The assigned title for this lesson is “Transformed by My Plans,” but I am using a different title based on the particular scriptures that are used. The ultimate theme is a discussion of worry.
It is certainly true that worry is never healthy. It affects our appetites, relationships, sleep and our ability to work. How do we overcome what Jesus is talking about in our text?
Trust in God’s care (Matthew 6:25-30). Part of our problem is that some of the English translations do not adequately communicate the Greek meaning of the terms.
“Do not be anxious about your life” (6:22). “Do not be anxious” is a better translation than “take no thought” (KJV) but “be not distracted” may get nearer to the actual meaning and better describes what Jesus is talking about.
The Lord did not prescribe indifference to natural things nor encourage idleness. Idleness is for neither the Christian nor the birds. My son has prepared a bird-feeding pole just outside our breakfast window. Our morning entertainment is watching the dozen or so birds cavort on the various feeders attached to the pole. They are certainly not idle, and they express it without anxiety!
“Jesus warning is against distraction or anxiety over things, not concern or efforts with respect to legitimate problems and needs” (Frank Stagg, Matthew, The Broadman Bible Commentary, p. 118).
“And which of you by being anxious can add one cubit to his stature?” Stagg points out that “although cubit is a linear measure (about 18 inches),” the term may refer to length of life. Anxiety is more likely to shorten life than lengthen it” (p. 118). In our dependence on God’s care, when by faith we enter into the Kingdom of God, we become responsible for feeding the children who will become hungry when school is out by encouraging schools and churches to become agents of God’s love and care for hungry children.
One of the leading non-profit organizations is Bread for the World. The group has for more than 40 years been advocating feeding the hungry. Zachary Schmidt, a regional organizer for the nonpartisan Christian organization, said, “When children are not in school, their families can struggle to afford the increased cost of groceries.”
Christians can become God’s love and care by organizing children’s meal sites. They can help spread about the summer meal programs (Word & Way, “Speaking for the Hungry in the halls of power,” June 2016, pp. 10-11).
Trust in God’s knowledge (Matthew 6:31-32). My change in title became particularly important in 1943 when I was in the U.S Army in Manila. I had been in Manila on a prior enlistment and was returning to my former post with a friend who had taken me to the commanding officer in a Jeep. This was not a Jeep Cherokee but the old WW II model. While on the road back to the replacement unit, someone in a 2-1/2-ton truck ran into my side of the Jeep and pushed us into a ditch. I ended up with a shattered right femur and had to be taken to a hospital that had been returned to the Philippine army.
The place where God entered into this situation was that an Army orthopedic surgeon was awaiting his return to the States, and he was called in to stitch me back together. He treated me and put me in a body cast before I was ready to be shipped back to the States.
Just hours earlier I was in full control of my body and then I was in the hands of Army troops and surgeons over whom I had no control. I had to discover how to be totally subservient to them and to God. I remained in that cast for three month before being admitted to an Army hospital in Miami, Fla.
God knew what was going to happen, but I had no control.
Trust in God’s provision (Matthew 6:33-34). Nine months after the accident, I was discharged from the Army at Pratt General Hospital in Miami and was able to resume my life as an Army WW II veteran.
I entered Stetson University as a veteran and waited for my discharge money to arrive. But once again I was forced to wait for others to act since my money did not come. Then I remembered that I had been in Miami High School along with a child of Sen. Claude Pepper. I contacted him and within days the money arrived! I was unable to change my own situation but in my dependence on his authority it did happen. He became a messenger of God for my need.
So I went through a long time of dependence, but by trusting God’s care I have survived now to my 92nd year. I am grateful for those who helped me survive.
John Howell is academic dean emeritus at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Kansas City, Mo.
Bible Studies for Life is a curriculum series from LifeWay Christian Resources.
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