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Nov 28 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

November 26, 2017 – Matthew 6:31-34

All These “Things”

Do not worry then, saying, “What will we eat?” or “What will we drink?” or “What will we wear for clothing?” Matthew 6:31

Intro: We are wrapping up this section of Jesus’ Sermon

As we do, I want us to be asking ourselves a question:
– Why does Jesus devote so much of his sermon to worry?
• he had far less to say regartding anger, lust, broken promises, revenge
• what makes worry so dangerous?

31, He repeats what he said at beginning with a slight rewording

This time he puts these worries into our mouths: “saying, ‘What shall we eat?’”
– worry is what we feel, saying is what we do
• or to put it another way, worries are thoughts we say to ourselves
• we feel anxiety before we have any thoughts about it
– think of an animal in the wild — it hears a sound, sees movement, catches a scent
• it will immediately freeze and become hyper-alert
◦ our nervous system functions the same way

An outside event (loud noise, erratic motorist, etc.) or internal sensation reaches the brain stem (the lowest part of the brain that connects it to the spinal cord) that triggers a warning. Immediately the brain stem takes action, causing the release of chemicals into the blood stream to put the body on alert. A message is delivered to the rational brain, “Something’s wrong!” There it is analyzed and processed in order to identify the threat and determine its severity. In doing this, it translates the signal into thoughts and words.

• if the cause of alarm is vague or unknown, the brain invents its own
◦ that is when we start “saying” things to ourselves
◦ “What about this?” “What about that?”

Jesus wants us to work on developing a different response
– one that kicks in before we even form thoughts and words
• thoughts and words are interpretations of our experience
• how we interpret events is determined by our perspective
– if I begin every morning with the same anxious feelings,
• it is because I’m looking at each day through the same eyes
• that is where Jesus wants to work the changes
◦ in our perspective — how we look at and interpret everything

32, Two related factors that are relevant to the change

For the Gentiles eagerly seek all these things; for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. Matthew 6:32

“For” and “for” — “For the Gentiles” and “for your heavenly Father”
– the first “for” explains why we worry
– the second “for” explains why we don’t have to worry
• Jesus mentioned “the Gentiles” in reference to the Our Father (v. 7)
◦ it applies to everyone who doesn’t know God and lives apart from him
• here, it is as though Jesus were saying, “They don’t know any better”
◦ we know better, because we know our heavenly Father

Everything looks a certain way to us
– we don’t ask why, because we assume it all looks the same to everyone else
• but that’s not true – what I see and feel has been shaped by my perspective
◦ my perspective has been shaped by my personal history and “training”
◦ my perspective includes a set of assumptions, likes and dislikes, and so on
• perspective functions so deep within our brains that we’re not aware of it
◦ we do not realize the we see the world through a distorted lens
◦ we have always been looking through that lens
– perspective is selective; first, in what it looks for
• secondly, in what it finds, and then in what we feel
◦ if I look for rejection, I see others reject me, and that becomes my experience
◦ I have been “programmed” with this perspective by family and culture
the Gentiles eagerly seek all these things
• Jesus explained to Peter that this was where he went wrong

You are a stumbling block to Me; for you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but the things of man (Mt. 16:23)

◦ having a heavenly Father changes our perspective on “things”
◦ he knows we need “all these things” (the Gentiles seek intently)

Julian of Norwich tells us, “Contemplation of God’s love gives the soul perspective.”

33, The specific change Jesus wants to see

But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. Matthew 6:33

The Gentiles seek, and we seek
– the difference is what we seek first
• first in time: before anything else (top of our “to do” list)
• first in priority: above everything else
– this is not our normal type of search
• it not an expedition, not in lab or observatory, not in a library or with a search engine
• we do not travel to some exotic or sacred place, because the kingdom is here

Kingdom and righteousness take us back to beatitudes
– and they are inseparable
• righteousness is the actualization of God’s kingdom in our actions
◦ that is, our lived experience is where God’s will is being done (cf. v. 10)
• both kingdom and right have to do with God’s rule
◦ what he controls, he perfects in love
– having God’s kingdom and righteousness as life’s priority
defines the lives of those who “hunger and thirst for righteousness” (Mt. 5:6)
• every day they seek to actualize God’s kingdom and righteousness
• according to the Matthew’s gospel, this is Jesus’ big idea
◦ the kingdom and righteousness of God

Perhaps now we can see why Jesus devotes so much of his sermon to worry
– anxieties prevent us from experiencing God’s kingdom
• we can get stuck in our preoccupation with “all these things”
◦ worry can also interfere with the daily practice of righteousness
• anxieties can throw nervous system into survival mode

In The Hurried Child, David Elkind says, “People in stress, like those in ill health, are absorbed with themselves–the demands on them, their reactions and feelings, their hydra-headed anxieties. They are, in a word, egocentric, though not necessarily conceited or prideful. They have little opportunity to consider the needs of others.”

