The Simple Life: Fulfilment and Freedom from Anxiety
“And he said unto his disciples, Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat; neither for the body, what ye shall put on. The life is more than meat, and the body is more than raiment. Consider the ravens: for they neither sow nor reap; which neither have storehouse nor barn; and God feedeth them: how much more are ye better than the fowls? And which of you with taking thought can add to his stature one cubit? If ye then be not able to do that thing which is least, why take ye thought for the rest? Consider the lilies how they grow: they toil not, they spin not; and yet I say unto you, that Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. If then God so clothe the grass, which is to day in the field, and to morrow is cast into the oven; how much more will he clothe you, O ye of little faith? And seek not ye what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink, neither be ye of doubtful mind. For all these things do the nations of the world seek after: and your Father knoweth that ye have need of these things. But rather seek ye the kingdom of God; and all these things shall be added unto you. Fear not, little flock; for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom. Sell that ye have, and give alms; provide yourselves bags which wax not old, a treasure in the heavens that faileth not, where no thief approacheth, neither moth corrupteth. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” (Luke 12:22-34)
It goes without saying that the Lord knows the human condition. He knows our wants and needs. He also knows our strengths [we have none] and weaknesses [of which there are many]. As such, the Lord is very direct in addressing these, He simplifies them incredibly; almost to the point of ridiculousness. By this I mean, ridiculous on our part because as mere humans we have a tendency to complicate things: which is why I have titled this message “The Simple Life”
In many respects, these verses are a blueprint for life. Again in simplifying matters for us, the Lord makes it evident that “it’s not rocket science”. It’s not rocket science and if we take these things to heart, we will automatically have a blessed and fulfilling life:
Free of doubt and anxiety
Free of greed and covetousness
Free of self-centredness and selfishness
Focused on the things that matter
The Simplicity of Mindlessness:
“And he said unto his disciples, Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat; neither for the body, what ye shall put on. The life is more than meat, and the body is more than raiment”
The term mindfulness has become a “buzz word” in recent times and refers to a certain attitude of “living in the moment”. On the other hand, I have deliberately used the word “mindlessness” for the simple reason that the Lord commands us to “take no thought” for our lives. In “minding less” we resist giving place to anxiety and the cares of this life.
A fairly simple command, I think you’d agree…and it is. However I don’t believe that it’s matter of just “switching the mind off” or redirecting it with amusements and distractions. This is not what the Lord is advocating. And so rather than being replaced by alternative thoughts and activity, we are taught that we are to be transformed by the renewal of our minds.
In other words, our minds need a complete overhaul.
The root cause of our problem of course, isn’t a mental problem but a heart issue. It’s the heart which is deceitful above all things and which deceives the mind. In order for our minds to be renewed, our hearts must be changed also.
It is out of the heart from which flow the issues of life. And in this case ultimately it is the heart that is troubled.
The weapon of choice in the battle against anxiety is of course, the word of God.
We’ve been assured that:
“(For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds;) Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ;”
Despite the simple solution, it is a battle. It would be wrong of me to underestimate or downplay the nature of the battle. There are two battles which take place in a believer’s life: the battle without and the battle within.
Firstly, we understand that we wrestle not against flesh and blood and so we have the battle which occurs in the unseen realm [Ephesians 6:12]
Secondly, we also have the battle within. The war between our flesh and the Holy Spirit [Galatians 5:17]
Knowing that the battle is in part, a heart issue…we also need to realize that whilst the word of God can change the heart…the state of the heart can interfere with the receiving of God’s word…
As we read in the parable of the sower:
“And these are they which are sown among thorns; such as hear the word, And the cares of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, and the lusts of other things entering in, choke the word, and it becometh unfruitful.”
In relation to our needs [food and clothing]
Looking at our text:
It’s interesting that in mentioning our needs the Lord only identifies food and clothing as necessities. I dare say that for most people, our worries don’t just stop there…and neither does our desire for material things.
Speaking against covetousness Paul writes:
“But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. And having food and raiment let us be therewith content. But they that will be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition. For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.” (1Timothy 6:6-10)
Quite obviously, covetousness is a serious problem. Paul mentions several things here:
Contentment is the real key here and it is something that must be learned as the apostle Paul states in Philippians:
“Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content. I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: every where and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.” (Philippians 4:11-13)
Freedom from anxiety goes hand in hand with contentment. And you can apply it to other areas of your life, not just in regards to material things.
