HOSANNA by Dr. Abidan Paul Shah

HOSANNA by Dr. Abidan Paul Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson, NC

hosannaIntroduction:  This past Tuesday was St. Patrick’s Day. Due to the coronavirus situation, parades all across the country were cancelled. Needless to say, a lot of people were disappointed. I don’t think they were disappointed because they couldn’t celebrate St. Patrick’s life, but it was because they couldn’t get out and have a good time with their family and friends. 2000 years ago, there was also a parade and some people tried to cancel it but they couldn’t. It was the parade for Jesus as he came into Jerusalem. Instead of clover leaves, the people held palm branches in their hands. Instead of Irish drinking songs, the people were singing Hosanna to the Son of David. As we draw closer to that time of the year, I want to preach a 4-week series titled “HOSANNA.” Here’s the message in this series: God wants to save us. In fact, he delights in saving us. Being saved by God is not a sign of weakness. It is our prerogative as his children.

John 12    12 The next day a great multitude that had come to the feast, when they heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem, 13 took branches of palm trees and went out to meet Him, and cried out: “Hosanna! ‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the LORD!’ The King of Israel!” 14 Then Jesus, when He had found a young donkey, sat on it; as it is written: 15 “Fear not, daughter of Zion; Behold, your King is coming, Sitting on a donkey’s colt.” 16His disciples did not understand these things at first; but when Jesus was glorified, then they remembered that these things were written about Him and that they had done these things to Him.

Question: Did you know that God desires to save you? I’m talking to believers. He wants to rescue you from your predicament, whatever trials you are facing. Are you saved? I’m talking to unbelievers now. Have you asked Jesus to be your Savior and King?

Context: When people first come to Clearview, they are somewhat amazed at how much I talk about being saved. Some have even come to me and asked if that was a Baptist thing. I try to explain to them that it is not a Baptist thing but a Bible thing. Repeatedly, the Bible talks about being saved, being delivered, and being rescued by God. In fact, that word Hosanna is literally the combination of “hosiah” and “anna,” where “hosiah” means “save us” and “anna” means “now” or “please.” It’s referring back to Psalm 118 where the psalmist says in verse25 “Save now, I pray, O LORD; O LORD, I pray, send now prosperity.” This was usually prayed after the harvest season celebration. They would even wave and beat the ground with branches of willow and palm trees. Later on, this was also done during times of great needs and burden. In the weeks ahead, we will focus on all that. In this message I want to focus simply on the idea of being saved or rescued by God. It is all over the Old Testament. In fact, Jesus’ name in Hebrew is “Yeshua,” which is Savior! With that said, let’s look at it quickly in the short time we have:

  1. Let’s begin by going to what is considered the oldest book in the Bible, Job:

Job 5:11 “He sets on high those who are lowly, and those who mourn are lifted to safety.”

Job 40:14 “Then I will also confess to you that your own right hand can save you.” Here God is speaking sarcastically to Job. He asks Job if he can do all the mighty things that God does. “If so, then you can save yourself Job.”

  1. When God’s people were in slavery in Egypt, he sent Moses to rescue them:

Exodus 14    13 And Moses said to the people, “Do not be afraid. Stand still, and see the salvation of the LORD, which He will accomplish for you today. For the Egyptians whom you see today, you shall see again no more forever. 14 The LORD will fight for you, and you shall hold your peace.”

  1. After they settled into the Promised Land, God sent judges to save his people:

Judges 7:2 And the LORD said to Gideon, “The people who are with you are too many for Me to give the Midianites into their hands, lest Israel claim glory for itself against Me, saying, ‘My own hand has saved me.’”

Keep in mind that Gideon’s army was 32,000 men and they were outnumbered. Then 22,000 left when given the choice. Only 10,000 left and only those who drank like dogs were allowed to stay and that was only 300! God said, “Now that’s perfect!”

  1. After the judges came the kings but the formula didn’t change:

1 Samuel 17    45 Then David said to the Philistine, “You come to me with a sword, with a spear, and with a javelin. But I come to you in the name of the LORD of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. 46 This day the LORD will deliver you into my hand, and I will strike you and take your head from you. And this day I will give the carcasses of the camp of the Philistines to the birds of the air and the wild beasts of the earth, that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel. 47 Then all this assembly shall know that the LORD does not save with sword and spear; for the battle is the LORD’S, and He will give you into our hands.”

