Conditions of entry

Father’s day - I didn’t have a great relationship with my dad growing up. One of my Aunties told me when I was like 4 or 5, she would let me sit on her lap in the car and let me help her steer - these are things you could do in the 80’s - and one time when we were coming into the driveway she tells me that I asked if we could run my dad over… I don’t know if that says something about me as a kid or about the relationship my dad and I had even back then. 

Things eventually got so rough between us that I moved out at 19 and there was a time we treated each other as if the other person didn’t exist. As I reflect back, I think it was a case of the two of us being too similar in nature and wanting very different things in life! Creating big clashes! We’d fight over the silliest things, neither of us wanting to budge on the issue. The majority of the time I felt like he didn’t care for the person inside, while he was feeling I didn’t care for him because of the way I acted on the outside. It was a real clash, we went through some hard years, it had a big effect on my life and I know it affected my dad too. 

Fathers play a huge role in the lives of their children, it’s our great and scary privilege and responsibility. Studies have shown the immensely positive and negative affects a present, involved, loving father can be on a child’s formation compared with a distant unloving one. 

Now some of us have outstanding fathers and that’s a great gift! But we live in a broken world and I recognise some of our fathers passed away earlier than they should have. Some of our fathers left us sooner than they should have and some we wished would have left sooner and some of us have not been the kind of father we know we should have been.

Sin and brokenness have affected fatherhood on earth in many ways but today I want to lift our eyes above our earthy fathers, and I want to let the bible encourage our hearts with the reality of our God who has been an ever-present, all-loving, all-wise father to each and every one of us. 

No matter what your relationship has been to your own earthly dad, our relationship with our heavenly dad is the one that ultimately defines and shapes who we are! 

In the classic book - knowing God, Jim Packer lays out what he thinks a Christian is… he writes:  “What is a Christian?” (How would you answer that question?). 

“The richest answer I know is that a Christian is someone who knows God as their father. If you want to judge how well a person understands Christianity, find out how much they make of the thought of being God’s child, and having God as their father. If this is not the thought that prompts and controls their worship and prayers and their whole outlook on life, it means that they do not understand Christianity very well at all.” 

And my hope is that today we’ll see how having God as our father positively affects our lives in every way, especially in these strange times we’re in right now. So, what does it look like? 

“Therefore I tell you, 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? ~Matthew 6:25 (NIV)

Don’t worry! - a phrase every worried person loves to hear. Notice, Jesus starts this section with 'Therefore' He’s just been teaching a big crowd about what it means to have a father in heaven who sees and knows every aspect of their lives and one of the benefits of that he says is not to be consumed with worry. Worry is interesting isn’t it? interesting what worry does to us, it can be helpful at times when it creates helpful action but at other times, it’s just annoying, it can be really frustrating and debilitating! Worry causes us to narrow our vision, to get focused in on a problem, less able to think of the bigger picture, and usually push others away and isolate or we treat others poorly as we try to remove them to focus on our worry. 

It’s not like there aren’t things to worry about! I mean from Covid fears to vaccine decisions to people losing their jobs, wondering where their next meals might come from to mental health issues on the rise. Terrorism tearing through Afghanistan! Worrying about the needs of our families, will our kids make it through the year of homeschooling. Worry seems pretty normal right now. It’s very hard to keep our heads out of the tunnel of worry! 

I don’t know the things worrying you at the moment but Jesus takes us straight to the big things here in verse 25: Don’t worry about your life… what will keep you alive… He names food and drink… he’s not talking about items for a party… food and drink are things that fuel us, things that keep us alive/going… the sources of life… I mean it seems counter-intuitive but he’s saying don’t be consumed with worry over what’s going to keep you living…  then he goes to our bodies - what we’ll clothe them with, again, this isn’t about a decision to shop at the Salvos instead of buying new expensive apparel… a new pair of Nike’s, it’s a question about what we think our bodies are for and what’s really on display for others… Jesus says our bodies are more than, or for more than clothes… so let that worry go…  

We’re going to think about each of those things. Our lives and our bodies… There’s a link here between our lives and bodies, and God’s kingdom and righteousness… See if you can work out the link as we go… Let’s think about it… Where is life found? And…  What are our bodies for? 

If you consult YouTube you’ll find over a million food channels telling you how much food is life and I’m sure they’ve helped a lot of people in lockdown but I’m also sure they won’t have the recipe to life’s bigger questions… what is life and what am I for? In the ancient world and even in many places today - food can be scarce - and the rain falling for the crops to grow relies heavily upon the Lord of the harvest who sends rain. Unlike us with our Uber eats phone apps, they really experience their life’s dependance upon God for their daily food so there often is a contrast between trust and worry. Worry that their father in heaven won’t sustain them. And we can feel a similar thing when we’re stuck in a really tough scenario where we feel like we don’t know if we’ll get through this, we can’t see a way out, no light and no way forward, feeling like God has forgotten us but look at how Jesus encourages us.

