Why Worry? God’s in Charge!
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Why Worry? God’s in Charge!

Luke 12:22–34  (ID: 2186)

Worry is like telling our omnipotent God the unthinkable: “I don’t trust You.” Yet worry is still a struggle for many who have experienced God’s goodness—even mature believers. Reflecting on Jesus’ words about anxiety, Alistair Begg explains that we can think rightly about our troubles when we view them in light of God’s Word. Only then will we trust our burdens to the One who can truly bear them.

Series Containing This Sermon

Encore 2022

A Collection of Listener Favorites Selected Scriptures Series ID: 25918

A Study in Luke, Volume 8

Signs and Parables along the Way Luke 11:14–14:35 Series ID: 14208

Sermon Transcript: Print

Now we’re going to read from Luke chapter 12, and I invite you to turn there with me, if you would. Luke 12:22:

“Then Jesus said to his disciples: ‘Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat; or about your body, what you will wear. Life is more than food, and the body more than clothes. Consider the ravens: They do not sow or reap, they have no storeroom or barn; yet God feeds them. And how much more valuable you are than birds! Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life? Since you cannot do this very little thing, why do you worry about the rest?

“‘Consider how the lilies grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you, not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today, and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, how much more will he clothe you, O you of little faith! And do not set your heart on what you will eat or drink; do not worry about it. For the pagan world runs after all such things, and your Father knows that you need them. But seek his kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well.

“‘Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom. Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will not be exhausted, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.’”

You keep your Bibles open there as we look at this passage together.

Father, I pray for your help now: the clarity that is necessary in speaking and thinking; the sense of your presence, which we cannot create but we certainly covet; that you will grant brevity with clarity; and that you will open our hearts to receive your truth for Jesus’ sake. Amen.

Jesus here is giving instruction to his disciples. He has addressed the crowd, he’s told the story of the rich fool, and now he says directly to his disciples, “I want to tell you not to worry about your lives.” The word which is used here for “worry,” the root meaning of it means “to divide.” When we worry, when we allow ourselves to go down that road, then we are drawn in different directions. One of the things that happens with worrying is that we are just not exactly sure how we’re placed or where we’re headed. Our thoughts are divided, they become distracted, and it actually has a debilitating effect upon us. It makes it difficult for us to complete even ordinary tasks. And particularly in the matter of discipleship, it prevents the kind of wholehearted devotion which Jesus looks for in those who are his followers.

Worry in its extreme expressions is discovered in certain individuals’ lives when they find themselves almost literally paralyzed by a sense of panic—the kind of thing that may strike like lightning, it comes absolutely without warning and without any apparent explanation, and individuals tell me that they find themselves absolutely neutralized in a moment in time. They may be in circumstances that are very familiar to them. It may be in walking down the ramp to get on a plane. It may be in the course of taking a test. There’s just no explanation for it at all. And this dreadful sense of overwhelming panic seizes their hearts and minds.

The root cause of greediness and worry is the same. They both emerge from a failure to trust God.

That kind of extreme dimension is not generally known, and yet the fact is that worry is something that we all face. Anxiety, fear, is commonplace. And it would seem just from observation that living on the edge of the twenty-first century, there is plenty of cause for worry. In talking with someone this morning, we were remarking on the fact that life is increasingly rootless, and that you ask people where are they from, and they will often have a difficult time telling you where they’re from, because they’re not sure where they’re from. They’ve either been so many places, or where they were was a bad experience, and they don’t want to associate with that; they associate with somewhere else. And what they’re giving testimony to is a sense of disconnectedness. And as more and more communities dissolve in our society, individuals feel, and legitimately so, that they need somehow or another to find means of coping with circumstances that are increasingly bleak. And if you have not encountered this in conversation with others, then you must be moving in a very strange group of individuals.

At the same time, political structures are fragile at best. Violence is not decreasing. People feel themselves increasingly trapped and powerless. And the words of Paul Simon from the sixties ring out with clarity:

No matter if you’re born
To play the king or pawn,
For the line is thinly drawn ’tween joy and sorrow.
[And] so my fantasy
Becomes reality,
And I must be what I must be and face tomorrow.