When the kings trusted in the Lord to deliver, they won. When they trusted in themselves, they fell.

  1. In the wisdom books, it is not cunning and strategy that saves but the Lord:

Proverbs 20:22 Do not say, “I will recompense evil”; wait for the LORD, and He will save you.

Proverbs 21:31 The horse is prepared for the day of battle, but deliverance is of the LORD.

Proverbs 28:18 Whoever walks blamelessly will be saved, but he who is perverse in his ways will suddenly fall.

  1. Over a hundred times, the prophets call upon the people to look to the Lord to save:

Isaiah 45    21 “Tell and bring forth your case; Yes, let them take counsel together. Who has declared this from ancient time? Who has told it from that time? Have not I, the LORD? And there is no other God besides Me, A just God and a Savior; There is none besides Me. 22“Look to Me, and be saved, All you ends of the earth!”

Jeremiah 15:20 “And I will make you to this people a fortified bronze wall; and they will fight against you, but they shall not prevail against you; For I am with you to save you and deliveryou,” says the LORD.

Hosea 14     1 “O Israel, return to the LORD your God, for you have stumbled because of your iniquity; 2 Take words with you, and return to the LORD. Say to Him, “Take away all iniquity; receive us graciously, for we will offer the sacrifices of our lips. 3 Assyria shall not save us…”

Jonah 2:9 “But I will sacrifice to You with the voice of thanksgiving; I will pay what I have vowed. Salvation is of the LORD.”

  1. Finally, in the psalms, it is everywhere that God is our Savior:

Psalm 28     8 The LORD is their strength, and He is the saving refuge of His anointed. 9Save Your people, And bless Your inheritance;

Psalm 44     6 For I will not trust in my bow, nor shall my sword save me. 7 But You have saved us from our enemies, and have put to shame those who hated us. 8 In God we boast all day long, and praise Your name forever.

Psalm 80:3 “Restore us, O God; Cause Your face to shine, and we shall be saved!”

Psalm 119:94 “I am Yours, save me; for I have sought Your precepts.”

Psalm 144     9 “I will sing a new song to You, O God; on a harp of ten strings I will sing praises to You, 10 the One who gives salvation to kings, who delivers David His servant from the deadly sword.”

Let me repeat again what I said in the opening: God wants to save us. In fact, he delights in saving us. Being saved by God is not a sign of weakness. It is our prerogative as his children.

Matthew 1:21 “And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name JESUS, for He will save His people from their sins.”

Romans 10:9 “that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.”

Are you saved?

Out-of-Bounds by Dr. Abidan Shah

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OUT-OF-BOUNDS. by Dr. Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Introduction:  Every game has its fouls and penalties. In soccer, it can be an offside, a handball, or tripping an opponent. In football, it can be holding, illegal contact, or delay of game. In ice hockey…I still don’t get ice hockey…. In basketball, it can be holding, charging, travelling, double-dribble, or out-of-bounds. When these fouls and penalties happen, the referee or the umpire is responsible for calling them out and there are consequences. So also, life is a game that has its fouls and penalties. The Bible is God’s rule book on how to play the game of life. God is much more than just the rule maker, he is also the referee or the umpire who calls us out when we fail to follow his rules; and, unlike earthly umpires, he doesn’t have to look at the video replay. He calls it right every time. This is our third message in our miniseries “SKILLFUL” from the Book of Proverbs and our message today is titled “OUT-OF-BOUNDS.”

Proverbs 6    16 These six things the LORD hates, Yes, seven are an abomination to Him: 17 A proud look, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood, 18 A heart that devises wicked plans, feet that are swift in running to evil, 19 A false witness who speaks lies, And one who sows discord among brethren.

Question: How are you playing the game of life? Have you making a lot of fouls and penalties? Can you hear God’s whistle? Can you hear the voice of the Holy Spirit calling you out? Are you saved?

