This sermon is number 17 in a series of 27
The Sermon On The Mount - Part 17
by David Legge | Copyright © 2002 | All Rights Reserved | www.preachtheword.com
Now we're turning again this morning to Matthew's gospel chapter 6, and we have been going through studies now for some time in the Sermon on the Mount. We're on study number 17, and God willing we may finish the chapter today. We're looking at the subject 'Don't Worry'. Now, I have quite a heavy cold and I hope to get through this OK - maybe Lawrence will bail me out if I don't get through it all, but please do bear with the coughs and splutters throughout the sermon, and hopefully the Lord will have something to say to your heart.
Verse 25, we'll read verse 24: "No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon. Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment? Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they? Which of you by taking thought can add one cubit unto his stature? And why take ye thought for raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin: And yet I say unto you, That even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which to day is, and to morrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith? Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things. But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you. Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof".
I doubt whether or not you have ever seen a gravestone with the epitaph 'Died from worry' on it, but the fact of the matter is it could be written on many of the gravestones that we have in our land and in our world. Doctors never cease to tell us today that many of the illnesses that we have with us are directly, not just the symptom, but are directly related to the problem of anxiety, the problem of fear and the problem of worry. Now we're all guilty of this sin. Indeed, most of us worry sometimes, some of us worry a lot of the time, and there's a small elite group of worriers who worry all the time. There is even a group of people who worry so much that when they run out of something to worry about they worry about that! They have in their mind a reserve list of things to worry about, and if on occasion during the day they find that they're not worrying, they're not chewing something over, there's not something gnawing at their soul, they will just recall from their subconscious this list of things to worry about, and start from the top and go down them all.
I'm sure that all of you find yourself in one of those categories today. The thing that we realise and face day-by-day in our world is that worry, stress, and nervous anxiety perhaps could be labelled 'public enemy number one'. Believers in the Lord Jesus Christ are not immune from this problem. We've been looking in recent weeks at how the Sermon on the Mount is given to the Lord's children, to His disciples, to Christians. In that light, therefore, we must take the exhortation of the Lord and realise that we can be prone to worry. The National Anxiety Centre in Maplewood, New Jersey in the United States gives a list of the top ten anxieties from the 1990s. Number one was AIDS; number two drug abuse; number three nuclear waste; number four the ozone layer, five famine; six homelessness; seven the national economic deficit; eight air pollution; nine water pollution; and ten rubbish.
If you go down all ten of those top ten things to worry about in our world, you will find that all of them can generally and broadly be categorised under the Lord's definition of the things that humanity generally worries about. Eating, drinking, and putting on. They're worried about their life, they're worried about things that will encroach upon their life - whether it be illness to snatch away their life, or whether it be simply their welfare, looking after themselves by putting things upon them. The Lord in verse 25, after our study last week on treasures, building up your treasures in heaven, the Lord comes as a parentheses in verse 25 and says: 'Therefore, if you are laying up treasures in heaven, as I have taught you to do, and not on earth - if your heart is in heaven and not on earth; if you're living for heaven and not the earth; if you're single-sighted and not double-minded and unstable in all your ways; if you're only serving one Lord, the Lord Jesus Christ, and not the personification of avarice and greed and materialism which is mammon - if you are doing this you will have no need to worry'.
We tend to think of worry as a small thing, a weakness in our character, a slight personality defect that we cannot help. You often hear people say: 'Ach, I'm a real worrier, but that's just me, that's just the way I am'. Friends, we need to realise that in the context of where we find worry, the subject and the theme, in the Sermon on the Mount would lead us to believe that worry can be the beginning of serving mammon. Worry can be the seed of following another god that is giving the Almighty God competition. You may think that to serve mammon is just to be rich, perhaps you think that a successful businessman is in danger of serving mammon - but the fact is, the Lord is saying it can start from this anxiousness over the smallest things in our life, basic things like eating and drinking and what we're going to put on. That's the first thing, and probably the most fundamental thing, that I want to leave with you today: our Lord is teaching us the wickedness of worry.
Now, of course it's unnatural for us not to be concerned about these things. You might say: 'Well, who doesn't worry?', that's like saying 'Who isn't a sinner?'. But the fact of the matter is, these basic things in life, we do worry about them: eating and drinking and what we will put on - and the reason is there's a demand for these things in life. If you look at verse 26 you will see that the Lord puts them down in order of importance. He starts off with eating, we need to eat to live. He talks about drinking, we need to drink to keep body and soul together. Then He goes down, and of less importance there is clothing. The Lord is saying: 'Life needs these things', and you and I both know that, but yet the Lord comes in with this conclusion - and this is the crux of the matter - is the life not more than food, is the life not more than drink, is the life not more than clothes?
