We saw in our last study that if you are a Christian, it is God's will that you not be anxious about anything, but that you enjoy deep serenity and peace and security. The words that Jesus spoke to the crowd some two thousand years ago are very applicable to us today. The church desperately needs to hear the words of Jesus in Matthew 6:24-34 to help us overcome whatever is making us anxious.
Everybody can see plainly that the main point of this text is that disciples of Jesus should not worry. Verse 25: "Do not worry about your life." Verse 31: "Do not worry, saying, 'What shall we eat?'." Verse 34: "Do not worry about tomorrow." So one thing should ring in your ears when you leave this morning, namely, "Jesus does not want me to worry."
In fact, anxiety is unbelief! It is a failure to trust God to care for us. The way you deal with anxiety and stress is a reflection of your view of God. Jesus is teaching us that we are not to be anxious about tomorrow; we are to trust Him. He is teaching us to look to the Father, who takes care of the lesser things in His kingdom; therefore, how much more will He take care of the greater?
Last week we looked at verses 25-27, so today we'll pick up at:
Matthew 6:28-29 (NKJV) "So why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; 29 "and yet I say to you that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.
In dealing with worry over the basics of life, Christ said:
Matthew 6:26 (NKJV) "Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?
Since God feeds the birds, don't you think he'll take care of you, his child?
So, first he tells us to look at the birds, and now he tells us to "consider the lilies". This word "consider," is from the Greek word katamanthano, which means: "To learn thoroughly, i.e., to note carefully," but it also means: "to concentrate upon, think about it, to meditate upon it, to consider." When we are asked to consider something, we are to get a mental understanding of it, but also to concentrate or meditate on it. Think about it. When we have thoughts arise in our hearts and fears for the future, He tells us to consider these things; think about them in the light of Scripture.
If the Lord takes condescending care of wild flowers, will He not care for you?
Solomon was used as a proverb among the Jews; he was the measuring stick, and the glory of Solomon was the climax of earthly splendor, yet he was not clothed as one of these wild flowers. If the Lord has clothed little flowers with such majesty, why should we be concerned for our clothing? Jesus is saying that if His Father has so clothed each flower individually, do we need to be anxious about our temporal needs?
Matthew 6:30 (NKJV) "Now if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will He not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?
Are you much better than grass? The Lord sent His only begotten Son to die for us in order to take away the penalty of our sins and provide Christ's perfect righteousness to clothe us. Should we not believe then that He will clothe us physically? This, again, is an a fortiori argument. The argument may be stated thus: If God clothes grass, certainly he will cloth His children.
The last phrase of verse 30, "O you of little faith," describes the character and conduct of believers. It does not denote an absence of faith, because He is talking about believers. He is not speaking of an absence of faith, but of a faith that is weak.
Do you understand that there are degrees of faith? We often think in terms of you either have faith or you don't. But the Bible talks of various degrees of faith:
Romans 4:19-20 (NASB) And without becoming weak in faith he contemplated his own body, now as good as dead since he was about a hundred years old, and the deadness of Sarah's womb; 20 yet, with respect to the promise of God, he did not waver in unbelief, but grew strong in faith, giving glory to God,
Abraham didn't have "weak" faith, his faith was "strong." This shows that there are degrees of faith. Our Lord charges those who worry as having "little faith." They have faith, but unlike Abraham's, it is deficient in strength.
In Acts 6:8, Stephen was said to be "full of faith." The Greek word for "full" is pleres, which means: "complete or mature". In 1 Thessalonians 3:10, Paul said he wanted to perfect that which was lacking in their faith. In 2 Thessalonians 1:3, Paul said, "Your faith grows exceedingly." James talks about "dead" faith in 2:17 and 20, and he talks about "mature" faith in 2:22.
So the Scriptures speak of: little faith; great faith; weak faith; strong faith; lacking faith; perfect faith; dead faith; full faith; growing faith; and increasing faith. There are degrees of faith. All believers don't have the same amount of faith. Some believers are weak in faith.
Those who are weak in faith need the admonitions Jesus gives about being anxious about those things we should entrust to our heavenly Father's care. If we are still anxious, it means we are not fully mature in the faith; we are still "of little faith."
