Hello and welcome again to the Truth Pulpit with Don Green, founding pastor of Truth Community Church in Cincinnati, Ohio, where Don teaches God's people God's word.
I'm Bill Wright. We've been immersed in a series titled Escaping the Anxiety Trap. You've learned why you should trust God with every fiber of your being at all times, no matter the circumstances. When you do so, the result is enduring peace. The kind that transcends human understanding. Today, to kind of tie a ribbon around the series, we present a live Q&A session that Don conducted with his church congregation, following the conclusion of his last message on the subject of anxiety and its cure.
So let's join that session right now on the Truth Pulpit. Matthew chapter 6 verse 25, Jesus says, And why are you worried about clothing? Observe how the lilies of the field grow.
They do not toil, nor do they spin. Yet I say to you that not even Solomon in all his glory clothed himself like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, will he not much more clothe you, you of little faith? Do not worry then, saying, What will we eat, or what will we drink, or what will we wear for clothing? For the Gentiles eagerly seek all these things, for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things.
But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. So do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. Now, before we get into the questions, I just wanted to kind of just very quickly just summarize a couple of the main points that we made as we were going through this teaching. And the first one was to recognize that Jesus' teaching here in this passage is connected to his teaching on life priorities in verses 19 through 24.
And that's not by accident. Our anxieties flow out of that which we value, out of that which we consider important. We're not anxious about stuff that we don't care about. And so when we find ourselves being anxious, we should step back and say, What is it that I'm concerned about here?
Is this something that involves earthly matters, or is this something that involves kingdom matters? And when you see that your anxieties are almost always tied to temporal things, that takes you back into the teaching in verse 19, where Jesus said, Don't store up for yourselves treasures on earth, verse 20, but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven. And so your anxieties immediately expose what your priorities and what you love are.
And that immediately is just very searching and very humbling, frankly, when you see the things that we get all uptight about. Secondly, that I wanted to emphasize here as we're starting out as Jesus speaks here, is to realize that when Jesus says, Don't be worried, don't be worried, don't be worried, at least three times in that passage, and is reinforcing his teaching, he is giving you a command. Jesus here is giving you a moral imperative.
This isn't a thought for the day. This is to govern all of life. It's the idea of stop worrying and don't start again. And so our whole attitude toward this brings in our attitude and our submission to the Lord Jesus Christ. When we see the Lord saying, Don't be worried, then that's not a suggestion.
That's a command that we have to respond to. The glory of it is, is that he gives us the means to get out of the anxiety. Anxiety is basically an anxious feeling, to be overly simple about it.
Anxious feelings, apprehension about what the future holds. And the funny thing is, is Jesus doesn't tell you to feel differently. He tells you to think. He tells you to look at the birds of the air in verse 26 and observe the grass of the field in verse 28. He goes on and tells you to think about what the Gentiles do in verse 32 and wrapped all into this is the whole character of God. And so the cure for anxiety starts with you thinking, not trying to engender different feelings in your heart. Your anxiety flows from the fact that you're not thinking rightly about God.
You're not rightly thinking about his character and his certain care for his children. And so that's where all of this starts. And it all kind of flows from there. So that's kind of a real quick overview of what we've been talking about.
I've gotten a lot of good questions in email and in private conversations and all of that. So I'm looking forward to whatever's on your heart today. With regard to Matthew 633, in light of Christians across the world, not just American Christians, but Christians in other parts of the world who really are seeking first the kingdom of God, and yet they don't find sometimes all these things added to them as well. They find themselves persecuted without food, put in labor camps, those kind of things. How do we understand that in light of what Jesus said there? The question really, it seems to me is this, is how do we vindicate God's righteousness in light of this promise when there is human suffering that seems to contradict it? You know, when Jesus says, seek first his kingdom and his righteousness and all these things will be added to you, and that blanket promise is made, that unconditional promise is made, how do we reconcile that problem with the reality of suffering and lack and poverty in the world?
There are several things I want to say about this. First of all is to recognize that Jesus' promise here in the whole context of the Sermon on the Mount, he is making a promise to the true children of God, not to all men indiscriminately. He's speaking to his disciples, and so general hunger in the world does not disprove this promise at all.
