Search
  • EmmanuelWhiteOak

Fear Not: An Answer to Anxiety


July 31, 2022 | Fear Not: An Answer to Anxiety| Luke 12:32-34

John Cutler

Senior Pastor


(Click here for the sermon audio)


Anxiety...some of you just got some from the title slide.

According to a recent study that studied anxiety in adults between 2008 and 2018, anxiety is on the increase in all adults 18-50, but the largest increase was in young adults from 18-25. There was no noticeable difference between men and women, across racial and ethnic lines, across different income levels. This study is consistent with other studies concerning depression as well. We know scientifically when anxiety increases, it has a negative effect on the body and the mind.

Lack of sleep, poor sleep, increased stress and poorer general health are all results of increased anxiety.


The truth is people are getting more and more anxious, especially those who are coming into adulthood. Now, the reasons are multi-faceted and complex, and beyond the scope of our time this morning. So, I don’t want us to necessarily chase the why this morning, but rather dig into the what.


What is the root of anxiety and specifically, what does it reveal about our relationship with God?


As with all such questions, the best place to begin is with what scripture says concerning it, specifically this morning, what did Jesus teach his disciples about being anxious. We find his instruction on anxiety in a time he had used a question from the crowd to launch into teaching his disciples.


Someone from the crowd asked Jesus to get involved with a family inheritance situation.

Luke 12:13 (ESV) 13 Someone in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.” We looked at this last year in our uncommon series, where we saw that Jesus not only refuses to engage in this situation but takes the opportunity to warn against the dangers of covetousness and shares what we call the parable of the rich fool in Luke 12. Right after he tells the parable, the bible says he turned to his disciples and began teaching them, Therefore, I tell you…

Our scripture today is right in the middle of this instruction time with his disciples. We will pick up in verse 32 of chapter 12.


Scripture-

Luke 12:32-34 (ESV) 32 “Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom. 33 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. 34 For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.


Fear not- frightened (the greek word is where we get our English word phobia)

The question must be asked, what is Jesus telling them not to fear? Which drives us back to where he has been.

If you take your finger in your bible and trace backward from where we are you find in verse 22, (ESV) “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat, nor about your body, what you will put on…with your finger trace back down to verse 28, towards the end of that verse, where we find this O you of little faith! 29 And do not seek what you are to eat and what you are to drink, nor be worried. 30 For all the nations of the world seek after these things, and your Father knows that you need them. 31 Instead, seek his kingdom, and these things will be added to you.


As you can see that brings us right back to our text. Fear not.


Jesus cuts right to the heart of the problem with anxiety over material possessions, which can rightly be applied to anxiety as a whole.

What has so far been addressed as anxiety or worry, Jesus now rightly diagnoses, as only God can, that the real problem is fear in their hearts.


Oversimplification, but for understanding what Jesus is teaching here, this formula is helpful- The first part of the formula is ‘Anxiety is a symptom of fear…’


This is not to say that if you have clinical anxiety or even if you have sought medical help with your anxiety the answer is as simple as that. Studies indicate that there are environmental and developmental factors that can hardwire our brains to react with fear and anxiety.

As someone who has struggled with clinically diagnosed depression, medicine is not to be looked at as a lack of maturity or faith as some faith traditions do.

However, it would be just as much of a disservice to ignore what the bible says about the ability to be transformed by the renewing of our minds.

We do not have to stay stuck in unhealthy thought patterns or behaviors.


But addressing by and large that anxiety, for most of us, is something we have allowed into our minds, hearts, and lives, we turn to what Jesus says about it.

The first thing we find is…


LOVING REASSURANCE

Luke 12:32-34 (ESV) 32 “Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom.


Whenever the bible says Fear not, it is usually followed by a reassurance on why not to be afraid. Jesus follows the same pattern here in a personal, loving, and gentle way. I think the idea of little here is not in the derogatory sense, but in the endearing one. He now gets the attention of this little band of men and women who have chosen to follow him and he says, do not be afraid…


Jesus gives us a foundational truth in response to our largely irrational fear of not having what we need in this life.


The reason I say It’s irrational is because of all the truths Jesus has already shared with his disciples prior to this statement to not fear.