– all these things that can become sources of anxiety will be added to you
• if you want God’s kingdom and righteousness more than anything,
◦ they will be given to you

If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give what is good to those who ask Him (Mt. 7:11)

• trust turns anxiety into acceptance
◦ having made the most important decision in life, everything else falls into place

34, Jesus’ last word on this subject

So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. Matthew 6:34

We can plan for tomorrow and we can prepare for tomorrow
– but Jesus doesn’t want us distracted with worries about tomorrow

Martha, Martha, you and worried and bothered about so many things . . . (Lk. 10:41)

• I believe part of Jesus’ concern is that he does not want us causing ourselves unnecessary suffering
• there are enough real challenges in each day
◦ we do not need to create more by taking on tomorrow’s
– instead of getting carried into the future . . .
return to the present
• this sounds familiar, doesn’t it?
◦ returning to the present moment is how we center our souls
◦ the present moment is where we will always find God

Conclusion: Is what Jesus telling us to do really possible?

Can we actually make these fundamental changes in our perspective?

One of the tools psychologist use to treat anxiety disorders is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). Basically it involves training the rational part of the brain to reprogram the emotional part of the brain. For example, negative events cause people to experience moods or feelings. The CBT counselor says, “No, that is not the whole story. Something else occurs between the event and the mood, and that is an interpretation. An event occurs, and the brain that has been programmed to interpret events in a negative way falls into a negative mood (anxiety, depression). When something goes wrong, instead of mentally blaming shaming yourself (“This is all my fault! I’m such a bad person. I’m so stupid!”), use your logical mind to think through the situation. What would you say to another person who was in your position. In this way, you correct the faulty interpretation and reduce or resolve the negative thoughts and feelings

– this is referred to as “top-down” therapy
• we use the intellect to alter what happens to the emotions and nervous system
• a fairly recent addition to therapy is a “bottom-up” approach
◦ therapist and patient begin by listening to the body and its emotion
◦ the rational part of the brain listens to the emotional part, rather than ordering it what to feel

Pat Ogden writes, “Neuroscience has taught us that emotions and the body are mutually dependent and inseparable in terms of function.”

– emotions are experienced in the body and expressed by the body
• this means that our bodies can be reliable guides to our emotions
◦ and also useful in not only calming, but ridding ourselves of mood disorders
• look at a person who just received disappointing news
◦ his shoulders slump forward and his head drops forward

Ogden explains how people are helped by “using body sensation and movement to address and change how information is processed on a bodily level.”

◦ and now bring scripture into that process

Joel Green, “Christian formation relates to the whole of who we are, our embodied lives, with Scripture taking on the role of sculptor, shaping our patterns of thinking, feeling, believing, and acting.”

• the wonderful blessing here, is that scripture can actually create for us a new experience 
◦ after all, it has been life’s experiences that programmed our minds to anxiety, depression, obsessions, etc.

In Reading the Gospels Wisely, Jonathan Pennington explains that “the vehicle of story is so transformative because it engages our whole being, enables us to have life experiences vicariously, and provides us with a real, experiential encounter with Christ.”

◦ life experiences shaped us, and it takes new life experiences to reshape us
(one reason why merely memorizing Bible verses does not result in transformation)

Sometime in the near future, sit down and open your Bible to Psalm 51
– right away we can feel the poet’s anxiety
• he was overwhelmed with guilt
• he asks not only to be forgiven, but to be changed
◦ change is the cure — and what is central to change?
◦ well, he mentions a lot of body parts
– go go through the psalm and see what he has to say about:
• his innermost being (inner parts, viscera); what he wants to hear and feel 
• his bones, his tongue, lips and mouth; his heart and spirit
◦ his body has carried the burden of guilt (cf. Psa. 32:3-4)
◦ now his will be lifted up to joy through grace

If anxiety arises while you are in prayer, pay attention to your body
– what do you feel and where? tension or tightening? agitation or tingling?
• do you need to relax? stretch? move a muscle or joint?
◦ identify the emotion–for example, “Worry about bills”
• take slow, deep breaths and relax into trust in God — your heavenly Father
– in time, we become aware of when anxiety begins to rise
• then, anywhere, we can breathe and return to the present moment 
• we are then able to literally chose God over anxiety

In scripture and prayer and interaction with each other
let’s give our hearts, minds and souls,
our brains, nervous system and bodies
the experiences of life that changes our perspective
through the grace of God, the love of our Lord and the power of the Spirit

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