to pass.
One of my dear friends was a brilliant student and he really knew his work. He worked systematically and he was always ready a long time before the exams came. When most of us were still slaving for the exams, he was sitting back and twiddling his fingers - one week before the exam! He was our envy because we could not understand how anybody could finish their studies and be ready for an exam one week before. I never seem to be ready even when the exam has come. There always seems to be more work to do. How does a person ever manage to finish all his studies before the exam? And there he was, a brilliant scholarship student in Cambridge, and yet he failed. He failed the exam to his astonishment and amazement.
So, the future is always uncertain. Is that not why you worry? Now if you have this kind of anxiety, if you are anxious about exams, if you are anxious about life, it proves one thing. It proves it to you - it does not matter whether it proves it to me - it proves it to you that there is something inadequate about your faith. Your faith is not sufficient. There is no need to make excuses for yourself. It just proves that your faith is not adequate, because you are afraid of the future.
The Future Is Uncertain, But Christians Have A Certainty In God
You see, the Christian has a certainty. He does not know what the future holds, but he knows who holds the future. That is what matters. I do not know what the future holds. I do not know what will happen to me tomorrow. But I know who holds that future. That makes the difference. If you are not a Christian, of course, you have no such confidence. If you are not a Christian, I can understand your anxiety. You have every reason to be anxious. It is because you have no certainty. And there, ignorance is bliss; that is to say, it is a good thing we do not know what the future holds.
For example, on New Year’s Eve, I went outside. We were having a wonderful time of prayer and fellowship. I went outside and I found the nose of the car smashed. It was not my car, but the church’s car. The damage to the car was over $300. So we never know what the future holds. But who knows, maybe as you go home tonight; are you going to worry? How do you know that while we are sitting here or while you are sitting somewhere else, the house has not burned down? How do you know what is going to happen tomorrow? How do you know if you go outside that you will not have an accident? We do not know. That is the fact. We do not know.
I remember the elder of a church talking to a young man, telling him about receiving Jesus. He said, “Come to Jesus today! Today is the only day you’ve got. This moment that you have now is the only moment that you have.” With certainty, this is the only moment you are sure you have. Whether you will have the next hour or not, you are not sure. Whether you have tomorrow or not, you are not sure. Whether you have next year is even less sure. The only thing you can be sure about is that you have this moment right now. This is the only real moment in your life. It is because yesterday is gone. It will never come back again. This morning is gone. It will never come again. Whether tomorrow will come, we do not know. The only certain thing you know is that you have ‘now.’ And so make use of it! Seize it for God! That is what “redeeming the time” means. [Eph. 5:16, etc.] Take this time, which is now, this moment which is really yours. Make use of it for God. It is because you may never have another time.
But this young man put off coming to Christ. He said, “No, I’m young, you see. I have plenty of time to believe in Jesus.” He had not understood the reality that we have only now; we do not have tomorrow and we do not have yesterday. We have only now. He did not believe it. He still thought the tomorrows would be his, too. That man walked out of the church. Five minutes [passed]. He walked down to the next block and he was killed at that next block. He was run down by a car. He did not know that as he stood at the church door, his life had only 5 more minutes to go. Now that is not frightening anybody. You may not be frightened by that. I am not terribly frightened by that. But it is a fact that our life is uncertain. The only thing we have for certain right now is this very moment, which itself is passing away. And so the future threatens us with uncertainty, unless you know the God Who holds that future.
