Treasuring God and Destroying Anxiety: Matt. 6:19-34

When you go to bed at night, what gives you comfort?  What gives you peace as your head hits the pillow?  Your job?  Your family?  Your possessions?  Your good looks, or high IQ?  What is it that you treasure?

Today, we finish up Matthew 6, as we continue to look at Jesus’ words to His followers in the Sermon on the Mount.  This passage (v. 19-34), detail Jesus’ words concerning treasure and anxiety, two things that, according to Jesus, are closely related.

We often hear words like “materialism,” and assume that it’s a much bigger issue now than it was in Jesus’ time, since they “didn’t have as much back then.”  But every culture and every time period has struggled with idolizing worldly treasures, whether it’s a strong ox or camel in the 1st century, or the latest iPhone in the 21st century.  Idolatry has been and always will be a problem, so long as there is sin in this world.  Thankfully, Jesus is the answer to our idolatry.  Let’s hear what He has to say:

“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal.  For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

According to Forbes.com, Bill Gates’ net worth sits at just under $80 billion, making him the wealthiest man in the world.  Gates, the co-founder of Microsoft, has solidified his place as one of the most successful businessmen in world history.  He is, without a doubt, rich.  The man could literally swim in piles of money.

Gates is 59 years old.  In fifty years, Gates will most likely be dead.  His money will go to his surviving family.  His money will not go with him into eternity.  At the end of his life, Bill Gates’ net worth will do nothing to save him from the wrath of God.  It will do nothing for him in the next life.  When all is said and done, money is simply a piece of paper that means nothing.

Tom Brady has four Super Bowl rings, two MVPs, and 10 Pro Bowl selections.  He will go down as one of the greatest, if not the greatest, quarterbacks to ever play professional football.  He has fancy cars, fancy houses, and is married to a supermodel.  By worldly standards, Tom Brady’s doing pretty well.

When Brady dies, his Super Bowl rings won’t keep him from death.  His nice cars and celebrity lifestyle won’t last forever.  His NFL records will collect dust in a history book, remembered by fans, perhaps for a short while, until the next great quarterback comes along.

Death truly is the great equalizer.  I’m certainly not speculating on the nature of these people’s relationship with the Lord, as I have no clue what they believe about Jesus, but their lives serve as an example to all of us of the fleeting nature of material possessions.

The problem with earthly treasure is that it is temporary.  You can’t take it with you into heaven.  As Jesus says, “moth and rust” destroy these “treasures.”  They are eternally worthless.  You made $100 billion in your lifetime?  Great!  How much is that worth on your death bed?  You lived in the nicest house in the nicest neighborhood, your kids went to the nicest schools…great!  What does that mean when you’re staring death in the face?

Jesus calls His followers to pursue that which is eternal, that which will last forever–heavenly treasure.  But what is heavenly treasure?  What does that mean?

The Bible tells us that there is a reward for those who follow Jesus.  For those who turn against their sin, trust in Jesus to come rule and reign in their hearts as Lord and trust in Him for salvation, there is: eternal life, adoption by the Father, fellowship with God and the church forever, and rewards for obeying Jesus in this life.  A life lived to the glory of God with faith in Jesus Christ yields all the treasure, all the reward, of union with Christ and obedience to Him.

Why chase after money when I can hear the Father say, “Well done, good and faithful servant?”  Why chase after the false god of sex when I have fellowship with God?  There is more pleasure in one second of fellowship with God than there is in a lifetime of sex (yes, even the gift of sex God gives in marriage).

Ultimately, the reward of following Christ, of storing up heavenly treasure, is not the benefits that come from union with Christ, as discussed above.  It’s not the heavenly treasures God gives to His obedient children.  These are certainly part of that great reward, and Jesus most definitely had these things in mind, but the greatest reward of following Jesus is Jesus Himself.  If we could have forgiveness without Jesus (which is impossible), it wouldn’t be worth it.  The point of forgiveness is the restoration of our relationship with God.  If we could have eternal life without God, it wouldn’t be worth it.  To ask the oft-asked question: If you could go to heaven and God not be there, would you still go?

All of us would like to answer that question in the negative, but if we’re honest, sometimes we want the things of God more than God Himself.  The things of God are good, and we ought to thank Him for them, but we must pray that God would help us desire Him more than His gifts.

Jesus makes it clear in verse 21 that whatever it is that we’re chasing after directs our lives: “where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”  In the Bible, the word “heart” refers not just to our emotions, but to our will, to our minds, and symbolizes that which leads our lives.

So, if we’re treasuring this world, we will not follow God.  We will follow after this world, and forsake God.  But if we treasure God, and all that He is, we will follow Him, be guided by Him, and forsake the world.  Brothers and sisters, let’s do that.  He’s much better.

