Tag Archives: Matthew 6

Philip Conley's Morning Thoughts

Morning Thoughts (Matthew 6:34 – “No Worries”)

“No Worries”

Matthew 6:34, “Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.”

This morning, many people live in constant states of emotional upheaval. One emotion may replace another but the common denominator between their moods and varying emotions is that they possess and consume their time. Emotions can be two-edged swords in our lives. They have been given to us to help deepen our experience of circumstances, but running amok, they tear into the fabric of our being and end up running us instead of aiding us. For example, Paul cautioned the Ephesians in 4:24-25 to be angry but not to sin as a result of it. Anger itself is not a sin, but left to grow and breed, sin is easily found. The upheaval today takes on many forms and wears different masks, but most of it revolves around the uncertainty of the future and the deplorable state of things that seems to swing downward daily. While the moral decline pains my soul, it should be no surprise. Paul’s long description of the evil days in II Timothy 3 foretells the events that we see today. While awful, we should not be shocked at their appearance. The Lord in His mercy told us they were coming and included the remedy and potion for dealing with them: the word of God. (II Timothy 3:14-17) As for the other culprit of emotional upheaval today – future uncertainty – let us delve into it more from the study verse before us.

Our study verse is found in the latter half of Christ’s “Sermon on the Mount.” Christ has layered many different thoughts about moral living and Godly deportment ultimately culminating in the verse before ours that encourages us to seek God and His kingdom first and foremost in our lives. When that foundation footer is dug in and built upon as it should be, other things will “fit” more comfortably and line up as they should. As the saying goes, “The first step is the most important.” Our lives need to start in the right place before we can hope to live in a way that will be honorable and God-fearing. Christ continues His speaking in our verse by showing that we should not worry and fret about things if we want to fulfill the injunction in the previous verse. Worry is very akin to bitterness, pride, and fear in that all these things are spiritual killers. When someone desires to live a Godly life, these things will prevent him from doing it. What do worry, bitterness, pride, and fear have in common? The focus in all these things is on self rather than Him!

Years ago, I was a “worry wart.” People who have known me only 10-15 years sometimes find that statement remarkable since they tell me that I don’t seem to worry about much anymore. While I hope that is a compliment, it did not come naturally. Two things provided the catalyst for me to grow past that crippling state of bondage. First I heard a sermon that expressed these thoughts: “People generally worry about two different kinds of situations. They either worry about things they have no control over, or they worry about things they have some control over. No one outside of God has complete control over anything, so let’s look at these two situations. If you worry about something you have no control over, can you change it? Then, don’t worry about it. If you worry about something you have some control over, does the worry help you do what you can in that situation? Then stop worrying about what you can’t do and just do what you can.” The other was a conversation that I had with my natural mother. Part of my worry was what others thought about me. It consumed me that people thought one thing or another. She finally told me, “Son, you’re not responsible for what other people think. You’re responsible for doing what is right. Besides, of all the people you know, half of them aren’t thinking about you. The other half don’t think about you half as much as you think they do.”

Taking my story and the words of the Saviour, can we control the future? We may be able to do things that help or hurt the future, but we do not have full control or complete say-so in it. Are we responsible for results about the future? We may get good results in things, but our responsibility is to do what is right no matter what. Worrying over what may come or what looks like it will come will not help the situation, and it will prevent us from doing what we can in an honorable fashion. Think about the last phrase that the Saviour gives in the verse. There is enough evil (trouble) today to go around without focusing on the trouble of tomorrow. If I am more concerned with the perceived trouble of tomorrow, then I will not honorably labour and war through the conflicts of today. Thinking about tomorrow’s battle in such a way can keep us from winning the battle before us today.

We should pause here to make a brief comment. Some take this verse to prove that we should not plan for the future. People who invest financially and/or make any plans for what they will do in days to come are in error and lacking in faith by this mindset. This verse does not intimate such a thing in the least. Rather, this verse focuses on the future in one specific way. Do not take worry to it. Planning for it is very noble and finds notable examples in Scripture. Planning and worrying are two different things. One is a focused mindset, while the other is an obsessed mindset. One helps, while the other consumes.

