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DO NOT WORRY, BUT SEEK HIS KINGDOM

Luke 12:22-12:32
Key Verse: 12:31

In the last lesson, we learned that we should guard against all kinds of greed and that a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions. Our Lord Jesus wants us to pursue to be rich toward God. Living in this world, it is very easy to worry about many things in life. To most people worry becomes habit, a part of life. They say, “How can you live without worry?” But in today’s passage Jesus said to his disciples, “Do not worry.” Worry, like fear and greed, is a serious problem before God. Worry is inappropriate in God’s children. According to Jesus, worry is something that we can overcome. Although we live in the age of anxiety, we can overcome it when we listen to Jesus.

First, do not worry; consider the ravens and the lilies (22-30). Look at verse 22. “Then Jesus said to his disciples: ‘Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat; or about your body, what you will wear.’” In the Garden of Eden, survival was not a problem. God provided everything for man’s living. However, when man sinned, God said to the man, “…Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat of it all the days of your life…By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food….” (Ge 3:17-19). The world we live in now is under a curse. This is a world of survival of the fittest. So all those living in this world carry the heavy burden of survival: to eat three meals a day and to feed those under their care. When we think about the disciples, what to eat and what to wear could be their practical daily problem, as they had left everything to follow Jesus. As for us, though we live in the time of material abundance, people worry a lot about their future, or the future of their parents or children. Job security is a critical problem to many people, especially, young people. In time past and present, life, necessarily it seems, is to be worried.

But Jesus said, “Do not worry about life…or about your body.” And then he said, “Life is more than food, and the body more than clothes.” What an obvious statement! We can buy food and clothing, but not life and the body. The words of Jesus make us think of where life and the body came from. Life and the body came from God. We can say that they are the product of heaven by God, while food and clothing, the product of the earth by men. We should always remember that God is the Giver of my life and body. He is my Maker. My life and body are created by him.

Jesus continued, “Consider the ravens: They do not sow or reap, they have no storeroom or barn.” According to the Bible, ravens are unclean creatures and among the least respected of birds (Lev 11:15; Deut. 14:14). But Jesus told his disciples to consider the ravens. Why consider such unclean and detestable creatures? Thinking of such creatures may take away our good luck and bring ill omen. But the point of the consideration is that God cares even for such creatures. He said, “…they do not sow or reap, they have no storeroom or barn; yet God feeds them.” Ravens are not able to sow or reap, or build a storeroom or barn. Sowing, reaping, and having storeroom or barn are related to humans, and are the conditions for their feeding. Although the ravens have no such preliminary conditions, God feeds them unconditionally, not forgetting a single one. How God feeds them is written in Psalm 147:9: “He provides food for the cattle and for the young raven when they call (cry).” God never ignores a raven’s cry for food; he feeds each without fail. This is the relationship between God the Creator and his creatures. In this relationship the ravens are endlessly happy, flying free, without a worry, above the earth across the expanse of the sky.

In this illustration, what Jesus stresses is this: “And how much more valuable you are than birds!” The value of the disciples are of a different kind from that of the ravens. The values are quite different. Though Christopher and Paul and their dog Toto are living in the same house, the value of Christopher and Paul is different from that of Toto, quite different, to the eyes of their parents. The further meaning of Jesus’ words is, “How much more he cares for you and feeds you!”

Then Jesus raised two questions: “Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life (or single cubit to his height)? Since you cannot do this very little thing, why do you worry about the rest?” The answer to the first question is “none.” No one’s worry can contribute to the span of the person’s life. Rather, worry may shorten one’s life span, although ultimately our life span is in God’s hand. Eating good food can make young children grow more, but worrying can not. The point is worry is of no use to anyone. The answer to the second question, “Since you cannot do this very little thing, why do you worry about the rest?” can be “I don’t know.” The point is we have no reason at all to worry about our life. Man’s life is valuable of itself. The life of human beings has inherent value as the crown of God’s creation. The relationship between God and human beings is outstanding over all other relationships between God and his other creatures.