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? ~Matthew 6:26 (NIV)

Birds aren’t made in the image of God, nor are promised eternal life, yet God provides what they need to live. 

We’ve been reading this book with our kids recently, it’s about some birds who are watching these humans in different scenarios in their life. And the birds are getting amazed and confused at how much these humans are getting stressed in their businesses, or in their lives, and they’re cutting corners, and making all kinds of bad decisions because they don’t know they’ve got a father in heaven who cares for them just like he cares for these birds… they don’t understand… 

And then at the end of the book the birds see a big group of people and they’re all a bit down… and then it shows Jesus in the middle of the group and he says to them all: “Look at these birds… they don’t run businesses or work, but your father feeds them, how much more valuable are you to your father in heaven!? Your life and your bodies are about much more than food and clothes… And then the birds say - HOORAY! They really do have a father in heaven who cares for them! 

If only we’d stop thinking we could find our life, our security, our meaning in something else other than God. And he’s not just talking about food and drink and life’s essentials, it’s not about having enough toilet paper, He’s pressing in to the things we think will give our life significance, worth, meaning and sustenance. What are those things for you? The things you feel like you couldn’t live without?? What would other people notice you couldn’t live without? What is it in your life that you feel if I have this or that I’ll be ok and I’ll get through another day? 

Whatever it might be, Jesus strips worrying about it right out from under our feet! 

Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life? ~Matthew 6:27 (NIV)

It’s painfully true, what benefit is there to worrying? This really gets to what Jesus is trying to say about life. Where is life truly found? 

When I was a personal trainer we used to go to seminar after seminar on the latest trends in healthy eating and exercise and mind-body relationship stuff and every new guru thought they’d found the key to a longer life! It was all about extending and improving life and I had this line I’d keep saying to people “live well, eat healthy, exercise, die anyway” - it was inevitable! They could try to extend it as long as they like, but it was always coming to an end, an end they couldn’t control! 

It was a reality check for a community who felt like they could control every aspect of their lives to essentially live forever but just as Jesus says, food and drink can never sustain life eternally because the very essence of life is only truly found in God… he holds it in his hands!! Of course, health & fitness have their benefits, but worrying about food or any other earthly thing because we think that’ll secure us in life is ultimately futile. 

Earlier in Matthew when Jesus was being tempted by Satan to forget God and use his power to turn stones into bread to feed his hunger he said “Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.” Our lives are upheld and carried through by God. Worrying just wastes 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. ~Matthew 6:28-29 (NIV)

Solomon was the son of King David around 1000BC, if you want to read about him look at 1 Kings 10. He was by far the richest man who had ever lived up to that point in history and long after him… He had whole towns to store his animals and almost everything in his palace was made of pure gold. In 1 Kings 10:27 it says King Solomon made silver as common as stones, it says he didn’t bother using silver in the palace because it was of little value in Solomon’s day.  

And He would have been dressed up to display the wealth of his kingdom with gold all over him, just dazzling! I’d say, probably more majestic than you or I have or will ever dress in our lifetimes but Jesus says he had nothing on flowers… 

What does he even mean? Look at verse 30

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? ~Matthew 6:30 (NIV)

Notice what flowers are clothes for, what does God clothe with flowers? grass, which is here today and gone tomorrow. God grows flowers, in all their beauty to brighten up the grass and friends, what Jesus is saying is - God clothes us, to brighten up a dark world, not with clothes, but with the light of Christ! With Righteousness! That’s what our bodies are for, that’s what the more than clothes means.

We are made in the image of God, and called by our Father in heaven to display the glory of Christ to the world around us! Not in the way we dress, but by the way we act!! Just before this little section, Jesus told the crowd - you who come to me.   

“You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead, they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven. ~Matthew 5:14-16 (NIV)

When Jesus went to the cross, he not only stood in our place of punishment and got from his father what we deserved! But he also gave to us his perfect righteousness! It was a complete transfer and substitute! Our sin, for his righteousness. So for us who believe in Jesus, and have accepted him as our Lord and saviour, God clothes us with Jesus. That’s the privilege we have as his children. When God looks at us, he doesn’t look at us with anger, or disappointment, but with full acceptance, with the same love he has for his own perfect son, Jesus Christ. He has clothed us in his righteousness to display His glory to our world as we seek his kingdom above all else!

So Jesus is saying, if that’s what our bodies are for, living out his righteousness, will God not give us all we need to display that beauty, like bright shining stars in a world of darkness! 