Let's look at several places in the New Testament besides our text where Jesus used the term "little faith" as a loving rebuke for letting faith be overcome by circumstances instead of overcoming circumstances by faith. If we are mature in the faith, faith overcomes the circumstances. If we find ourselves being tossed around by circumstances, we need to grow in faith.
Jesus used the term "little faith" as a loving rebuke for letting faith be overcome by circumstances in:
Matthew 8:24-26 (NKJV) And suddenly a great tempest arose on the sea, so that the boat was covered with the waves. But He was asleep. 25 Then His disciples came to Him and awoke Him, saying, "Lord, save us! We are perishing!" 26 But He said to them, "Why are you fearful, O you of little faith?" Then He arose and rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was a great calm.
They had confidence that Jesus Christ could intervene and spare them. You cannot say they were men without faith. They had confidence that Jesus Christ could intervene and save them, but their faith was weak. Jesus reproved them for allowing the circumstances to overcome their faith. We must understand that the Lord leads us into circumstances to build our faith. Even when it seems humanly impossible, we must never let the circumstances overcome our faith.
Jesus used the term "little faith" when Peter began looking at circumstances instead of Christ. Stop and picture this: Peter had faith enough to step out of the boat and out upon the water to walk unto Jesus, but then he allowed the circumstances to overcome his faith:
Matthew 14:30-31 (NKJV) But when he saw that the wind was boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink he cried out, saying, "Lord, save me!" 31 And immediately Jesus stretched out His hand and caught him, and said to him, "O you of little faith, why did you doubt?"
So why did he doubt? He saw the boisterousness of the wind and waves and became afraid. How often do we allow circumstances to make us afraid and become filled with anxiety? A strong faith will overcome the circumstances.
Jesus also used the same term as a loving rebuke in:
Matthew 16:6-12 (NKJV) Then Jesus said to them, "Take heed and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and the Sadducees." 7 And they reasoned among themselves, saying, "It is because we have taken no bread." 8 But Jesus, being aware of it, said to them, "O you of little faith, why do you reason among yourselves because you have brought no bread? 9 "Do you not yet understand, or remember the five loaves of the five thousand and how many baskets you took up? 10 "Nor the seven loaves of the four thousand and how many large baskets you took up? 11 "How is it you do not understand that I did not speak to you concerning bread?; but to beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees." 12 Then they understood that He did not tell them to beware of the leaven of bread, but of the doctrine of the Pharisees and Sadducees.
Jesus rebuke was like saying, "How long can you remember something?" They had just taken up many baskets of leftovers. They had seen Jesus feed five thousand with five loaves, and now they were worried about bread for the next meal. Their faith was wavering. They were men with faith, but they were doubting in the present situation.
Jesus' rebuke in our text to those of little faith is that they focus more on the difficulty than on the deliverer.
How can we increase our faith? There are two main factors which determine the strength of our faith. First, is our knowledge of God. The main explanation of the troubles and difficulties which most Christians experience in their lives is due to a lack of knowledge about God, theology proper. We need to study the revelation that God has given of himself and of his character. That is how to develop strong faith. The more you know God, the more you will trust Him.
Romans 10:17 (NKJV) So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.
We need to study the Word that we may know Him. It's hard to trust someone you don't know.
The second element is the application of what we know. A knowledge that never ventures out upon what it knows will never be a strong faith.
Luke 8:22-25 (NKJV) Now it happened, on a certain day, that He got into a boat with His disciples. And He said to them, "Let us cross over to the other side of the lake." And they launched out. 23 But as they sailed He fell asleep. And a windstorm came down on the lake, and they were filling with water, and were in jeopardy. 24 And they came to Him and awoke Him, saying, "Master, Master, we are perishing!" Then He arose and rebuked the wind and the raging of the water. And they ceased, and there was a calm. 25 But He said to them, "Where is your faith?" And they were afraid, and marveled, saying to one another, "Who can this be? For He commands even the winds and water, and they obey Him!"
This is the same story that we just looked at in Matthew 8, there Jesus accuses them of having "little faith", while here he asks them, "Where is your faith". Do you think that the disciples had a knowledge of God? Yes, they did, but in this situation, in the boat during the storm, they were failing to apply their faith, and that is why our Lord put His question to them in that particular form. He said, "Where is your faith?" They had faith, but where was it? Why weren't they applying it to the situation that they were in? Their problem was they did not use the faith they had, they didn't think.
