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  • Writer's picturePaul Cottington

The Worries of Tomorrow

These are the words of Jesus, and they form part of his famous 'Sermon on the Mount'. This verse starts with the word 'therefore'. This tells us that there is something that has already been said which is the reason behind the instruction given. The instruction is 'do not worry about tomorrow'. Actually Jesus surrounds this instruction with reason. He continues with 'for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.'

The Sermon on the Mount is like this. Jesus gives instructions, but they are steeped in reasons. 'You should do this, because of this....'. At the end we read, 'When Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were amazed at his teaching, because he taught as one who had authority, and not as their teachers of the law.' The Jews were used to being told to follow certain practices by their religious leaders. I think they were often told what to do, and what not to do, but with little explanation; little rationale or reason. Jesus stood out. He was different.

'Therefore do not worry...' So what is the 'therefore'? Well, Jesus has already drawn his listeners' attention to the birds and the flowers. 'Your heavenly Father', he says, has 'dressed' the flowers. He has given them an array of colourful attire that is greater in its beauty than anything that Solomon wore, even in his greatest splendour. The birds don't gather food into barns, to provide for themselves in future. Their thinking is never of the future. They don't sow, hoping to reap a harvest in a few months. And yet the birds are given food from God's hand, the flowers are clothed by him.

Jesus goes on, 'Are you not much more valuable than they? not worry, saying, “What shall we eat?” or “What shall we drink?” or “What shall we wear?” For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them.' If you seek first the kingdom, then everything else will be provided.

Jesus finishes this section with 'each day has enough trouble of its own.' These are the reasons why we shouldn't have to worry about tomorrow. But does it really matter? If the Lord is going to provide for his people, surely it makes no difference if I worry about it or don't worry about it? He will still provide, won't he?

I think Jesus is telling us these things because he believed that it did matter.

There are reasons why the Lord's people shouldn't have to worry, and there are reasons why they shouldn't. There is a negative impact on their lives if they do worry. And the Lord doesn't want that. He loves them. He gives them this instruction because he cares for them.

So, what is the impact on our lives if we fail to grasp this teaching? Well, we don't have time to cover everything. What I particularly want to think about is our present situation with coronavirus. We are currently part of a particular, altered set of circumstances. I think they press us. They press us to think about tomorrow. Jesus speaks here about 'the pagans', 'the pagans run after all these things', he says. The NLT translates this as 'These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers'. What is dominating the thoughts of people at this moment? Its coronavirus. But, if you follow the news and if you listen to the predictions of our government, and other world leaders, and their experts that are called upon, one dominating thought is sounded. It's this, 'When?' When will the peak be reached? When will the downturn in infections, in deaths, begin? When will restrictions be relaxed? When will we see the return of 'normal'. When will we be free of the threat of this disease? Much false hope is given, I believe. People want to hear better news, even if a quick scan of the evidence suggests something else.

In the context of what we are looking at here, this question of 'when', is really a question of 'which tomorrow will this, that and the other happen?' This is really important for believers. Its important because our Lord and our Master has said 'don't do it'. He has told us not to be dominated by tomorrow. He has told us, rather, to concentrate on today. It's as if we don't have the capacity to fully give our thoughts to more than one thing. If we give part of our attention to tomorrow, then we lose our focus on the matters that are in hand, the things that we should be engaged in today.

An example of this kind of distraction is seen in mobile phone use. Say that I am having a text conversation with a friend. I'm typing and reading. Someone in my household starts speaking to me and it's important, but I think that I can give myself fully to two things at once, so I continue typing but also start listening to what is being said to me. Soon enough, I end up saying, 'Sorry, what did you just say?' Why? Because part of my mind was elsewhere. I wasn't fully engaged with what was immediately present in front of me.

If we are dominated with the question of some tomorrow, some day in the future when new hope will dawn, part of our mind will be there. It will be in the future, a future about which we can do nothing today. Today we cannot serve in the future. But today we can serve today.

There is an extra-ordinary blessing that Moses, the man of God, gave to the tribe of Asher, before Moses died. He said, 'The bolts of your gates will be iron and bronze, and your strength will equal your days.' The AV is wonderful in it's language here, 'and as thy days, so shall thy strength be.' Very helpfully, the AV details the words (in italics) added to the translation, which give a better 'English' sentence. If we remove the words in italics then sentences can appear less proper. But, equally, they can sometimes render more instruction. If we remove the added words here, we would have, 'as thy days, so thy strength'.