When people worry about the future – no matter the arena – they by extension shove something else out: hope. When worry prevails, hope wanes. Paul encouraged us that hope is a great sustainer for our journey. (Romans 8:24-25, Hebrews 6:20) There is no greater light here for the child of God than to have the hope of what God has done, has promised, and will even yet do. Do I know what tomorrow holds? Not necessarily, even though I have logical ideas about it. However, here is what we do know friends. Though the events of tomorrow are not completely known, we know that He is there! Whatever happens to us, around us, etc., He will be there. No matter what we endure, He will walk with us or carry us through it. Sometimes He even takes troubles away from us. No matter what tomorrow brings with all of its care and trouble, Christ will be there with us and for us.

People today talk about politics in woeful tones. Church members talk about the church in sad inflection. Sometimes it may even seem like the devil is winning. However, no matter who is in office, the King still inhabits His throne! No matter how much the church declines, the gates of hell shall never prevail against it. No matter how many battles or campaigns the devil successfully wages against us, we have still won the war through the righteousness of Jesus Christ. Though I may not know what the next “chapter” contains, the ending has been revealed, and what a glorious ending it is!

Friends, the world we live in is plagued by sin. As such, it will continue to have darkness, sorrow, destruction, and misery. It should be no surprise when those evil beasts rear their ugly heads. However, we should not let our emotions run wild to worry about the “whys,” “whens,” and “hows.” The certainty we have that our hope is anchored in shines supreme above all other things. No matter what happens today or any other day, His throne will forever endure. No matter how many more days this earth has left, the church will be in it. No matter how many battles the devil may win, he still loses. No matter how dark the evil may seem, good wins. Thank God that His mercy endures forever. Let us think on these things. May our hearts be refreshed and our hope revived in the precious promise of a Victorious King! While we think on these things, we can then follow the example of the little sister who was commended by the Master who hath “done what she could.” Let us do what we can, praise God for what He does, and thank Him for His never ceasing presence with us. Worried? We’ve won friends. Somewhere after the seas of all the tomorrows is a day that will be the eternal celebration of His coronation.

In Hope,
Bro Philip

Morning Thoughts (Matthew 6:9)

Matthew 6:9, “After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name.”This morning, society still enjoys and prefers image and attitude rather than substance and character. Have you ever heard someone say, “Well I may not like the way he is, but I sure like the way he does it?” Many years ago, my natural father was conversing with a woman while discussing her tax return. She complained about all the “extra” governmental taxes that were not there a few years before. Since the last year or so had seen a presidential transition, my father asked her if she voted for the new president. She responded that she had. He asked her why she voted for him only now to complain about his policies. Her response was classic, “Oh, but I just love the way that he smiles!” She was enamored over the new president’s image more than his character. Sadly, that attitude reflects not only in politics, but in most every venue of life sometimes – regrettably so – even into the endeavours of the church as well.

When considering a subject as important as prayer, it behooves us to consider not just the performance of it but the manner of the performance as well. In the political analogy above, we remarked that the manner of the man meant more to the woman than his character or substance. While our character and substance of prayer is pivotally important, God requires that our manner match our substance. Politicians are expected to be smooth, polite, cheerful, etc. while representing us. Police officers are expected to be firm, professional, and courteous while enforcing the law. God’s children are expected, by God, to have a certain manner while addressing Him and approaching Him in prayer. Whether considering our manner or our substance of prayer, they should reflect one another and complement each other fully.

Consider the words of Christ right before and right after our verse. In verses 5-8, Christ gives the manner or “image” of prayer. In verses 9-13, He gives the substance of prayer. Whether one considers the substance of prayer from the succeeding verses and reflects that onto the manner of prayer from the preceding verses or vice versa, both what we say and how we say it should go together. Let us, in our examination, consider the substance in light of the manner of prayer. The manner of the prayer from Christ’s words in verses 5-8 shows that we should have humility, discretion, and an understanding of who we are addressing. We should understand going into prayer that we are not “acquainting” God with anything, nor are we doing so publicly for publicity sake. Rather, our prayers are the honest, heart-felt yearnings of our inner man, and the reaching out to God in prayer that our hearts feel shows the submission and expectation that we have before an all-powerful and all-knowing Lord and Master.

