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"Therefore" refers back to Jesus' discussion about our concern for money and possessions-- which he connected to anxiety and stress, and lack of faith!
Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?
Which of you by worrying can add one cubit to his stature? So why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; and yet I say to you that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.
Now if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will He not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?" Matthew 6:25-30 NKJV
Don't Worry; God Provides!
One familiar lesson from the birds is the way they welcome the new day. Like an act of awesome faith, they sing in the early morning darkness before any ray of light appears! The wildflowers teach us too. Seen or unseen, they bloom wherever their seed landed, sometimes in the most unusual and difficult places!
Look at the birds, Jesus said, did you ever see them sow or reap? Yet they don't lack for food. Observe the lilies. Do they look worried? No, God cares for them and, in their proper season, clothes them in glorious beauty. If God does all that for the birds and wildflowers, won't God do the same and more for you?
But Jesus, you are omitting some important details here. The birds do "plant" all day long; the pits are in their poop. And those wildflowers contain thousands of seeds with which to reproduce themselves. Nature may be beautiful, but it can also be very harsh. Many birds fall and lots of wildflowers get uprooted. And if God does care for our needs, why are there starving people in the world? What about epidemics, floods, fires, hurricanes and tsunamis? Where is God's providential care then?
The people Jesus spoke to were mostly poor, and their concerns basic--food to feed their families and clothes for warmth. In the first decade of the 21st century, in small-town America, our fears are not where the next meal is coming from. We worry about our food supply being tampered with or contaminated.
The above paragraphs are examples of how we may react to this passage. We conjure up images, thoughts and experiences to which we can relate. But it leaves us wondering what Jesus really meant for us to hear and take to heart.
We will not get a scientific explanation from Jesus. There is no biology lesson here about how nature works because the real issue is spiritual, not physical. The people who come and listen to Jesus have one thing in mind: Tell us where to find life. How do we get free from all the things which drag us down, and take hold of that which lifts us up and makes us soar?
Jesus said the answer is faith. Faith that you are important to God, that God loves you and cares for you. Jesus told them not to worry; rather they should look at life with new eyes.
Long before the time of Jesus, the Old Testament Psalmist wrote about faith and put it this way, "The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want." In other words, because God cares for me, I will always have everything I need. The Psalmist painted a picture of green pastures, calm waters, restoration and goodness.
But Psalm 23 doesn't stop there. It continues through valleys, shadows, evil and death. Then comes the same theme which Jesus is making. No fear. No worry. No anxiety. Why? Because of our Shepherd God. I am comforted even in the midst of my enemies. My cup overflows. Goodness and mercy follow me all the days of my life, and at death, I will go home with God forever.
Jesus wants us to look at life differently than we usually do. When we worry we have our minds on the wrong things. Living is not about the anxieties of surviving. It's about resting confidently in God's care.
In many situations I have repeated the first line of the Good Shepherd Psalm. Whether in a busy airport trying to find my gate on time, or out in the woods with a thunderstorm approaching, I can calmly (well, almost calmly) affirm, "The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want and I can get through this." Those words have proved true so often that I'm no longer surprised when God supplies what my situation requires. If I don't get what I thought was necessary, I just say, "Then I didn't really need it." Because at the end of any circumstance, the only essential is God's presence with us. And when my time is up, I expect to die at peace in Jesus' arms.
In the midst of our present life, here and now, Jesus tells us about God's kingdom and offers us freedom from worry and stress. So, in the words of Mother Teresa, "Trust God for all things. Let go of anxieties and care and grip the hand of Jesus."
Use the following questions for small groups, journaling, further study or reflection.
Icebreaker: Which do you value more? Good-tasting food or good-looking clothing?
How much do you worry? A little? About average? A lot? What do the people you know worry about? What is the difference between a concern and a worry? How does worry affect you physically?
How do you react to Jesus teaching that we should not worry? Is it possible to decide not to worry? What would you have to do in order to diminish your anxious thoughts?Besides God, where else do you put your trust and calm your fears?
What are some ways that God provides for your needs? Are other people involved? If so, in what way?God provides, but would you want to live on what God thinks is necessary?
Jesus lived in an agrarian society when gleaning was common. Gleaning was the ancient harvesting practice whereby the farmer left some crops in the field for the poor and the traveler (Deut. 24:19-22). Is there, or could there be, a modern-day equivalent to gleaning?
Read Psalm 23. Are these just beautiful words? Or reality? When has this Psalm been most meaningful to you?
A new way of thinking: He (the Good Shepherd) restores my soul. "I rise in the morning and instead of wondering how I can get through this day or this experience, a new sense of wonder is born and I look expectantly at the day, at what fresh things it will reveal." --Douglas SteereIf you need a new way to begin or end your day, try finding some words from Scripture that will help you focus on God's loving-kindness.
Do you look at life through the eyes of faith and see God's hand everywhere? If so, how did that attitude/miracle of faith come about? If not, what are some steps you could take toward that goal?
Discuss the concepts of "striving" and "letting go" as they pertain to the spiritual life. Which of these is more helpful if we want to stop being anxious and stressed about many things?