God’s Promise to Provide for You
Well, here we are a few weeks into these events that have consumed our attention and changed our lives so dramatically in such a short period of time. I wonder how you are doing and processing everything.
I’ve been keeping my ear to the tracks on how Christians have been talking about all of this, both in person and out there on the internet. What sort of things are people grabbing on to and sharing with one another?
“If My People”
One passage from Scripture that I’ve heard being shared a few times is 2 Chronicles 7:14. You might be familiar with that passage: “if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land” (2 Ch 7:14)
That sounds great, doesn’t it? It sounds like a passage for our times. Our land is sick. It needs healing. So if God’s people just humble themselves and confess our sin, then God will heal our land, which means taking away the coronavirus.
Unfortunately, that’s not what 2 Chronicles 7:14 means for you and I today. If we look at the context we’ll see that 2 Chronicles 7:14 was spoken by the Lord to King Solomon while Israel was still living under the Old Covenant, the covenant God made with them through Moses.
In that covenant, God had promised to bless the land where the people lived if they obeyed God, and to curse the land where they lived if they disobeyed God. And He also promised that when that last part happened, which it did often, He would take away the curse and bless them again if they repented of their sin. That’s all in Deuteronomy 28, 29 and 30. And so in 2 Chronicles 7:14, God is simply repeating that covenant promise. He’s telling them again that He will do what He said He would do.
So does 2 Chronicles 7:14 have anything to say to us today? Of course. God has not changed, and that passage reminds us that God is someone who keeps His promises and does what He said. It also reminds us that He is a God who forgives sin. That’s a part of who He is (Exodus 34:6-7, 1 John 1:9).
God has not changed. But the convent we are a part of has. We’re in a different part of the story now. The Mosaic covenant is obsolete, according to Hebrews 8:13. It has been replaced with the New Covenant. And what we have in this New Covenant is better than what Solomon could have dreamed of. Because what we have is Christ.
“Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us…so that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promised Spirit through faith” (Galatians 3:13–14). Christ has come and given us the forgiveness of sins, the gift of eternal life, the presence of the Holy Spirit.
And like we read earlier from Romans 8, we “who have the firstfruits of the Spirit groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies” (Romans 8:23). And if you read through the rest of that chapter and the rest of the New Covenant, you’ll see that God has not promised to take away all difficulty and “heal the land” where we dwell. We will experience trouble. But He is with us in that trouble, and is using it for good, using it to make us more like the Saviour who died and rose again for us (Romans 8:28-29).
Now maybe what I’ve just explained is challenging to you. Maybe it’s challenging to think along those lines of “what covenant are we in, and what promises apply to us?” But if that’s challenging for us, just imagine how much moreso it would have been for Jesus’ first followers. As Jesus came, and in His teaching began to introduce the realities of the New Covenant, there would have been some major adjustments in their understanding.
Just think about the Sermon on the Mount and that familiar passage where Jesus told them not to store up treasures on earth, but to store them up in heaven instead. That was a big shift, because in the Old Covenant, earthly wealth was a good thing. The kings of Israel stored up treasure on earth and it was a sign of God’s favour.
But now Jesus is saying not to do that. And that likely would have raised all kinds of questions for the people listening to Him. “If I’m using my resources to store up treasures in heaven, not on earth, then how do I know that I’m going to be ok here on earth? How am I going to take care of myself and take care of my family?”
And that’s where the promises of vv. 25-34 come in. Because in this section Jesus reassures His followers with God’s promise to provide for us. God will feed us and God will clothe us as we seek His kingdom first.
And these verses are where we are going to spend our time this morning. And we’re doing so for a couple of reasons. One reason is that these verses help us think through these matters of the covenants and how to accurately interpret the Scriptures. But it’s probably obvious that this passage speaks to issues which are burning on many of our minds in these days. The financial implications of this virus situation have already been massive. And it’s very likely that many of you have been concerned at one level or another about your financial future.
“Do Not Worry”
And so we need to hear the words of Jesus to us today: ““Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on” (Matthew 6:25). Notice that this passage begins with a command. Jesus is telling us in no uncertain terms not to be anxious about our lives.