2. The Futility Of Anxiety - It Accomplishes Nothing
The second thing about anxiety that the Lord Jesus teaches us in this passage is the futility of anxiety. We saw then the threat of anxiety, the threat of the future, but we must also look at the futility of anxiety. Anxiety, the Lord Jesus tells us in Mt. 6:27, accomplishes nothing. It is no use being anxious. You do not know what the future holds, but worrying will not help the matter. He says this here in v27 - and this is just plain wisdom! The Lord Jesus sometimes speaks just such plain, obvious common sense; it is so obviously true. He says, “Do you think that by worrying” - “taking thought” [in the KJV*] is not just thinking about something, but worrying about it - “you could add a few days to your life?” On the contrary, the more you worry, the shorter your life gets! “Or do you think that by worrying, you could add a cubit to your height?” You could not add 1 millimeter. to your height, never mind a cubit. A cubit sometimes means 1 foot 6 inches. That is an awful lot to add to one’s height. To be 7 feet tall or 7 1/2 feet tall - that would be great! No, you cannot add. This is picture language. The Lord Jesus is saying by worrying - “taking thought” [in the KJV*] means to be anxious about this matter - you add nothing to your life; you add nothing to your height. It accomplishes nothing. It is completely pointless. That shows why faith is the only meaningful course of action a person must have. If anxiety accomplishes nothing, then what is the point of being anxious? Much more meaningful, it is to have a positive faith in God, i.e., when you know God, that He holds the future.
But the strange thing about anxiety is this: that though you know that it is entirely futile, that it is meaningless, pointless, you still worry, don’t you? You still worry. You have got your nice new car outside; you know it is no point worrying whether somebody will bang it. What help will it be? He will still bang your car even if you worry yourself sick. But you still cannot help worrying. You say, “Hey, I hope somebody is not going to bang into my car outside there now. I am worried in case I go outside and see what may have happened to my beautiful car.” But you still worry, even though you know it is useless. That is the strange thing, isn’t it? Does that not show man’s unreasonableness? Does it not show his weakness, his uncertainty about everything? Man is so weak. He is so exposed. He is so pitiful. He is so defenseless in so many ways. The future threatens him all the time. And man is pitiful. He is defenseless. So defenseless!
Having Your Fortune Told May Just Increase Your Anxiety
I have known many wise and clever men, in other respects, who consult the fortune tellers because they are worried about the uncertainty of the future. They know worrying is futile, so maybe if the fortune teller can tell them something and forewarn them, maybe they can take an evasive course of action. Unfortunately, one of the things about fortune is that they tell you the future, but do not tell you how to avoid it. They do not tell you how you can evade it.
It is like the government official that my father was telling me about. The fortune teller told him that on such and such a day, he would die. I think he would rather have wished he did not see the fortune teller. He would have been more peaceful if he had not seen the fortune teller. What do you think about this? You pay your money only to be told you are going to die. You would say, “Give me my money back. I didn’t come here to listen to this.” But unfortunately, it was too late. The fortune teller looked up the thing, and said, “You are going to die on such and such a day.” But why does he not also tell him the solution? The reason is the fortune teller does not know what the solution is. So all that has done increases your anxiety.
And this government official was a colleague of my father. This was during the war and he was in Chongqing. Chongqing, of course, was the wartime capital of China. Just immediately after the war, he went to see the fortune teller. The fortune teller said, “On that day, you will die.” I do not remember what day it was, but it was a certain day. The fortune teller told him he would die. So he thought he would outwit fate. He was going to outmaneuver fate, whatever fate is. He was going to try and evade this terrible thing that the fortune teller said would happen to him.
Now, you know, do not despise certain fortune tellers. Some are charlatans, but some are in league, in communion with spirits, with evil spirits. So, do not fool around with fortune tellers; let me warn you right here. There are some Christians, and I say it to their shame, who fool around with fortune tellers. They call themselves Christians and they do things like this. Let me tell you, if you go to a fortune teller, the curse of the Lord is going to be upon you and you are going to reap the results of it. I know Christians who have gone to fortune tellers secretly, but I happen to have found out.
Now if you do this, like this man, what happens? What did he do? He then decided to try and escape this terrible fate. The fortune teller was right, you know, and so he decided to get away. So he decided he was going to go several days early away from Chongqing. Maybe he thought the spirit’s power would get him [only] in Chongqing, so if he got out of Chongqing, he might be saved. And off he went by air to Hong Kong. Unfortunately, the plane got held up in Yunnan. It was a very small plane and it got held up in Yunnan. And he wasted several days hanging around waiting for that plane. You know wartime conditions; no planes go on schedule.