Look at verse 27. “Consider how the lilies grow” or “Consider the lilies, how they grow.” He continued, “They do not labour or spin. Yet I tell you, not even Solomon in all his splendour was dressed like one of these.” Lilies are beautiful flowers that have come to symbolize Easter, the time of glorious new life. Lilies do not operate sewing machines that make nice garments. They simply grow out of the ground, as God causes them to grow. Solomon was endowed with all the riches and splendour of the world. Yet the splendour of his dressing in all human effort cannot be compared to that of the dressing of the lilies in no effort of themselves. In other words man-made splendour is incomparable to the splendour of God’s natural world.

And then Jesus said in verse 28, “If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today, and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, how much more will he clothe you, O you of little faith!” Although lilies are beautiful flowers, they are nothing but the grass of the field, that is here today and tomorrow is gone. If God is concerned about such grass of the field and clothes it with splendorous beauty, how much more will he clothe his people! Then what does it mean that God clothes his people with such splendour, much better splendour than the splendour of the lilies? In Luke chapter 15, when a prodigal son came back home in repentance, his waiting father was so pleased with his coming that at the sight of his son, he ran to the son, threw his arms around him and kissed him. Then the father clothed his son with the best robe and put a ring on his finger (Lk 15:22). To his father, the home-coming son was none other than a prince son. That’s the way God clothes us in Jesus Christ our Lord. All men are like grass, and all their glory is like the flowers of the field; the grass withers and the flowers fall. In Christ Jesus his people are royal priests clothed with kingly clothes (2 Pe 2:9) being assured of eternal glory and splendour (2 Cor 4:17). We will even have an imperishable, glorious and splendorous resurrection body (1 Cor 15:42-44). Jesus said, “…how much more will he clothe you, O you of little faith!” He wanted his disciples to believe all the amazing blessings of God in him, not worrying at all. So he continued, “And do not set your heart on what you will eat or drink; do not worry about it.”

Look at verse 30. “For the pagan world runs after all such things, and your Father knows that you need them.” Now here Jesus explicitly mentioned “your Father.” God is not the Father of the people of the pagan world. But he is the Father of the disciples through his Son Jesus. He knows all the needs of his children in this world. The relationship between the Father and his children far exceeds the relationship between God and all his all creatures, and this relationship is the foundation of all the blessings Jesus talked about thus far: “How much more valuable you are!” “How much more will he clothe you!” “Your Father knows that you need them.” We thank and praise God the Father for his perfect care and provision for his children in this world.

Second, seek his kingdom (30-34). Look at verse 30 again. “For the pagan world runs after all such things, and your Father knows that you need them.” In Matthew’s gospel it is written, “For the pagans run after all these things…”, but in Luke’s, “the pagan world…” In ESV, “For all the nations of the world seek after these things, and your Father knows that you need them.” The pagan world, all the nations of the world, runs (seek) after all such things, but his disciples are not to. Then what should they seek?

Look at verse 31. “But seek his kingdom, and all these things will be given to you as well.” Until now Jesus told his disciples not to worry. That is a negative expression. Now Jesus tells them to do something positively. He said, “But seek his kingdom.” While the people of all the nations of the world seek after all such things, his disciples are to seek his kingdom, the kingdom of God. The disciples are not of the kingdoms of the world, but of the kingdom of God. So their seeking should be different. While the people of the kingdoms of this world are concerned about the affairs of this world, what to eat and drink and what to wear, the disciples, the members of God’s kingdom should be concerned about the affairs of God’s kingdom. As the dealings of the kingdoms of this world are their daily concern, the dealings of God’s kingdom must be the daily concern of his kingdom members. Our primary daily concern should be God’s kingdom in us and through us. God’s rule should increase in me and his rule be expanded in this world, specifically in our mission field. And Jesus promised, “…and these things will be given to you as well.”