Jesus also says similar truths about our eyes:

“The eye is the lamp of the body.  So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light, but if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness.  If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!”

In the same way our treasure directs our hearts and the direction of our lives, what we set our eyes on often decides what we chase after.  If my “eyes are on the prize” of that job, or that relationship, that’s what I’m going after.  But if my eyes are on Jesus, on knowing, trusting, loving and obeying Him, I’m going to seek Him.  Again, brothers and sisters, let’s set our eyes on Jesus.

This is an all-or-nothing deal, according to Jesus.  He says, in verse 24: “No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other.  You cannot serve God and money.”

The word translated “money” here is the word “mammon,” meaning money or possessions.  For many of this, we glance over this passage, because, for us, we don’t idolize money.  Well done!  If I’m being honest, I don’t struggle with the desire to have a lot of money.  Never have.

However, we all have those false gods that tempt us to worship them.  Maybe it’s your job.  The corporate ladder of success is appealing to you.  Maybe it’s your family.  You wake up, burdened to be the best husband/wife, father/mother you can be.  Maybe it’s sports.  You want to play the best, or, if you’re like me and totally unathletic, you immerse yourself in the world of sports, enjoying watching other people play the sports you love, and there’s a temptation to identify yourself by your team affiliation.

Idolatry is common to every person that’s ever lived.  And Jesus makes it clear that if we are to be His disciples, if we are to be saved, we must choose: Will we follow God wholeheartedly?  Or will God be an add-on to my already busy life?

The problem, for those who want the latter, is that God refuses to be an add-on.  Jesus makes it clear that if you’re not willing to give up all else in order to gain Him, you cannot be His disciple (Matt. 16:24-26).  Jesus will either be everything to you, or He will be nothing.  If you are a Christian, your life must be consumed with knowing Jesus, trusting Jesus, being like Jesus, and glorifying Jesus, or you don’t know Jesus.

Thankfully, when we all fail to love Jesus above all, when we all fail to take up our cross and follow Jesus, we’re reminded that He took up His cross and died for us.  And that allows us to repent confidently, to confess where we’ve failed, trusting Jesus to forgive us and restore us.  None of us treasure Jesus perfectly, but, by God’s grace, we turn away from treasuring this world to treasure Him, trusting in His saving and empowering grace to help us in the fight.

When we treasure Jesus, it destroys anxiety.  The root of anxiety is fear.  Fear that if I don’t have this relationship, my life will be ruined.  Fear that if I don’t get that job, I won’t be successful.

When we fear and worry over these things, we exalt them to the place of God, allowing them to direct us and control us.  But when we treasure God, we allow Him to direct us, and we can trust in Him to provide all that we need:

“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. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?  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?  And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? 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? 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. “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.”

Because God is our God, not money, not food, not clothing, we can trust God to provide those things as we need them.  And we trust in Him to provide, not for our sake, but so we may continue to live our lives for His glory.  We’re called, not to “let go and let God,” but to trust God and get going for His glory.

When God is our God, things like food, jobs, clothing, sex, houses, relationships, etc. become avenues, not for sinful idolatry, but for the enjoyment of the common grace of God, as we glorify Him for His many gifts and use them as we can to advance the gospel.

Seek first the kingdom.  Put your eyes on Jesus.  Treasure Him.  Trust in Him.  Kill anxiety by killing idolatry.

Lord, may you destroy our idols by showing us your goodness.  May we trust in you, treasure you, and rest in you.  May your beauty make the things of this earth grow dim, as we seek our joy in you.

God bless,

Neal E.

One Story–His Story

I recently had a conversation with a friend about what heaven would be like.  We discussed how we place so much value on the things of this world, to the point where we are caught saying “I’d love to go to heaven, but first, I’d really like to do (fill in the blank).”

In Luke 12, starting in verse 32, Jesus says: “Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.  Sell your possessions, and give to the needy.  Provide yourselves with moneybags that do not grow old, with a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches and no moth destroys.  For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.”

With the threat that someone will read this and be offended, let me say this: I am incredibly grateful for the opportunity to study at the University of Montevallo.  A college education isn’t cheap, nor is it to be taken for granted, and I believe that at UM, I am getting a fantastic education.  The professors in the Mass Communication department are wonderful, and have been very helpful to me as I learn to do what my family/Uncle Sam pays for me to learn to do.

But along with that, I have to admit: I’m fed up with the world of media, mass communications, and journalism in general.  I love to write.  Obviously, hence the blog.  I have a great respect for those who are in the business, and who do it right.  My cousin recently graduated with a degree in the field, and if he doesn’t make it, we’re all in trouble.  However, I believe writers, broadcasters, and the world in general has lost it.  There is such a strong focus on “getting your name out there.”  Or “get published and get a big paycheck.”  I want to be successful, and I want to be able to provide for my family.  But it’s easy for those who write, and write well, to be filled with pride.

