In this blog, there will be a variety of material: thoughts on Bible books, book reviews, historical characters, aspects of Scottish church history and other things.
Sunday, 24 November 2013
Anxiety (3) (Matt. 6:25-34)
Jesus reminds his disciples of the great priority of their lives - seek first the kingdom of God. His use of the word ‘first’ does not mean that we should spend the first hours of a day focussing on God and then spend the remaining time on other matters. Rather he means that in whatever we are engaged, it must be connected to the growth of God’s kingdom. As Paul put it in 1 Corinthians 10:31: ‘So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.’ It is useful to spend the initial time of a day in personal devotions, yet the fact is that throughout the whole of each day we are to live for God.
‘First’ points to the importance of choice. Every day, we will have to make choices that will affect our commitment to the kingdom of God. The choice is not usually between what is good and what is bad. Rather it is often a choice between what is better and what is best. This feature of choice will occur in an endless number of ways, and putting God ‘first’ will mean choosing what is best.
The word also challenges us to the amount of energy we put into the task. Usually a person puts the most energy into the practices that mean the most to him. These practices require his total focus and not his half-hearted intention. Sometimes a person will try and read a book and watch the TV simultaneously. The obvious result is that the person will achieve neither task, and if he thinks he has, then we know that there is something wrong with his sense of what was required for either interest. He should have made a choice and then put all his concentration into fulfilling that choice. It is not possible to focus on the kingdom of God and on something else simultaneously; and it is not possible to focus on the kingdom of God casually.
In verse 34, Jesus tells his disciples that they should aim to live one day at a time. This does not mean that they should not make preparations for the future – a Christian farmer has to sow his seed in anticipation of a future harvest. Yet they are forbidden to worry about the future. As has been pointed out, worry about the future can be pointless because the thing feared may not happen, and if it does happen we will have worried about it longer than we had to.
How can we live one day at a time? By thinking of God. We could think of him in this way. When we waken up in the morning, we should say to ourselves, ‘I don’t know what is going to happen to me today. Yet I know that God is in control of today by his providence. I also know that whatever happens today is part of God’s great purpose by which he is going to bring great glory to his own name at the end. Further, I know that nothing that happens today can prevent God from fulfilling many of his great and precious promises.’
At the close of each day, we can review it and say, ‘Today God took care of me in many different ways. And if in one or two ways, things did not go as I wanted, yet I also know that he will work these things for my spiritual benefit now and for my eternal benefit in the future. It is also the case that throughout this day God has kept many of his promises to me: I have been kept safe through temptations, I have been given thoughts about heaven, I have been enabled to pray at the throne of grace etc.’
When we think of God every day, when his kingdom becomes our present focus, then the cares of the future will become eclipsed by the spiritual achievements and responsibilities of the present. Focusing on the troubles of the future prevents us serving God in the present. Serving God in the present helps us through the troubles of each day, and if persevered in will eventually deal with future troubles as well.