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Princeton Presbyterian Church (EPC) Sermon # 1247

March 13, 2016 Luke 12:22-34

Dr. Ed Pettus

(This is an extended outline, not a verbatim transcript.)

 

 

“One Less Thing”

 

 

  • One Less Thing

 

One less thing. I don’t know if people say that phrase much anymore. I remember a few years ago it was a phrase to say after you finished something or eliminated an item on a list, “hey, one less thing!” Maybe it came from the movie Forrest Gump. You might remember that scene when Forrest talks about Lt. Dan making an investment for Forrest in what Forrest thought was a fruit company, but as we see the letterhead, we know that it is Apple Computers. Lt. Dan tells Forrest in a letter that they don't have to worry about money anymore. Forrest thinks this is a good thing, you know, one less thing.

We like it when something happens to give us one less thing to worry about. Seems like the problem in the modern world is that as soon as we get one less thing, two or three things come along to put us further behind.

Jesus brings us word of one less thing. Think about all the questions of this life we worry over or have anxiety about and think about all that Jesus has done to bring all of that into a proper perspective. Our worries are not like those who first heard Jesus speak for their concerns were about whether or not they would have enough to eat on any given day. Their concerns were about having clothes to wear and shelter. Their concerns were more about surviving day to day than about the things we think about in our context. So, when Jesus spoke to the people he told them they need not worry about life or food or clothes. They need not worry about the essentials. They were simply asked to put their trust in God for their daily needs.

Sometimes I think faith would be easier for us if we did not have so much stuff in our lives. If we really had to depend on God to clothe us and feed us day to day, no refrigerators, no freezers, fewer ways to preserve foods and other things for our future. We easily become seduced by what we are capable of doing for ourselves and our faith wanes in comparison to those who stood before Jesus and heard him speak.

Instead we worry about a bigger house or a better car or a more fancy technological gadget. We worry over expensive luxuries, not daily bread. We struggle not with whether or not we will eat, but with too many options for lunch.

We do worry about things similar to people in biblical times. We grow anxious for loved ones, for relationships, for our community, for issues on national levels. We are worries about sin and death and sickness or injury. We wonder if we have enough faith to move mountains or if we have done things that please God. We share with all generations many of the anxieties of all human existence. If we were to take time to produce a list of things that make us anxious we could probably see many that would have been shared with the people who first heard Jesus say, “do not be anxious about your life.”

 

Let's look at five teachings Jesus gives us for life no matter what our anxieties might be...

 

 

 

  • Life More Important Than Worldly Things (Luke 12:22-23)

 

22 And he said to his disciples, “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat, nor about your body, what you will put on. 23For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing.

We've probably all seen those T-shirts that say something is life. Golf is life. Boating is life. BBQ is life. But we know that life is more than any of those things. The only true statement on a T-shirt in in this regard would be “Jesus is life”. The apostle Paul says it this way, When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory” (Col. 3:4). Jesus Christ is our life. This is why Jesus can say we need not be anxious. Life is more than what we eat or wear. Life is more than all the things we trouble ourselves over.

It's interesting that Jesus speaks of two things – life and body. Our lives and our bodies matter to God. The spiritual and the physical matters to God. Too often we only pay attention to one or the other. We seldom see the deep connection between body and life. We might say body and soul. It is easy to separate the two in the modern world. Science has taught is to dissect and compartmentalize everything to the point that we cannot see the whole for the parts. Jewish thought about the human being never saw distinctions that would divide the body from the soul or spirit. I think this is how Jesus sees the human being. Body, soul, and spirit are not separated elements that make up the human being, but they are all of us together as one, inseparable.

Life is more important than worldly things precisely because we are more important than worldly things – further more, because we are created in the image of God.


 


 

  • God Cares for Us

24Consider the ravens: they neither sow nor reap, they have neither storehouse nor barn, and yet God feeds them. Of how much more value are you than the birds!

