How to face the future - Matthew 6:19-34
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How to face the future
How would you summarise your feelings about the future? Are you concerned? Are you calm? Are you confident?
Have you ever worked out why you feel the way you do? It is often how we view the world and how we view God that impacts how we view the future.
For example, someone might be an atheist and therefore fear a future that has no one determining the outcome. They may reassure themselves that all will be well, but without much evidence. Or they may preoccupy themselves with the urgent and immediate to try and take their mind off what is to come.
Someone may be a practical atheist. They believe in God and his good government of the world. But in reality they only feel safe if life is being run according to their timetable and agenda. When it isn’t, they feel the tension in their neck muscles.
Someone may be a Christian who has been badly taught. They might never have encountered the gloriously liberating truth that our Heavenly Father controls every detail in the universe, without negating our personal responsibility for our decisions. If that is you then you may feel concerned about a future that seems random and risky.
How should a Christian face the future? Remember who Jesus is speaking to in this part of the bible. His disciples have gathered round him. He has spoken on a variety of subjects already. Now he addresses how his followers should face the future.
He has two big things to say to us. Two overarching commands.
- Do not store up treasures on earth but instead store up treasures in heaven (Vs 19-24)
- Do not worry about the future but instead seek first Christ’s kingdom (Vs 25-34)
What I like about this section is that Jesus doesn’t just leave us with an ethical vacuum. He doesn’t simply tell us what not to do. No, he gives us a positive replacement.
First, do not store up treasure on earth but instead store up in treasures in heaven
Jesus is not against owning stuff or even prudently making provision for the future. But what he is commanding his disciples to avoid in this section is living their lives purely to accumulate the treasures of this world.
That could be many things. House. Car. Jewellery. Paintings. Sports Equipment. What is your tipple?
Jesus says, “Don’t live now simply to accumulate the treasures of the world.”
He gives a few reasons in verse 19. Not only will these things not last into eternity but neither will they last this lifetime. They will be destroyed and deteriorated by creatures and climate. Sometimes they will be stolen by criminals. Or in other words, it is a foolish thing to live for the treasures of this world.
What’s the alternative? Look at verse 20. Read verse 20.
There are such things as treasures in heaven.
What are these? There are hints in the bible. Greater joy in God. Our capacity increases. Not every Christian’s experience in eternity will be the same. More responsibility in service.The great advantage of these things is that they will last and will never deteriorate.
How can we store up these treasures in heaven? It’s as we serve the Lord Jesus Christ. As we honour him.
This will include what we do with our possessions. Rather than accumulating stuff for our personal pleasure we use our possessions in serving Jesus.
Luke 12:32-33, “Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom. 33 Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will not be exhausted, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys.”
Luke 14:13-14, “But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, 14 and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.”
The principle is: Give what we get.
This way of life doesn’t just impact eternity, it also effects how we will live before then. Look at verse 21. “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
What you set your sights on will determine what you desire. This will determine what consumes you.
What are your ambitions? Do you have any? Are they godly ambitions?
You may not have detailed plans but what about aspirational dreams? The plans come after the dreams.
Make a choice what you will aim for in life. Base your choice on the words of Jesus.
What can we do if our desires are out of sync with the demands of Christ? Trust Christ and do what he says. And then over time watch your desires change.Trust him that this will be good for us.
Jesus describes the benefit of this using the image of light in contrast with darkness. Look at what he says in verse 22. Read verses 22-23.
Do you want to be full of light or full of darkness? The choices you make will determine your experience.
Be single minded in terms of gathering treasure in heaven. This will flood your whole person in a beautiful way. However, get consumed with accelerating earthly treasure and your existence will be a dark one. Enslavement. Dissatisfaction. Envy. Jealousy.
John Piper, “O that young people would learn quickly, and older people before it’s too late, that there is no positive correlation between having many things and being very happy. A life of simplicity, with a governor on your spending and a passion to advance the kingdom through giving, will be a far happier life than a life of luxury. I plead especially with teenagers and the young single people to learn these things early because statistics show that the young are less likely to give anything than the older, and the single are less likely to give anything than the married. In Christ you do not need to be old or married to be smart and Christ-like. I hope you will prove the pollsters wrong in your case.”