Luke 12:24 (ESV) 24 Consider the ravens: they neither sow nor reap, they have neither storehouse nor barn, and yet God feeds them. Of how much more value are you than the birds! (more valuable to God)

Luke 12:27-28 (ESV) 27 Consider the lilies, 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. 28 But if God so clothes the grass, which is alive in the field today, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, how much more will he clothe you, O you of little faith! (more valuable to God)


This answers one of the root questions of our fear and anxiety 'what if He doesn't care?'


Luke 12:29-30 (ESV) 29 And do not seek what you are to eat and what you are to drink, nor be worried. 30 For all the nations of the world seek after these things, and your Father knows that you need them. (aware of what you need)


This answers one of the root questions of our fear and anxiety 'what if He doesn't know?'


Luke 12:31 (ESV) 31 Instead, seek his kingdom, and these things will be added to you. (he will take care of you)


This answers one of the root questions of our fear and anxiety 'what if He doesn't come through?'


Which is the truth Jesus uses to reassure us when he says fear not, little flock, it is your father’s…

Your father- takes us back to last week and the revolutionary way Jesus told us to think, feel, and address God as our Father. Again, to his disciples he says, God is your father, there is no reason to fear. Not only will he give you the good gift of the Holy Spirit, but he won’t neglect your physical needs either.


Maybe there is still a little bit of fear, and anxiety, if I quit pursuing the things of this world, what if? What if I don’t have enough? What if he forgets about me? What if I fail to live for him as I should?


Jesus lovingly reassures us, it is your Father’s good pleasure.

More than these truths that God values his creation, more than he knows what you need, more than he will provide it based on who he is, it is his good pleasure to do so.


Good pleasure- literally, takes pleasure in, he is willing and wanting

This changes everything for me.


More than these truths that God values his creation, more than he knows what you need, more than he will provide it based on who he is, it is his good pleasure to do so.

Think about when you are hesitant to receive something from someone. You say no thanks, "I’m okay, or I’ll be alright." Maybe they persist for you to take it, and you say, "really, thank you but I couldn’t possibly take it." What is the thing they say that usually ends the back and forth? "I WANT to give it to you." They want you to understand they aren’t doing it out of a sense of obligation or simple goodwill, it is their desire to share with you from what they have.


God provides for his children because he wants to, Jesus seems to imply more than that, it brings him pleasure to do so.


We get this right? How great is it to give a gift to someone you love that they need? In cases like that we know beyond a shadow of a doubt to give is more blessed than to receive. Jesus says, in that moment, we are closer to the heart of the Father than we know. It is his good pleasure to care for you.


So far we have been talking about what we wear and what we eat, but Jesus again digs deeper when he says, Fear not, little flock, it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.


Give you the kingdom-

I think the implication is of course, if he will gladly give you the kingdom then why would we worry about the lesser things of the earth, like what we eat and what we wear? Is there anything greater than the kingdom?


We are reassured that if we seek the kingdom as he says in verse 31, rather than seeking the things of the world, not only will God take care of our needs, he will give us the greater thing that we seek.


What are the things of the kingdom? The acceptance in Christ in the kingdom, the familial care we find in the kingdom of Heaven, the authority of someone who represents the kingdom of heaven, the provision for someone who is in the kingdom of God.


The second thing we see after Jesus lovingly reassures us is what is to be our…

REASONABLE RESPONSE

33 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.


If God values you, if he cares about you, if he knows exactly what you need, and if he delights in it, then you don’t need to hold on to your possessions or worry about whether you have enough. So sell it.

You may be thinking, that doesn't sound reasonable at all.

Sell your possessions- possessions commonly being defined as goods, wealth, property

Our first instinct is to try and lessen the demand of this command, right? To try and soften the requirement behind it.

But we have to deal justly with the text. Jesus uses the present active imperative. You sell your stuff.

Rather than soften it, let’s try and put it in context.

We know Jesus isn’t simply commanding them to liquidate everything for no purpose. He ties this command with another. Give to the needy-those that need mercy and pity.

This is the consistent message of the New Testament. Let’s look at just a few examples.


Beginning with John the Baptist when he was preaching to the crowds.

Luke 3:10-11 (ESV) 10 And the crowds asked him, “What then shall we do?” 11 And he answered them, “Whoever has two tunics is to share with him who has none, and whoever has food is to do likewise.”


And after Jesus’ earthly ministry, two of his disciples continue preaching the same message,

1 John 3:17-18 (ESV) 17 But if anyone has the world's goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God's love abide in him? 18 Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.