[And] so I’ll continue to continue to pretend
[That] my life will never end
And [that] flowers never bend
With the rainfall.[1]

In other words, “I will push these notions of anxiety and fear and worry as far back as I possibly can.” And modern society is comprised of individuals who are drifting like corks on the ocean, unsure just what it is that moves them—these deep irresistible currents that they cannot quite explain. And so they laugh at themselves when Trudy the bag lady, created by [Jane] Wagner, given life by Lily Tomlin, stands on the stage of the West End in New York, and as a bag lady, she says, “I worry where tonight fits in the Cosmic Scheme of things. I worry there is no Cosmic Scheme [of] things.”[2]

Now, it is in that context that we live. And as we live in this environment, so we move into this first-century environment. And Jesus, speaking to his disciples in his day, gives them a word which is immediately applicable to them, and surprisingly—or not surprisingly—we find that two thousand years later, it rings out with tremendous clarity. And he’s calling his disciples to do two things: first, to face the facts, and secondly, to put first things first. And I want you simply to notice both those headings with me in the time that I have before we share in the baptisms.

Face the Facts

First of all, then: face the facts.

Now, the underlying fact we saw last time in verse 15, where Jesus, at the end of verse 15, points out to his listeners, “A man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.” In other words, life is not defined by what you have, even when you have a lot. So the idea of saying, “I can make sense of my life by what I’ve provided for myself or what I’m able to show to others that I have”—Jesus says that’s a bad idea to think that way. Because your existence, your soul, the part of you that lives forever, is not actually identified and made sense of by means of these materials things. And it is in light of that principle there—that fact in verse 15, “A man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions”—that Jesus has first of all warned his disciples against greed and covetousness, and now he flips to the other side, and he says, “Therefore…” “Then Jesus said to his disciples: ‘Therefore…’” In other words, “In light of what I’ve been saying to you, you shouldn’t be greedy, and let me turn it over the other way and say to you, ‘And you shouldn’t worry.’” Because the root cause of greediness and worry is the same. They both emerge from a failure to trust God. And the connection is clear. Since life does not depend upon stuff, Jesus says it’s a dumb idea to worry about stuff.

Secondly, he makes it clear—and this is the second fact. Fact one: our lives do not consist in the abundance of our possessions. Fact two: worry is a fact of life. Worry is a fact of life—and not just for the pagan world but for the believer also. Jesus is not here addressing a theoretical situation. He’s not giving them extraneous instruction. He’s not telling them about something that they don’t know anything of. And so in verse 22, he says, “Do not worry.” In verse 25, he says, “Does worrying work?” In verse 26, he says, “Why do you worry?”

Now, that ought to be an immediate encouragement to some of us, who have been tyrannizing ourselves because of the fact that we worry, and we decided that if you were a genuine Christian, you wouldn’t worry at all. Here, Jesus is speaking to those who actually live with him, sleep with him, listen to him, and he says, “I’ve got to talk to you about something here: I want to talk to you about the problem of worry”—not something that is unknown to them; something that is experienced by them.

Now, we find the same all the way through the New Testament. Paul, when he writes to the Philippians—remember what he says to them in Philippians 4:6? “Don’t worry about anything.”[3] When Peter writes to the scattered believers of his day, he says, “I want you to cast all of your anxieties, all of your worries, all of your concerns, upon God, who cares for you.”[4] The psalmist is honest enough to make frequent reference to both fear and anxiety. And his assertion is not “I never struggle with fear.” Rather, Psalm 56:3: “When I am afraid, I put my trust in you.”[5] Okay? So he’s not saying that I don’t know what it is to be afraid, I don’t know what it is to be anxious, I don’t know what it is to worry. But instead of the Bible assuming that Christ’s followers will have no worries, it tells us how to deal with them when they threaten to undo us.

