Sermon For February 11, 2018 - "God Doesn't Need Your Help"
28 “And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. 29
I had an entirely different sermon planned for today. I had been thinking about it all week and it was on my mind constantly. However, as so often happens in man’s path with God, my plan simply faded away when I, even for a moment, got out of the way, stopped thinking of ‘my sermon’, and let God take over. Ironically, and beautifully, that very experience was an example of what God willed me to write to you this week. It wasn’t just an idea, or a hint- I was strongly compelled to write this even though the reason remains a mystery to me. So God, all at once, gave me a new message, and used the process by which I received this new message, to profoundly illustrate how the truth of this message operates in real experience.
The title might seem troubling at first. It may make you feel uneasy, insulted, lost in where you stand with God. Doesn’t God call us to testify and evangelize? Shouldn’t we spread the good word? Yes, keep reading. In a way, the title is meant to jolt you out of comfort and assumption regarding what God needs from us. Let yourself wonder and not ‘know’ for a few moments and then keep reading. The same feelings might happen when, after reading the title, you read the Bible verse in Matthew- I encourage you to read the extended verses where this section is found. Often, this section is used to confront people’s practical worries, in their day to day lives, and how they relate to the promises of God. Here, we will view it from a slightly different, but related, context.
If you read this section of Matthew, you might get mired in the material worries mentioned- and there is no shame in this. Christ is acknowledging our condition here, not simply ignoring it because He knows better and is more wise. He is bringing the deceptions of the world, the idea that we can ever depend on the physical things of the world for real security, into the light because anxiety and fear and worry grow in the dark isolation of a soul separated from God. This is important, and too often overlooked, when we are trying to confront these troubling feelings. They must be exposed to the light of Christ’s Truth. Jesus is telling us that the spirit underlies the physical. When the spirit is aligned with God, so too will the world of material need be naturally healed. If you doubt this, you need only think of a small example of a person who suffers from any form of mental anguish, and the havoc that can bring to their material world (job, home, finances etc). It's a very simplified example but a very clear one.
Read from the perspective of someone, perhaps ourselves in this moment, feeling separate from the spirit of God, these verses will cause further worry and anxiety. We will naturally wonder how we can not worry about the practical needs in our life- and this is the trap. We begin to focus on what we lack rather than faith in God's promise. Clearly, most men toil and worry and feel that there can be no ease when it comes to survival in the world. But these verses aren’t talking about focusing on material or action. Those things exist in our everyday lives and are important. The flower must break through the surface of the soil to survive and grow, but it doesn’t have to suffer or worry. The material world, the world of action, doesn’t define your spirit. The spirit of God, working through you, defines the world. Jesus is telling you where to focus in order to have peace. So, it is the way you relate to the world you must act in, not the actions themselves, that Christ is calling you to pay attention to. Think of a simplified example- Getting hit by a car is bad. Seems simple right? What about getting hit by a car saving your child from certain death? The spirit, the purpose, transforms the physical world. What was meaningless and painful in one moment is joyous and certain in meaning in the next.
Now, we take this a step further. I will apply it to my own practical experience of this very sermon, and then to each one of us in daily experience. If you remember, I told you I had a sermon all planned for today. I had organized it, thought and prayed about it, and I was looking forward to writing it. Although I still see nothing ‘wrong’ with the sermon I was prepared to deliver, God had something else in mind. It was the way He inspired this change, however, that is integral- it was through an overwhelming sense of ease, joy, and certainty.
I was, for whatever reason, so open to God that, rather than having to be beaten over the head with a change as my stubborness often requires, I experienced this particular message with a flood of easy knowing that was not of myself. There was no anxiety about switching topics, re-organizing thoughts etc. Yes, all these actions would have to be done, but I felt totally sure that they would be done, easily, and for a purpose greater than myself. Perhaps just as important, I felt all these things with absolutely no special knowledge of the “why”.
How does this apply to our lives as Christians, and even our ‘secular’ lives? Focus on whether you have a sense of ease, lack of worry, absence of anxiety. Read the verse in Matthew again. These things can be used to measure your alignment with the spirit of Christ, God’s Holy Spirit in this world. Go back to the title of this sermon- God doesn’t need your help. You are only tasked with being connected to God, allowing Christ to be your saviour. The rest, the ‘why’s’ and the burden of worry, are not for you to control. This doesn’t mean that you don’t act in the world. Clearly we must. It does mean that you are to focus on the health of your relationship with God first and that all other things will flow from that.
If you’re feeling the need to defend your beliefs, feeling isolated in a secular world, allowing the bombardment of bad news and information overload to oppress your spirit, know that it isn’t anything in the world that is the cause. You can never will yourself through the troubles of an entire world, or the many opinions of those around you. Taking the troubles of life on your own back will ultimately overwhelm you. Seeing this brings you closer and closer to God.
Often, it is easier to see how someone else is going down the path of their own will guiding them, instead of God’s will, so we’ll use an objective example as an illustration, but not a judgement. We’ve all seen someone who has lost control, in terms of being confrontational and argumentative, concerning God’s word. They appear agitated and angry, even as they profess to be representing God. It’s as if they feel that they are helping a powerless child, in God, and that, without their fervor, God’s Truth would not be enough. It appears, and feels, forced and uncomfortable. As much as they want to be close to God, as passionate as they are about what they believe is needed to express God’s word, they are an anxious flower. They don’t see that God’s way, the saving grace of Christ, is as easy as the flower of the field. If they would relax into the fact that they are saved, that God is in control, they would no longer need to toil and spin.
Now look at yourself. Are you feeling joy and ease in God’s word, or anxiety, and a need to have others see what you see? Are you a blossoming flower for people to see or are you wilting under the strain of your own effort? Don’t feel guilt, just look so that you can see where you are and what Jesus is telling you.
Jesus is giving us a powerful guide for our lives. He is showing us various features of the life God intended and how to know if we are straying away. When you feel yourself slipping into a sense of anxiety, needing to argue for God, trying to do or be too much, know that God doesn’t need that from you. Jesus wants you, just you. If you can accept that, let go and receive what is to be given, you will land, as a seed, in just the right place, break through your shell, push through the soil, and receive God’s Grace exactly as it is intended.
God’s Grace be with you- Pastor Rob