James 2:15-16 (ESV) If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, 16 and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that?


The consistent message in the kingdom of God is that if you have more than enough, make sure that those around you in need have enough. We cannot shrink back from this demand, we can not rationalize it away, or lessen it. John says that if we can close our heart off to a brother or sister in need, how can we even claim to have the love of God in us?


But notice what Jesus does here. Far from just issuing a command, he provides motivation to do so.

In emptying your money bags here to care for the needy you are actually producing better moneybags in heaven.

A treasure that Jesus says is longer lasting, more stable, theft-proof, and incorruptible.

There is a saying that you cannot take it with you, that is when you die, none of your treasure goes with you, but here Jesus tells us we can send it on ahead! That we can actually use the resources that God has given us this side of heaven to invest in an eternal treasure.


For the disciple of Christ, this command is reasonable on at least two fronts. One, if God cares for you and will unwaveringly take care of your daily needs, then why wouldn’t you use what you had above and beyond that to be the vessel he uses to provide for others in need around you?


Two, why would you hoard your possessions here where they will fail, rot, and ultimately get left when Jesus calls us to invest in treasure that cannot fail, be devalued, or taken from us?


Reasonable, absolutely, easy, not at all.

When we think about this, we can find our figurative hands clenching in fear around our stuff.


Which is the very picture of anxiety. Clutching what we have in fear that it may run out, that it may not be enough, that we may not get anymore. Which is exactly the kind of mentality Jesus has been encouraging us to abandon.

By lovingly reassuring us that the Father values us, that he cares for us, that he wants to provide for us, he finds delight in it, so relax, don’t fear, open your hands and your heart to care for those around you, confident and trusting that if you seek the kingdom, God will take care of your needs. Then he encourages us that not only can we do this, we should do this because in doing so we are providing ourselves with a much better treasure than anything we could gain this side of heaven. Then he confronts us with a difficult truth.


The third thing we see after Jesus’ loving reassurance and our reasonable response is the

ALARMING REALITY

34 For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.


For- this word is a small but powerful transition as Jesus gets to the heart of the issue of anxiety.

This word could be translated as ‘seeing that’. Jesus says sell your stuff and give to the needy, in doing so you will be storing up a treasure in heaven, and then he closes with this thought. Seeing that where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.

Treasure here is not so much the wealth you store up but rather, where you store that treasure. Your storehouse, treasury, where you deposit your treasures.

This is alarming because if we were to take a hard look at where we are making regular deposits, we are forced to admit that our hearts may not be in the right place.

How much are we sending on ahead and how much are we investing in things that ultimately don’t matter?


What that reveals about us is where we have placed not just our hearts, but ultimately our trust. Are we trusting that God can and will care for us, or do we feel like we have to hoard and amass stuff to take care of ourselves?

Do we ultimately treasure the kingdom of God or setting up our own kingdoms?

Jesus wants to set us free from that because ultimately it will disappoint.


C.S. Lewis sums it up this way in Mere Christianity, “Aim at heaven and you will get earth ‘thrown in’: aim at earth and you will get neither.”


What are you aiming at this morning? When you think about the difficulties of the future, do you rest in the assurance that God will care for you or do you anxiously look to what you can hold, count, and store as your security for tomorrow?

Aim at heaven and you will get earth ‘thrown in’: aim at earth and you will get neither.”

Let’s return to the formula we began in the beginning. ‘Anxiety is a symptom of fear, when we add the second part we see…‘Anxiety is a symptom of fear, and fear is a symptom of a lack of trust.’

This is the alarming reality Jesus paints for us in this instruction.

But rather than hanging your head in shame this morning, or getting mad that the pastor talked about your money, think about how helpful this formula is as a diagnostic tool when we are feeling anxious.

‘Anxiety is a symptom of fear, and fear is a symptom of a lack of trust.’

If anxiety is rooted in fear, what am I afraid of at this moment? Having identified it, what does this fear say about my trust in God? Having identified where I am lacking trust, what Biblical truth or promise directly speaks to this fear?


In addition to Jesus' encouragement this morning, let me share what the Holy Spirit, through the apostle Paul says in his letter to the church at Rome.


Romans 8:31-32 (ESV) 31 What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?


Beloved, if God so loved us that he gave his only son, and we believe that, we trust him for our eternal life, then why would we ever be anxious about what tomorrow brings?


3 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All