And what happened? He found himself approaching Hong Kong in that airplane on the very day the fortuneteller said that he would die. How do you feel about that? Can you envisage this moment as he sat in the airplane biting his fingernails and saying, “I was trying to get down on solid ground before that day comes that the fortune teller spoke about.” You know what happened? Yes! He crashed. The plane crashed. It went into the mountain in Hong Kong, that famous mountain that killed so many people before they extended the runway in Hong Kong, do you remember? Even now you seem to be coming almost on top of the mountain as you come down. But now the runway is much longer. In those days, the runway was short and the plane went right into the mountain. He was killed on the very day the fortuneteller told him he would be killed. Impressive!
Do not despise fortunetellers. Those of us who have been in spiritual warfare know that many of these fortune tellers, either they are quacks and charlatans, cheats who do not know anything at all and are just making a living out of this. Or there are some of them who are in communication with the spirits. I know very definitely that some of these, on their own testimony, are in communication with spirits. Their accuracy is therefore understandable. He got killed on that very day, but he did not know the way of escape. The more he tried to escape from it, the more he found himself in the midst of it. He could not win. The fortuneteller can tell you what the future holds; he does not tell you how to get away from it. You see, this is the problem.
Trust Only In God
Thus, we find here that it is futile to be anxious about the future. It is futile to try and think that if I can find out what the future holds, I can evade its power. That is futile, too. Trust rather in Him Who can remove every power against you. If this poor man, who was trying to run away from death, had cast himself upon the mercies of God, do you think God could not have saved him? Of course, He could! God is the only One who could have saved him from death, from certain death. But he tried to do it himself and ended up in disaster.
The more you try to save yourself in the face of the future, in the face of anxiety, the more it will kill you. The more it will destroy you. The whole message that the Gospel is telling you is that you cannot save yourself. If you could save yourself, there would be no need for Jesus. There would be no need for God. There would be no need for Jesus to die on the cross. You cannot save yourself. It is futile being anxious about the future. It is futile to try and run away from the future.
Being a Christian is not escapism. It is the courage to look into the future and say, “Okay, I see that the future is uncertain. I see that the future is fearful.” Just as Brother Clement was sharing with us, [he talked] about the men of God who are warning us all the time that the end is approaching. We are not only told it is uncertain; we are told it is threatening. We are told that it is going to descend with disaster upon the world. But does that make us anxious? Does that make Christians nervous wrecks? Not at all! It strengthens our desire to turn to God, to take hold of God, to put our trust in Him Who never fails. And the point is that He never fails!
This is not some kind of opium by which we can dull our senses. The Gospel is not an opium by which we run away from the future. No! The Gospel is that which gives us clarity of vision regarding the future. It looks the troubles in the eye, and says, “I am not afraid because God is the One Who will bring me through all these victorious. He is my Savior! He is my Lord!”
3. The Foolishness Of Anxiety - Like Taking On A Double Burden
Now the third thing we need to look at is not only the futility, the pointlessness of anxiety, but we must look at the foolishness of anxiety. Not only is it meaningless, it is foolish to be anxious. Because it is so foolish - the Lord Jesus says at the end of this passage that He is speaking about - if you take upon yourself a double burden. You have the burden of the present to cope with, and as though that is not enough, then you have to go and grab the burden of the future and load that onto you, too. You think one burden is not enough that you need two? The Lord Jesus says here, “Don’t you think the troubles of the day are sufficient to itself? Is not the evil of today that you have to fight with enough, that you have to take on the evil of tomorrow?”
Thus, you find that it is so foolish to try and fight on two fronts at the same time. Yes, Hitler used to say, “Don’t fight on two fronts.” The foolish man did exactly the thing he said you should not do. In Mein Kampf , the book he wrote, he said, “No nation should engage itself upon two fronts.” There are some who know how to preach, but do not know how to live by it. You see, his words were wise, but it betrayed his own foolishness. He found himself not fighting on two fronts, but on so many fronts, that it was his definite ruin.
