How Not to Worry: A New Year Reflection
This is my first post of 2019. There was a hiatus for a month or so due to my busy schedule. Furthermore, WordPress changed their editor and it took me some time to get used to the layout. Nevertheless, as we enter into 2019, I’m reflecting on my own life journey and decided to write on how not to worry for the year coming ahead.
You see, many things’ve happened to me over the past few months. Most importantly of all, God’s been challenging me about my own ministry, career as well as family. A new little one’s coming soon and I expect things to change even more drastically. This is potential recipe for worry. But as I was praying about it, God reminded me of something that I’ve preached a few years back. As I looked back, these lessons are even more relevant today.
Lessons from Jesus’ Teachings on How Not to Worry
I’ll be taking the main portion of this reflection from Matthew 6:24-34. This is one of those few passages that I held on to as a young Christian. It continues to speak to me.
You see, the context here is this: Matthew was writing to Jewish Christians about the account of Jesus. In his account, he purposefully arranged the contents such that there were blocks of teaching sandwiched between the narratives. The block of teaching which became known as the Sermon on the Mount happened right here at chapter 5-7. One aspect that Matthew hoped to address through his arrangement of narratives and teachings is most probably the worries that the Jewish Christians had as believers of Jesus. Some might have faced persecutions from their fellow Jews for following the One whom they believed to be the Messiah. And it could have affected their livelihood, considering how closely knitted the Jewish communities were at that time. It was here in Matthew 6:24-34 that Matthew positioned Jesus’ teachings to address this concern about how not to worry.
How not to worry: Be fully loyal to God in our lives
In Matthew 6:24, it said that no one can serve two masters. Then Jesus presented two choices for us: either God or money.
We’ll need to realise that the language here is that of master and slaves. In the ancient world, a slave will only serve one master. The master would expect the slave remain totally loyal to him. This is because most of the time, the slave was under contractual obligation to serve the master, most likely because he had borrowed money from the master and could only repay back via his services.
There are so many things which we can worry about in life that will cause us to look away from God as our Master. In Singapore, most of us are worried about our retirement – CPF, minimum sum etc, our housing – whether we will die paying our housing loan and renovation loan, raising our families and hence this drives us to honor money so that we can meet our own needs. Some people, maybe our church friends or family members, find themselves working so hard that they no longer honor God in they work, and no longer serve Him in their marketplace, they no longer love the people in our community. Our earthly boss can become our real master. Money is now the object of worship on the altar.
Henceforth, Jesus was exhorting his listeners to be totally loyal to God in our lives. When other worldly stuff such as money distract us, we ended worrying over a lot of things. Furthermore, when we pledge our allegiance to something temporal in the world, our concerns become that of temporal. We are no longer focused and we can end up worrying how to please our temporal master. But when we place our loyalty entirely on God, we know, from His words, what He requires of us and we can truly focus on those that please Him.
This brings me to my next point.
How not to worry: God has it all covered
Following his exhortation on serving God as the only one master, Matthew 6:25-32 went on to talk about how not to worry about our lives. The Scripture asks us to look at the birds of the air and to look at the flowers of the field. Do they work? Do they toil their hearts out? No! They don’t! But God looks after them.
The reason why we do not need to worry about our needs is because God really understands these needs. As we remain fully loyal to our one true Master, we need to have confidence that He will not let us go in lack.
You see, in Genesis, God created everything under the heavens, including human beings. But human beings are the only creations in the world whom God created in the image of God. God also placed all seed-bearing plants and all the animals under the rule of human beings. And it was after the creation of human beings that God saw that everything was “very good!” Thus, we know that as human beings, God already sees us at a different level from animals and plants. Some of us may see animals at the same value as us human beings but the Scripture, but God sees us human beings higher than other creations. Furthermore, God sent Jesus to die for human beings, not animals, which demonstrates again the value of mankind to God.
How not to worry: Focus on God’s Kingdom as the first priority
Since we know that we need to be completely loyal to God and that God values us enough to meet our needs, Matthew 6:33-34 calls us to make it our first priority to focus entirely on His Kingdom. This comes with a promise – that “all these things will be given to us as well.”
What it means to focus on God’s Kingdom
This means that as His people and disciples, we are to live in His ways so that we may please Him. It is about resolving to live under God’s direction and control. It is to live not as what the pagans in the Scripture did – to worry about their lives but to live a life that fully exemplify their trust in God. Note what I’m not telling you here. I’m not saying that we go to one extreme and deny all material comforts and hence opt for a life inside the cave. I’m also not saying that we should not plan for the future. But I’m saying this, what exemplifies our lives? What occupies the back of our mind all the time.
A personal story
Now let me share a real life example. Back in 2014, I felt that God was calling me to leave a comfortable and fairly successful career to enter into full-time ministry, in my case, it is to Eagles. At that time, God was providing for my needs in abundant manner and I didn’t have to worry about my daily expenses. But my trust in God was put to the test when it was the time to move on, and respond to His calling.
The adjustment was drastic. I took the pay cut. I had to live with the fact that I won’t get my salary on time. A few months into this new “job”, I found myself saving every cents possible. In addition, I was in courtship. I found myself worrying about our future financial position – wedding, housing and children.
Then God reminded me to trust in Him to provide. He said to me, if He has provided for me all these while, what makes me think that He will not provide for my needs since He is the one who called me into this situation. He is my boss, and He is my provider. Don’t worry, just trust Him and focus on His kingdom.
True enough, I was able to marry my wife back then. God later blessed me with another job that provided me abundantly over the past two years. But in the middle of these, I had never given up focusing on His kingdom. It was a lesson for me to learn how not to worry over my own personal circumstances.
So what now?
Learning that we do not need to worry about our needs and that we need to devote ourselves fully to God is one thing. But we need to take this one step further. One good place to start is to rethink about relationship with God and the way we read our Scripture. This will provide us a good place to start as we learn more about how God wants us to live our lives.
So, do comment below on your thoughts. Do you agree with what I said and what more can be said? I look forward to hearing your thoughts!