It has nothing to do with this promise. Jesus is talking to his disciples about how God cares for his own, and when most of the world does not love the true God, is actually antagonistic toward the true God, they have no claim on what he says here. And so there's that aspect of it. Secondly, I would want to distinguish between those people who call themselves Christians, who take the name of Christian, maybe even in a self-deceived way. They're not trying to be imposters, but they're just deceived. We need to distinguish between them and true Christians. True Christians are the recipients of this promise, not everyone who applies the name to themselves. For those true Christians that are living in what we in the West would consider poverty, first of all, Jesus promises that necessities will be provided. Food and clothing, those kinds of things. Not luxuries. And for all of us, we need to be very careful about the way that we think about our own needs and our own standard of living. We should not impose our standard of living, which we enjoy here in the West, upon the promise that Jesus makes here. The fact that some people live at levels that we think would be hard to live by, at a subsistence level, doesn't negate this promise because we're simply defining our luxuries as necessities.
Almost every one of us here lives at a higher standard of living than probably 98 to 99 percent of the world population. And so, the fact that they don't live at our level is not a statement about God's promise here at all. In 1 Timothy 6, verse 8, Paul says, If we have food and covering, with these we will be content.
And so, the standard that we apply to that promise needs to be considered. But more importantly, in getting into the spiritual nature of Jesus' teaching here, I would rather think that if you actually went to those places and found true Christians living in those what we would consider difficult situations, I would rather think that you would not find them complaining that God wasn't meeting His promise. I rather think that you would find them in the midst of inexplicable joy because of the hope of heaven that is theirs and the love of Christ that is within them. And the fact that we would complain under their circumstances doesn't mean that they would raise accusation against God that He was not meeting their needs. In 2 Corinthians 8, 5, I want to read this one verse, maybe the passage here. 2 Corinthians 8, beginning in verse 1, Paul says, Now, brethren, we wish to make known to you the grace of God which has been given in the churches of Macedonia. Listen to this, verse 2, that in a great ordeal of affliction, their abundance of joy and their deep poverty overflowed in the wealth of their liberality. In deep poverty, they were the most generous people that you could ask to meet. Paul says in verse 3, I testify that according to their ability and beyond their ability they gave of their own accord, begging us with much urging for the favor of participation in the support of the saints. And this, not as we had expected, but they first gave themselves to the Lord and to us by the will of God. And so the fact that we recognize our own weakness and we'd say, Man, if I was in that situation, I'd be grumbling and I'd be wondering what God was doing and all of that, doesn't mean that our brothers and sisters in Christ in those difficult circumstances are responding in a carnal way.
And so what I would say is, let that Christian in that circumstance tell you that God has been unfaithful to him, rather than making that conclusion for him. I think you'll get a different answer. I remember being down in Mexico several years ago visiting an orphanage, and I was speaking to the director of this orphanage. And it's out in the middle of nowhere. We drove for hours to get there. And the place was clean, but it was very sparse.
Spartan by our standards. No one that is in my circle of friends comes anywhere close to living that way. And yet they were trying to take care of these children in rural areas and so forth. And I spoke to the director of it, trying to get through my broken Spanish and his broken English. And I said, what do you think living here? There's very little that he has in a material sense, not only for himself, but for these children around. And I'll never forget his answer.
It still affects me even when I think about it today. He looked at me, and with total sincerity of heart, he said, glory to God. Glory to God.
He was just giving glory to God that he was saved, that he had this opportunity of ministry, and that these children had a place to stay instead of being on the streets of Mexico. Now see, what I really, really think, if you brought some of these people that we look on with pity and their poverty, these Christians, I think if they came and lived amongst us for a while, they would have a certain sense of pity on us. And they would say, you know, you guys miss so much because you're so materialistic. You think you need so much in an earthly way that you really don't.
You guys are more like Martha. You're busy and distracted with so many things, and yet just a few things are necessary, Jesus said, really only one. And so I wouldn't call God to the bar of our justice in light of those circumstances when I think through it in all of these different aspects.
There's just a couple of other things to say about it. Even if after all of that you still find a Christian suffering like that, I would go in terms of thinking through it in my own thinking to Matthew 5.10. Let's say that they're being persecuted because the government is trying to drive out the Christian church, and silence the testimony of the true God through his chosen servants in their area. I would go to Matthew 5.10 where Jesus says, Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. The apostle Paul suffered hunger and thirst in the midst of his ministry, but he didn't complain that God was being untrue to his promises.