There are so many Christians who are the same way. They are trying to fight on the front of today, on the front of tomorrow, on the front of yesterday. The memories of their sins are pursuing them; the uncertainty of the future is seizing them; and the present is upon them. How can you fight on all these fronts? It is little wonder that Christians go around with no joy, weighed down. They have not got the liberation of faith. They have not been set free.
So, it is foolish to be anxious. It is also foolish because you cannot do anything about that which has not come yet. You cannot try and put out the fire in your house that has not come. You can take certain precautions. And of course, you should take those precautions. But being anxious is not taking precautions; it is just worry. And worry is non-productive.
What is more, you may find that the foolishness of it is this. You may be anxious about something that will never happen and fail to be anxious about the thing that will happen. Have you ever experienced the time when somebody you love came back late? Ha! Your mind began to have all kinds of imaginations. “Ah... he had a car accident! He got kidnapped! He fell into a ditch!” The more you think, the more anxious you get. By the time he comes back, one hour later, you are already breaking out in cold sweat; you are a nervous wreck. And what do you see? He walks in the door with a big smile on his face. He looks at you, and says, “What is the matter with you?” And you are there shivering, a nervous wreck. You ask, “Where have you been? Have you been kidnapped?” He asks, “What? What ‘kidnapped’? What is wrong with you?” You answer, “Nothing is wrong with me!”
It was so foolish. You realize that for one hour you have been torturing yourself for nothing, For absolutely nothing, you tortured yourself. And one hour is not so bad. There have been people who have tortured themselves for days and weeks and months - people who, for example, got lost in the war. Of course, that is a tragedy. But instead of taking the problem to God and saying, “Lord, here is a problem. What am I going to do about this problem? You can look after him. You have got the power to watch over him; I can’t do anything.” Thus, we learn to draw near to God, to trust in God. But we do not do these things, do we? We sit there biting our nails. We become nervous wrecks. And then we are even annoyed to see this guy walking in with a big smile on his face. You ask, “What are you laughing about? You have tortured me for one hour” - or two hours, however long it is.
There, you see! I think we all have had this kind of experience. We know it is foolish; it is unreasonable; it is pointless. But still we do it. We have not been set free. What should the Christian do? He should do exactly this: Take your burden to the Lord and leave it with Him. He is the One Who can do something about it; I cannot do anything about it. I am anxious, so I will turn my anxiety into prayer. I will turn it into the power of prayer. That is what this kind of problems should do. It should cause us to direct our heart and mind with greater intensity and power towards God. The difficulties and problems should not press us down; it should press us towards God.
Thus, we see then that true faith is something wonderful. True faith is that which accepts the challenge of anxiety and problems. The greater the pressure that is brought upon it, the stronger it gets, that is, if you have true faith. Now, whether you have true faith or not can be seen precisely there, as we saw in the Friday Bible Study. For many people, their faith collapses under very little pressure. But those who have true faith, the stronger the pressure, the stronger their faith. Faith gets strong with pressure. You see that in Hebrews Chapter 11 - faith that waxes strong in battle. In the spiritual battle, faith gets stronger all the time. Those who can take only a little pressure have weak faith.
4. The Danger Of Anxiety - It Makes Us Self-Centered
But the fourth point we note is this: the danger of anxiety. We have seen the threat of anxiety, the futility of anxiety and the foolishness of anxiety. But [there is] also the danger of anxiety. What is the danger of anxiety? The danger of anxiety is that it turns you inward. Have you ever noticed that? It turns you into being absorbed with your problems.
Oh, there are some people who are most depressing. Every time you talk with them, it is about their problems, their difficulties. Oh, it is always “Me”, “My problems”. They never seem to be aware that other people also have problems. They are the only most unfortunate people in the world. Have you ever noticed those people? They always get you down. The way they talk, you would think that nobody else in the world ever existed. Or if they did exist, they never have problems. These poor miserable people are the only ones with problems. All the problems of the world have somehow concentrated themselves upon these unfortunate souls. The funny thing is this: somehow it does happen to go wrong with them. The more they are grumbling and murmuring, the more problems they seem to get. It is strange that problems seem to have a way of focusing on those people who are always groaning and grumbling. Have you ever noticed that?