The Greek word for 'life' here is the very word 'soul'. Out of the soul, our personality, our intellect, our emotion, our volition, our will, comes that desire. We know we need to eat, we have an appetite to eat, so we go and eat. It's the same with drinking, it's the same with keeping ourselves warm and protected with clothing. Yet the Lord says that out of what may be an innocent human appetite, and basic demand and need, you can worship another god! Sin can come out of the most basic things in our life. Now listen to me today: worry is not weakness, worry is wickedness! Why is it? Turn with me to Psalm 78 for a moment, this Psalm is the historical trail of the Israelite's pilgrimage through the wilderness and indeed their many sins against God. It's a little cameo of their whole history, and we break into verse 19 in the wilderness - and remember that they were being fed from heaven by the manna, but yet: "They spake against God; they said, Can God furnish a table in the wilderness?", verse 20, "Behold, he smote the rock, that the waters gushed out, and the streams overflowed; can he give bread also? Can he provide flesh for his people?".
Whenever we say, as the children of God, 'Can God? Will God? Is God able?', that is unbelief! My friend, worry - worry - is unbelief. 'Can God do this for me? Can God get me out of this situation?' - anyone who worries, myself included, reveals within himself his own unbelief in God. Remember that this whole Sermon on the Mount is specifically dealing with the theme of hypocrisy, religious ostentation and hypocrisy. Here the Lord is coming, He's dealt with almsgiving, He's dealt with prayer, He's dealt with fasting, He's talked about the Pharisees and what they're like - white on the outside, and dead men's bones on the inside - and now, don't think He's left the subject of hypocrisy, He's coming again and He is telling us: 'For you to be a child of God, for you to be a believer and to worry, is to be a hypocrite'. Do you get it? Worry is hypocrisy.
Think about it: how can a Christian have faith in God and then worry? How can he mark himself as one who believes and is trusting, justified by faith, but also the just shall live by faith, and then turn around and worry: 'Can God?'. It is a burden to worry simply because it is a burden living without faith in God. Child of God, if you're burdened with worry today it's because you're burdened with a lack of faith. God says to you worriers: 'Take no thought'. When we look at the original language that Greek word appears six times within this passage. Other translations translate it: 'Do not be anxious', 'Do not worry', but literally it means this: to be drawn in different directions - do not be drawn in different directions! Why? Because worry is something that pulls you apart from the inside out, and theoretically it is what pulls you between God's camp and mammon's camp.
'It's alright for you David, you don't know what I'm going through, you don't have the worries that I have, you don't have the concerns that I'm bearing at this moment'. I know it's difficult to accept these words and teaching from one who is experiencing little hardship in his life and problems at this time, but please - as I have exhorted you right throughout these studies - remember who's speaking here, it's not David Legge, it is the Lord Jesus Christ your Saviour, the One whom Isaiah called the Man of Sorrows and acquainted with grief. I want to bring you right to the Mount now, I want you to hear these tender words from the loving Lord Jesus, I want you to see the honey dripping from His loving lips as He says to these people: 'Put worry away from you! Don't let it tear you apart any more'. This is One who knows what He's talking about from experience.
F. B. Meyer puts it beautifully when he says of our Lord: 'He never forgot that He was the child of the labouring classes, that His mother at His birth had brought the gift of the poor to the temple, and that from boyhood He had been accustomed to the shifts of poverty. His frequent speech about patching garments and using old bottle skins, about the price of sparrows and the scanty pittance of a labourer's life, indicate that His mind was habituated to the experience of the poor'. Your Lord's mind was habituated to the experience of the poor, and it is that suffering Saviour who says to you today: 'Look up! Take no thought, look up!'.
Look up to what? Well, of course we look up to God. But the Lord says, 'As you're looking up to God take a little note of the things that are on the way up'. He gives us three wonderful illustrations from nature. I don't know whether you've ever noticed throughout the Gospels that most of our Lord's illustrations come from nature, because in nature you have the plan and the sovereign purpose of God created for us. We can see God's intention for life. We often, when we're illustrating things, use materialism and mechanics - we talk about a car, and a helicopter, and a plane, and all sorts of things that we have made. But when the Lord Jesus is illustrating things He talks of things that God has made, not imitations - because whenever you go into an imitation that man has made and look at it with a microscope, you can see that it's clumsy, it's big, it's bulky, and it's ugly, and it's only from a distance that you can see any imitation and beauty. But when you narrow into God's creation, and when you look into the depths, you can see the intricacy of God's plan and God's purpose.
