Cornerstone EPC Sunday morning
Franklin, NC 28734 March 22, 2020
“Seek Ye First”
We continue in the throes of the coronavirus pandemic, with its ongoing anxiety and outright panic. These grip our world today—and too often they touch the redeemed of God in Christ Jesus. We receive a timely exhortation along this line today, yet an exhortation, by itself, not to be anxious is, in itself, insufficient. We must replace this anxiety with something else. Jesus gives us a blessed something else in Scripture today. Let us listen to God’s Word read and proclaimed once again in this place.
(HERE READ THE TEXT)
The anxieties and panics in today’s culture appear to be of two varieties. First, we have epidemiological worries. We worry about the severity of the coronaviral infection and we worry about the ease and rapidity of the virus’s spread. Second, we have economic worries. We worry about our provision—or looming lack thereof. We dealt with the first of these anxieties, to some degree, last week, and we’ll deal with the second today.
We in American society, and in the American church to some extent, look with alarm at certain barren sections of our stores and ask, “What shall we eat?” “What shall we wear?” and like questions. Economic uncertainty and volatility fuels and fans these questions. Jesus knows we have these questions before we ask them, and the balance of this exposition reveals His solution.
Jesus first commands us, in this section of His Sermon on the Mount, “Be not anxious….” We are to worry neither about life and body—that is, what we will eat and wear. Nor are we to worry about the future generally. After all, tomorrow will be anxious for itself and sufficient unto this day is the difficulty thereof. Jesus, in giving this command, appends reasons not to be anxious.
First, we may eschew anxiety because our life (or soul, Greek psuche [ψυχη]) and our body—that is, who we are—is so much more than what we eat and wear. Jesus will show us exactly how this is true presently. Second, we must resist anxiety because it adds nothing to our lives. Who of us, Jesus asks, can add an hour to his life or a cubit to his height (depending upon your translation of the Greek) by worry? Not only does worry fail to accomplish what we need accomplished, but it also diminishes us somewhat. We fail to be at our best due to the physical and psychological effects of anxiety, and we reveal by our anxiety that our trust in the Lord yet needs to grow.
Third, we may flee anxiety because the Lord meets the need of His lowlier creatures—and that quite well. Jesus leads us to look at the birds. They neither gather nor store, yet our Heavenly Father feeds them. Are we not of much more value than they? Jesus answers this rhetorical question explicitly later in Matthew’s Gospel, where He says, “Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows” (Matthew 10:31). Consider also the lily, or the wild flower, of the field. It neither toils nor spins, yet our Heavenly Father arrays it above Solomon in all his glory. He does this for the grass, which is alive today and gone tomorrow—cast into the oven. If He does thus for the lily, will He not much more clothe us, we of little faith? Indeed, He shall—for He has promised, and, no matter how many promises God has made, they are all “Yea,” and “Amen,” in Christ Jesus.
Fourth, we may shun anxiety because the Lord knows our need even before we ask of Him. He knew our need of Christ’s atoning work, and He supplied Him for us—applying His benefits to our needy souls by faith. He knows our other needs as well. Furthermore, He will supply our every need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:19).
Yet all the foregoing, though most helpful, is not enough. We need something else to replace the anxiety we shun. We find a glorious replacement in verse thirty-three, “Seek ye first the Kingdom of God….” We, then, are to seek the Kingdom of God—that is, His righteous reign in every sphere of life and existence. Also, we shall seek His righteousness. We, seeking His righteousness, would be righteous: both positionally by faith in Jesus Christ (and, thus, justified) and practically by Spirit-empowered obedience to the moral Law. As we seek the Lord thus, our physical needs will be added to us as well. What a good word we have for times like these.
We have current economic woes of unknown duration and intensity. We have endured significant supply chain issues. We have bemoaned the unavailability of certain foods, of disinfectant supplies, and even of bath tissue. We have noted—and, perhaps and alas, endure–un-employment and under-employment due to layoff, business closure, and the like. We also have noted and endured the fall of the stock market—with the resultant de-valuation of stock-indexed retirement accounts. We don’t know how long this will last, and we don’t know how bad it will be.
For such a time as time, continue to pray—with thanksgiving—and receive the Lord’s precious peace (cf. Philippians 4:6-7). Also, seek God’s Kingdom above all else. Seek the Lord’s righteous reign—which includes your highest and best in Christ Jesus—in your life and in the lives of others. Believe, or continue to believe, in the Person and work of Jesus Christ the instrumental means of entrance into Christ’s Kingdom—and, thus, into life eternal and abundant. Seek Him, and His reign, practically via prayer and Scripture intake—and, when we get the chance once again, via worship attendance and fellowship. God has appointed these means, among others, to draw close to Him and to obtain strength for the facing of these days. May God, as you flee these anxious feeling and times, fill your souls to overflowing with Himself and with His good things by His Spirit.