What do we say to the person who wants a middle way? The person who thinks they can have their cake and eat it. That they can compromise and focus on both
Look at what Jesus says in verse 24. Read verse 24.
You can only be devoted to one thing. That one devotion impacts everything else.
If you are devoted to earthly treasure then God may still feature in your life. But your passion for God and the things you do for him will always be directed and controlled by your greater pursuits and pleasures.
The feeling of being compromised or torn is evidence that you are really serving other things and haven’t yet committed completely to Christ.
Remember the one who wants us to give everything for him is the one who has given everything for us.
Secondly, do not worry about the future but instead seek first Christ’s kingdom
Three times Jesus says do not worry in this section.
- Verse 25
- Verse 31
- Verse 34
Why does Jesus feel the need to address anxiety issues after what he has just said?
Here’s what I think it is. As you treat possessions as things to be given away rather than stored either for your personal safety or personal significance or personal sensations, you are likely to start worrying. Jesus’ anticipates this and speaks about it.
But notice something else. He starts verse 25 with a therefore. Which means he has already said something in these verses that assures us that we don’t have to worry.
What is that? It’s the master we serve.
As we give ourselves to this Master and his ways, we don’t have to worry about safety, significance or sensations. He is the Master who cares.
This truth is expanded in this next section.
Let me focus on two things that are said about our new Master to encourage us not to worry.
First, our Father feeds the birds.
Look at verse 26. Read verses 26-27. Look at the birds of the air. How much more! That’s the kind of Master who serves. He rules the world as a Father.
Second, our Father clothes the flowers.
Look at verse 28. Read verses 28-29.
He will give his children what they need, when they need it.
This doesn’t mean we will never struggle. Or that we will never starve or never die. God knows what we need when we need it.
Do you struggle with anxiety issues? Sometimes? Often? Every day?
There are many future things to get worried about.
- A meeting with someone
- Is my life worth anything?
- Does anyone love me?
- Will I ever get married?
- Big decisions to be made
- Anxious about getting old
- Anxious about dying
- Many others things
Christians are not immune from feeling anxious. However, continued and settled anxiety after those initial feelings is sinful for a Christian. It is to disobey Christ’s clear commandments.
What can we do about our anxiety?
First, realise where it comes from. Unbelief in our good and glorious Heavenly Father.
Second, battle the unbelief.
This may need to happen on a daily basis.
John Piper, “Suppose you are in a car race and your enemy who doesn't want you to finish the race throws mud on your windshield. The fact that you temporarily lose sight of your goal and start to swerve does not mean that you are going to quit the race. And it certainly doesn't mean that you are on the wrong racetrack. Otherwise the enemy wouldn't bother you at all. What it means is that you should turn on your windshield wipers and use your windshield washer.
What I mean is this: when anxiety strikes and blurs our vision of God's glory and the greatness of the future that he plans for us, this does not mean that we are faithless, or that we will not make it to heaven. It means our faith is being attacked. At first blow our belief in God's promises may sputter and swerve. But whether we stay on track and make it to the finish line depends on whether we set in motion a process of resistance. Whether we fight back against anxiety. Will we turn on the windshield wipers and will we use our windshield washer?”
Or in other words, let’s use the promises of God! Let’s preach them to ourselves.
Unchecked anxiety is very disabling, both personally and for the work of the gospel.
John Piper, "Anxiety about finances can give rise to coveting and greed and hoarding and stealing. Anxiety about succeeding at some task can make you irritable and abrupt and surly. Anxiety about relationships can make you withdrawn and indifferent and uncaring about other people. Anxiety about how someone will respond to you can make you cover over the truth and lie about things."
What’s the alternative to worry? What’s the positive replacement? Look at verse 33.
To seek first his kingdom and his righteousness is a matter of priorities. It is an active mindset of setting Jesus’ words and ways as the determining voice and vision in our lives.
It’s not just waiting passively for worry to surface and then striking back with the promises of God. No, this is active pursuit of the glory of God!
- Do not store up treasures on earth but instead store up treasures in heaven
- Do not worry about the future but instead seek first Christ’s kingdom
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