The people who are always happy, you say, “How come these guys never have problems?” The fact is that they have as many problems as anybody else. But they never let the problems get them down. It is not that they have no problems. But the very fact that they always seem to rejoice in problems, in fact, seems to result in a situation in which they do not really seem to have problems. That is very strange. It is almost as though problems run away from people who are not afraid of problems and concentrate on people who are always groaning about their problems. So, the danger of anxiety is that it makes you self-centered. It concentrates you into yourself. This we see in the Lord’s teaching in which He tells you to turn away from yourself.
Faith Is To Turn Away From Self
The first step in faith, if you want to have faith, is to turn away from yourself. Oh, the people who are always ‘self’, ‘self’, they are so self-destructive people, exhausting people. They exhaust themselves and everyone else. Faith is release from self! Freedom from the self at last! Thus, look at what the Lord Jesus says - the first cure - “Look away from yourself, will you please?” He says, “Consider the lilies of the field”, for example in v28, or in v26, “Look at the birds...”. Ha, ha! That is a good thing to do. If you have any problems, look away from yourself. Look around you. The first thing you may discover is this: As you look around you, you will find there are other people also existing in the world. It might come to you as a bit of a shock, but there are also other people in the world who have problems. There are other people who have even greater problems than yourself. When you take the trouble to find out about them, you would say, “Hey, how come you have so many problems?” Thus, we find that the first step we must do is to look away. Then, having done that, look away to the things that God created.
I find that when one is tired, weary, run down, the best thing you can do is go outside for a walk. Now, how are you going to look at the birds? I look here, I cannot see any birds. I cannot see any flowers in the fields. A church in such circumstances is not a very good place to be in. To be able to do this, go there out into the open country. If you have got anxieties and problems, what you should be doing is get out into the country, like me. I spent so many years in the city that, in God’s wisdom, He put me out in the countryside now. For the first time in my life, I have been out there in the countryside. I have always been a city man. And how good it is to be able really to look at the birds, to look at the flowers of the fields. Turn away from yourself! It is so refreshing to be rid of yourself for a change. Look around you! Open up your heart to the things that are outside. Stop closing in. So long as you do that, you cannot have faith. Faith means looking away from yourself.
When Reverend Yu, was here, we went out quite often to the countryside round about. Do you know, many times, what we did, the two of us? We squatted down in the grass. What did we do? We looked at those beautiful little flowers. Some of them are so small that you would have to use - to see it very clearly - a magnifying glass. And you know, my breath was taken away with the beauty of those tiny flowers of the fields that the Lord Jesus speaks about here. Have you ever looked carefully at one of those? If you have not, it is time you should do so. Look at those little flowers in the fields. So beautiful! Incredible! I never knew they were so beautiful. The two of us were sitting on the grass admiring for a long time these flowers in the grass. I suppose that some people walking by might have thought there was something wrong with us. What were we looking at in the grass? But we saw the beauty of those flowers of the fields: the colors, the delicate shades, the shape, the forms. Oh, so beautiful! And we just lifted up praise and worship to God.
The first step in faith then is to turn away from self, look away to the things around you and from there you look up to God. If God so clothes that little grass, that little flower, and gives it such incredible beauty, Jesus says, “Will He not much more look after you? Are you not worth much more than this grass in the field? Have you no faith? Can you not trust the God who does such beautiful things?” So, then, we see from all these: the pointlessness, the meaninglessness, the danger of anxiety. And positively, what should we do then? Very briefly, what we must do is this: the Lord Jesus says, “We must turn away from all these anxiety to faith.”
Faith Is To Put God First
What is faith? Faith is putting God first. That is what it is. It says here, “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness.” In v33, “But seek first the kingdom of God”. [Mt. 6-NKJV] In Luke it just says, “But seek instead...”. [Lk. 12:31] Instead of looking [at] those things - the anxiety about food and clothing and money and future and security, you put your concern upon the things of God. God first! Either God is first or He is nowhere in your life. Please get this thing clear. Is He first in your life?