Please remember, the Lord isn’t advocating a monastic life or taking a vow of poverty. The issue is to keep our desires in check, because they can be a snare. It’s is in this way that we ultimately simplify our lives. Remembering of course that it is only through Christ that we can gain victory in this area of our lives…
The Simplicity of God’s Provision:
Consider the ravens: for they neither sow nor reap; which neither have storehouse nor barn; and God feedeth them: how much more are ye better than the fowls? And which of you with taking thought can add to his stature one cubit? If ye then be not able to do that thing which is least, why take ye thought for the rest? Consider the lilies how they grow: they toil not, they spin not; and yet I say unto you, that Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. If then God so clothe the grass, which is to day in the field, and to morrow is cast into the oven; how much more will he clothe you”
The liberating thing is that the Lord knows that we need these things and that it is his good pleasure to give to us the things we need…[as well as the kingdom] and not begrudgingly. Isn’t it true that the Lord is our shepherd, we shall not want…?
“….God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:19)
Both our spiritual needs and our material ones…
Looking back at our text:
In our first point we are commanded to “take no thought…” However, in our second point we are commanded to “consider”. Which is the exact opposite.
We see the Lord give us a tangible example [a consideration of the natural world] on which to examine and meditate on. How often the Lord uses the natural to explain the spiritual.
These examples often becoming pithy sayings [two come to mind]:
“Consider the lilies”
“Go to the ant”
In this illustration, it is glaringly obvious that birds are powerless to provide for themselves and flowers are powerless to regulate their growth and produce flowers. Likewise, by mental processes we’re unable to change our physical dimensions.
The Lord emphasizes the futility of such thought. But at the same time says that it would be easier [by taking thought] to add to our stature than it is to clothe ourselves.
“…If ye then be not able to do that thing which is least, why take ye thought for the rest?”
It’s actually contemptible….and should cause us to fall on our faces and repent.
Would we be like king Nebuchadnezzar who said:
“…Is not this great Babylon, that I have built for the house of the kingdom by the might of my power, and for the honour of my majesty?” (Daniel 4:30)
It is God himself, who is in total control of these things and any power we have to support ourselves comes from him. And he can take that away in a second…
We saw what happened to king Nebuchadnezzar
If we’re going to examine our own state of want, acknowledging this fact is a good place to start. Of course, this is not to say that we shouldn’t play our part. The bible also says that if a man won’t work, he shouldn’t expect to be fed.
In the text we also see a comparison of value between the grass [which is temporal] and the intrinsic [eternal] value of man.
“..how much more are ye better than the fowls?”
We know that we have intrinsic value demonstrated by the lengths the Lord went to to secure our salvation: God soo loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son [John 3:16]
Whilst we were yet sinners Christ died for us..
In terms of God’s provision: Put simply:
We’re given the assurance of God’s provision as well as the simplicity of God’s provision. God has promised to provide for our needs and has the power to do so….and we see this right throughout the bible [in order to know this, you’ve just got to read it]
The unfortunate thing is that sometimes lurking beneath the surface is a heart of skepticism.
As was the case in our first point, we see that we have a heart condition…
Who can know it? It’s here where you need the Lord to search you and try you and see if there is any wicked way in you…
We too easily fall to the temptation of either:
Accusing God of not caring about our needs…
Believing that God is not able to provide for our needs…
Psalm 78 is a perfect illustration of this. It recounts the wilderness wanderings of the Israelites and their constant murmuring and unbelief.
“And they tempted God in their heart by asking meat for their lust. Yea, they spake against God; they said, Can God furnish a table in the wilderness?”
The incredible thing about this account is that the Lord promised to give them meat and they still murmured. And they proceeded to cast their minds back to the things which they ate in Egypt….
“And the mixt multitude that was among them fell a lusting: and the children of Israel also wept again, and said, Who shall give us flesh to eat? We remember the fish, which we did eat in Egypt freely; the cucumbers, and the melons, and the leeks, and the onions, and the garlick: But now our soul is dried away: there is nothing at all, beside this manna, before our eyes.” (Numbers 11:4-6)
James draws on this account [*] in admonishing [us] in both in regards to our personal petitions to God and our relationship with the world:
*The importance of cross-reference
“From whence come wars and fightings among you? come they not hence, even of your lusts that war in your members? Ye lust, and have not: ye kill, and desire to have, and cannot obtain: ye fight and war, yet ye have not, because ye ask not. Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts. Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God. Do ye think that the scripture saith in vain, The spirit that dwelleth in us lusteth to envy?” (James 4:1-5)
We know that Egypt is a picture of the world. And so, do we covet worldly things…even looking back at our pre-conversion and desiring the [perhaps lavish] lifestyle we once lived. The scripture implies that Israelites were envious of the Egyptians for the fine fare that they had available to them.