Second reason we need not worry about life is because God cares for us. Remember when you were growing up as a child and you had very little concern if any for food or clothing or shelter or love. Our parents took care of us. I never gave it a second thought, my mom would have breakfast on the table before school, the school would feed me lunch, and we would have plenty for suppertime. Not all children have that kind of life. Certainly there are some even in our nation who want for necessities of life and there are many many more around the world who hope for one meal a day. But we have never had such worries. Jesus wants all people to know, no matter our situation, that God care for them and us. Not only that God cares for us, but that we are much more valuable than all the other creatures for whom God provides.

We need not be anxious because we are loved and cared for by God. Once when Jesus was talking about prayer he was also indirectly talking about provision. What father among you, if his son asks for a fish, will instead of a fish give him a serpent; or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him” (Luke 11:11-13)! God provides the Holy Spirit. God provides our daily bread. God gives us everything we need and even more than we need until our cups overflow and all because God cares for us.


 

  • Worry Adds Nothing to Life

25And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? 26If then you are not able to do as small a thing as that, why are you anxious about the rest?

Knowing what Jesus has told us, we still worry. Why do we do that? I've had people get upset with me because I did not seem to worry enough about something. Usually it was something they were overly anxious about, but they wanted me to join in the anxiety for some reason, maybe to justify their worry. Yes, we should show due concern about the important things that happen in our lives, but worry denotes a lack of faith. Concern is still faithful and gives appropriate attention to a matter. Anxiety demonstrates a lack of trust. Jesus noticed several times in the Gospels how the disciples lacked faith. They were anxious in the storm or they could not understand why they could not heal someone or they did not understand something Jesus taught.

The point Jesus makes in verses 25-26 is that worry adds nothing to our lives. We might even say the opposite, that worry takes away from our lives. Worry gives us stress and we know these days how much stress can harm us physically and spiritually. Anxiety can prevent restful sleep and cause us either to eat too much or too little – for me is is always too much! Anxiety might even prevent us from praying or distort our prayers to unfaithful attitudes. In the end, our lesson is that worry does nothing to help our situation. Let us pray that we be less anxious and more submissive to the knowledge that God provides for us.


 

  • Ours is the Kingdom

32“Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom. 33Sell your possessions, and give to the needy. Provide yourselves with moneybags that do not grow old, with a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches and no moth destroys. 34For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.


 

Here is good news! It is God's pleasure to give us the kingdom. We have more at our disposal than we can ever imagine. We have the kingdom of God. Let's turn again to Colossians, this time in chapter 1:13… He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.” We live in God's kingdom. We have all the benefits of God's kingdom. We see some of God's benefits in the material blessings of this life, but the benefits that really matter are those that are unseen. They are the treasures that cannot be taken away. These treasures are not seen for they are stored in heaven. I'm always challenged to consider if God is calling me to sell more of what I have than what I have kept. That one phrase can he haunting, “sell your possessions. We know that God provides for us and does not call everyone to sell everything, but there it is. “Sell your possessions, and give to the needy.” It should at least help us to consider if anything we possess causes us to fail to trust in God or to become anxious about our life. The riches of this world can sometimes cause us to stumble. This is why Jesus tells us to treasure not the worldly things we have, but to treasure the things of heaven. Paul must have had this teaching from Jesus in his mind because I keep turning us to Colossians. Again in chapter 3, “If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth” (3:1-2). We focus on the things of heaven, the things of God, and when God blesses us with earthly treasures he calls all of us to be faithful in the stewardship of those things and not lose sight that they are from God and not from our own efforts.


 


 

  • Treasures of the Heart

Take to heart these lessons from Jesus. Ponder them especially when you have cause to worry. Hide this passage in your heart for those times when you feel anxious. Life is more important than worldly things. God cares for us. Worry does not add a thing to life. God has given us the kingdom.

Consider that God is constantly teaching us to learn the attitude of one less thing. We keep scratching through our lists throughout our lives until we come to the attitude that there is nothing for which we need to be anxious. That is true and mature faith, trusting that God will provide for everything we need. The word provide comes from the Latin to foresee – it is to see ahead of time and attend to it. God is providential in that he sees what we need long before we even have the need.

Trust – prayer – hope – rest. Trust in God's promise of provision. Pray for the things that bring anxiety that we might release that anxiety to God's care. Hope in God's gifts for life. Rest in the knowledge that we are people of the kingdom. In all these will will find many opportunities to say, “One less thing!”