They were looking at the waves and the water coming in the boat. They were bailing it out, but still more was coming in and they cried out to Jesus, "We're going to die." He said to them, "Where is your faith?" They had seen Jesus do the miraculous; they should have trusted Him. In addition to our knowledge of God, there is this very important element-- we must apply what we know.
Jesus goes on to say:
Matthew 6:31-32 (NKJV) "Therefore do not worry, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?' 32 "For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things.
The Greek word ethnos, which is here rendered: "Gentiles" is translated: "heathen" in Acts 4:25; Galatians 1:16. It speaks of the unregenerate. At the time Christ made this statement, the "Gentiles" were without any written revelation from God and were in complete spiritual darkness.
When the non-believer encounters fear through circumstances, they don't have any faith. Where can they turn? To whom shall they go? This is the source of their anxiety, perplexity, and fear on every side. They have no place of security, and the Lord Jesus is showing us the contrast between them and those who walk by faith.
"For after all these things do the Gentiles seek." - the word "seek" is from the Greek word epizeteo. It is much more emphatic than our translation intimates, denoting that they: "set themselves to seek" or "seek with all their might."
Unbelievers do not understand the Lord's providing care. That is why they are filled with anxiety. They cannot surrender themselves into the care of their Creator, so they give the top priority to seeking temporal things. They are filled with a tremendous, burning, laboring anxiety after these things, because they do not see that the Creator of heaven and earth is in command. Therefore, they are filled with anxiety; we have to examine our own heart. How much Gentile is there in us?
The Gentiles have three basic beliefs which cause their anxiety. If you or I have anxiety, we must examine our hearts to see which of these Gentile beliefs are captivating us. First, they believe in chance, not the providence of God; therefore, they see no purpose in the things that happen. It just happened; they believe it was a coincidence or chance.
Are we able to surrender our hearts to the fact that all things come to us by the hand of God?
Romans 8:28 (NKJV) And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.
Do you believe in chance, or are you truly able to surrender your heart to the providing hand of God? He provides, and He sends every difficulty.
Secondly, they believe in superstition. This is a fear of evil spirits, a fear of the unknown, a mystical fear of great evil. Missionaries have told of coming into places where the heathen have never heard of God. They say if something comes to them from the east or west, it is an evil spirit, but if it comes from the north or south, it is a good spirit. That is superstition. How much superstition is there in our own hearts? Do we refer to luck being against us, being lucky, or having good luck? Believing in luck is superstition.
Lastly, a belief in self, humanism, one's own works and achievements, and one's own storehouses is part of the unbelief of the Gentiles. Such people believe in their own works; it is their skill, education, or experience which will see them through the problems. They are going to be successful, lucky, have a good year, store up wealth, make an empire, or build an inheritance for their children. They build confidence in humanism. That is a belief of the Gentiles. How much do we find in our own heart where we want to store up today for tomorrow, because we do not really trust the Lord? These are the traits and beliefs of the Gentiles.
Jesus tells us that we don't need to worry like unbelievers, because, "...your heavenly Father knows that you need of all these things." He has just told how He takes care of the birds; how He takes care of the grass, and the lilies. Then He says, "Are you not of more value than they?" (Matthew 6:26). Now He comes back and says, "Your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things." So, why are we so concerned? Why can't we simply trust God?
How does God know what we need? He knows, because He knows everything. The theological term for this is the "omniscience of God" "Omni" means: "all" and "science", in its original sense, means: "knowing." So omniscience means: "all-knowing." In classical theology, the doctrine of God's omniscience means that God knows all things, past, present and future; real and potential, and he knows them all at the same time. He not only knows what was, and what is, he also knows what will be. More than that, he knows everything that could be but is not.
Psalms 147:5 (NKJV) Great is our Lord, and mighty in power; His understanding is infinite.
Hebrews 4:13 (NKJV) And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account.