James likens this to adultery or unfaithfulness to the Lord; making ourselves the enemies of God.
Further on in the book of Numbers they actually despised the provision of God:
“And they journeyed from mount Hor by the way of the Red sea, to compass the land of Edom: and the soul of the people was much discouraged because of the way. And the people spake against God, and against Moses, Wherefore have ye brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? for there is no bread, neither is there any water; and our soul loatheth this light bread. And the LORD sent fiery serpents among the people, and they bit the people; and much people of Israel died.” (Numbers 21:4-6)
The Israelites paid dearly for their sins, both in plagues and swift judgement… a
Those above the age of 20 years fell in the wilderness and were prevented from entering into the Promised Land.
With each sin they sank deeper and deeper into depravity.
The important thing to remember [always] is:
The Lord has provided not only for our physical wellbeing but provided himself a lamb to sacrifice for our eternal wellbeing [Genesis 22:8]
Of course there are going to be tough times and I’m sure we have all experienced them or are experiencing them or will experience them…
Whether we’re being strengthened in our faith or chastened we should also remember this:
“All the commandments which I command thee this day shall ye observe to do, that ye may live, and multiply, and go in and possess the land which the LORD sware unto your fathers. And thou shalt remember all the way which the LORD thy God led thee these forty years in the wilderness, to humble thee, and to prove thee, to know what was in thine heart, whether thou wouldest keep his commandments, or no. And he humbled thee, and suffered thee to hunger, and fed thee with manna, which thou knewest not, neither did thy fathers know; that he might make thee know that man doth not live by bread only, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of the LORD doth man live. Thy raiment waxed not old upon thee, neither did thy foot swell, these forty years. Thou shalt also consider in thine heart, that, as a man chasteneth his son, so the LORD thy God chasteneth thee. Therefore thou shalt keep the commandments of the LORD thy God, to walk in his ways, and to fear him.” (Deuteronomy 8:1-6)
From this text we can see that we will be tested and the purpose of that test is to know what is in our hearts and to teach us that humility and obedience are important in times of trial…
There’s a time and a purpose for every season of life. The important thing is not to put down his word during these times.
The Simplicity of Faith:
“…O ye of little faith? And seek not ye what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink, neither be ye of doubtful mind. For all these things do the nations of the world seek after: and your Father knoweth that ye have need of these things”
Doubt is a killer…and can lead to all kinds of misery as we see in the book of James:
“My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing. If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him. But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed. For let not that man think that he shall receive any thing of the Lord. A double minded man is unstable in all his ways.” (James 1:2-8)
The last thing we probably feel is joy when going through trials; especially in regards to our immediate need of God’s provision. But the important thing to realize is that it is a trial…it is a testing of your faith. And when approached in a godly manner we gain patience which is more valuable than that which we are asking. The incredible thing is that we may get both…[patience and provision].
Of course, the Lord doesn’t want us to starve or walk around naked. And if our request is denied us, that would be a blessing also…the Lord truly only wants what’s best for us.
Therefore it’s important to know the will of God; hence we see the need to pray for wisdom. And if we know the will of God, we can ask in faith and not be tossed about by the wind.
The warning here is: that to be doubtful is to be double-mind. And to be double-minded is to be unstable in all your ways [not just some].
How does that manifest or play out in a person’s life? Primarily any form of doubt is an affront to God because it questions his character. We know that God is omni-benevolent. This cannot help but affect our our relationship with God and therefore our spiritual growth. And if our relationship with the Lord is affected, then also the relationship of those around us.
So how do we deal with doubt…?
When it comes to faith, we see the Lord rebuke his listeners with the words
“O ye of little faith” for doubting his ability or desire to provide.
And with good reason.
They have more than enough evidence of God’s existence and more than enough evidence of God’s faithfulness written in the scriptures. Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God.
So he points them to the reality of who God is…saying:
“…and your Father knoweth that ye have need of these things”
Faith is built on the knowledge that God is… and that he is our Father. And by cultivating relationship and intimacy with him there can be an expectation of provision from him.