This is a command. Being anxious about your life is disobedience. Notice that Jesus specifically tells them not to worry about what they’ll eat or drink or wear. To someone living in the 1st century, these were big concerns. They wouldn’t have worried about whether they could retire comfortably or take a nice vacation next summer. The concerns of the average person would have been for these very immediate needs. Will I have enough to eat? Will I have enough to drink? Will I have enough warm clothes to wear?
And Jesus tells them not to worry about those things. And then what He does in the rest of the passage is give them reasons for why they shouldn’t worry about them. He doesn’t just tell them what to do and walk away. He reasons with them and helps them to really think about what He said.
As I study this passage I see four main reasons given by Jesus for why we should not be anxious about our life. And we’re going to walk through them one at a time.
1. Life is More
The first reason to not worry is that there is more to our life and more to our body than food and clothing. Jesus presents this reason in the form of a rhetorical question. “Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?” (Matthew 6:25). This question that is supposed to make us think and realize that, yes, of course there is more to life than just the basics of survival.
Someone who is all tied up about their next meal has lost sight of what really matters in life. And what really matters in life is spelled out for us by Jesus in verse 33: God’s kingdom and righteousness. That’s what matters. What matters today is what will matter in eternity. And so by asking us this question in this way, Jesus is prodding us to think beyond just our own survival to these greater realities we’ve been invited to participate in.
2. God Cares for the Plants and Animals, and We Mean More to Him than Either
The second reason not to be anxious about our life or our body is that God takes care of the plants and the animals, and we mean more to God than either. Listen to this truth in verses 26 and 28-30:
“Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?” (Matthew 6:26).
“And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?” (Matthew 6:28–30).
God feeds the birds and clothes the plants, and we mean more to him than either. Simple enough, right? But let’s break this down a little bit to see if we can understand this a little bit deeper. Because it might be possible for us to miss what Jesus is saying here.
We might look our at the birds flitting around outside and say, “God’s not feeding them. They are just eating whatever they can find. Or, I’m feeding them with my bird feeder. And the plants: that’s not God clothing them, that’s just the way they look. Just the way they grow. God’s not involved in that process.”
But to make that kind of thought would be to miss a major truth which Scripture points to again and again and again, which is the sovereignty of God. According to Scripture, God is absolutely sovereign over absolutely everything that happens in the world.
Ephesians 1:11 says that God is the one “who works all things according to the counsel of his will.” All things get worked according to his plan.
Psalm 33 says, “He spoke, and it came to be; he commanded, and it stood firm. The Lord brings the counsel of the nations to nothing; he frustrates the plans of the peoples. The counsel of the Lord stands forever, the plans of his heart to all generations" (Psalm 33:9-11)
God is absolutely sovereign over everything, whether that is the affairs of mankind or everything that happens in the natural world. One of my favourite passages of Scripture in this regard is Psalm 104, which speaks about God’s sovereign care for this world He created.
“You make springs gush forth in the valleys; they flow between the hills; they give drink to every beast of the field; the wild donkeys quench their thirst… From your lofty abode you water the mountains; the earth is satisfied with the fruit of your work. You cause the grass to grow for the livestock and plants for man to cultivate, that he may bring forth food from the earth… The trees of the Lord are watered abundantly, the cedars of Lebanon that he planted… He made the moon to mark the seasons; the sun knows its time for setting. You make darkness, and it is night, when all the beasts of the forest creep about. The young lions roar for their prey, seeking their food from God… These all look to you, to give them their food in due season. When you give it to them, they gather it up; when you open your hand, they are filled with good things. When you hide your face, they are dismayed; when you take away their breath, they die and return to their dust. When you send forth your Spirit, they are created, and you renew the face of the ground” (Psalm 104:10-11, 13-14, 16, 19-21, 27–30).
This is our God. “Whatever the Lord pleases, he does, in heaven and on earth, in the seas and all deeps” (Ps 135:6). And He is not just sovereign over the interesting things. This sovereignty descends to the level of fine detail.
“Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. But even the hairs of your head are all numbered” (Matthew 10:29–30).
A friend of mine showed me a webpage that keeps track of every single lightning strike almost anywhere on earth. They have the technology to pinpoint every location of every strike. It’s incredible to see all of the points lighting up on the page.
But I don’t know of any website that keeps track of every single bird who dies and falls to the ground everywhere on planet earth. Or an app that will scan your head and tell you exactly how many hair follicles you have. But God knows that. And he doesn’t just know it, He is sovereign over it. Not a single bird falls to the ground apart from Him.