Overall Background: The Book of Proverbs, from which we just read a few moments ago, was written by King Solomon. As many of you may know, he was the son of David, the great king of Israel. One day, when Solomon was in Gibeon to offer sacrifices to God, he had a dream. In the dream, God said to Solomon, “Ask! What shall I give you?” Instead of asking for more life, more riches, or the life of his enemies, he asked for wisdom and understanding to judge God’s people Israel. God was so pleased with his answer that he not only gave him a wise and understanding heart but he also gave him what he did not ask for: 12 “…riches and wealth and honor, such as none of the kings have had who were before you, nor shall any after you have the like.” (II Chronicles 1:12) True to his promise, Solomon not only became the richest king who ever lived (over 25 tons of gold went into his treasury every year!) but his fame spread far and wide as the wisest person who ever lived, surpassing the wisdom of the easterners, the Egyptians, and the Edomites. People came from all over the earth to hear his wisdom. The Book of Proverbs is a collection of just some of his wisdom. Now, listen to how he opens this book—Proverbs 1   1 “The proverbs of Solomon the son of David, king of Israel: 2 To know wisdom and instruction, to perceive the words of understanding.” There are many different words that Solomon used for wisdom in this book but the one that stands out above them all is “hokma,” which means “skill in living.” Everyone lives life, but everyone does not live life skillfully. I have been pastoring for over 21 years and I have seen plenty of unskillful living in marriages, families, parenting, businesses, communities, and even churches. People don’t know how to play the game of life. In fact, they keep fouling out! With that said, here are the 7 worst fouls according to God. Proverbs 6:16 “These six things the Lord hates, Yes, seven are an abomination to Him.” (This was an ancient way of saying that this list could be much more but these are the worst.)

Foul #1 – Arrogant Eyes

17 “A proud look…” lit. “rising pair of eyes.”

This can be easily misunderstood. Does this mean that you need to walk around with your eyes lowered? If you do that, you will run into things! Does this mean that you cannot recognize your own abilities and accomplishments? No. Neither does it mean that you cannot compare yourself to your opponent and see that you are better in a skill or a sport. All that is fine. Here’s an example of its meaning from Isaiah 10     12 Therefore it shall come to pass, when the Lord has performed all His work on Mount Zion and on Jerusalem, that He will say,“I will punish the fruit of the arrogant heart of the king of Assyria, and the glory of his haughty looks.” 13 For he says: “By the strength of my hand I have done it, And by my wisdom, for I am prudent…” The King of Assyria did not look far up enough to thank God for his accomplishments and God called a technical foul on him!

Question: Why the eyes? Why not just “the proud?” All of us struggle with the sin of pride but we can typically hide it. But, if it reaches our eyes, now we don’t care if others notice that we are proud. Now, we are proud of being proud. When a person reaches this stage, even God says “I hate it.” Don’t look at others’ eyes. Look at your own. By the way, spiritually arrogant eyes are the worst.

Application: Do you have arrogant eyes? Do you give God glory for your abilities and accomplishments?

Foul #2 – Uncontrolled mouth

17 “…a lying tongue…” If this were just falsehood or incorrectness, then some other words could have been used. Here the idea is of an “aggressive deceit intended to harm the other person.” An example of this is in Psalm 27:12 “Do not deliver me to the will of my adversaries; For false witnesses have risen against me, and such as breathe out violence.”

Someone might say, “I’m not an aggressive liar. I guess I’m ok.” Every time you lie, you claim Satan as your father. Listen to John 8:44 “… (Satan) He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own resources, for he is a liar and the father of it.”

Application: Are you an aggressive liar? Are you a liar? God is calling a foul on you.

Foul #3 – Bloodstained hands

17 “…hands that shed innocent blood…” The very first example of innocent blood shed was in the first family. Because God accepted Abel’s offering, Cain killed him. Listen to Genesis 4:10 And He (God) said, “What have you done? The voice of your brother’s blood cries out to Me from the ground.” Another example was Saul. He was envious of David. Listen to how his son Jonathan confronts him in I Samuel 19:5 “For he (David) took his life in his hands and killed the Philistine, and the LORD brought about a great deliverance for all Israel. You saw itand rejoiced. Why then will you sin against innocent blood, to kill David without a cause?” Unfortunately, David did the same to Uriah the Hittite. In his desire to cover his sin, he had him killed. Hence, 2 Samuel 12:9-10 says, “…You have killed Uriah the Hittite with the sword; you have taken his wife to be your wife, and have killed him with the sword of the people of Ammon. 10Now therefore, the sword shall never depart from your house, because you have despised Me…” For one murder, David lost 4 sons: 1. Son of Bathsheba (12:18); 2. Amnon – killed by his brother Absalom (13:28); 3. Absalom was killed as he fled (18:14); 4. Adonijah – killed by Solomon (I Kin 2:24-25).