It’s easy for me to look back at what I’ve written, and at the praise I have received, and become arrogant and prideful.  I’m being told “it’s all about you!”

And in reality, what God is teaching me, is something I’ve known for a while: Neal Embry–It’s not about you.  It never will be.  You will, and should, always be but a byline in the telling of the greater story.  His story.

The gospel of Jesus Christ is the greatest story ever told.  Ever lived, ever written, ever recorded.  It cannot be remade, redone, re-dubbed in spectacular hi-def audio or HD.  It is a story that transforms lives, hearts, that transfers slaves of sin to citizens of the kingdom of righteousness.  The greatest part of this story is that it is not a “story” like we see them.  Unlike many stories that have been written…this story is true.

If I am doing anything other than bringing glory to God by sharing the gospel in my writing, I am failing at what I do.  If, by the way I approach secular stories, God is not being glorified, and Christ is not being made known, I am failing at what I do.  How does that look?  How do I glorify Christ when I write and shoot a story about our government, or about a local frozen yogurt place?  It must be found in the way I treat people, and the level of pride I have in myself.  I have confidence in my ability to do what God has called me to do.  I have confidence in my writing because I believe and know it is a gift that God is developing through me, as I “fan into flame.”  But I must be careful not to fall into the trap the world sets of trying to put my name and my writing and my gift on a pedestal, but instead, to do all I do for the glory of God.

Bylines are such a small thing, and yet we work so hard to get as many of them as we can.  All it is is “By Neal Embry.”  That’s it.  That’s seriously what I’m going to spend my life doing?  Accumulating as many of these as I can?  I only want one!  I want to be just a byline in the greater story.  If one story is written by me, may it be about Jesus, and may my byline fade into the background as His gospel is made known!

If my name is made famous or even known, I want it to be because people see Jesus when they look at me.  If we are the light of the world, why do we spend so much time trying to tell the world about us?  When we do this, all we do is turn our backs and say that our light is brighter than His.  Do I want people to know I’m a good writer?  Sure, may not be a bad thing.  But more than that, I want people to understand who I write for.

Many writers, journalists, authors, and storytellers will spend their entire lives in the hopes of finding that “one story.”  They will search every corner of the world to find one interview, one person, one event…one story.  A story that will make them famous, a story that will change the world.  They will go through their careers trying to win a Pulitzer.  And the sad truth is, they will wind up bitter, grumpy, and dissatisfied, because even if they win the prizes, and find those stories, it will never be enough.  We need something more.  We need Jesus.  I have to admit, that temptation to look for “that story” is incredibly tempting.  Anyone who is a writer can back me up, that this is something we long for, hope for.

But go back to that passage in Luke.  Jesus said “Do not worry about anything” a few verses before.  We are told that the God of the universe, who knows every story that was, is, and will be, wants to give us the kingdom.  I’ve blogged before about Kingdom Inheritance, and this is similar.  We are so rich in Christ, and yet we get bogged down with the things of this world.  I plead with you, wherever you are, whoever you are, to give it all up for Christ.  To realize how rich you are in Jesus.

That “One Story” has already been written.  It’s already been told.  It continues to be told throughout the ages by it’s readers, it’s lovers, it’s subscribers, if you will.  The “One Story” is really His story.  It’s a story of God, who came down in the person of Jesus Christ, God the Son, to give His life for sinners, that we may “become the righteousness of God.”  That story is one that surpasses anything I could ever write.  This story is one to be retold, in its simplicity, down through the ages, that the gospel may continue to impact people’s lives, change their hearts, and free them from sin, bringing them into the kingdom of God.

My greatest joy as a writer is this: To be able to simply share what’s already been written and what’s already been done by Jesus Himself.  I am but a mirror, reflecting His glory, His gospel.

Make Him your treasure, make Him the prize, and He will never cast you out.  I know my riches are in heaven, and if I never find that “one story” that makes me famous, it’s okay.  I want to make Him famous.  I already know the greatest story.  And it is being told, and I have the great pleasure in taking part of it.  He is the headline, He is the message, He is it.  Jesus is all.

I am simply His vessel, His tool, to use for His glory.  I am but a fading, dimming, byline, pointing to the Master.  All glory to God.

God bless,

Neal E.

 

P.S. I will attempt to continue the “Jesus Died” series either this weekend or during Spring Break.  During that marvelous break, hopefully I will be able to write several times.  So, that’s exciting.  Also, more importantly, if you want to know more about Jesus or what it means to be a Christian, please do not hesitate to email me at rembry@forum.montevallo.edu

Feel free to comment below, ask questions, etc. or email me at the address listed above.

See ya next time!