What did he say in 2 Corinthians 12, 9, and 10? In the midst of all of his suffering, he says, The Lord has said to me, My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness. Even after all of that, you look beyond the immediate suffering to see the blessing that awaits us when we're with Christ and his kingdom. In an ultimate sense, Jesus is going to fulfill this promise to every one of his disciples. There may be ups and downs during earthly life, but when his kingdom is consummated and we gather around his table, the fullness of what Jesus has promised, all these things will be added to you, is going to be manifest to us. And there won't be a single dot of God's promise that goes unfulfilled. In the meantime, if we become aware of that kind of suffering, then we have the responsibility to use our means to alleviate the need of our brothers and sisters.
God gives us abundant means so that we might be able to share it with others. So there's a whole lot that goes into answering that question, I think, and hopefully that's helpful. Alright, next question. How do you know what is the Lord's will when you pray for something you want so much, you want it to happen in your life? Well, I think I would say a couple of things in response to that. The question is, as I understand it, is when you're earnestly seeking God over an issue or some need in your life and you're praying about it and it seems to be withheld and you still want it, how long do you pursue it? How do you know what God's will is in your life? Keeping it in the context of Matthew 6, I think there's a couple of things that I would say about it.
We'll see if I am able to articulate it with any degree of coherence. First of all, the most important thing that we can pray in as we're considering the things that we want, go to Matthew chapter 6 verse 10. As part of his teaching on prayer and the pattern for prayer, Jesus said, your kingdom come, your will be done.
So if there are things, and there have been in my life just as there are in all of yours, things that I have wanted that seem to have been withheld, the place where we have to go to is that we so trust our Heavenly Father, our good Heavenly Father who knows all of our needs, our gracious Heavenly Father who sent the Lord Jesus Christ to die for our sins, our powerful Heavenly Father who rules over all. We have to so trust Him to know what is good for us that ultimately we don't end our prayer with saying, and this will sound crass, but I don't mean it that way, we don't end our prayers by saying, God, this is what I want, amen. What we say is, God, here's my heart desire, but as my Lord Jesus prayed, nevertheless, not as I will, but thy will be done.
God, I want what you want from me more than I want for myself. That is the heart of true Christian praying. Secondly, I would say, but we have to remember that God is the author of our circumstances. God is the one who has ordained the circumstances of our life.
He is so omnipotent, He is so powerful, He so rules and governs over His creation that there is nothing in our life, no obstacles in our life, that hasn't in either a direct or immediate sense come from His hand. And so when you understand that God is your Heavenly Father and that He is in control of your circumstances, then that gives you a whole different perspective on things that have been withheld from you. You say, perhaps what I want isn't the best thing, and God, I will defer to that. And when you really play this out, this affects the way you approach all of life. You know, you have your desires and your dreams for what you wanted your life to be, and yet you see God steering your life in a different direction.
In those kinds of circumstances, and we can only superficially deal with this, you need to remember the teaching of Proverbs 16, 9. The mind of man plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps. And so we plan out what we want, we have our desires, and we plan those things out. But as we continue on in life, we have to be willing to see God direct our lives in a different direction providentially and rejoice in His different direction just as much as if He had given us the desire of our heart. Because God is worthy of our full contentment, God is worthy of our full worship, God is worthy of our unconditional love and obedience whether we get what we want in prayer or not, right?
This is independent of our circumstances. And that, I think, is a big part of what Jesus means when He says, Seek first His kingdom and His righteousness. Seek first as your supreme, unchallenged, unparalleled heart priority to know God and to live out the righteousness that Jesus describes in the Sermon on the Mount in the daily life.
Everything else is secondary. And if that marks your life, then God is going to providentially guide you to the fulfillment of what He wants. And when He does that, you can rest in joy that a good God is doing not only is good for you, but that which will use your life to bring glory to His name.
Okay, thanks for that question. I'm looking to understand the biblical distinction between, because there seems to be a relationship between the two, fear and anxiety, and also the distinction as well as the interrelationship. Can you help us with the relationship with that so that we can also help you help with the temptations away from those areas? Where you cross the line into forbidden territory, where you cross the line is where you start to wonder whether it's going to work out okay for you in the end. And you start to say, you know what, bad things may happen to me.
And that starts to consume your thinking and distract you from a true trust in the Lord, where you start to say, you know, I may lose my job here. And if I lose my job, then what's going to happen? How am I going to provide for my family and these things that I have responsibility for? What if I can't get my job back? What if I can't ever find anything?
