We’re in the middle of a series entitled Rooted and throughout this series we’ve been asking the question . . . What would it be like if you had an amazing, out of the box, are you kidding me, kind of faith? The kind of faith that no matter what happened you trusted God.
Well, when you read the narrative of scripture, what you see is this amazing story of God trying to build into people that kind of faith.
The pattern is this . . . relationship built on trust followed by rules/guidelines
In other words, “Now that you trust me and we’ve established a relationship with one another, here’s how we will live in that relationship.
And these guidelines are designed to create deep roots so that when things in life get a little difficult . . . and they will . . . you will be grounded in trust that I am your God and you are my people.
So, when we get to the New Testament, we shouldn’t be surprised that the driving message is Jesus saying, “I want you to put your trust in me because I’m trying to re-establish a relationship between you and God and I want you to trust that God knows you, and loves you, and longs for intimacy with you, so here are some things that will help establish deep roots of trust that will strengthen that relationship.”
So, what we’ve been doing over the past few weeks is looking at some of those roots.
Today, we’ll be talking the root that we love to ignore . . . discipline. You know, those things you’re supposed to do but you really don’t like to do them; eat healthier, exercise more, spend less money, spend more time with your kids, show up to church more often, or call your mama.
The interesting thing about discipline is, even if you don’t like doing it, it almost always results in positive progress. And oftentimes, the disciples we didn’t enjoy doing at first become very pleasant habits. Things we can’t imagine living without.
As we enter the text this morning, Jesus has been preaching and teaching about the kingdom of God and kingdom living . . . He is saying, “As people who are in relationship with God, these are the practices, or disciplines, that will help create deep roots of trust and those roots of trust will produce a more intimate relationship with God.”
And each of these disciplines comes with an asterisk, “Don’t do them in front of others.” In other words, these are private disciplines. It’s not for other people to look at you and say, “Wow, they’re so spiritual. They’re so generous. They’re so faithful. Let’s name a building or a monument after them.”
These are private disciplines, designed to build your faith and trust in God.
He starts with the disciple of giving. He says, “You need to get into the practice of giving regularly. But when you give, don’t do it with trumpets and fanfare because if you do, you will have already received your reward in full but instead give in private so that your reward will be a deeper intimacy with God.”
Then he talks about the disciple of praying. Same thing, “You need to carve out a slot out of time from your busy day to spend with God. But when you pray, don’t do it in front of others because their amazement of your beautifully worded prayers will be your reward. Instead, pray in private so that your reward will be a deeper intimacy with God.”
Finally, he talks about the discipline of fasting. Probably something that most of us don’t do unless we’re going in for bloodwork in the morning. But Jesus says, “You should set aside time to fast, not so that others will be impressed but so that you will hunger and long for a deeper intimacy with God.”
He wraps up by saying . . . “Here’s the deal . . . here’s why it’s so important to keep these as private disciplines . . . you can’t serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other.”
In other words, what you are rooted in will determine the fruit you produce. You can’t plant an apple tree and expect an orange. You can’t root yourself, or discipline yourself, for the blessings of the world and expect a deeper intimacy with God.
Which brings us to today’s text . . . READ Matthew 6:25-34
If you were to pull out every single command found in scripture, the one that is repeated the most is “fear not” and the reason is because fear always gets in the way of our relationship with the father. We see this from the beginning of the story of God. After Adam and Eve had eaten of the apple they hid from God because they were afraid of their nakedness.
Everybody fears something; some of them seem very irrational but others are very rational; you fear losing a significant other or a child, or not being able to care for your family, or not being the kind of parent your children need, or dying in an accident, or simply getting old . . . this list could go on.
But what happens when your life is rooted in fear it produces anxiety; you’re stressed, your heart rate increases, you blood pressures goes up and you get this nervous eye twitch.
And out of response our bodies are manifesting this anxiety as sickness. It’s actually God’s design for our bodies to communicate to our brain that we need to slow down, take a break and chill out.
You see fear and anxiety have this ability to literally cripple us but it also causes us to miss out a deeper intimacy with God because as Jesus just said, you can’t serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other.”