This scripture is not telling us that God is smart or a genius. It is stating the fact that God has command of every bit of information on everything, great and small. And another thing, nothing surprises him. You can't sneak up on or sneak around on God. He has complete knowledge of everything that ever was, is, or ever will be. He is omniscient.
What does God know about you? He knows what you do, what you think, where you go, what you say, and what you need. God knows you better than anyone else knows you.
I don't know what stress you're under, or what unseen hardship you're going through - but God does. So take refuge in the omniscience and compassion of God. When you're hurting, remind yourself, "I know someone knows. I know someone understands. I know someone cares." It's God.
We are never out of God's thoughts. He knows us as a friend, one who loves us; there is no moment when he takes his eyes off us, he is never distracted away from us, not for a second. His care never falters. He will continually watch over us for our good.
If we are going to conquer worry, we must come to the realization that God loves us, and that He will take care of us. So many people are simply not convinced of this fact. Many of them are Christians. But if you really believe that God is in charge, and that He loves you and will meet your needs, then you can relax in faith. If you, for some reason, do not believe that God will take care of you, then you will be unable to relax. You will feel that it is up to you to take care of all your needs; physical, emotional, and even spiritual:
Matthew 6:33 (NKJV) "But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.
Strictly speaking, the Greek word basileia, translated here as: "kingdom", has reference to "sovereignty", rather than to territory; to "dominion", than a geographical sphere. The "kingdom of God" signifies the rule of God; to seek the kingdom of God; to come under His kingship, to come into subjection to Him as King.
The word "righteousness", as used in our text, "Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness," comes from the Greek word dikaiosune, which means: "a pattern of life in conformity to God's will". This is not speaking of positional but practical righteousness. If you look at Matthew's use of "righteousness" in verse 5:10, you can see that he uses it of practical righteousness:
Matthew 5:10 (NKJV) Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
You can see here that by "righteousness" he means: "a pattern of life in conformity to God's will." You are not going to be persecuted for your position before God, because it is non-experiential. It is righteous conduct that is being spoken of here. The person who seeks for God's righteousness, then, seeks for conformity to God's will.
The word "seek" here is a different word than the word "seek" in the previous verse, (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:). The Greek word used in verse 32 is epizeteo meaning: "to crave with an intensified demand or to search after. It meant: "to seek with much eagerness, with sweat, or with much stress."
The word "seek" in "But seek ye first the kingdom of God," is a different word. It is the Greek word zeteo, which means: "to seek, to desire to worship." It is a hungering, desiring, seeking; it is not laboring in a sweating way. It is a matter of a hungering, desiring, worshiping spirit; it is to seek with a desire to worship.
But not only must we seek His kingdom and righteousness, it should be our supreme priority. The word "first" in our text comes from the Greek word proton, which means: "first in order or importance, first or chiefest of all, holding the highest place in all our affections." The Lord is saying the first place in the priority of our affections must be the will of God.
There is much misunderstanding about what is meant by, "Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness." When He is speaking of His kingdom, He is talking about our coming under submission to His reign, setting our priorities straight so the authority of His Word occupies the first place in our lives. It means: "to walk under His reign, to live in obedience to the Lord." The more primary, the more central his Lordship becomes in our lives, the less anxiety we will have.
Luke 6:46 (NKJV) "But why do you call Me 'Lord, Lord,' and do not do the things which I say?
The implication of Jesus' words here have to do with our obedience and submission to His teaching, of submitting to him as LORD of our lives.
Have you ever heard a Christian say, "I have been a Christian for a while now, but I just made Jesus Lord?" Folks, Jesus Christ "is" Lord, you don't make him Lord, God did that. Our responsibility is to submit to His Lordship. The Greek word used here for Lord is kurios, which means: "supreme in authority, controller, master."
Since Jesus Christ is Lord, our responsibility is to live in submission to Him. To call him, "Lord" but not live in submission to His commands is hypocrisy. The principle of subordination is absolutely essential in the life of a Christian.
The reason we have such a problem with this is that the prevailing view of people in America today is one of rebellion and resistance. If we don't agree with the authority, we resist it. This spirit of lawlessness has spilled over into the church, and we must see it as sin:
Romans 13:1-2 (NKJV) Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God. 2 Therefore whoever resists the authority resists the ordinance of God, and those who resist will bring judgment on themselves.