If you call yourself a Christian, is God is first and foremost and paramount in your life? Is He the first that you think about every day? When you get up in the morning, your first thought is God? How many Christians are there whose first thought is God? Their first thought is, “Hey, it is time to get to college. I have no time for my quiet time.” The first thought is, “Hmm... I have no time to pray today.” It all comes last. “When I have finished with everything I can do, then God has my spare time.” God comes last in your life. He is a ‘spare-time God’ for you.”
We find that in the church today, some Christians who call themselves Christians because they even manage to honor God by giving Him any space in their timetable at all, never mind first. They think they are doing God a favor, that they gave Him five minutes today. Let me tell you this. If you are that kind of Christian, it is little wonder that God is not real to you. God will never be real to you. You treat Him as a ‘spare-time God’, then is He going to be real to you? You think you have honored Him, you have done Him a favor? He does not want your favor, my friend. He does not want your favor. God is either Lord or He is nothing in your life. Notice in the Bible, it always says, not “Savior and Lord,” but always in that order: “Lord and Savior.” He is not going to be your Savior until He is your Lord. You do not think you can have Him as Savior, just having Him as Savior. He is nobody’s Savior until He is their Lord.
Do You Have Faith?
So if you wonder whether you have faith or not, just ask yourself this simple question: First of all, have you been anxious? I see many have been anxious. Secondly, have you put Him first? Is He first? How do we see it? When you have exams, does God come first? God comes when you have finished your exam, not before you have finished your exam. When you have your exams, exams come first. Whatever else comes second, and God comes somewhere later on. And you say you have faith?
Now, I am not scolding you, brothers and sisters. I am not here to scold you. I beg of you to understand. It is because whether you come to church or not is not my loss. It is not God’s loss; it is your loss. The other brothers and sisters will miss your company and your presence, but it is not a spiritual loss to them that you have not come. It is your own loss. And so, it is not my business to rebuke you or to reprimand you. I am not concerned with that. My concern is to show you the way of God. If you put everything else first or anything else first, you do not know what it means to be a Christian yet. You do not know what it means to have faith in God.
But you say, “Look! Look! Look! Come on, let’s be practical, eh? I’ve got the exam coming up. And look! God can wait, right? He is not going away. He is eternal, right? My exam... my exam is on Monday. The exam can’t wait; God can wait.” I see. So that is how it is. But that is the way we think. I mean, “God is not going to run away. But my exam doesn’t come back again. I hope it doesn’t. I don’t want to take it a second time.” So, we excuse ourselves. But the result is, as I say, it is your loss. You lose because you did not see what God could have done for you. And then, do not come and complain later on one day, and say, “Oh, I failed the exam” or “I didn’t do too well.” Then you say, “It’s no use. Why didn’t God help me?” You put God last and you want Him to help you as well. You want to have everything. Everything is going to be yours. But you put God first, and everything comes into order.
The Lord Never Fails Me
I have tried it. Look, I have been a student, too. If you take exams, do not forget I have taken probably more exams in all my six years of study. I have taken an awful lot of exams. So, do not worry too much about that. I am not talking to you through my hat, as the English say. I speak from solid experience. And the Lord has never failed me! I have found that every time I have put the Lord first. Sometimes I have to choose either to speak at a conference - and I was already invited to speak at conferences when I was a student - or take the exam. Which? What would you do?
I go and speak at the conference, and risk my academic future. And the Lord brings me through all the same. It is not because I do not want to study. It is not because I am lazy - God never encourages laziness - but it is because I am determined that He must come first, even if I have to fail my exam. Did I fail? No, I did not fail. The Lord brought me through every time. Such is His wisdom and graciousness. Now we said we must not be anxious. But none of this is meant to say that we must not work. The Christian is the most hardworking person, but he always puts God first.