Now, the way in which Jesus does this is very straightforward: he issues a call to his disciples to think. That’s the significance of the word “consider”—the verb at the beginning of verse 24 and again at the beginning of verse 27: “Consider the ravens,” and “Consider all of these lovely flowers,” he says. Now, the word “consider” means “look, pay attention, perceive, think it out.” And so he provides them with facts in order that they might then order their thinking on the basis of what is true. Most of our worries have to do with allowing our minds to be ordered by thinking that is untrue. I think it was Mark Twain who said, “I have had many troubles in my life. Most of them I have never experienced.” You die a thousand deaths in fearing one.

Fact number three—and I’m simply reiterating the text: “Since God created your life and your body,” says Jesus, “and since your life and your body are more significant than food and clothes, you ought to recognize that having given you a body, he’s not going to fail to clothe it or to feed it!” “Think it out!” he says. “If the Creator went to the extent of making you so that you could live life, do you think having made you, he would then drop out at the point where you needed food and clothes?” It’s so straightforward even a child would answer.

Jesus provides the disciples with facts in order that they might then order their thinking on the basis of what is true. Most of our worries have to do with allowing our minds to be ordered by thinking that is untrue.

Fourthly, he says, “God looks after the birds, and you’re more valuable than birds”—verse 24. Remember, I’ve suggested to you in the past, you may want to put that on your CV. The next time you’re suggesting the significance that you have for somebody who’s trying to employ you, don’t forget to put in Luke 12:24b: “I am much more valuable than birds.” I can guarantee you it’ll probably get you a callback, just so that somebody can ask, “What in the world is that about?” It may be the key to you getting a job. You never know. Write to me and tell me if you’re successful. But certainly, if you put that on an application that you were sending to me—what have you done in your life, and where are your degrees, and where have been, and said, “PS: I am much more valuable than birds”—I’d either throw it in the trash, or I’d phone you up immediately and say, “What’s your problem?”

Fifthly, he says, “You can’t add height,” or “time,” “to your life.” There is some question as to whether the NIV translates it correctly or the King James translates it correctly, or just who translates it correctly. Some translate it as a time reference; others translate it as a height reference. It works either way. “Which of you by worrying can grow to the size of Michael Jordan?” Any child can answer it: none. “Which of you by worrying can extend the length of your life?” Answer: none. Some old fellow once said that worry is like sitting in a rocking chair: it gives you something to do, but it won’t get you anywhere at all. That’s the point that Jesus is making.

Sixthly, he says, “Despite the brief life span of flowers”—we’re in verse 27 now—“despite the brief life span of flowers, God still makes them absolutely beautiful, and so he’s going to take care of you as well.” Isn’t that one of the great sadnesses of flowers? You wish you could keep them forever! Someone gives you beautiful flowers, and you know that as soon as you put them in a vase, it’s going to be only days before you have to take them out and throw them away again. It’s a tremendous effort on the part of the Creator, is it not, to create such phenomenal beauty that is going to have such a transient, fleeting time before our gaze! And Jesus says, “Think about it. You look out, and you see the flowers, and they’re absolutely beautiful. The ten best-dressed people in the universe couldn’t even come close to looking as wonderful as these flowers do. God makes the flowers absolutely beautiful. Do you think he’s not going to give you what you need?”

Seventhly, he points out that the root of worry is the absence of trust. At the end of verse 28, one little phrase: “O you of little faith!” You see, when the disciples worried, what they were saying was “God, you can’t be trusted in this situation.” That’s what worry really is. “God, you cannot be trusted in this situation.” And there are many places to which we might turn. The most obvious that will come to many of your minds is when they are on the boat in the middle of the lake. The storm comes. Jesus is asleep in the stern. He’s on a pillow. They wake him up to inform the creator of the universe that we’re all about to drown, including him. And Jesus stands up, and he rebukes the winds and the waves, there is an immediate calm, and they look at one another, and they say, “What manner of man is this, that even the winds and the [waves] obey him!”[6]

Now, when troubles overwhelm us—when circumstances emerge in our lives as we follow Christ—in many of these circumstances, we cannot routinely get out of them or get rid of them. Right? I mean the circumstance itself. Let’s say it’s illness. Let’s say it is a bad working situation. Let’s say it’s a breakdown in a precious relationship or a friendship. And the circumstance itself we cannot extricate ourselves from; it is clear that we’re going to have to experience the circumstance. The issue is not getting out of or getting rid of that which troubles me, but what we can and ought to get rid of is the worry that accompanies the circumstance. And that is what Jesus is pointing out.