Also an affront to God is the fact that the Gentiles seek after the same things that we do and receive them even without faith or gratitude. How merciful is the the Lord who…?
“…maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.” (Matthew 5:45)
And yet at times we presume that God has passed us by without meeting our needs.
Certainly without faith it is impossible to please God….who rewards those who diligently seek him. But how much faith do you need?
I have had the misfortune of being involved in Pentecostal churches. If ever you want your soul destroyed, just hang out in a charismatic church for 15 years or more. I say this as a warning because it’s very easy to get caught up in the hype of these churches…and it’s very hard to unlearn bad theology until you hit rock bottom.
You’ll see what I mean:
Reading from the gospel of Luke:
“And the apostles said unto the Lord, Increase our faith. And the Lord said, If ye had faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye might say unto this sycamine tree, Be thou plucked up by the root, and be thou planted in the sea; and it should obey you.” (Luke 17:5-6)
And also the gospel of Matthew:
Regarding their inability to cast a devil out of a young boy, the disciples question Jesus:
“Then came the disciples to Jesus apart, and said, Why could not we cast him out? And Jesus said unto them, Because of your unbelief: for verily I say unto you, If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, Remove hence to yonder place; and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible unto you.” (Matthew 17:19-20)
One thing is consistent within these two accounts and that is that you only need faith the size of a mustard seed to see the Lord work in your life.
Despite this being true, the Charismatic Movement would have you believe that you need faith the size of a mountain in order to move a mustard seed.
And so, with the promise of false signs and wonders and miraculous receiving of large sums of money in response to extravagant giving came bitter disappointment and the feeling that the Lord had passed me by.
Another thing which is evident in Luke’s gospel is that it’s OK to admit that you don’t have faith and ask the Lord to help your unbelief.
“Jesus said unto him, If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth. And straightway the father of the child cried out, and said with tears, Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief.” (Mark 9:23-24)
In the same account, the father of the boy with the devil freely admits his lack of faith.
We all struggle with unbelief at times and again the solution is simple:
Read your bible and spend time with God in prayer.
Itinerant preacher and evangelist [Vance Havner] has a similar “formula” [Food Rest Exercise]
Feed on the word
Rest in God
Exercise your faith
The Simplicity of a Rewarding Life:
“But rather seek ye the kingdom of God; and all these things shall be added unto you. Fear not, little flock; for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom. Sell that ye have, and give alms; provide yourselves bags which wax not old, a treasure in the heavens that faileth not, where no thief approacheth, neither moth corrupteth. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.”
In our text today, the Lord rounds out his lesson on God’s provision by admonishing us to seek the kingdom of God; even “first” as we read in the same account in the gospel of Matthew. Thus will all these things aforementioned be added unto us.
Of course, I don’t believe that the Lord is necessarily giving us a formula for getting what we want. That would reduce God to nothing more than a genie in a bottle, which if rubbed the right way, grants the recipient 3 wishes.
This is a totally blasphemous concept…
I believe that in seeking God…genuinely seeking God, we keep our motives in check. Does the Lord want to bless us and satisfy our needs…absolutely. The scripture confirms that it is his good pleasure to give us the kingdom.
But as we read in Psalm 37:
“Delight thyself also in the LORD; and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart.” (Psalm 37:4)
In delighting ourselves in the Lord, his desires become our desires. And those desires become kingdom focussed and not self-centred.
God isn’t mocked and we reap what we sow…
Not surprisingly, the Lord abruptly changes from the subject of receiving, to that of giving. After all, it is more blessed to give than receive. And in doing so, we reap an eternal reward.
The Lord discourages the outrageous and obsessive accumulation of wealth. Prior to today’s text which begins in verse 22, Jesus tells a parable of the rich fool
[I wonder if his name was Nabal]
Even prior to this there is logical progression of thought which begins at verse 13 with two brothers disputing over their inheritance. He warns about covetousness and then speaks…
“And he spake a parable unto them, saying, The ground of a certain rich man brought forth plentifully: And he thought within himself, saying, What shall I do, because I have no room where to bestow my fruits? And he said, This will I do: I will pull down my barns, and build greater; and there will I bestow all my fruits and my goods. And I will say to my soul, Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years; take thine ease, eat, drink, and be merry. But God said unto him, Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee: then whose shall those things be, which thou hast provided? So is he that layeth up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.” (Luke 12:16-21)
This has to be a sobering parable and clearly demonstrates the temporal nature of man and warns against the improper use of our time and resources. There is a sense of self-satisfaction in this parable. Obviously this fellow had more than enough as he sat back and wasted it away; eating drinking and merrymaking.
