An undated sermon note:
Spiritual warfare: Best seen in Matthew 6: 25-34 — the lie that the present is more than it is, that God is not really in control?
This item is a great example of why I’m thrilled to finally be getting around to plowing through two decades worth of sermon notes. It’s not insight I’m looking for: it’s questions.
So think quick: Matthew 6. What text would this be about? Jesus’ temptation by Satan? The casting out of demons into swine? An encounter with Nicodemus, or the woman at the well? Chastising some Pharisees?
Well, no, it couldn’t be any of those, as Matthew 6 is part of the Sermon on the Mount. But what part? I honestly couldn’t remember without looking it up. (I’m slipping since my days of regular teaching!)
Matthew 6:25-34 is Jesus’ teaching about worry:
Do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life? And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that 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, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? So do 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. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.
Great words about worry and fear, yes: but a core text on spiritual warfare? Was I smoking dope?
Last week, my sister Elane posted up a quote on Facebook, attributed to Plato: “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.” I replied, “Ten years ago, I thought that some people live in crisis while others do not. Today I believe that we all live in crisis; some crises are deeper than others, and some people realize their crises while others do not. Plato was, naturally, a sharp dude.”
Whether Plato actually said the words attributed to him or not is beside the point here; but I was certainly onto something several years ago when I wrote that question about Matthew 6:25-34. We doubt, wherefore we struggle… and yet so often we think we doubt because of the struggle of life.
Certainly, I think the answer to my question was “yes.” Failure to trust God is at the core of all spiritual warfare… which leads to another question: In this chicken-and-egg human dilemma of doubt and struggle, how do we break the cycle?
I suggest reflection on the past, rather than absorption in the present. Even non-believing friends, in moments of weakness, can look back over the events of their lives and see a providential hand at work. Look for the pattern of God’s movement in your life, and be encouraged.
God has always intended the events of your past for good… it’s just that the eventual good, especially with regard to the trials of today, may not yet be apparent.