Pastor Leyrer

Text: Matthew 6:25-34

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Dear Friends in Christ, Depending upon our basic personalities as well as a number of personal variables such as age, health, children, condition of loved ones, and work related issues, it’s fair to assume that each of us will enter this New Year a little differently.

For example, some of us will enter it with a sense of confidence (“I’m sure this will be a good year”).  Some even with great anticipation (“I’m looking forward to this year because this will be the year I graduate… get married… retire”).

On the other hand, some will enter 2016 with a sense of uncertainty (“I’m not sure what this year will hold”).  Others with apprehension (“I’m a little scared of what 2016 will bring”).  Still others with downright serious concern (“I’m not looking forward to what I know I will have to face this year”).

And then there are always those who look to the future philosophically (“what will be, will be”), or with a sense of indifference (“Another year.  So what?  Life goes on”).

Chances are all of us can find ourselves within the range of these emotions…

Which is why it is good for us to come together this evening to be comforted and strengthened by a Word from God equally applicable for each one of us, regardless of our personality or the state in which we approach the New Year.  So, as we stand on the brink of another New Year with all its uncertainties and surprises yet to unfold, let us turn to a well-known portion of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount.  Within these words we find

A PROMISE, A PLAN, AND A PLEA AS WE ENTER 2016

First let’s take a look at the promise Jesus makes to us.  Our text for this evening begins with these reassuring words from Jesus: 

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear.  Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes?  Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them.  Are you not much more valuable than they?  Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?  And why do you worry about clothes?  See how the lilies of the field grow.  They do not labor or spin.  Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these.  If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will He not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?  So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’  For the pagans run after all these things, and your Heavenly Father knows that you need them…”

What’s the promise?  Simply this:  The Lord will take care of us and give us what we need in the days to come.  The point Jesus makes is clear.  If God provides for all of his other creation and creatures, does it not stand to reason that he will also provide for us, the crown of his creation, as well?  Of course.  Therefore, Jesus tells us not to worry about our life, because the Creator of the Universe has everything under control.

Jesus also lays out for us the futility of worrying about what we have no control over when he asks us:  “Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?” Again, the point is clear.  We can remove hours from our life by worry – but not add them.  So Jesus tells us to replace the futility of worry with simple, child-like trust in him. 

Maybe you’re saying to yourself that this is true, but much easier said than done.  And you’re right.  But with God’s help, it is doable, and it becomes increasingly more doable when we focus on the simple fact that our Heavenly Father knows our needs – physical, emotional, and spiritual – better than we do.  He will take care of us in the future, just as he always has in the past. 

Moreover, this is not just an exercise in blind faith or wishful thinking on our part.  This is God’s promise to us – and an excellent one to remember tonight as we stand just hours away from entering the New Year.

After this promise to us, Jesus now outlines a plan for us – and one that is especially fitting for us to consider this evening.  Listen again to the next verse of our text:  “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”  What’s the plan?  It is this:  Each of us is to give proper priority to our spiritual life, and then everything else will fall into place.  Let’s analyze this passage.

Seek first = make a priority; give precedence; make important…

his kingdom = God’s rule in our hearts; our spiritual lives…

and his righteousness = first, the righteousness which is ours through Jesus; then, the righteous living which follows out of gratitude as we contemplate the Gospel message…

and all these things = all our physical needs that Jesus had just been talking about…

will be given to you as well = a promise; a solemn declaration from the only One who can truly make it happen. 

Once again, the message of Jesus comes through loud and clear.  We have both a spiritual life and a material life. Jesus is reminding us to keep both in their proper perspective.

Practically speaking, what does this mean?  Obviously Jesus did not intend for us to take this to extremes.  Providing for our physical lives and those of our family are clearly defined, God-given responsibilities.  In fact, God in his Word has some pretty harsh things to say to those who evade these responsibilities.  

What Jesus is telling us is to simply consider our spiritual lives every bit important as our physical lives, and then to act accordingly.

We need this encouragement from Jesus because we live in a complex, complicated world.  In many instances, how we use our time and energy is almost dictated to us by job and family responsibilities.  In addition to that, we often wish to do too much with the time we have left, which creates a hectic pace. 

Couple that with the fact that, as we’ve all found out, we can’t really say “yes” to one thing without saying “no” to something else.  And if what we find ourselves saying “no” to is dedicated time with the Lord, or Bible study or meditation, Jesus would lovingly have us know that our lives are not properly ordered, and certainly not in keeping with the plan he has laid out for us. 

So what he’s asking us to take a look at here is the time we spend with him and then, if needed, make the necessary adjustments. 

And, as always, he knows what he’s talking about.  When we follow Jesus’ plan for us the result will be a happier, healthier, more contented life, which, if attained, would not make the warning in the final verse of our text necessary…

Because it is essentially Jesus’ plea with us.  “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself.  Each day has enough trouble of its own.”  Jesus sure knows us, doesn’t He?  He knows our tendency to worry, so he addresses the subject again.  And this is his plea with us:  Don’t worry.  Instead, trust God.  Believe him when he says he’s got things covered, despite how you may perceive things at the moment.

You know, there is a big difference between believing in God and believing God.  With the exception of hard-core atheists, not too many people would own up to saying that they don’t believe in God.  And certainly as Christians, every one of us will say without the slightest hesitation that we believe in God.

But believing God can be another story, even for Christians.  When God allows difficulty to come into our lives – as he may in 2016 – and then through his Word says to us, “My child, you are going through difficult times, but do not fear.  I will see you through them and I will never leave you or forsake you,” we may not always at first believe him.

When God says, “I know you don’t think it possible at the moment, but trust me when I tell you that all things work together for good to them that love God,” we may not always at first believe him.

When God says, “You may not agree with my timing and you may not understand my rationale, but I am now doing what is ultimately the best for your life or the life of one you love,” we may not always at first believe him. 

Which means we doubt and, in the words of our text, we worry about tomorrow.”  Jesus pleads with us tonight not only to believe in God, but also to believe God when he promises to take care of us.

One more comment on this final verse.  There is nothing wrong with providing for tomorrow.  What Jesus is condemning is worrying about tomorrow.  Taking life one day at a time is more than a cliché used by various support groups.  It is sound, Scriptural advice.  When followed, life becomes manageable.  When not followed, the future can seem very scary.

And Jesus doesn’t want us to be scared.  He wants us to be confident, assured, strong.  So, again, he pleads with us:  in the year ahead, don’t go borrowing trouble.  Look to me each and every day, and each and every day I’ll give you everything you need. 

Above all, Jesus says, look to the cross.  There we see the full extent of his love for us.  Sins forgiven.  Heaven opened.  The abiding presence of a Living Lord.  And as the concrete expression of all these promises, he invites us to come to his table.  There we touch and taste and see and are assured of just how deeply loved we are.

Tonight is New Year’s Eve.  Each of us enters this New Year in our own personal way with our own personal circumstances.  There are no universal, across-the-board emotions that apply to each of us tonight, because we are all at different stages in our lives.

Nevertheless, there are some fitting words from our Savior that do apply to all of us.  Therefore, let us enter this New Year mindful of the words of our text.  Here we find…

A promise that he will provide for our every need…

A plan that results in spiritual growth and vitality as we spend time with Him…

And a plea to take a break from worry by not only believing in God, but believing God and his many promises to us.

All given with the assurance that when we apply them to our lives we can boldly and confidently go forward into 2016 – come what may.  Amen.