When Jesus called his disciples, he wanted each of them to grow in their inner person as a kingdom member. So he said, “Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God. Blessed are you who hunger now, for you will be satisfied. Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh. Blessed are you when men hate you, when they exclude you and insult you and reject your name as evil because of the Son of Man” (Lk 6:20-22). And Jesus came into this world for the very purpose of preaching the good news of the kingdom of God so that the people of this world might become his kingdom members. He taught his disciples to pray, “Father, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come” (Lk 11:2). Even when the end of his life was approaching, what he did was teaching at the temple. Luke emphasizes this: it is written in 19:45, “Every day he was teaching at the temple…”, and in 20:37, “Each day Jesus was teaching at the temple…” Also, Jesus said to his disciples as he told them about the signs of the end of the age, “The gospel must first be preached to all nations” (Mk 13:10). Apostle Paul said in 2 Corinthians 11:28, “Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches.” Certainly, Paul’s daily concern was for the works of the kingdom of God. In his farewell speech to the elders in Ephesus, he said, “You know how I lived the whole time I was with you, from the first day I came into the province of Asia. I served the Lord with great humility and with tears, although I was severely tested by the plots of the Jews. You know that I have not hesitated to preach anything that would be helpful to you but have taught you publicly and from house to house. I have declared to both Jews and Greeks that they must turn to God in repentance and have faith in our Lord Jesus…I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me—the task of testifying to the gospel of God’s grace.” (Acts 19:18-21,24). As we saw in the gospel key verses, Apostle Paul’s primary concern was to pass on to others the gospel he had received as of first importance. After seeing the great work of God in Ephesus, his vision was to go to Rome and preach the gospel there. He said in Acts 19:21, “After I have been there (Jerusalem), I must visit Rome also.” Indeed he went to Rome, yet as a prisoner. He was imprisoned, but in Roman prison he said, “…I am suffering even to the point of being chained like a criminal, but God’s word is not chained” (2 Tim 2:9). The book of Acts ends with this description, “For two whole years Paul stayed there in his own rented house and welcomed all who came to see him. Boldly and without hindrance he preached the kingdom of God and taught about the Lord Jesus Christ” (28:20-21).

Thank God for his powerful gospel work through the Mexico Regional Bible conference at Easter entitled, “You give them something to eat.” The Holy Spirit worked powerfully among the 350 attendants through the words of God, so that many young people willingly shared their testimonies, repenting of their sins with tears and committing their lives to Christ. Those who attended commented that the conference was like that of the early UBF ministry in the 1970s. The leaders of Mexico pray to pioneer Cuba, Trinidad and Tobago, Jamaica and Haiti. We also pray for such a powerful work in Toronto, Canada. At this time our concern should be the 2015 Canadian SBC, praying for the work of the Holy Spirit and inviting God’s flock to the conference. We continually pray for expanding God's kingdom in U of T through preaching the gospel and 1:1 Bible study. The saving of one soul after another may be our primary daily concern.

Look at verse 32. “Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom.” The disciples were like a small flock of defenceless sheep when compared with the power and glory of the kingdoms of this world. But Jesus said, “Your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom.” Jesus again mentioned, “your Father.” It is certain that the children are to receive their Father’s kingdom. The Father has been pleased to give the kingdom to his children. The Father is more than willing and extremely happy in doing so. We are reminded of Romans 8:17, “Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ…” Also Apostle Peter said in 1 Peter 1:3, “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade—kept in heaven for you.” The kingdom of God is our inheritance we have received in Christ Jesus.

Look at verse 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.” This is the contrast to what the rich fool said to himself in the previous passage, “You have plenty of good things laid for many years. Take life easy, eat, drink and be merry.” Jesus wanted his disciples to care for others in seeking God’s kingdom, and be rich toward God. Jesus said in Luke 16:9 “I tell you, use worldly wealth to gain friends for yourselves, so that when it is gone, you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings.”

Look at verse 34. “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” When one stores his treasure in this world, his heart also is there with only earthbound hope. But when one stores his treasure in heaven, his heart also goes there with the heavenly hope. Jesus wants our hearts to be kept pure with ever increasing hope in God’s kingdom by storing up a treasure in heaven.

May God help us to keep Jesus’ words in our hearts: “Do not worry about life…But seek his kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well.”

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