What It Means To Seek First His Kingdom And His Righteousness
So the definition of faith, then, is: God comes first. Seek first God, His kingdom, His righteousness. So now, we see that to have faith, first and foremost, is that we put God first in all that we do. What does it mean to put God first? It means here, the Lord Jesus tells us, to seek His kingdom. What does it mean to seek His kingdom? What is a kingdom? The kingdom of God is God’s government. God has a great government. God is King of kings, Lord of lords. It is to seek His government. But where are we to seek that government? It is to seek His government in my life, that God is King in my life. That is why I said, right from the start, either God is King and Lord in your life, or He is not going to be your Savior. Do not think you can make use of God to get salvation, to keep yourself out of hell. It does not work like this. God is not going to save anybody who does not live under His Lordship in this world here and now.
Thus, to seek His kingdom means a number of things that we can say very briefly. It means, first and foremost, that we strive to enter into the kingdom. Notice the word ‘strive.’ The Lord Jesus uses that word in Lk. 13:24. It means I put my energy, my time, and my strength to enter into God’s kingdom, to enter into the way of life that He wants me to live. That is my concern. My concern is not whether I have enough food or clothing tomorrow and so forth. I am concerned whether to this day I can live the kind of life that God has called me to live. I strive to enter into His kingdom, to live under His government, to be His citizen.
Oh, citizenship is something wonderful, you know. But how wonderful it is to be a citizen of God. I know in Hong Kong it was a fashion at one time - I do not know whether it is still the fashion today - to become British citizens. Everybody ran for British citizenship, that is to say, if you were not a citizen. But [presently], if you already have British citizenship, that is not good enough, because now, of course, the UK citizenship is very different from the British one. If you have a British passport, you cannot even get into England very easily. If you get into England, they will not even allow you to stay. Your British passport is not worth very much, you see. You cannot live in England with a British passport these days. No, no! It is very hard to get into England and to live there. They might allow you to visit for one or two weeks, but you cannot live in England. So, people desire to have the UK passport. Then you are one cut above the Hong Kong passport. The citizenship is very important. But how much more wonderful it is to be under God’s government, in God’s citizenry. As Paul says in Philippians, “...our citizenship is in heaven”. [Phil. 3:20-NKJV] My passport is the best of all: citizen of God’s kingdom!
Thus, the first thing is: we strive to enter into God’s kingdom. When we seek His kingdom, it means we have to get in there. You seek to enter. The second thing is: once you have entered into His kingdom, once you have become a new person, to seek His kingdom now means for us, once we have entered, that we are concerned with the interests of that kingdom, of that government. That means to say, we are concerned that other people may have that eternal life, too. Thirdly, it also means, as we have seen, that His Lordship is to be effective not only in my life, but in the whole church. When I seek His kingdom in this church, it means I am seeking God’s sovereignty in all our lives, that God will be first and foremost in all our lives. What I am doing right now in seeking His kingdom, to establish His kingdom in our midst.
And then, it says here to seek his righteousness. What does that mean? You see, His kingdom is defined by His righteousness. There must be no sin in the church. Where there is sin, there is not righteousness. Where there is not righteousness, there is not faith. Secondly, to seek His righteousness means, then, living this life that is godly. It is receiving His righteousness and living His righteousness. It is also imparting His righteousness to others, making other people righteous, bringing others into salvation. Are you doing all these things?
When you say you put God first, what does it mean? It means all of these things. It means that every day you are pressing on in the spiritual race. It means every day you are living under His Lordship. Every day you live in the confidence of being God’s child. It means that you are showing forth in your own life His righteousness and bringing others into that righteousness. All these we can see then is the richness of His teaching here. We must put God first, then, in all these ways and show by our concern for His kingdom, for all the people in His kingdom, that God really is first.
There Is No Need To Be Anxious Because God Cares For You
And so, we can close on this point, on the fact that God cares. Did you realize that God cares? You see, the reason that our faith is so weak is often that we do not understand that God cares for us. We think we care, but we do not think that God cares. Why are you so worried about your exams? It is because you are concerned about your exams. You think God does not care about your exams, don’t you? Ha! Come on, be honest. You do not think that God cares whether you pass your exams, right? Next time you take an exam, ask yourself: Does God care whether I pass this exam or not?