And God has numbered your hairs, not just because he’s counted them, but because He is totally sovereignly involved in the operation of every celling your body and He has determined the hair on your head.
So if the birds are eating today, it is because God is feeding them. If the flowers are growing—like they already are in little planters in our basement—then God is making them grow. This world is not just running by itself.
And when you realize that God is showing such specific care to birds and flowers and grass, then do you think he doesn’t see you? That’s the force of Jesus’ questions here. You are worth so much more than the birds. You are worth so much more than the grass. And so of course God is going to take care of you.
He has the attention to notice you, the sovereign power to wield circumstances for you, and the resources to care for you.
So next time you feel worried about your future, spend a few minutes birdwatching. I’m serious. Jesus told you to look at the birds in verse 26. Next time you see a bird, stop. Look at it for a few moments.
Consider that it is alive by the sovereign hand of God who is feeding it and it will not die apart from Him. And remember that you matter to Him way more than that bird.
3. Worry Doesn’t Change Anything
There’s a third reason Jesus gave us here for not worrying. And it’s that worrying doesn’t change a thing. “And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?” (Matthew 6:27).
This is a very gentle reminder that we are not God. Can we make our lives any longer just by worrying about it? Have you every met someone who has lived a long and healthy life, and you asked them their secret, and they said, “Well, I remember hearing how beneficial worry was and how much it really changed things for the good, so I made sure to set aside time for some real good worrying once or twice a day.”
How ridiculous is that. What can we change by being anxious?
And the futility of anxiety is even more clear when we remember who is sovereign over the span of our life. “Come now, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit’— yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, ‘If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that’” (James 4:13–15).
Whether you are alive tomorrow or the next day is up to God. It’s His decision. And so worrying about it is pointless and fruitless.
4. God Knows Your Needs and Will Provide for You
The final reason to not be anxious about our life is that God knows our needs and He has promised to provide for us as we seek him first.
“Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you” (Matthew 6:31–33).
If God counts the hairs of your head, then do you think he knows what you need? Of course he does. So when we worry about the future we are essentially acting like atheists.
That’s Jesus point in verse 32. The Gentiles—which here means those who don’t know God—they are bent on seeking these things because they don’t know God as the Father who provides for them.
But if you know Christ, then things should be different. Through Christ, you know God as your father and you know that He knows what you need. And this frees us to seek His kingdom and His righteousness, trusting that He’ll provide our needs for us.
Verse 33 is a New Covenant promise that you can believe and apply to your life today with no reservation. “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things”—food, drink, clothing—“will be added to you” (Matthew 6:33).
Will be added to you by someone else—by God. He will provide for you as you seek His kingdom and righteousness.
Now its true that for many of us, a part of seeking God’s kingdom and righteousness includes working and earning an income. 2 Thessalonians 3:10 says “If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat.” Verse 12 says “Now such persons we command and encourage in the Lord Jesus Christ to do their work quietly and to earn their own living.” That’s a part of righteous, kingdom living.
But when that’s not an option for us, or when circumstances are beyond our control, we should not worry because they are not beyond God’s control. If you have a job that supplies for your needs, that is the way that God is providing for you. And if that income is removed by no fault of your own, God is going to provide for you in another way. He has promised to give us what we need as we seek His kingdom first.
So how does Jesus bring this all together and apply it to us? Verse 34: “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble” (Matthew 6:34).
This is the third time in this passage that He commands that we do not be anxious. And yet, in this final time, He expands it. He is not telling us just to not be anxious about food or drink or clothing, but not to be anxious about tomorrow, period.
How often do we do this? How often do we get into difficult circumstances and say, “I just don’t know how I’m going to keep on doing this”? Or “I just can’t imagine being in this spot for the rest of my life”?
Is that not a subtle way of worrying about tomorrow? We’re looking to tomorrow and surveying all of the hardship that may be there and forgetting what we heard last week—that God is definitely going to be there, loving us just the same as He always has been, keeping His promises to us and being everything that He promised to be for us.
And Jesus commands us not to do that. Stop worrying about what tomorrow may be like. Tomorrow is God’s business. Today is all that He asks us to deal with.
Will You Trust and Obey?