So, Jesus says, “Fear not”.
Now this command isn’t coming from some religious guy with a cushy, comfy life, giving us principals that he himself has no need of.
At this point he’s broke and homeless and he knows how difficult this life can be. He knows what it means to have fear creeping at your door, wanting to take over your life.
And so out of love and understanding he says, “Fear Not . . . But he goes in a direction that I would never have expected . . . he goes right to our stuff. And you might be thinking, “What does my stuff have to do with my stress? Is this just another sermon where you take my stuff?
But keep in mind, this is directly connected to what he said earlier about private disciplines.
Jesus is saying, “I’m not trying to take your stuff. I’m trying to take your stress because your stress is keeping you from trusting God. And a lot of your stress is connected to your stuff.”
He begins with food. He says, “Don’t worry about what you eat”
Now for most of us, food is a big deal . . . after all, you need it to survive
But Jesus isn’t saying “don’t eat”. He’s saying, “Don’t worry about what you eat because food can become all consuming.”
Sometimes our stomachs become our Gods. When we’re happy, we reward ourselves with food. When we’re stressed, we comfort ourselves with food. We have a relationship with food that is more like a relationship we should have with God.
And Jesus says, “Life is more than food . . . and the body more than clothing?”
Now this sounds like hippie talk, right? I mean, we need to wear clothes but the problem is that we can get consumed by looking good.
Clothes are only in style for a few months because they keep changing what’s in and what’s not. And you want to be up with the times and the trends.
So out of worry, we go buy the “right” clothes but then we have debt . . . and debt adds to our stress. So we’re stressed about looking good and then we’re stressed about paying to look good.
Jesus is saying, “Don’t worry when chick-fil-a isn’t open on Sundays and don’t go into a panic when you can’t afford that outfit that you really want because you can’t add a single day to your life by worrying about those things . . . in fact, the stress is literally kill you.”
Then he continues by saying, “Consider the birds.” God provides for them and he gives them what they need to survive and if God’s going to feed the birds, he’s going to feed us.
And then Jesus says, “Consider the flowers” . . . they don’t have malls to get the trendy clothes but they look awesome. And if God can make the fields look so amazing, fields that will be beautiful one day and the next day be thrown in the fire . . . how much more will he clothe you?
Do not be afraid . . . don’t become rooted in fear . . . don’t get caught up in the things you really can’t control . . . don’t let these things produce anxiety because your father, the one who created you in his image, knows that you have needs and he will take care of you.
So, instead, seek his kingdom. Be rooted in things that will produce a deeper trust and intimacy with God and he will provide what you need.
Then he circles back to private disciplines. He says, “If you believe that God loves you and He provides what you need . . . which may be very different from what you want . . . then sell your stuff and give to the poor because where your treasure is, there will your heart be also”
You see, your life follows your money. Odds are your money goes to your fears.
- You want security, so it goes to a home.
- You want comfort, so it goes to entertainment
- You want status, so it goes to your possessions.
- You want approval, so it goes to clothes
If you really believe that God loves you and will provide what you need, then begin the practice and private discipline of giving.
Take something you love, something you’ve worked really hard for and give it away. Take something that’s incredibly significant to you and give it away. Take something that actually pains you to lose, and give it away.
And as we give our best, God isn’t taking our stuff. He’s taking our stress. And when we give it starts to reorient our hearts and our minds and our lives and eyes away from ourselves. It allows us to get to know the father and rely on his generosity . . . and it allows us to love others.
Some of you are now saying, “I knew it. I knew that this was all about trying to get my money and my stuff . . . I knew it.
But I say to you . . . “Fear not” . . . God doesn’t want to take your stuff. He doesn’t need your stuff.
He wants to take your stress and so much of your stress is connected to your stuff. And as you give, you’re not only giving your stress to him, you become an agent of God’s care for others . . .
You see, one of the ways that the father feeds and clothes others is through you and me.
So, begin the private discipline of generosity and see what happens in your heart. See what happens with your fears. See what happens with your anxieties. See what happens with your relationship with the Father.
And through our generous giving . . . may people see Jesus, the greatest treasure of all.