Now, may I just say in passing something I’ve noticed? And this is just an observation in passing, for what it’s worth. And I’m not sure I can even substantiate this from the Bible, so I’m really going out on a limb. I actually think that some of our worries are so childish and so selfish and such a product of luxury that, far from taking the time and taking God’s time to cast them upon him, we ought simply to banish them from our hearts.

You will have experienced this if you have ever traveled in third-world countries. When you find yourself in the heart, for example, of Liberia, miles and miles away from any kind of electricity or any kind of roadways, in a circumstance where it is mud and corrugated roofs, where it is just abject chaos and frustration in comparison to all that we know here—people who are walking miles just to get water, people who are getting bamboo out of the jungles in order to make jacks to bring up their car so that they can change a tire, people who have to walk to the Firestone factory for seventeen miles with a puncture, you know—they don’t have any time for some of our luxurious, narcissistic worries. I mean, they just don’t have enough time in the day to worry about whether the wallpaper goes all the way to the ceiling or not. They don’t have enough time to worry about whether the left shoe matches the right shoe or whether my hair is the right way it’s supposed to be for this most significant occasion.

And when you hear some of us talk about the things that we’re oh-so worried about, you say, “I’m not sure I would go to God with that one.” I think you ought to get rid of that before ever you start your prayer time. Sure, we can go to him with everything, but that doesn’t mean we should. He’s a gracious God, and he can tolerate all sorts of stuff, but I think there’s a lot of stuff we need to nip in the bud. “Oh, I’m so worried as I think about this and I think about that. My kitchen tile, you know—it’s just not coming in the way I expected it to.” Fine.

Now, you’re sensible people. You need to face the facts yourself. All he’s doing here is iterating these facts. So he’s saying to them, “I want you to consider these things and think it out. Face the facts.”

Put First Things First

And then he says, “Put first things first.” First things first.

Verse 31, the principle: “Seek his kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well.” We might paraphrase it by saying, “You take care of my things, and I’ll take care of your things.” In other words, let us give up on the side of fear, and let’s move into the realm of faith. Let us recognize that God is capable for all of our circumstances, and don’t let’s allow ourselves to be so proud as to assume that we’ve actually found something here that God is unable to cope with.

Now, you see, this is the absolute reverse of the contemporary approach to the problem of worry. If you listen to contemporary psychology and its attempts at dealing with worry, if you listen to people talk in our communities and simply listen as you are overhearing people in the airport, you hear this kind of thing: “You know, I’m really anxious about this, and I’m anxious about that. There doesn’t seem to be very much around me that provides a secure foothold. There’s nothing that’s really external to me that I can lay hold of and lean upon,” these people are essentially saying. “And so I’ve decided that I will trust the only one that I can trust, and I will take refuge in the only one in whom I can take refuge.” And who’s that? “Myself.”

You doubt it?

For what is a man, what has he got?
If not himself, then he has naught
To say the things he truly feels,
And not the [voice] of one who [yields].
The record shows I took the blows.
[I] did it my way.[7]

That is as classic a mantra of the bridge between the twentieth and the twenty-first century as any that is expressive of our culture.

And so you’ve got all these people paralyzed by fear, anxious about life, rootless in their geography, disparate in their relationships, and when it all crumbles around them, the psychologists tell them, “The only retreat you have is: run into yourself.” And since they sleep with themselves, they know what a horrible suggestion that is. Because the same self into which they’re supposed to crawl is the self that wakes them up in the night. And they lie looking up at the ceiling, overwhelmed by the circumstances of their days.