Truly, what good is our money to us when we are dead. The lesson here is to be rich towards God… both with our time and resources.
Obviously, there is nothing wrong with a degree of financial security and also leaving our children and even our children’s children, an inheritance. This is strongly encouraged in the book of Proverbs.
Nonetheless, [and in view of this parable] the Lord encourages his listeners to sell their possessions and give to the poor…thus laying up treasures in heaven.
It is described as a bag that doesn’t grow old…therefore eternal
This is the wonderful thing about laying up treasures in heaven [apart from being eternal]…it’s secure. In no way will it be stolen.
We talk about inflation and the devaluing of the dollar. Our treasure in heaven doesn’t depreciate. And moths don’t eat away at it.
As I stated at the beginning of the message… the Lord knows our weaknesses. He also knows that there is a logical connection between our hearts’ desires, where we place our values and how we invest our time and energy. I don’t think he could have summed it up more succinctly:
He says “For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.”
Again, there’s nothing complicated about this:
If your treasure is in heaven then your heart will also be in heaven; focussed on godly desires.
If your treasure is an earthly one then your heart will be focussed on worldly desires.
The hard part is asking ourselves the question: WHERE IS MY TREASURE
If I was to sum up the simplicity of a rewarding life
It would be thus…
The secret to a rewarding life is to live a sanctified life
The secret to a rewarding life is to live a submitted life
The secret to a rewarding life is to live a selfless life.
You can’t help but marvel at how the word of God is able to crystallise, distil and clarify our thoughts, motives and actions. It truly is sharper than a two-edged sword and able to search the thoughts and intents of the heart. Furthermore, it puts to rest any avenue of excuse for not heeding God’s word.
It’s important to realize that underpinning our test today, is RELATIONSHIP….our relationship with the Lord versus our relationship with the world and the things that are in the world.
For the believer, our text refers to God as the “Father” who knows our every need. However, the god of this world would have us chase after material possessions. He would have us seek after recognition and vain glory. He would have us worrying about the future and cause us to mistrust the Lord. He would have us focussed on the temporal and not the eternal.
Hence the admonition:
“Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever.” (1John 2:15-17)
We can’t escape the fact that we are commanded to love the Lord with all our heart, soul, mind and strength. It is only right that we put God first…and when we do put him first, we are able to enjoy a loving relationship with him and all our needs [with emphasis] will be attended to.
That God cares for us is a no-brainer (as we read):
“Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time: Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you.”
Jesus promises us that if we ask, we shall receive.
The problem is that more often than not: WE SIMPLY DON’T ASK
But if we commit each day to the Lord and follow the pattern of prayer that he gave to his disciples we would go a long way in fulfilling our part.
We would automatically acknowledge who God is and give him the glory deserved (even before he grants our petitions)…
We would automatically seek to do his will…
We would commit our daily needs to him…
We would endeavour to have right relationships with God and those around us…
We would be mindful of the temptations that are presented to us daily…
We also see a certain eternality contained in this passage. Whilst this world is destined to pass away, those who have [done the will of God] obeyed the gospel [first and foremost], will live forever. Likewise there is a sense of of eternality in today’s text. Jesus makes it clear that life is more than food and clothing. The things we do in this life count towards the next and therefore the emphasis of storing treasure in heaven.
If the solution is clear then so is the problem…
And the problem that we have is that we complicate things. We complicate things by filling our lives with things that don’t matter. We complicate things by concentrating our thoughts on things that don’t matter.
Of course greatest need is that of salvation. It is only when we are in right relationship with God, that any of these things matter or indeed make any sense.
The bible speaks of the simplicity which is in Christ. And so..simply put the gospel is this:
You are a sinner separated from God because of your sin. Furthermore your sin has incurred the penalty of death [eternity in hell]
Jesus has paid that penalty and if you believe on him and accept the payment made on your behalf you inherit eternal life.
As we close today, I pray that you reflect on your relationship with the Lord. I don’t think we can over-emphasize the importance of time in God’s word and in pray. It is these two disciplines that will ensure that we adhere to “the simple life”.