This is the sermon I preached tonight at Aldridge Methodist Church. The relevant readings were Psalm 131 and Matthew 6:24-34 although I also reference Philippians 4 and Psalm 100 in the course of the sermon. It was good enough for my preaching mentor to recommend me for proper training. Phew!
Every Friday my company buys me a hot sandwich and I join the other team leaders at a meeting to make sure we’re all up-to-date and kept informed. When the list for sandwiches comes around at about 8 o’clock, there’s a ritual. Andy or Steve pokes his head round my office door, and asks:
“What do you want?”
My automatic ritual response is “An easy life.”
It’s been like that for a few months now, and my answer rarely changes. Friday morning is a busy time. Every day has its share of busy-ness. Mondays we ship to Europe, Tuesdays we process new orders, Wednesdays we book transport for later in the week, Thursdays we find the last units to finish off orders that are falling due and Fridays we work short hours and I have a team leader’s meeting to attend. My life rolls round week after week.
Into this working world speaks Jesus, in the Gospel of Matthew. No one can serve two masters. I can do my job as a faithful servant, and be Jesus to the people around me, trusting God to provide for me. Or, I can serve another master. Chase the money, chase the reputation, chase the easy life, chase the single girls I have working for me, defraud my employer or our customers and keep the money for myself.
It’s way too easy to chase a slightly larger pay packet and end up desperate to make that extra pound or snag that one extra hour overtime. I might have the best of intentions: to provide for my family and satisfy my employer. The success in spiritual terms cannot come until I recognise that God is over everything. If I work and do it for Him, I can trust him to provide.
See verse 32 if you still have your Bible open at the reading from Matthew. God knows what we need. He knows what we want as well, and I might want an easy life or another thousand pounds a year or a newer car but He knows which of these things I need, and that’s the vital difference here between me with my short sighted view of the world, and God, who made it.
God clothes nature in splendour. The scientist in me looks at a red sunset and in my head there is a thing about Rayleigh scattering, angle of incidence, the Sun’s rays hitting the atmosphere in such a way that more red light than any other frequency is sent in the direction of my eyes. I can’t help but admire the way God set the whole of creation up in such a way that he gets that lovely shade of red that makes the artistic bit of me swear never to paint. I could never come close to the wonder of the real thing.
How much more can God plan for our needs? Many times we have found what we need as a family just at the moment of greatest pinch. I’ve never witnessed a hand coming down through the clouds and parking a car on my drive for me, or handing me the cash I need to buy a new boiler. Once, when I realised a financial need in my life, I suddenly didn’t need some of my things, and people on eBay thought they were worth good money. God works for our good in all things. He is in control. It is he that made us, and we are his.
There I am, quoting from Psalm 100 again, we started the service with a bit of it. It goes on;
“Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name. For the LORD is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations.”
The next part of Jesus’ teaching from Matthew Chapter 6 is this: go looking for God’s kingdom first.
Seek God’s kingdom. Where is it? It is where God reigns. Jesus is our King. He is over us. He made us, he knows us, he loves us and he knows what we need. If we have invited Jesus to take sole charge of our hearts, we are local branches of his father’s kingdom. Where we walk, God’s kingdom places its feet.
My passport names my queen, and in the same way Christians the world over acknowledge one King, and act to help and protect one another.
When someone heals in Jesus’ name, It is God’s power at work in them. When a person prays in Jesus’ name, it’s not blasphemy, it’s a declaration of citizenship. We, together with all Christians, are heirs to God’s kingdom with Christ. This is real from the moment of our faith and continues daily.
Seek God’s kingdom. Be where he is. Come to him. Enter his courts, giving praise to him. Everything else in this life runs on from our ownership of Christ, and God’s faithfulness to us. I should thank God for my wife and children, my job, my work experience, and even for the tougher times I have been through because I know I can trust him.
That’s a great theory. How do we do it in real life?
When we confess our sins and ask for forgiveness, we create a clean space in a dirty world. When we pray, we talk to God, and he can speak to us. His word, our Bible, is his inspired word and is useful to us to teach and learn.
We are the light of the world, because Jesus lives in us. This internal light shines out from us and illuminates those around us. If we are stained with sin, the light shines less brilliantly, but he is stronger than our own foolish nature.
When we come to God in confession, we renew our membership of his church, his people. We are his ambassadors.
And so we carry on, into the world, members of God’s family through a wonderful grace, paid for in the crucifixion and resurrection of his own son, Jesus Christ. We seek God’s kingdom and when we find it, we find that we have a full life in him, and that he lives in us.
So God knows what we need, and Jesus tells us the first step is to seek his kingdom. What next? How does this help us?
The answer comes throughout the Bible: God provides for his people.
In Psalm 131, the answer is clear. Don’t worry about the great scheme and don’t be proud. Be at peace. Put your hope in God, both now and forever. This is not a scripture based in complex teaching but in simple song. It’s a short one, and easy to remember.
Be at peace. When Paul writes letters, we often see Grace and Peace wished to the readers at the beginning of the letter. In his letter to the Philippians, he not only speaks of peace in the opening, but teaches them how to deal with life and all that it throws at them. Like Jesus before him, Paul tells them to prioritise God above the demands of the world, and to trust God’s will:
6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Phil 4:6&7)
Peace is a gift to us, a spiritual thing, which God gives us and sustains. Anything more to be said on the subject you had better ask God himself. This peace is effective, real and true. You have my own testimony here and now that God’s peace exists. But I neither understand it, nor expect to. When I get to Heaven, it’s one of the things Jesus will have to explain to me.
If I have a motto at all, it’s a saying of the fourth Century desert father John the Dwarf. He is reported to have said:
“Do your work in peace.”
This I think covers the basics. When the sandwich list comes round on a Friday, I might want an easy life, but what I need is to do my work in peace, relying on God to know what I need and have it covered. I don’t expect it to arrive on a silver plate, I expect to work for it, but I can trust God to meet my needs.
So there you have it. God knows what we need. We must look for his kingdom and be at peace.