“What Are We Striving For?”
Rev. Mark M. Vickers
Sunday, November 12, 2017
St. Timothy’s UMC
Matthew 6:25-33 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
Do Not Worry
25 “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink,[a] or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? 26 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? 27 And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life?[b] 28 And why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin, 29 yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these. 30 But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? 31 Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear?’ 32 For it is the Gentiles who strive for all these things; and indeed your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. 33 But strive first for the kingdom of God[c] and his[d] righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.
How many of you knew this morning what you were going to wear to church before you got out of bed? How many of you knew this morning where you are going to eat after church? Well heck, how many of you knew this morning that you were coming to church?
We live in a world that demands that we think about what is to happen next in our lives. The problem has become we have turned into the creatures that worry! We live in and amongst some of the highest rates of stress and worry than any other generation in history. 79 million Americans suffer from high blood pressure that leads to so many other problems in the scheme of health-related issues. There are physical factors for sure, but over the grand scheme of things; bad diet, poor exercise, and stress it leads to our daily sets of “worries.”
Evidently, this is not anything new if we take the validity of scripture seriously and look hard at what the Gospel writer of Matthew says this morning. For we hear countless times throughout this periscope “do not worry!”
Over the next couple of weeks, we are going to take a look at what it means to be a Kingdom People. What does it mean to live in the Kingdom of God as people who are both actively living as Kingdom people and those seeking the Kingdom of God?
As we approach this topic this morning we are hearing about the mindset, the psyche, so to speak, of what and where we need to be in order to seek the Kingdom of God. We hear this morning that it is paramount to set that as our main focus! To live daily focusing on the Kingdom of God, as opposed to what earthly things need to be achieved.
Now, you know that if that was all we did, most of us who work in this room would be fired! For there are daily tasks that need to be completed in order to survive. Most of us could not go to work naked, so we have to worry about what we wear. Most of us need to eat, so we need to figure out what we need to buy at the grocery, and the list continues. What the list does tell us, is not to let this consume our existence! It is through doing all of these things that we seek to live as Kingdom People! We must keep the premise strong by focusing on our living as Godly people in the midst of a world that is consumed with worry, fright, hate, and distrust.
One of the issues that has plagued the church since its inception is the question of whether or not the “Kingdom of God” is present on earth or is it only something we reach following our earthly existence? News Flash! This is still the topic of much debate and writing as it was for the writers of early scripture. Next week we will examine this more closely.
However, it is this preacher’s belief that the Kingdom of God is present in the here and now and our job is to live as Kingdom People in hopes of reaching the ultimate Kingdom post death.
In our Gospel reading this morning we have an uncanny commendation and proclamation “not to worry.” Not to worry about what we eat or drink or what we wear, but to have our eyes set on seeking the Kingdom of God and His righteousness. It is rather interesting that in the context of all of this instruction it fits into our daily life. It fits into the cycle of life motion that we endure every day.
One of the great things about this text is that it shows that life in the New Testament (and the surrounding times) was not much different than ours today when it came to the notion of living as a Christian. It was busy, it was hectic, it was all about everything other than the Kingdom of God! Things happen in life that tend to pull us away from that focus. Wesley said in his commentary on this passage, “whosoever seeks this first, will soon come to seek this only.” It must be our precursor to all that we do in the faith and life of the church. Wesley and Jesus, I’m pretty sure would say we have a life to live every day. But to live this life is to focus on what God has placed before us, what God has in store for us.
For you see there is a great promise contained in this scripture. It is a promise that you have to really see in order to understand this text. It begins in verse 32, “For it is the Gentiles who strive for all these things; and indeed your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. (You see Jesus never discounts that we need to eat, to be clothed but!) strive first for the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”
With the Kingdom of God at the forefront of our discussion and with this command to “strive first” leading the way, next week we will focus on some very specific ways in which we “seek the Kingdom” in the midst of a very busy and hectic 21st Century.
I want you to keep in mind a quote from the contemporary philosopher, Dallas Willard who said in one of his writings on contemporary Christianity, “We are built to live in the Kingdom of God. It is our natural habitat.”
The Gospel writer of Matthew believed that! Jesus believed that! I believe that! So, let us with the utmost power and ability given to us as creatures of a loving God, seek to live faithfully in our natural habitat!
Until next week,
AMEN & AMEN