TRA 27th April, 2003
The Promise of Practical Help
Matthew 6: 24-34
Charles Mayo, the famous American surgeon who founded the world renowned Mayo Clinic, said, "When you worry it affects your mental system, your nervous system, your digestive system. In fact, I have never in all my life met one man who has died because of overwork, but I have met many who died because of worry."
A. FOUR RULES
John Bridge, is a contractor hauling clay for a brick-making company. But his equipment was old and deteriorating, needing attention beyond his means. His bank resources ran out, his profitability declined, and the fierce competitive nature of his area of work meant that he could not meet his obligations. He was $80,000 in debt and the Monier Brick Company was unwilling to back him into the future. At that point, when the whole of his life seemed to be tumbling in, John Bridge changed his attitude to worry. He had been full of anxiety, skimping and scraping at every point, looking for short-cuts to make as much money to keep his business afloat. John Bridge had read a famous book, Mover of Men and Mountains, by R.G. LeTournier, the world's greatest earthmoving equipment manufacturer, who told of taking God as his partner in business. John Bridge also decided to take God as his business partner. He made four rules: Rule 1: He would not cheat for a single cent. He would pay all of his road taxes. He would make sure that he would deal honestly with everybody. Rule 2: If God wanted him to go out of business, he would willingly go out of business. Rule 3: He would not try to drum up work as before, but would allow God to open up the way for Him. Rule 4: He would give to God a tenth of everything that he earned, for God's work and service.
A month later, the Monier Company phoned him. Monier had never ordered from him more than 30,000 tons of clay a year. Now they said, "We have a new development under way. Can you deliver immediately 50,000 tons?" He could and did. As he was finalising delivery they asked, "Can you do another 10,000 tons?" As he finalised the order, Monier's other major supplier closed down and there was another order for 20,000 tons. Another problem then confronted John Bridge. His pit ran out of clay! In order to get more, he had to dig further up a the hill. He thought it would not provide suitable clay. But when he took off the overburden he discovered that the clay went down 60 feet - the greatest depth of good quality brick clay he had ever discovered. From there he took 120,000 tons for Monier! Then there was another problem: he could take out clay only when the weather is dry. Once winter comes he could not get the clay out. It so happened when he was trusting God in his business, it was the driest year on record! He took out more clay. That year he made a profit and paid off all his debts.
John Bridge then bought two road trains, huge prime movers that pull four or five sections used for outback transport. With these, during the winter, he would be able to carry cattle. He made a greater profit the following year. Today, Bridge Contractors cross the nation, especially in Western Australia, Queensland, and the west of New South Wales. When John told me about this, I asked: "What changed your mind?" He quoted a verse from the Bible, "Be concerned above everything else with the Kingdom of God and with what He requires of you, and He will provide you with all these other things. So do not worry about tomorrow." Matthew 6:33,34
But does God provide us with practical help? Here is a promise given by Jesus. He tells what should be done by those who trust in God.
B. THREE WORRIES
Jesus said, 6:25 "This is why I tell you: do not be worried about the food and drink you need in order to stay alive, or about clothes for your body." He mentions three things that obsess many of us - food, drink, clothing. "Isn't life worth more than food?" He asks. In our rational moments we would respond, "Of course it is. Life itself is worth much more than what we eat or drink or wear." "And isn't the body worth more than clothes?" If we have been sick in bed, we know that is true. The welfare of our bodies is far more important than the clothes we wear. To emphasize this, Jesus says v26 "Look at the birds flying around: they do not plant seeds, gather a harvest and put it into barns; yet your Father in heaven takes care of them! Aren't you worth much more than birds?"
Jesus did not say that birds do not work. Sparrows are the busiest creatures in the backyard! But they do not worry about it! Jesus asks, "Can any of you live a bit longer by worrying about it?" v27 We know the opposite is true. We know your life will shorten if you worry. If you worry sufficiently your life will be considerably shorter than that of others. Why do we worry about clothes? Jesus illustrates this folly by saying, "Look how the wild flowers grow: they do not work or make clothes for themselves. But I tell you that not even King Solomon with all his wealth had clothes as beautiful as one of these flowers. It is God who clothes the wild grass." v28-30 God cares, so why do we worry?
Jesus goes to the root of the trouble: v31 "Do not start worrying: 'Where will my food come from? Or my drink? Or my clothes?' These are the things the pagans are always concerned about." Christians ought not worry. We may have to work for them. We may have to provide for them. We may have to save for them. We may have to go without them. But we do not worry about them.