What if they turn me down for food stamps? You know, and the anxieties just start to tumble over you so that you've completely lost sight of this certain loving providential care of your Heavenly Father in the midst of it. It's where your fears are viewed, your anxieties are viewed apart from the certain care of your Father, and you don't bring the loving care of your Father to bear on your circumstances. Stated differently, it's when you start your thinking with your problem rather than starting your thinking with God. When you start your thinking out, how is this problem that I have going to work out? That's the wrong approach. That's absolutely the wrong approach. Because when you say, how is this going to work out, you're looking into the future that you don't know, that's filled with uncertainty, and you start calculating what the different options are to make your problem work out.
That's entirely the wrong approach, although it's what most of us do when we're not thinking about it, when we're not conscious of the way we're thinking. The way you should start it out, if I could put it this way, with some kind of variation of this question is, who is going to work this problem out? Not how, but who. Because when you ask the who question, then you're driving your mind back to your Heavenly Father, especially if you've been listening to the teaching on anxiety and what Jesus has said about this. The who question makes you stop and say, ah, there is a person involved in this. It is my Heavenly Father.
It is my omnipotent Father who loves me, who cares for the birds, who causes the flowers to grow and clothes them with great beauty. He is the one who is over my circumstances. He has promised to care for me, and therefore my anxieties can be put to rest. That's the way that you deal with your heart on these things. Would you say that the terms are synonymous then?
For purposes of our discussion here, I would treat them the same. Whether it's a sudden fear, you're in a plane that looks like it's going to go down, or it's just the ongoing nagging anxieties of trying to make ends meet in an expensive place to live. Whether it's sudden, the Bible says do not fear sudden fear, or the onslaught of the wicked when it comes. Either way, your mind and heart should be so trained in the goodness and sovereignty of God that you say, this circumstance cannot be the end of me. Under no circumstances will this circumstance be the end of me. Even if this plane goes down, this ends up with me being in heaven and being face to face with my Savior. I win either way. And so I would treat the terms as synonymous and not try to press the difference too much.
At what point does thinking or planning for the future or for tomorrow turn to be worn? That is an absolutely great question, and I'm so glad that it came up. One of the things that you have to understand about the nature of God's providence and the nature of God's sovereignty is that his primary way of working is that he uses means to accomplish his ends. When he saves souls, for example, from Romans chapter 10, it's not that apart from any thinking or anything else that he just immediately transforms a soul. He uses the means of preaching to convert the soul. And that's why Paul says, how can they believe if they don't hear?
How will they hear if they don't have a preacher? And so God uses means to accomplish his ends, to accomplish his purposes. He can work directly or he can work indirectly. Let me give you an illustration that I was thinking about. God's direct work would be if I held my hand out and a $100 bill just miraculously appeared.
I just say, man, things are tight. You stick your hand out and you come back and it's still empty. That's one way God could do it. In the world that he has ordained, he uses means. He uses our planning. He uses our work. And he's ordained work even before the fall for man to work to sustain himself, for example. I'm just using an illustration here. And so we have to understand that our planning, our good and righteous planning, is part of the means that God uses to add all things to us.
Get this. It is much an act of God when your boss hands you your paycheck, as it would be if you held out your hand and a $100 bill automatically appeared. That is as much as an act of God because he is working in all things to accomplish his purposes in your life. And so the fact that it's not some big, spectacular miracle like a $100 bill appearing in your hand doesn't mean that it's any less God's provision when you do your work faithfully and you get paid for doing it.
God is still to be given thanks either way. You've been listening to a Q&A session that Pastor Don Green held with his church congregation to wrap up a series called Escaping the Anxiety Trap here on The Truth Pulpit. Next time, Don begins a brand new series, so plan now to be with us. Well, friend, we want to thank you for tuning into this broadcast. And speaking of thanks, Don, there's also people on your end without whose efforts this program would not be possible.
Well, Bill, there sure is. I have a loyal friend named Will Moneymaker who is the technical genius behind the program on our end. Will has been a loyal friend to me for over 10 years. He's recorded every single message that I have preached from my home pulpit, done technical editing. And without his skill and without his loyalty, this program would not exist. And so if you're listening today and you hear the name Will Moneymaker, I would just encourage you to stop for a moment, thank God for Will, and ask for God's blessing and protection on his life. You wouldn't be hearing this program without Will Moneymaker. So, Will, on behalf of The Truth Pulpit and our audience, we say thank you for your skill and loyalty that makes this broadcast possible. And friend, please visit thetruthpulpit.com. You can also hear today's program or any in the Escaping the Anxiety Trap series again at your convenience when you log on to thetruthpulpit.com. And now for Don Green, I'm Bill Wright. See you next time when Don Green continues teaching God's people God's word on The Truth Pulpit.
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