All the promises of God are a resounding 'Yes' to his people, through his son, Jesus. It's as if we can read this promise to Asher and then ask 'Lord, is this promise also to me?' And the answer is always 'Yes', and our response can always be 'Amen, let it be so, Lord' (2 Corinthians 1:20).

Some days of our lives require more strength than others. This is obvious. We are promised the strength needed to get through today, whatever that today is. We are promised that strength today. We aren't promised today's strength yesterday. We aren't promised tomorrow's strength today. If we use us today's strength on tomorrow, then what will we have left?

With our eyes on the kingdom, in the abounding comfort of being 'right' with God, through Jesus, we can serve him today. We can serve others and we can serve ourselves. Serving others is such an important part of the Christian life. But it can be difficult, and it demands our attention, our thought. Our minds need to be 'present'. And what about ourselves? An issue can arise, for Christians, in believing that it is all about serving others. To a great extent, in following the footsteps of Jesus, it should be, and I'm sure we all feel our shortcomings in this area. But what of ourselves? Let's not be neglectful.

The present isolation will present a challenge for many that they have never previously experienced. Each 'today' will require thought about 'today'. We will need structure. We will need to forcibly break things up, perhaps dividing the day into periods of time, and allocating those to different activities. We may have to structure one day so that it is a little bit different from the previous. We may find that we have more opportunity; to fit in Bible reading, to pray, to telephone others. Some will find, with the extra responsibilities and demands upon time that this situation has created, that they have less time. Then, we will have to be very deliberate, I think. And we will have to be mindful; mindful of our own minds. What can I do that is good for my mind? It may be something that wouldn't be our first choice of activity but, nevertheless, is something different, that moves the mind in a different way from the usual.

And what of tomorrow? One thing that may intrude into today is the thought of suffering from this disease at some point in the future. We may be overwhelmed by the unnatural suffering of people in their last hours. The contagious nature of COVID-19 has meant that friends and family cannot visit their loved ones who are seriously ill. How terribly, terribly sad this is. What if I'm to be in this position, and no-one can hold my hand? How gracious is the Lord, who has answered this in his word.

Jesus, when he died, died alone. Truly alone. His friends deserted him in fear, one denying that he had ever known him, another betraying him totally. In the agony of soul and body he cried out to his Father, 'Why have you left me'. We know the answer, and we should be sorrowful. It was because of you, it was because of me. He was alone in his death, because of the awful disease of sin, present in my life, and present in yours. He was alone, let us never forget. But, his 'alone'; his isolation in death, brought about our 'together'. We, as believers, are now united to the Lord, and that forever.

Well did Paul say 'No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.' (Romans 8:37-39)

This should be a great comfort. It is possible that in our weakest moment, our loved ones may be excluded by this cruel, cruel disease. But the Lord will be near. He will hold our hand. He will never leave us. He will never forsake us.

What great things are ours, brothers and sisters. It is all through Christ. He was many things. There were many things that he was, there are many things that he is. But he wasn't a hyprocrite. When he told his followers to take no thought for tomorrow, he did just that. During his life on earth, he had a 'tomorrow' in view, that was truly cruel. In John's account, in the time preceding the death of Jesus, we are given the shortest verse in the whole of scripture. Two words in John 11:35 tell us so much about Jesus in that 'today'. We read 'Jesus wept'. His close friend Lazurus had died, and it was having an impact on other people who Jesus loved dearly. And he cried. He had something there, in his life that day, that was of great significance. What if his attention had been on his own 'tomorrow'? What then about his friends in that 'today'? They would have been neglected. But they weren't.

In the days leading up to his suffering, there were those who lined the streets and shouted ‘Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!' Jesus rode before them, into Jerusalem, for their benefit. What if he had been concentrated on his death in the near future? He knew it was coming. What about the instruction that he gave to the disciples in his last days, what about his words to Peter? If he had been lost in thought of tomorrow, he would not have done these things that were so vital to others around him.

Only when the time arrives does he deal with that awesome day. In Gethsemane, the time had arrived. It was immediately now, and this man, facing the pressure of that day, had sweat 'like drops of blood falling to the ground.' Then he did, but only then. What an example Jesus is to his people. Let us endeavour to follow him.

In Mark's account of the parable of the sower, Jesus tells his disciples about what he meant by the seed that fell among thorns. 'but the worries of this life, the deceitfulness of wealth and the desires for other things come in and choke the word, making it unfruitful. I think the worries of today sometimes have the capacity to choke the word within us. Let's not bring the worries of tomorrow into the mix as well, and so choke it further.

May the Lord give us grace. May he give us the grace our Lord Jesus Christ. Then we will bear fruit. As Jesus says in John 15:8, 'This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.'


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