In the very week of creation we can tell that God has supplied absolutely everything for you. Never forget, my friend, that for five days God created the earth, and then on the sixth day He created man. Five days before He created man He's preparing everything that man needs before He makes man. The way we live our lives you would think that He created man on the first day, and then He spent the other four days supplying his need - no! God supplies our need first, and then He creates us.
He says first of all, look at verse 26: "Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they?". Look at the birds! They've no need to hoard, they've no need to store, they're not worrying about the future and piling things up for their supply and their providence in the days that lie ahead. Now let me tell you this: He's not advocating a carefree irresponsible attitude to work. You can't use this as a text and say: 'Well, the sparrows don't work, so I'm not going to work'. Paul says: 'If any will not work, neither should he eat'. What God is saying to us here today is, when we do work and when we obey the command of God to work, God will provide for us. Look at the birds, they don't even work, yet God provides for them - are you not much better than they?
Let's think about this. Have you ever looked out of the window in the Iron Hall and seen, on the telephone wire, a sparrow with its feathers falling out because it's worrying that much? I've never seen one. Have you ever seen one sitting in a nest depressed about where the next worm is going to come from to feed it's little ones? As you look at creation, and you look at the parables that the Lord Jesus uses and His illustrations, I wonder sometimes the more I read it and study it: is the wildlife round about us more aware of God than we are at times? If you get up early in the morning before the sun has risen, what a Bible lesson there is there for anyone! Do you know what I'm talking about? The song, the dawn chorus, that doxology of praise, the first thing you hear in the morning are those birds singing - I wonder what they're singing, but I have a suspicion they're singing: 'Great is Thy faithfulness, oh God my Father, Thy mercies are new every morning!', they don't worry!
The Lord never said: 'Oh ye of little faith' to a sparrow. It's amazing to think that the Lord Jesus is directing us today, and He is telling men, to be like birds. 'Men, be like birds, for know ye not that ye are of more value than these sparrows?'. What a Bible lesson! Be like a bird! What a theologian - forget about A.W. Pink, or Tozer, or any of these, Matthew Henry, the puritans and everything. Here's a theologian for you: a bird! A bird, a prince of preachers of a bird. We need more bird brains like this, we need people who will have faith in God like a little bird.
'Said the robin to the sparrow:
I really do not know
Why it is these human beings
Rush about and worry so.
Said the sparrow to the robin:
I think that it must be
That they have no heavenly Father,
Such as cares for you and me'.
Look to the birds. Then He says: 'Look at your height'. Verse 27: "Which of you by taking thought can add one cubit unto his stature?". The Greek literally could read: 'You can't add one more year unto your lifespan'. Whether it's your height or whether it's your life, you can't do anything about it. A woman for 40 years worried that she was going to die of cancer, and at the age of 70 she died of pneumonia - she wasted 40 years of her life worrying about the wrong thing. Oh, how often we do this. What we're doing is, we try to take the responsibilities that are God's out of His hands and put them in our hands. We want to control them, but we can't control them. It is in our worry that we're saying: 'I can't handle this' - well then why are you trying to handle it? 'I can't cope with this, how am I ever going to get out of this? I can't change this' - if you can't change it, why are you worrying about how you're going to change it?
That's a big question, isn't it? If we know it's foolish to worry and be anxious, why do we do it at all? I'll tell you why we do it: because we're that used, as old sinners, with being independent of God that even with the grace of God in our life we find it hard to utterly rely upon Him. My friend, He says: 'Your heavenly Father will care for you'. God is there, why do you need to worry? What good is worry doing when God is there? More than that: if God wasn't there worrying wouldn't make any difference either! For it does nothing, worry only changes things for the bad, makes things look worse - but trusting God makes things better!
Look to the birds, look to your height, look to your life - then thirdly He says: 'Look at the lilies'. Verses 28 to 30, look at them: "Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not", that's a man's work, "neither do they spin", that's a woman's work, "Yet I say unto you, That even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which to day is, and to morrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith?". Consider the lily, the lily is rare, the lily is precious, the lily is colourful, even Solomon in all his glory - and remember that the Queen of Sheba came to see Solomon's glory, the pageantry of Solomon's kingdom and the glory of his gold was world renowned, and she said to the King: 'It was a true report which I heard in mine own land of thine acts and of thy wisdom. Howbeit I believed not their words until I came and mine eyes have seen it, and behold the one half of the greatness of thy wisdom was not told me, for thou excellest the fame that I heard'. You're clothed greater than that!
