We as followers of Christ living in the United States of America are pulled by a lot of things in life. Depending on our age and where we are in life, how we are pulled could look like many different things. You could be pulled by those around you to be something you’re not or do something you don’t want to do. You could be pulled by the media to look a certain way to impress people you don’t even know. You could be pulled to fit into a certain category to make sure you’re “in” and not “out.” You could also be pulled to make sure you reach a certain level of wealth to be considered “good enough” in our culture. A portion of our culture is even pulling us to not believe in Christ because it’s “stupid” or a “fairy tale” made up to keep people civilized.
We’re all stretched in one way or another and a lot of times it’s easier to go with the flow of everyone else than to be stretched and found to be different. One of my favorite dead theologians, G.K. Chesterton said, “A dead thing goes with the stream, but only a living thing can go against it.” By giving our lives to Christ, we have taken on a new life and put to death the old us. We put to death the sins we were tangled in and all the things that kept us from God when we put on our new lives. Now, that doesn’t mean we never struggle anymore, it just means that they don’t have power over us anymore because Jesus conquered them all.
We are no longer tied to who we used to be because who we used to be died. The Apostle Paul said “Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away, behold, the new has come” (2 Corinthians 5:17). A lot of us are still tied to who we used to be though. We’re pulled by all these forces in our lives and we typically cave because it’s easier.
Since we’re going to be pulled in one way or another, let’s look at being pulled in a different light. Instead of being pulled by outside forces, let’s look at how we can be pulled by God instead.
Being pulled by God isn’t easy by any stretch of the imagination and it’s not something that comes naturally, but it’s where true life is. Since we have new life because of Christ, we see God’s true character toward us and it’s not him just tolerating us until we get our stuff together. God does not regret saving you. He isn’t looking at what you’re struggling with and going, “Man, I wish I would have kept Jesus with me because these people keep getting it wrong.” God does not regret saving you.
That’s something we need to start with as we look at our life and how we can be stretched by God. The first thing I want to talk with you about is something all of us has struggled with at one point in our life: worry. We all have gotten worked up about something in our life and some of us worry probably everyday if we’re being honest.
Maybe you worry about what’s next for you in life. Maybe you worry about paying the bills and making sure your family has what you didn’t have growing up. Maybe you worry about the world your children or grandchildren will live in. You know what worries you.
The part of the bible we’re going to look at comes from the Sermon on the Mount. The Sermon on the Mount is Jesus talking to a lot of people about a lot of different things. Right before our part, Jesus says, “You cannot serve God and money.” And then he starts our part by saying, “Therefore I tell you…”
So since you cannot serve God and money, Jesus says, “25 “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? 26 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?
27 And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? 28 And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, 29 yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 30 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?
31 Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. 33 But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. 34 “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble” (Matthew 6:25-34).
A lot of us know the bible says this. A lot of us probably forget Jesus said this when we’re worrying about something.
Here’s where I want to spend some time: in verse 26 it says, “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?”
I think most of us agree, that yeah, we’re more valuable than the birds. But I think that some of us, if we’re being completely honest, we don’t have that sense of value. We tear ourselves down daily and give our lives no value.
In Genesis 1:26 God says, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness…” We need to get our minds around this idea. God in himself said, “I’m going to create man and woman and they’re going to be in my image.” That’s not just a small concept that means nothing in your life. That’s what God did for you. He created every person reading this right now and every person in the world in his image. So when we look at our value, we need to remember that God created us in his image—that’s not a small deal. We have value.
A lot of us worry about that—we worry about our value. Here’s what I want you to do if you struggle with your value: remind yourself that God created you in his image—remind yourself that God sent Jesus so that you could have eternal life; and that’s you right now. God created you personally in his image.
Jesus says do not worry, but seek first the kingdom of God. I think that’s an idea we’re not familiar with. It’s not looking for the kingdom of God because it’s lost, but seeking the kingdom of God because it’s our life. The kingdom of God is where we are with him and where we go when we enter eternity. So the kingdom of God isn’t just a future thing, but is a thing we experience when we give our lives to Jesus.
So how do we seek first the kingdom of God? The Great Commission. “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:18-20). This may seem like a collection of random ideas put into one article, but look at it this way: As we are pulled by God to do what he calls us to do, we ought not to worry about trivial things, but seek first the kingdom of God. Seeking the kingdom of God can be a daunting task and it may be something you worry about, but the Great Commission is what Jesus left his disciples at the close of Matthew’s gospel. We too are Jesus’ disciples, which means he left us the Great Commission as well. The Great Commission has no bounds—it does not discriminate—it does not hold certain standards for people to meet to hear the gospel—the Great Commission is for “all nations” which means it’s for everyone.
I want to leave you with this: in 2016, be pulled by God to be countercultural with the gospel. The gospel is countercultural, which means it goes against the stream of everyone else—the gospel goes against the mainstream. Jesus left us with many teachings, but if you’re one to worry about your image and how people will accept you, read the last part of the Great Commission again: “And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” No matter what, Jesus will be with you always. Let the gospel pull you into who God is calling you to be and no matter what life may throw at you, he will be with you always, even to the end of the age.
2 Corinthians 5:17 / Matthew 6:25-34 / Genesis 1:26 / Matthew 28:18-20