So, surveying all of this together, I have two big questions, or groups of questions, for us coming out of this passage. The first big question facing each of us in this passage is “will we trust and will we obey?” King Jesus has commanded us three times in this passage not to be anxious, and he’s given us at least four major reasons for why we should not be anxious.
Will you trust Jesus, and obey Him? Or will you listen to yourself instead?
Isn’t it true that this is the choice we are faced with when worry comes? “Yes, I know what Jesus said, but what about this? What about that?” We think we’ve finally stumbled upon the one circumstance or the one loophole that Jesus maybe wasn’t thinking of when He made this promise. We think that we’re the exception to the promises. Or we feel like His words simply don’t apply to us.
The question is, who are you going to trust—Jesus, or yourself? Do you really think you know better than Jesus? Do you really think you’re the first person in history to find yourself in a situation that Jesus can’t help you out of? Do you really think that Jesus didn’t know what he was saying when these words came out of his mouth?
Let me ask you the question from a slightly different perspective. Were you trusting God for your provision and your future back in February? So what changed? Why would this pandemic situation cause us to reevaluate whether God is going to keep His promises or not? Do you know that humanity has gone though several of these before, many of them far worse? Was God God back then? So what’s different now?
Isn’t it true that it’s easy to say we trust God when we don’t feel like we actually need to? It’s like saying we believe in heaven when death feels far off. But that’s not actually faith. Faith is trusting in God when we really need to and when He’s all we’re leaning on and when we don’t have a clue how exactly He is going to come through for us.
And this is perhaps one of God’s purposes in this whole event. How many millions of Christians in the Western world thank God at every meal without really appreciating that God is the one who provided for them? How many of us have been weaned off of real faith in God by our regular paycheques and financial abundance and the illusion of safety and control that all of our technology and systems give us?
And a tiny little virus has just popped that bubble and shown us how vulnerable and needy we actually are. Could the Lord be targeting some of our idols here, destroying the false gods we leaned on instead of Himself, and calling us back to faith in Him alone?
And if so, how will we respond to that? Will we trust and will we obey? Will we rest in the knowledge that Jesus is way smarter than us, He knew about the novel coronavirus all the way back when He spoke these words, that God really is sovereign over absolutely everything, and that He is going to provide for us?
Will We Be Content?
There’s a second question or set of questions we need to ask here. Will we be content with God’s provision for us? This is a challenging question. Because what has God promised to provide for us here? Food and clothing.
Are you okay if that’s all that God provides for you?
If I think about times in my life where I’ve been really worried about my financial future, if I’m really honest, I wasn’t too worried about starving or going being naked. I was pretty sure that someone would step in to make sure I didn’t literally starve to death or walk around naked. But the thought of losing everything else and only having food and clothing seemed terrifying.
Why is that? What’s going on in our hearts there?
Do you remember 1 Timothy 6? “But godliness with contentment is great gain, for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content. But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs” (1 Timothy 6:6–10).
When I preached on that passage on January 19, did you believe it? Did you agree with it? So what changed?
Perhaps this is another work that God is doing in us through these recent events. Perhaps He is targeting our idols and asking us if we really believe the things that we say we believe. What if, in the course of this event, we lose much, and end up with the clothes on our back and food on the table in front of us? Are we okay with that? Do we really believe that godliness with contentment is great gain, or did we just say that back when our stuff weren’t being threatened?
These are tough questions and I am asking them of myself as much as anybody else.
When we put today’s passage together with 1 Timothy 6, the conclusion we come to is that God has promised to provide everything we need to be content. But our contentment will depend on whether or not we are thinking like Christians or thinking like Canadians. Is our hope set on eternity? Do we recognize the immense value of godliness, and treasure Jesus Himself more than all the comforts and trinkets of the Western world?
As we contemplate these questions, I want to encourage you to take them to the Lord and ask Him to do do His work in your heart. Ask Him to give you the faith to believe. Ask Him to help you identify any idols or false gods that you’ve been clinging to instead of Himself. Ask Him to help you trust and obey and rest contentedly in His Father-love for you.
Once again, memorizing this passage or parts of it would be a fantastic way of hiding these truths inside your heart and using them to fight back against any fear or worry that comes to fight with you.
We’re going to end here by singing a song that celebrates God’s promise to care for us day by day. Let’s ask the Lord now to strengthen our faith as we sing these words and live out the rest of this day that God has given us to live.