Daniel saw this future reality coming when he wrote -  

Those who are wise will shine like the brightness of the heavens, and those who lead many to righteousness, like the stars for ever and ever. ~Daniel 12:3 (NIV)

And Paul said: 

for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose. Do everything without grumbling or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, “children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.” Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky as you hold firmly to the word of life. ~Philippians 2:13-16 (NIV)

Isn’t that a timely word for us! Unlike worry which isolates and pushes others away as it tunnel visions, seeking God’s kingdom and righteousness displays the bigger picture and draws others in, it brings others along with us! This is a very important word for us as a church at the moment in a world that is continually feeling polarising! 

Did you know that the clothing industry brings in around 2 trillion dollars each year? Jesus is saying, what you can do for the world around you in Jesus name, for your father’s glory is worth far more than trillions of dollars!! And so he says: 

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. ~Matthew 6:31-33 (NIV)

The point is, we waste our lives with worry about the wrong things! We seek after earthly security and affirmation while our Heavenly Father knows us completely and knows what we need, and as he calls us to seek his kingdom, he promises to actively provide all we need to do that! Hand over your worries to him! Who is far more able to manage them than us…  

Cast all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you. ~1 Peter 5:7 (NIV)

The other day while I was sitting working on this talk, I was listening to a Whitney Houston song, yeah, I said Whitney Houston, and there was a line in the song that really got me..

One of the verses goes - If I woke up in world war 3 and I see destruction and poverty and I feel like I want to go home…

And it just really struck me, I think that’s what we’re all feeling at the moment, I just want to go home, I want to go back to when things were normal, when even home felt like home. It’s that feeling of being away from home for a while and just wanting to be back in our comfortable space.

But then I thought, whatever happens, even if we don’t get to get back to that situation, wherever we are, whatever state we’re in, we’re always at home with God! And we can know for sure that our father in heaven is walking with us, holding our hand tightly in his, as we walk together through this messy time. He’s never let us go! And he will lead us all the way into eternal life where we are very safe and sound. 

Worry isn’t something he asks of us but trust. In such a time as this, we need to turn our panic into prayer and entrust ourselves to our capable Dad. 

I’m a dad of 2, Micah is almost 3 and Hazel is 1 and I just absolutely love them! I love watching them, I love teaching them, I love their cheeky grins and their little cuddles. I love when they annoy me and try to type on my computer when I’m trying to write a sermon, I love their confidence to try to pull away from my hand when we cross a road as I’m tightly holding onto them! I have such a strong desire for them, that I want the very best for them in every way possible in life but I know I can’t control that and I know I’ll fail them in many ways as they grow.

But If that’s the desire of an imperfect, flawed man than how much more does our father in heaven have our best interests in mind as he watches us grow through life? 

It’s not that God is going to provide us with a big forcefield that stops every bad thing happening to us. He doesn’t promise us an easy road! The Christian life comes with suffering and hardships just like our Lord Jesus faced, but he assures us he’ll be with us as we travel that road and assures us he’ll carry us home! 

What we’re promised is in every single moment of every single day, there is a loving, gracious father in heaven who’s with us by His Spirit, growing us, shaping us, guiding us, caring for us in ways that we may never see until we meet him face to face in eternity…but because of that reality, we can be sure that worry is not something we need to add to our character traits. 

All those who have put their faith in Jesus, have been adopted as children of God. And as a child of God, you have every privilege our Lord Jesus had! Just as he prayed - Father, thank you that you hear me, I know that you always hear me… and he does… 

Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. ~Matthew 6:34 (NIV)

And so the word for us today is…Trust your Heavenly Father, hold on to the hope of eternal life, and live out His righteousness in the opportunities God has provided for us this day. 

What are some things you could do, even in lockdown that will bring a smile to your father’s face? 

Already I’ve heard of people getting food packages delivered to other people’s places, people calling people who are doing life tough, others doing 1-1 bible studies with people who couldn’t manage zoom, other groups getting together on zoom to pray for our community and the world, families making the most of the time by spending quality time together, even around the word!  

Dad’s, can I encourage you to make sure you use this time to be a light in your families.

Dads we have a huge privilege and responsibility to show our kids how to trust in their heavenly Dad. Your kids may not remember the specific things you say to them, or what you read with them in the bible, but what they will remember is where you sat each morning or night, and what that book was that you were reading. They’ll remember how you treated their mother and their siblings, and what your face looked like as your eyes were closed in prayer to your own heavenly Dad. They’ll remember the focus of your life and what kingdom you spent your time and money building and that will have an everlasting impact in their lives! 

Well, Praise God, some years back, my dad and I had time to talk and understand each other and we’re on really good terms now. But I wonder how much time you’ve spent recently seeking to understand your father in heaven and his care for you? It’s easy in these stressful times to let our feelings dictate how much we think God cares for us but that’s a very unhelpful way of viewing reality as one of God’s children. Instead, we should seek to hear his own voice on the matter and with that in mind, let me finish with Jesus’ comforting words:  

My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand.

John 10:27-29 (NIV)

What a comfort! 

Happy Father’s Day. 

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