Do you believe that? Even the grass of the field, He says, that's worth nothing - it's the stuff that fuel is made out of, it's fired into the oven, it's here today gone tomorrow - God even clothes it for its short lifespan, how much more is He going to clothe you, O you of little faith? Now look, the Lord Jesus is using an argument here of reason that you find right throughout the New Testament. It's called the 'fortiori argument'. What it means is this: it is an argument in the form of 'if this, then how much more that?' - if this, then how much more that? If I look after the birds, then how much more will I look after you? If I look after your height, then how much more will I look after your life? If I look after the lilies, how much more will I look after your clothing? Perhaps the most famous of this fortiori argument is found in Romans 8 and verse 32: "He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?". If He gave His Son, do you not think He'll give what you need? If then, then how much more that?
We find it in the Sermon on the Mount, and we'll come to it in chapter 7 verse 11, speaking of praying for the Holy Spirit: "If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him?". If you're an old sinner, and you can give a lollipop to your child; how much more shall God give you the Holy Spirit? Fretting child of God, wait till I tell you - this might be simplistic to you, but God has no room for you in His life if it's too simplistic for you - for the saints of God, since our Lord Jesus Christ taught this at the Sermon on the Mount, have been living on these three illustrations through all the turmoil and hell that life has thrown at them - they have stood upon the rock of God's word! The saints of God have tried and proved this: George Mueller based his whole life of trusting God on these two great promises concerning birds and lilies!
Could the Lord accuse us today and say: 'O ye of little faith'? Remember that was the Lord's recurring rebuke to His disciples. They were in the boat, and oh they were so praiseworthy of the Lord Jesus, but then the storm came and their boat was rocked and they were nearly thrown out into the depths of the ocean, and as far as they were concerned the Lord Jesus Christ couldn't care less if they perished or not - they were going to drown and He could have stopped it! What did the Lord say: 'O ye of little faith!'. He was going to feed 5000 people, and they doubted the Lord's ability to serve food for them, and the Lord Jesus said: 'Why reason ye among yourselves?'. Do you know what one of the greatest problems to faith is in a believer? Reason! Why reason ye? You mightn't be able to work it out, but God's ways are not your ways, His thoughts are not your thoughts - O ye of little faith!
Peter got out of the boat, which most of us wouldn't even do. He's walking on the water, but he takes his eyes off the Lord and he begins to fall - and that can happen to us. Whether it's the storm, whether we don't know who's going to feed us and we reason that God cannot do it, or whether we're sinking into life's depths and oceans - O ye of little faith, look to the birds, look to your height, look to the lilies, and trust God! The disciples came to Him in Matthew 17 and said: 'Lord, we've tried casting these demons out, but they'll not go'. The Lord said: 'They won't go because of your unbelief'.
My friend, that's the wickedness of worry, but there is the worldliness of worry. The Lord doesn't just use these three illustrations, He says: "After these things do the Gentiles, the nations, seek". You only need to look around you today and see how, in a materialistic world, this is what people are worrying about. The economy, recession, possessions, career, profession - it is worldliness today, and the Bible teaches us that in the last days this will be a characteristic mark of men and women. In other words, listen now: all that the sinner without Christ lives for is to eat, to drink, and to be merry! Are we different? Paul said: 'What does it advantage me if the dead rise not?' - he's saying: 'If there's no resurrection, and this Lord Jesus Christ is a farce and a myth and a liar and a cheat, what does it advantage me? Eat, drink, and be merry - you might as well, because there's no God!'.
In Matthew 24 the Lord said that as it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of man - and He marks it by this characteristic: men were eating, men were drinking, men were marrying and giving in marriage until the day that Noah entered into the ark. Now, have we that attitude? My friend, you're going through the turmoil and the trial of life, you don't know where the next loaf of bread perhaps is coming from, you've got illness and sickness on your mind, trouble and bereavement - but, my friend, have faith in God, for God is there and God is true, and God will deliver! We betray His existence when we worry, we give a bad testimony when we worry, when we adopt the attitude of the world: "For your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things".
God will supply your needs, there's no sense in worrying about tomorrow, as He says in verse 34, for tomorrow won't change. Worrying about tomorrow does nothing for today, in fact if anything it doesn't do anything for tomorrow, it doesn't do anything for today only destroy today. You've maybe heard of Corrie Ten Boom, she spent years in a Nazi concentration camp and helped many Jewish people. She was a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ, and she went through more heartache and trial and tribulation than you and I perhaps all put together will know in our lifetime. Do you know what she said a few years before she died? 'Worry does not empty tomorrow of sorrows, it empties today of strength'.
