Sometimes God Refocuses Our Eyesight to Heal Our Hearts
So many Christians today deal with deep worry and anxiety. Their stresses keep them tossing and turning at night and sometimes even lead to physical problems. If this describes you, I can assure you that no matter what may cause your worry or fear, Jesus holds your remedy.
This remedy appears in Luke 12, when an anxious throng was so desperate to hear hope from Jesus that they caused a near tragedy. “So many thousands of the people had gathered together that they were trampling one another” (Luke 12:1, ESV). I wince at the thought of this happening.
Jesus addressed the people’s desperation in an unusual way. He opened his sermon by saying, “Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy” (Luke 12:1). I wonder if he wanted to connect the trampling scene to the Pharisees’ teaching. Did their hypocrisy somehow feed the crowd’s desperation, causing people to disregard their fellow believers? I’m not sure of the answer, but I do see parallels in the church today.
Many Christians’ anxieties ignite within them a spiritual panic.
When we turn on the news these days, we can be easily provoked. The world is turned upside down with calamities; the culture is in chaos, and brother opposes brother in the church. Such division was clear in the scene that Luke describes. “Someone in the crowd said to him, ‘Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me’” (Luke 12:13).
This inheritance might have been crucial to the man’s survival, so how did Jesus address the issue? How did he speak to the man’s anxiety over losing what may have been rightfully his? You might find Christ’s response surprising. “He said to him, ‘Man, who made me a judge or arbitrator over you?’ And he said to them, ‘Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions’” (Luke 12:14-15).
Some hearing this might have taken it as an insult. In reality, Jesus was getting at a deep spiritual reality. For most of us, anxieties revolve around the stuff of daily life: finances, family tensions, what our future holds. These are all very real issues revolving around basic hopes and needs, and scripture has a lot to say about living responsibly.
Yet Jesus commands us not to be anxious about even the basics. “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat, nor about your body, what you will put on. For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing” (Luke 12:22-23).
I don’t know about you, but sometimes I can be run by anxieties. I even get anxious about my anxiety. The truth is the world gives even the calmest person reason enough to worry every minute of every day. So why would Jesus simply tell us to stop being anxious?
Jesus is after something that transcends human worry and turns our eyes to the loving, heavenly Father.
Jesus is actually getting to the very center of our lives: our dreams, our worries and even our purpose in life. Two brief verses reveal this. “And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? If then you are not able to do as small a thing as that, why are you anxious about the rest?” (Luke 12:25-26).
Let me point out something important here. Simply put, we don’t have control. To think we ultimately do have control is an illusion. We don’t know what our medical report will hold, even when we live responsibly in healthy ways. We don’t know how our kids will turn out, even though we tenderly and patiently teach them God’s ways. We don’t know how long our job will last, no matter how exceptional or faithful we are at performing it. None of these things are totally within our control.
It takes a lot of faith just to live this life. So how can we grow out of our anxieties when the world might turn upside down at any moment? Moreover, how can we grow into new faith, the kind that Jesus points to here?
Up to this point, I’ve described the malady that afflicts us. Now let’s talk about Jesus’ remedy.
Jesus’ point in his teaching isn’t to make us feel bad about our anxieties as much as it is to change our focus.
Jesus says plainly that we have a sovereign heavenly Father to whom we can entrust our lives.
“And do not seek what you are to eat and what you are to drink, nor be worried. For all the nations of the world seek after these things, and your Father knows that you need them. Instead, seek his kingdom, and these things will be added to you” (Luke 12:29-31).
Is Jesus saying it’s wrong to be financially responsible? Is he telling us to be indifferent to a blessing like an inheritance from a loved one? No, he’s talking about what anxiety can do to our spiritual eyesight. For one thing, it can cause us to covet.
We’ve already seen that our preoccupations are mostly about our finances, family issues, future security and ambitions. The truth is it doesn’t take much for these things to take over our hearts with relentless force. Jesus has a better way for us. In fact, he says these are the preoccupations of godless people. When we pursue them wanting the same satisfaction, we subject ourselves to the same worries, stresses and striving that we see dominating the world.
This was behind Jesus’ answer to the man who wanted his share of an inheritance. Christ was essentially saying, “Guard your heart against covetousness. If you do that, it will not only help resolve your anxiety but also refocus your vision on the things of God.”
If your soul is troubled, the root of your anxiety may actually be covetousness.
Seeking good things is not a cause for shame. Yet when an obstacle blocks our way to a good goal we seek, that obstacle can cause anxiety or fear.
Sometimes we live for something we’ll never have. If we already have it, we may cling to it for fear of losing it. These are both deep human drives, but they’ve led a lot of anxious Christians into being exploited by false teaching.
I hear preachers say, “Come to our church, and have all your dreams come true.” That kind of false promise claims a control that isn’t a reality. It actually leads to idolatry, worshiping a system that says we can have everything we want. Even worse, it says that God acts at our command. No! This false teaching causes vulnerable people to wonder, “Why don’t I have what I seek yet? I’m doing everything I’m supposed to do. What am I doing wrong? God has turned a deaf ear to my request. There must be something bad in me.”
Jesus’ response to our anxieties is an all-purpose remedy. First of all, it takes the pressure off of us. “Do not seek what you are to eat and what you are to drink, nor be worried. For all the nations of the world seek after these things, and your Father knows that you need them. Instead, seek his kingdom, and these things will be added to you” (Luke 12:29-31, my emphases).
This passage doesn’t just get to the root of much anxiety, which is covetousness; it also reveals the simple remedy of fixing our eyes on the primary thing: the kingdom of God and his righteousness. With that focus, Jesus says, “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you” (Matthew 6:33).
Christ himself was tempted with the basic things we seek.
When Jesus fasted in the wilderness and was famished, Satan tempted him with everything from miraculously providing food to making himself a great worldly ruler. Jesus’ response was to quote God’s Word about such temptations. That sent Satan fleeing, and the angels took care of Christ’s needs. “Then the devil left him, and behold, angels came and were ministering to him” (Matthew 4:11).
This is how our deliverance comes as well. “Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil” (Ephesians 6:11). God’s armor includes “the belt of truth…the breastplate of righteousness…the readiness given by the gospel of peace…the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; and…the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God” (Ephesians 6:14-17).
Are you fully equipped? Or do your anxieties sneak through any of this armor? As we set our vision on the kingdom of God, he will address everything that stresses us. “Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom” (Luke 12:32).
Jesus ends all our tossing and turning because he holds the key to all we need. You can trust that all your stresses will be addressed by your loving Father who works all things for your good. He is your refuge, provider and deliverer. Amen!