And so Jesus does the absolute reverse—says, “Look away from yourself. Seek first the kingdom.” In other words, bow before the King, Jesus. Acknowledge that he is sovereign over the affairs of time, that he is Master over our destiny, that “he knows [our] name[s],” that “he sees each tear that falls,” that “he hears [us] when [we] call.”[8]

Now, you see, this is so very important when we’re thinking about witnessing to our neighbors and friends as well. When our friends and neighbors give expression to their worries and to their fears, I hope none of us are smarty-pants enough or smug enough or silly enough to suggest that we know nothing of what they’re describing. Right? So the person says, “You know, I’m so anxious about this,” and we say, “Oh, anxious, are you? Oh, that’s a dreadful thing, anxiety. No, no, I’m not anxious.” Someone says, “I’m so worried about my appointment tomorrow.” Say, “Worried? I can’t believe you’re worried. You know, if you were like me, you wouldn’t worry. If you knew Luke 12, you wouldn’t worry. No. If you knew 1 Peter 5:7, you wouldn’t worry.” And so it goes on. And it’s absolutely no help at all to the person. Because, first of all, they’ve concluded that we don’t know what we’re talking about—that we’re not even living in the real world, that we’ve never had an experience that rocked us back on our heels, and that somehow or another, we are immune to the rigors of life.

That is not Christianity! That is falsehood! There isn’t a single person in this room tonight can stand up and say they know nothing about worry. Everybody knows what it is to worry. Everybody knows what it is to be fearful. Everybody knows what it is to be anxious. That’s why Jesus has to teach his disciples about the subject! If it was alien to them, then why would he give them instructions about not worrying, and ask them what is the profit in worrying, and suggest to them that they take a course in looking out on the universe and realizing the fatherly care of God?

When you’re driving down the road—and it’s coming very soon. In fact, before you get driving down the road in a matter of days from now, probably, we will have the traditional chilling, cutting experience of going out to our cars and saying, “Oh no! Here we go,” and saying, “I should have listened to my wife when she said, ‘Put the scraper in the boot. Put the scraper in the trunk. One of these days you’re going to need it.’” And I said, “Not yet. I don’t need it.” And then I’m out there with a credit card, scraping the windscreen like a strange man to get all of the ice off. And then the second thing is, I should have paid attention when she said, “Now, don’t drive past the BP again. Get some of that blue stuff in the bottle.” And we said, “Oh, the blue stuff in the bottle! There’s plenty of time for that.” And so now we’re down to our fingernails scraping the windscreen. Now we have no blue stuff in the bottle. Now we start off on the street. Now we start the windscreen wipers going. The windscreen wipers simply move the ice around a little bit, and then they get a fiendishly impervious little piece, and they just go rat-tat-tat-tat-tat-tat-tat, and it annoys you like fury, and you want to get out at the traffic lights, but you can’t time it enough to run out and scrape it and then get back in, and so it just is there, and it says, “Na-na-na-na-na-na! Na-na-na-na-na-na!”

Right, I know you’ve got this picture now. Okay. This is a metaphor. When the windscreen of our life ices up, thus making it difficult for us to see and to make forward progress and to prevent ourselves from hazard and disaster, we need to say to our neighbors and friends not “Our windscreen never iced up.” That’s not true. We need to be able to tell them about what we have learned about God in his Word so as we have a methodology for dealing with the iced-up windscreen. And what is it? Well, it is actually the solvent of the Word of God itself. And it is the work of the Spirit of God to bring the solvent of the Word of God into the iced-up windscreen of our lives.

So when our friends ask a reason for the hope that we have—when we’ve been honest enough to tell them that when we sat in the doctor’s office, and he went out into the corridor, taking the pathology report, and we knew that he was talking to one of his colleagues, and we wished we could hear out the door, but we were frightened to open it, and we were pretty sure that if we opened it, we wouldn’t know what he was saying in any case—that we were honest enough to say to our friends, “That scared me spitless. I stood in that room, and I looked out the window, and I imagined that there was no tomorrow.”

And the friend then says to us, “So what did you do at that point?”

“I skooshed the windscreen.”

“With what?”

“With the Word of God. I reminded myself, ‘God, you are sovereign in this circumstance. God, you know this report. God, you walked this earth in Jesus.’”