Knowing then that our manner of prayer should reflect knowledge of who we are addressing, what is, logically, the first thing that prayer should entail? Verses 9-10 show in our address and opening remarks that we exalt and understand the power and authority of God. Have you ever heard someone pray and felt that they “demanded” of God rather than requested of God? Their prayer may not have had the words “you have to give me” but their spirit seemed to show that. Perhaps their spirit showed that by simply lacking the words that exalted the One they spoke to. In verses 9-10, we see God addressed in the highest of tones. His name is revered, and His power magnified.

Obviously, we are neither speaking these words to make them so, or saying them to “butter God up.” Rather, we say them showing our understanding of the reality of God’s greatness and fervent desire to exalt that in our lives. Some of the older brethren have encouraged the younger like me from time to time, “Son, when you pray, just tell God how you feel.” That is sound and sage advice, and one of the things that we should feel is heart-felt gladness that our God is He that doeth whatsoever He pleases with all power in heaven and in earth. (Psalm 115) I like to pray with the reiteration of those wonderful, powerful thoughts, for they encourage me yet again in the knowledge that this One can do what we ask and has promised to be merciful to us when we ask. (John 14:13) Do we repeat our address to God vainly repeating what we have said before out of show? No, for that is what the heathen do. Do we repeat our address out of sincere thanksgiving for having a God so powerful, wonderful, and merciful? Absolutely.

Verses 11-12 deal with an aspect of prayer that fully considering might honestly frighten someone. As with the aspect of prayer above that someone fails to understand who they are addressing by making demands of God, have you ever heard someone pray that seemed to think better of himself than others around him? The Pharisee in Luke 18 had that mindset against the publican, and probably treated the publican accordingly. Looking at the Pharisees in Christ’s day, their disdain for those “lower than they were” was manifestly seen. Look at the Saviour’s words. “Forgive us as we…” The previous verse shows us that we beseech Him for our natural needs – daily bread – and verse 12 for our conduct and behaviour (spiritual needs).

Since we have daily needs – such as daily bread – our prayers to God need to ascend daily. Since our conduct with others need correction on a regular basis, our petitions to our Master should go up repeatedly. (I Thessalonians 5:17) How have we been lately? Have we asked God for what we need? Have we treated others the way we would desire He treat us? Sadly, my record is filled with black marks and demerits. The Saviour commands us to pray asking God to treat us the way we treat others and consistently pray that our needs be met. Quite a far cry from making demands of the Almighty, but earnest seeking of these things brings the peaceable fruit of righteousness forth in our manner and way of life.

Verse 13 closes the prayer with a petition for our future and reinforced remarks about the power and might of God. Sometimes we pray for things about our future that we really should not. Sometimes those prayers ask Him for specific things in the future that perhaps we really do not need. Maybe the petition is for something that we are not yet ready for. There are any number of faulty prayers for our future. However, it is never faulty to pray that our future be led away from temptation. It is never faulty to exalt God’s power and will in the future with the sincere prayer that we be more attuned to it. Some of the hoary heads from my youth were fond of praying, “May we be more faithful to thee in the future than we have in the past. May our steps be brighter going forward than they have been behind us.”

What do we most desire going forward? Our prayers should reflect an honest longing to be better servants, more faithful stewards, and more upright children in our walk. What will our circumstances be? That is of far less importance than the understanding of Who it is that goes with us. So what if the circumstances are not pleasant or we have stormy seasons? He has the kingdom, the power, and the glory “for ever.” What more could we desire for the future than to serve Him better knowing that the Omnipotent One goes with us always? What better thought for tomorrow can there be than He is there, whether in life or in death? What more could we want for our friends, family, and acquaintances than the knowledge that the One with us also goes with them?

Looking at the substance of the model prayer that Christ gives, how does it reflect the manner in which we pray? By exalting the power, might, and will of God in the address, it reflects the manner of humility that we should exhibit as inferiors addressing our superior. By petitioning Him for our daily needs and behavioral correction, it reflects our dependence upon His power and mercy. By beseeching Him properly for the future, it reflects our understanding of His unchangeableness, granting peace going forward. This manner stands in stark contrast to those that would demand from God or scoff at others around them. This manner stands polar opposite to prayers made out of show or convenience. Does this prayer reflect what we truly feel? It should, for our very Lord Himself used this model to show how our feelings should be when approaching the glorious throne of grace. May our manner and substance of prayer reflect one another, and may our outward steps of service from prayer show that with our every action and course.

In Hope,

Bro Philip