C. TWO ANSWERS
If you are not going to worry, what are you to do? There is no point in saying, "Don't worry," if that is all you say. If you take worry out of the mind and have nothing to put in its place, you will worry all the more! Jesus told a very significant parable about a vacuum in a man's mind. Luke 11:24-26 You must put something in the place of worry. v33 Jesus said, "Be concerned above everything else with the Kingdom of God." What does that mean? It means forcing worry out of your mind, by filling your mind with thoughts and plans about extending His kingdom. Think about the things that concern God, and they will expel from your mind the little things that cause you to worry. An older translation of this says, "Seek first the Kingdom of God, and His righteousness." To be righteous is to act towards others in the community in the right way, having the right attitude to yourself, others and God. If you do this, said Jesus, "God will provide you with these other things." What other things? The ordinary things of life that you need: to eat, to drink, to wear, to make bricks and so on. "Do not be worried about tomorrow; it will have enough worries of its own. There is no need to add to the troubles each day brings." v34 Jesus puts these matters in perspective. Our first concern should be for salvation, then to be right with our neighbour.
First we love God with all our heart and soul and mind and strength, and then our neighbours as ourselves. If you get that right, there is the promise: "He will provide you with all these other things." This promise of Jesus is valid for each of us. We shall be provided with "these other things", these things about which we worry: food, drink, clothing and so on, anything you are likely to get stewed up about.
Jesus said: "Pagan people worry. Christians should trust God, and the things you need, will be added to you." The promise of Jesus is: God will provide you with all you need. How does He provide? He provides through others in cooperation with us when we think, when we care, when we work. God feeds the sparrows, but He does not dump the food in the nest for them. We have to work. When we get what God gives to us, we must share with others. The point of the story of the feeding of the 5000 was the fact that God can provide for the needs of people so long as we find an adequate form of economic distribution in the world. We must trust God. "Do not worry about tomorrow." Tomorrow will have enough worries of its own. This does not say that we will be free from trouble. All Christians face trouble. But we do not worry about tomorrow's troubles. Handle today's troubles, and in the handling of them, learn to trust in God.
D. ONE PROVIDER
Someone will ask, "Because I trust Him, will God help me in a practical way?" Yes, He will. I was in Rockhampton, speaking to ministers from North Queensland, from the Gulf and Cape Regions, the Far West, and Northern Territory. There I learned of the Uniting Church at Moura.
Moura is a mining town without a church. There are no old people there. No cemetery. No unemployment. But there is alcoholism. There is gambling. There is marriage break-up. There is tension and fighting in this mining town. There was no church. But the people called a minister. Then they prayed and asked God for a church. They heard there was a disused church at Longreach, 600 kilometres away. They had no money to buy it and no means of moving it. But they asked a cartage contractor who certainly was not a Christian. He said, "I'll do the job for you." He cut the church into four pieces, put the sections onto four giant semi-trailers and carried the church 600 kilometres to Moura, and re-erected it on stumps!
The minister said, "Thank you. Give me your account." He could not tell him that he had no money. "Give me your account and we will fix it up as soon as we can." The contractor said, "I noticed in your backyard a very old fashioned set of scales. Do you want them?" The minister said, "Oh, I like them, but if you want them, you can have them." The contractor said, "Thanks. I'll take them." And he did. The small church prayed and started raising money. Most members were young people living in caravans. There was not all that much money about. The account came, and the minister, Rev Donald McKay, said, "It went like this: Picking up, transporting one church 600 kilometres - price, an antique set of scales. Paid in full." God works in the lives of people. He uses ordinary folk, even those outside the Kingdom, in order to help those who trust Him. "He" will provide you with all things. Who is the "He." It is God. God in His graciousness, and God in His goodness provides whatever you need, says the Scripture. God always provides.
God called on Abraham to sacrifice his young son, Isaac, in a test of Abraham, on the top of Mount Moriah. Young Isaac saw their donkey laden with wood, and saw his father with the long, sacrificial knife and a little basin with live fire coals. Isaac said, "Father, we have the wood, I see the knife, and we have the fire, but where is the sacrifice?" Abraham said, "Son, God will provide." As they neared the mountaintop, the lad spoke again. "Father, we have the wood, we have the knife, we have the fire. Where is the sacrifice?" His father said, "Put your hands behind you, son," and he bound the lad, laid him on the wood, and took the knife. A voice called, "Abraham, stay your hand. Look in the thicket." There in the bush was a ram, caught by its horns. Abraham released his son and took the ram and sacrificed it. He called the mountain "Jehovah-Jireh." The name means, "The Lord provides."
Throughout the Scriptures we read that for our sin, for our loneliness, for our helplessness, the promise is, "God will provide. Jehovah-Jireh!" God provides whatever you need. Paul wrote, "My God will supply all your needs." Philippians 4:19 Peter wrote "Leave all your worries with Him, because He cares for you." 1 Peter 5:7
This is the way of it: first, give yourself to the Lord. Second, trust in Him. Third, He will give you what you need. Not necessarily all that you might want, but what you need. God will provide, but you must cooperate. That is His promise. "Do not start worrying… instead, be concerned above everything else with the Kingdom of God and with what He requires of you, and He will provide." That is the fourth promise of Jesus. Do not worry. Trust God. He will provide even the most practical of things.
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