Here we have a principle that is unqualified, unlimited, and unconditional - ALL AUTHORITIES ARE GOD APPOINTED.
"Let every soul..." is from the Greek words, pas psuche, which mean: "all life." "Be subject..." is the Greek word, hupotasso, which is a military term meaning: "to line up to take your orders." It's in the present imperative middle, which means: "to habitually be in subjection." Everyone is to be in subjection to the governing authorities. This verse speaks of government, but the principle is universal. All human authority is delegated and ministerial. This includes the authority of parents, employers, policemen, teachers, church leaders, or any other authority. Anyone who is in a place of authority on earth, has had that authority delegated to him by God.
Our first and highest priority is to seek to live in obedience to the King and walk in submission to His sovereign reign. Remember what Jesus said, "We cannot serve two masters". We cannot serve the Lord and serve mammon. We cannot serve the Lord and serve self. Jesus is telling us to seek first His kingdom, to let that be our highest priority and greatest desire. It is to do what is pleasing to the Lord, to do the will of God, and to come under His kingship.
"But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness..." Now please notice the end of the verse "...and all these things shall be added unto you." What things? They are all the things the Gentiles seek and strive for with the sweat of their brow. The Lord is telling us not to worry about those things. Just walk in obedience to Him, and He will provide them; we do not need to strive for material things. "...and all these things shall be added unto you," is the great reward for those who walk in the obedience of faith.
We are not to be anxious about the necessities of life like the Gentiles. We do not need to add anxiety to our labors. We must "...seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness," and then we will have all the necessities of this life, which He will provide.
It seems that few Christians today live at this level spiritually, which is why we have so much anxiety and dissatisfaction in our lives. Christ challenges us to REALLY live our lives in such a way that we find security in Him:
Matthew 6:34 (NKJV) "Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.
Jesus is saying that each day has enough adversity of its own without anticipating tomorrow's problems. When you stop and think of it, where do your worries center? Don't they center on tomorrow? God has provided for your needs today. Do you realize that if you are worrying, you are worrying about tomorrow? Many people worry about what will happen if they lose their jobs, if their business shuts down, or if there is a catastrophe in our country, or another act of terrorism. All those worries are about things for tomorrow. The focal point in much of life is tomorrow. We do not have to worry about today. It is already here. The things we needlessly worry about are things for tomorrow.
Jesus is saying that He has given you enough for today. You have a place to live, food and clothing. But what about tomorrow? Jesus said there is enough pressure in every day that you do not need to worry about tomorrow. The concentration in my life is to be on what God wants me to do today - to honor Him today, to submit to Him today, to trust Him for the provisions for today. I might say I want to trust God, but what I really want is to have what I want in my hand. If you promise to give me a thousand dollars, I have to trust you until I have it in hand. But once you have given it to me, I don't need to trust you anymore, because I already have it. We say we want to learn to trust God every day, but we really would like for Him to give us everything we need for the next twenty years. If He did, then we would not have to trust Him anymore. We would like to have a few million dollars stashed away in the bank, then we could talk about how nice it is to walk by faith. After all, isn't it easier to walk by faith if you have a big bank account! No, it is harder to walk by faith if you have a big bank account.
The great British commentator, Martin Lloyd-Jones, wrote:
We look for tomorrow's grace today. God gives us the grace to live in today's situation with today's pressure. He has not given us the grace for tomorrow. That will not come until tomorrow. If God causes me to lose my job tomorrow, I do not have the grace for that today. If I develop cancer and am dying before the week is over, I do not have the grace to handle that today. But I believe God will provide the grace day by day as it is necessary. Since I do not have the grace to handle tomorrow's situations, all I can do when I focus on tomorrow is worry about it, because I fear I will not be able to handle it.
Praise God, He gives us the grace today and enables us to trust Him just for today. Tomorrow He will do the same thing again. Then the next day he will do the same. Peter put it this way:
1 Peter 5:7 (NKJV) casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you.
Believers, instead of worrying, we need to learn to trust. Remember, anxiety is unbelief. Our focus needs to be seeking his kingdom - to seek to live in submission to him in every area of our lives. This is to be our first priority in life. As we do this, he will take care of our every need.