Imagine what could be done for God if you put all the energy that you use worrying into His service. Imagine if you turned your worrying into prayer, into fasting, into witnessing. Is there a way out? Praise God there's a way out of worrying - verse 30: "Ye of little faith", you need faith. Verse 32, you need your heavenly Father, for He knows; you need to look to the heavenly Father in faith. Verse 33, seek first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness, then all these other things that you're worrying about will be sorted out. That righteousness is not imputed righteousness that the boys and girls were hearing about this morning, because you don't seek after that - it's given to you in one justifying act of faith. What this is, is chapter 6 and verse 1, the almsgiving, the works of righteousness; it is chapter 5: 'Except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees'. Seek that godliness, that holiness, that life of Christ in you by the Spirit - and the word 'seek' is the present imperative which means this: an unceasing quest, seek it and God will supply your need!
This is God's Social Security plan: seek first the kingdom of God. What do human beings do: 'I must eat, I must drink, I must have clothes to put on and shoes to put on the children's feet. I must, I must have this, and this, and this, and this' - but God says if you want those things, if you need those things, you must decide: 'I must have a relationship with God, I must have faith, I must be more godly, I must be more holy'. You've got to reverse the whole natural order, and first and foremost be rightly related to Him. Why? Why? Here we come back again to the whole theme of this Sermon: you cannot produce an inner life with God if you are continuously focusing on your outward life. Whether it's in prayer, fasting, almsgiving - it doesn't matter, even in providing food, drink and clothing - if you're continually focusing on the outward you will never produce an inward relationship. But, my friend, if you seek first the kingdom of God, all these other things God will sort out for you. I'm not saying you'll be rolling in money, but God will supply your need. Bishop Castles, one of the Cambridge seven, when he was going to the mission field as a pioneer - he had on all his luggage two words: 'God first!'.
How can you have no worries? Put God first. A wee girl was trying to dress up in her Mummy's gloves. She had one of those big leather ones up to her elbow with all the buttons, and she was getting more and more frustrated - she couldn't get them all in the right place. She got so annoyed that she shouted out: 'Mummy, they won't come right!'. Then her Mummy explained: 'There's the first button, and then there's the first hole. Get the first one right and all the rest will follow easily'. My friend: seek first, make you His service your delight, and your wants shall be His cares. Where is your heart? Is it in heaven, or is it on earth. My friend, listen to the words of the Lord: 'Don't worry, your heavenly Father knows what you need'.
Let's bow our heads, and it may be the case that there's someone here who is not saved and has never been converted by the grace of God. My friend, this message applies to you in a sense too: God loves you enough to send His only begotten Son to die for you, He has provided for you too - salvation - but what you need is faith. You must take that gift, be saved today, and there need be no more worry about sin, about guilt, about punishment, about even provision and God looking after you. You have many problems, perhaps, but there need be no more worries. Believer, I am prone to worry, and it must be tackled - it is the devil's ground in our lives at times that robs us of blessing - be done with it now, put it away under the blood and be free of worry today, and go home with your heart in heaven and your trust in God.
Father, we thank Thee for the Lord Jesus, for His precious words, and we pray for grace to implement them. We pray that sorrowing and sad and downcast hearts in this building now will ask themselves: 'Why art thou downcast, O my soul? Hope thou in God, for thou shalt yet praise Him'. Give faith, we pray, to believe, and help our unbelief. For Christ's sake, Amen.
Preach The Word.
This sermon was delivered at The Iron Hall Assembly in Belfast, Northern Ireland, by Pastor David Legge. It was transcribed from the seventeenth tape in his 'Sermon On The Mount' series, titled "Don't Worry" - Transcribed by Andrew Watkins, Preach The Word.
All material by David Legge is copyrighted. However, these materials may be freely copied and distributed unaltered for the purpose of study and teaching, so long as they are made available to others free of charge, and this copyright is included. This does not include hosting or broadcasting the materials on another website, however linking to the resources on preachtheword.com is permitted. These materials may not, in any manner, be sold or used to solicit 'donations' from others, nor may they be included in anything you intend to copyright, sell, or offer for a fee. This copyright is exercised to keep these materials freely available to all. Any exceptions to these conditions must be explicitly approved by Preach The Word. [Read guidelines...]