Now I would like to know your answer. Next time, before exam time, I am going to ask all of you who have exams, do you believe that God cares that you pass this exam or not? I wonder how many of you would say honestly from the heart, “Yeah, God cares.” Or maybe you think that, “Who cares? God doesn’t care about such matters. Whether I pass an exam or not is of no concern to God.” And because you do not think He cares, you do not pray for it, do you? So, what is the use of praying to God, “Help me to pass my exam,” if He does not care whether you pass your exam or not?
So, because you do not think He cares, you are anxious. The message here is that God cares. Do you understand? God cares for you. Does He care whether you have no food to eat? Do you believe that He cares for you? Then why are you anxious? Do you believe that God cares whether you have something to wear or not, or do you think that God does not care if you are shivering out in the cold? He does not care, right? Of course, He cares! But if you believe that He cares, why do you worry?
My little daughter does not worry whether she is going to have supper tonight. Why is she not shivering out there and wondering, “I cannot get a job. I am only six years old. I am going to be unemployed! I am going to starve!” I do not see her worry. Why does she not worry? She should be worried. No, she does not worry because she knows that I care, that we care for her. Then why is she not worrying that Canada is so cold, and she would be shivering out in the cold? I do not see her worry. Why does she not worry? It is because she knows that we care that she shivers. So, she does not have to worry.
Our Faith Must Be Seen
You say you have faith? Then, let it be seen, seen in exam time, seen when it comes to food, clothing, employment and the future. But if you know that God cares, why are you so afraid to serve Him? I find many people do not dare to serve God because they think that they cannot maintain their family. Their future is uncertain. They do not know whether they can get employment. They do not know whether they can get a job. I have just been talking to people who say, “I do not know whether I can serve God. I do not know what job I can do. Maybe the church is not going to employ me. So I am going to be jobless.” Is it the church or is it God who cares for you? If God cares, why do you worry? Do you not see that your worry proves your lack of faith?
Oh, how wonderful if we live in this world as God’s children! When non-Christians look at us and say, “Why are you so peaceful? Why do you have that kind of a joy?” we can answer, “Because He cares. My Father cares for me. He can solve my every problem.” You see, my daughter does not worry about problems. She knows I am there to solve them. She has a wonderful life - “Daddy solves the problems. Mommy solves the problems. And I can get on with living the kind of life that is so full of joy.”
You know, some Christians have a guilt complex about enjoying things. They never read the words that Paul wrote when he said, “God has given us all things richly to enjoy.” [1 Tim. 6:17] Why should we be so guilty about enjoying things? You are guilty if you enjoy the things that you know God did not give. But you can rejoice and enjoy the things that God did give! So we find that it is so good to live in this world the life of trusting in God. How God provides our needs in practical ways I have already shared with you before. I know that God cares. I have proved it. Have you?
Prove to Yourself God Is Real and That He Cares
God can never become real to you until you have tested His care and found that He does care. Have you proved it to yourself? Sometimes people ask me, “How do I know that God is real?” How else? How else can He ever become real to you? Until you have staked your life on Him and have found that He does not fail! How else? Until you have proved it and seen that He upholds you! Then you can rejoice in God.
So, we see and conclude at this point that God and the Lord Jesus in His teaching has seen the weakness of our hearts. This point, unless you have settled it in your minds today, will prevent you ever from becoming a powerful Christian. The concern with material needs and material goods is what will prevent every one of you from becoming mighty men and women of God in this generation. You dare not serve God because you are afraid; you are a coward. You dare not serve God because you do not know whether you can live, and live having all that you need in the way of food and clothing. You are afraid.
Therefore we are told it is so good to serve God part-time when the real reason is that they are too scared to go out and serve God full-time. Now I am not saying that all Christians should be full-time, provided, of course, that the reason for your not serving God full-time is not because you are afraid that God will not meet your needs. Let God search our hearts to see whether each one of us is being hindered in our spiritual life because of our fear of the future and our attachment to the world. It is as though the world solves our problems better, as though mammon cares for me more than God does and so I will serve mammon rather than God. Oh, may God show us that our Savior is the One who solves every problem!
(c) 2012 Christian Disciples Church