“Fear of the Future or Faith in Our Father?” (Luke 12:22-34)

Eleventh Sunday after Pentecost
August 8, 2010

“Fear of the Future or Faith in Our Father?” (Luke 12:22-34)

You know, last week we heard Jesus tell us the Parable of the Rich Fool from Luke chapter 12. Our Gospel reading for today picks up right where last week’s reading left off. And in this part of Luke 12, Jesus continues with the same theme, about our relation to material possessions and how that can interfere with our relationship with God. Apparently, Jesus thinks this is an important topic for his disciples to learn. And so that is what we do today. The question before us today can be seen as a contrast between two different approaches to life, namely, “Fear of the Future or Faith in Our Father?”

“Fear of the Future”: That is the way of the world. Jesus puts it like this: “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat, nor about your body, what you will put on.” Anxiety–that is what consumes the world. Worry, fear, fear of the future. Will I have enough food to eat? Will I have enough clothes in my closet? I suppose nowadays more of us worry about having too much food to eat, and how we can lose the weight to fit into the clothes in our closet! But still we worry.

And so we worry about keeping fit and staying young and staving off the end of our days. But Jesus says: “And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?” We’re not going to live forever, our days are numbered, and no matter how hard we exercise and eat right and apply moisturizers to our wrinkled faces, we’re not going to extend our life beyond its appointed length.

“And do not seek what you are to eat and what you are to drink, nor be worried. For all the nations of the world seek after these things.” Food and drink–don’t worry about those things. Those are the things that the world seeks after. But, hey, wait! Those are pretty basic necessities of life, aren’t they? Yes, of course they are. So why does Jesus tell us not to seek after those things? Are we just supposed to sit back and wait for the chicken to fall out of the sky and land on our table, fully cooked? No, God doesn’t work that way.

But the point Jesus is making here is not to worry about these things, not to be anxious or fearful, like God isn’t going to take care of us. It’s about “Fear of the Future” vs. “Faith in Our Father.” The world is worried about the future. The world does not know God as their kind and loving heavenly Father. But you do. You are disciples of Jesus. He makes the Father known to you. You know the Father’s heart through him. And so why would we live as though we were still belonging to the world? That is the issue.

Birds and flowers–that’s what Jesus points to to make the case. The birds seem to have enough food, don’t they? God takes care of them. Are you not of much more value than they? The flowers, the lilies–how much worrying do they do? And yet God has clothed them with the most beautiful raiment, hasn’t he? Are you not worth much more than a bunch of flowers that are put in a vase today and then tomorrow are thrown out? Yes, dear children, you are worth far more to God than flowers or birds.

Why do we not trust God as we ought? Why do we think God will hold out on us, that he will not provide for our needs? This unbelief is at the root of our sin. It’s this nagging suspicion we have that God really doesn’t love us, and therefore we have to take matters into our own hands in order to provide for our needs–our selfish needs and our desires. Unbelief is the original sin.

How to break through our unbelief? How to tackle our sin? God must do this for us, like he does everything else. Faith, too, is a gift from God.

Faith–faith rests on the promises of God. Faith is created and nurtured by the faithfulness of God, his goodness and his dependability, the fact that God always keeps his promises. Even though we cannot see the answer, we know that God will come through for us in the end, in the time we need the answer. God’s provision may not always match our expectation or desire. Our heavenly Father may have something better in store for us than what we originally thought. But God will always do the right thing.

Now let’s not leave this in the land of vague generalities. Faith in our Father has to do with very specific stuff, the realities of our everyday life. It has to do with our bank account and our checkbook–and our church’s bank account and checkbook, too. It has to do with school supplies, and my car breaking down, and “What about those medical tests and what they might reveal?” These matters all involve trust in God for our future. Faith in our Father affects how we live and the decisions that we make. It is very practical, this faith that overcomes fear.

“Faith in Our Father”: This is what Jesus teaches us, this is what Jesus gives us, to overcome our fear of the future. And it involves things we do not see. We do not see our next paycheck yet. We do not see the test results we’re waiting for so anxiously. We do not see where the money’s going to come from to pay for our daughter’s tuition or our congregation’s budget. We can’t see those things. We must rely on God to provide, even though we don’t know how he’s going to do it.

But then, isn’t that the way it is with God? We trust in him for all sorts of things we cannot see, even bigger things than budgets and bank accounts. As Hebrews says: “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” We do not see the forgiveness of sins; it’s not something you can lay your hands on or touch or handle. Or, maybe you can. You see, here in the Lord’s Supper we do “touch and handle things unseen.” Here we “grasp with firmer hand the eternal grace,” the grace that comes to us in our Lord’s body and blood. But again, you cannot see that reality, can you, that it is Christ’s true body and blood, for the forgiveness of your sins? But you have God’s word on it, Christ’s own promise, and that’s good enough. That’s a sure thing you can count on, God’s forgiveness in Christ, coming to us through the means of grace God has provided.

We trust in God for the forgiveness of sins we have in Christ. All the promises of God have their “yes” in him, and faith lays hold of the promises. The realities of the gospel are things we do not see: the forgiveness of sins; Jesus dying on the cross 2,000 years ago to purchase that forgiveness for us; our risen Lord ascending into heaven, from whence he will return to take us home; and the heavenly city that awaits us. None of this we see with our eyes. Yet all of this we receive as a gift, by faith. Faith takes hold of things we cannot see.

And so we walk by faith and not by sight. For the big things, like salvation and eternal life. And for the smaller things that seem big to us at the moment, things like food and drink and clothing for next week and next year. If we can trust God for the big stuff, we can trust him for the rest, as well. “He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?”

God’s own Son, dying for us on the cross, the Savior we so desperately need; plus, all the things of this body and life that we need to make it from day to day–all of it, all of it is a gift. The things of this life, Jesus assures us, “your Father knows that you need them.” And so these things are not to be our prime pursuit. “Instead,” Jesus says, “seek God’s kingdom, and these things will be added to you.”

“Don’t seek after things. Instead, seek God’s kingdom.” OK, so if we’re not to be in frantic pursuit of “stuff,” as though that depends on us, does this mean we now have to be in frantic pursuit of God’s kingdom, like that depends on us? In other words, don’t worry about the things of this life, but do worry about whether you’re going to make it into God’s kingdom? Be anxious about whether you’re going to rack up enough points to make it in? No, Jesus immediately answers that question and puts our minds at rest. He says, “Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.” The things of this life–they are a gift. The kingdom of God’s grace and his eternal kingdom of glory–that too is a gift. The Father gives us the kingdom, and he is pleased to do it. The Father’s good pleasure is focused, centered, in his Son, through whom we enter the kingdom. “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased,” the Father says of our Savior Christ.

And so we do not fear. We do not fear the future, whether that future is two days from now or two years from now or our eternal future, beyond the grave. “Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.” In Christ, “Fear of the Future” gives way to “Faith in Our Father.” Our Father who loves us so much he gave his only Son to be our Savior. “Fear not, little flock.” No, instead we trust our heavenly Father to provide, often in ways we do not yet see. For now, what we do see is that he is taking care of us–we have enough food, we have enough clothing, for this day. And we have enough forgiveness, more than enough, enough salvation and life to carry us through tomorrow, and on into the next day, and the next, and into the ages of ages. Through Jesus Christ, our Lord.

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Published in: on August 7, 2010 at 4:39 pm  Leave a Comment  
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