Now, I want to suggest to you, loved ones, that this will give us great credibility, then, in speaking to our friends. Because what they don’t need to know is that we’ve never had the windscreen ice up. They need to know that we have, but they don’t know about the solvent. And what we need to tell them is about the cross of the Lord Jesus Christ. That’s actually where we go. Because it is the cross which ultimately arrests my fears. Because my greatest sense of worry is what? And what is theirs, although they don’t know it? It is the fact that God has set eternity in my heart, and I know that I’m going to live forever somewhere, and I know that I have an appointment with the living God, and I’m pretty dead certain that if the appointment was tonight, I won’t be able to face the appointment. I’ll have to go to it, and I’ll have nothing to say. That’s why I feel alienated. That’s why I feel disconnected. That’s why I can’t make sense of the jigsaw. That’s why I look up at the ceiling and wonder!

Instead of a bunch of silly stuff, you know—platitudes and pious kind of statements and little notes, quotes, and anecdotes—take them the only place that’s worth taking them. Take them to the cross! You say, “Well, why would I go to the cross?” Because you need a Savior! You see, your alienation and your sense of rootlessness is actually because there is a rootlessness that comes as a result of our being disconnected from God, who made us.

It is the cross which ultimately arrests my fears, because my greatest sense of worry is the fact that God has set eternity in my heart, and I know that I have an appointment with the living God.

And our friend says, “Well, I never understood that.”

You say, “No, I know you didn’t. I didn’t myself.” And then you just go through the material from this morning: the historical Jesus, the theological significance, the offer of forgiveness and a fresh new start and a brand-new power and a whole new life and a heart transplant.

And the person says, “Well, does that mean you never worry anymore?”

“No,” says, “oh no, you still worry.” But the difference now is you understand that worry, at its base, is a sinful failure to trust our Father. It is futile. It is unnecessary. It is debilitating. But it is normal. And therefore, we need to go to him.

So, we tell them that the Christian life is not a life free from worry, but when we ice up, then we turn to the solvency of God’s truth.

Let me tell you how I do it—and I’ll just give you these, and I’m going to wrap it up.

When I’m worried about my complete sense of weakness, I squirt on 2 Corinthians 12:9. You’re all looking now for 2 Corinthians 12:9, right? That’s fine. That’s your homework. “My grace is sufficient for you, for my [strength] is made perfect in weakness.” So, paralyzed by the worry—“I won’t be able to cope, I won’t be able to do this, I’m not capable of this”—squirt on the solvent.

When I’m worried about my preaching being absolutely useless and amounting to nothing as you go Sunday by Sunday by Sunday and think to yourself that the only reason you’re still in the ministry is because otherwise you’re completely unemployable, I squirt on the solvents of Isaiah 55:11: that it is the Word of God which never returns empty but always accomplishes the purpose that he has established for it. And I give myself a kick in the seat of the pants for ever intruding in the process, as if somehow or another I was significant in it.

When I am worried about dying, I squirt on the solvency of Romans 14, and I remind myself that I don’t live to myself, and I don’t die to myself.[9] And I squirt on the solvency of Romans 8, and there’s neither death nor life, nor angels nor demons, nor principalities nor powers, nor nakedness nor peril nor sword can separate me from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.[10] And so I say, “Okay, let’s take all that I’m feeling over here, and let’s counterbalance it with all the weight of the wonder of the solvency of this.”

When I’m worried about making shipwreck of my faith, then I squirt on the solvent of Philippians 1:6: “I am confident that he who has begun a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.”[11]

You see, that’s a lot more sensible approach, I suggest to you, than this silly nonsense about “Somehow, we live above it all”—you know, that “No, we don’t experience this. Oh, icing up? No, we don’t ice up.” That kind of repression will put you in a home, where they turn the door on you, and you stay in there for a long time.

The perspective is wonderful. That’s why he moves and he says—verse 32—“Do[n’t] be afraid, little flock,” he says. So gentle, isn’t it? The kind of words of a shepherd. He looks at this group, and he says, “You know, you don’t look like much, I know. You’re just a little flock. You’re just a wee group of guys. Don’t be afraid, little flock,” he says. “I know you look apparently ineffective. The Father’s plans for you are glorious! So instead of hoarding and coveting and being like the guy in the parable I just told you—instead of worrying about whether you’ve got enough, or if you move it on, if you can keep enough, or what you do with your stuff,” he says, “instead of doing that, don’t hoard; give. Be prepared to be outlandish in your generosity. Sell stuff as it seems necessary. Give it to the poor. Get a bank you can bank on. Put your treasure in that bank. Because the place where your treasure is, is the place where you’ll most want to be, and it’s actually the place where you’re going to end up.”

Face the facts. First things first, seeking his kingdom. I don’t have time to unpack that for you, but I’ll tell you this—and with this I draw to a close: if I’m going to seek the kingdom of God, I’m seeking God’s control over every aspect of my life. God is not interested, Christ is not interested in becoming second in command in your army. He’s not interested in copartnership in a duplex. He’s not interested in riding in the back seat of the car of your life. He is King and Lord and seeks the throne of your heart. And one of the reasons for worry in my life is when I am tempted to retake areas of my existence back into my own domain. And sometimes it’s almost as if he lets me so that he can say to me again, “You see what a dumb idea that is? Now let me sit back up here where I should be.” Seeking God’s control over me and seeking God’s character in me.

Wilbur Chapman on one occasion was in London. He wanted to go and meet William Booth of the Salvation Army—the man who founded the Salvation Army—because he had seen the tremendous impact of the Salvation Army. And he wanted to ask Booth one question, and he did. He asked him, he said, “William Booth, what is the secret of your impact and your influence?” And he recounts how as Booth began to reply, tears began to form in his eyes. And he said to Chapman, “I will tell you what the secret is: God has had all of me. There have been men with greater brains, men with greater opportunities, but from the day I got the poor of London on my heart and a vision of what Christ could do with these men, I made up my mind that God would have all of William Booth there was.” Have you made up your mind that God will have all of you that there is? “If there is anything of power in the Salvation Army today,” he said, “it is because God has all the adoration of my heart, God has all the power of my will, God has all the influence of my life.”[12]

All your anxiety[ies], all your care,
Bring to the mercy seat [and] leave [them] there,
Never a burden he cannot bear,
[And] never a friend like Jesus![13]

And though our sins be as scarlet, he’ll make them white as snow. Though they are red like crimson, they will be as wool.[14] He’ll press the Delete key and eradicate from our record everything that holds us in tyranny, not letting us off but bearing our punishment in order that we may go free.

Face the facts. Put first things first.

Father, out of an abundance of words we pray that we might hear your Word. We pray that you will simply confirm what you’ve been saying to us throughout the hours of this day and, if it please you, that you will add to your church those who are being saved. In Christ’s name. Amen.

[1] Paul Simon, “Flowers Never Bend with the Rainfall” (1966).

[2] Jane Wagner, The Search for Signs of Intelligent Life in the Universe (New York: Harper and Row, 1986), 26.

[3] Philippians 4:6 (paraphrased).

[4] 1 Peter 5:7 (paraphrased).

[5] Psalm 56:3 (NIV 1984). Emphasis added.

[6] Matthew 8:27 (KJV).

[7] Paul Anka, “My Way” (1969).

[8] Tommy Walker, “He Knows My Name” (1996).

[9] See Romans 14:7–8.

[10] See Romans 8:35, 37–39.

[11] Philippians 1:6 (paraphrased).

[12] See, for instance, “General Booth’s Secret,” Christian Advocate 72, no. 15 (1911): 15.

[13] Edward H. Joy, “All Your Anxiety” (1920).

[14] See Isaiah 1:18.

Copyright © 2024, Alistair Begg. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations for sermons preached on or after November 6, 2011 are taken from The ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

For sermons preached before November 6, 2011, unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are taken from The Holy Bible, New International Version® (NIV®), copyright © 1973 1978 1984 by Biblica, Inc.TM Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Alistair Begg
Alistair Begg is Senior Pastor at Parkside Church in Cleveland, Ohio, and the Bible teacher on Truth For Life, which is heard on the radio and online around the world.