Application: Are your hands clean? Have you destroyed someone’s reputation? That is just as bad as shedding innocent blood. Could it be that our hands are stained with innocent blood? Are you an accessory to the shedding of innocent blood?

Foul #4 – Scheming heart

18 “A heart that devises wicked plans…” The heart is the immaterial part of us. It is made by God for us to have a relationship with him. It is damaged because of sin, but it can be redeemed through Jesus Christ. This heart can allow us to love God, come up with good ideas to help others, plan life, and create things. This same heart and mind can also be used to create and dream up wicked thoughts to hurt people.

For e.g. Think about September 11 – how many years were spent planning, training, and practicing. It was not meant to enhance life but destroy it.

For e.g. Then I think of “Operation Christmas Child.” What a great idea! Bless little children, share the love of Christ, remind us of the blessing we have.

Application: What do you think about? You may not go all out evil like September 11 but do you try to trap others in their words and trip them up?

Foul #5 – Wicked Feet

18 “…Feet that are swift in running to evil…” Feet represent the direction of your life. “Feet that are swift in running to evil,” imply a fascination and excitement toward evil things. A rush/dash towards wickedness; a sense of urgency to check out evil. Some people are drawn to bad news, evil ideas, wicked plans. Something bad happened to someone, we want to know; something horrible is happening in someone’s life, we want to know. We seem to have a morbid fascination with evil.

God wants us to examine our feet. He wants us to have:

  • Beautiful feet Romans 10:15 “…How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the gospel of peace…”
  • Prepared feetEphesians 6:15 “…and having shod (put on) your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace…”
  • Clean feet Jesus washed the feet of His disciples to remind them to be humble and holy.

Application: Which way are your headed? Are you drawn to evil than good?

Foul #6 – Corrupt

19 “A false witness who speaks lies…” lit. A lying witness who commits perjury. This person is not just lying on the witness stand to protect someone. They are lying to destroy someone.They are going against the 8th of the 10 commandments – “You shall not bear false witness.” They are not just lying but lying under oath; they are not just lying under oath but they are lying to get someone in trouble. Money is always involved somewhere. Remember the trial of Jesus – Matthew 26    59 Now the chief priests, the elders, and all the council sought false testimony against Jesus to put Him to death, 60 but found none. Even though many false witnesses came forward, they found none. But at last two false witnesses came forward 61 and said, “This fellow said, ‘I am able to destroy the temple of God and to build it in three days.’” False Witnesses crucified Jesus Christ. When you do the same, you join the company of those who were responsible for crucifying Christ.

Application: Are you a false witness who is lying to hurt someone?

Foul #7 – Troublemaker

19 “…And one who sows discord among brethren.” Lit. Unleashes conflicts among relatives – family, friends, and church.

Why? Because of envy, malice, and strife. They use gossips, lies, doubts, and half-truths. When the seed of dissension is sown they stand back and watch that beautiful field of crops takes over by thorns and weeds and shrubs. They are pyromaniacs, arsonists, fire setters. They start the fire of gossip, lies, dissension and then they stand back and watch that home, marriage, family, and church go up in flames. Where does it come from? Satan did this – Cain and Abel, Ishmael and Isaac, Esau and Jacob, Joseph and his brothers. He tried in the NT among the disciples, in the church between the Hebrews and the Greeks.

What do you do?  Proverbs 22:10  “Cast out the scoffer, and contention will leave; Yes, strife and reproach will cease.” Instead, Matthew 5:9 Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.”

Application: Are you a troublemaker or peacemaker?

Invitation: How much are you fouling the game of life? Are you about to be ejected? Do you have Christ in your life? Are you saved?

Unrest by Dr. Abidan Shah

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This weekend, our message will take a look at the events that have happened in recent days and how we ought to approach them from a biblical perspective. In today’s world, we are bombarded by so much information, it is difficult to discern what is true and what is not. In order to think rightly about the world and the events around us, we must approach them from biblical and historical perspective.

In this message, we will look at the current crisis through the lens of history and Scripture. We will examine the nation of Iran throughout history. Regardless of what we might have heard, this message will help us understand the current situation in light of past events and the Word of God. The title of this weekend’s message is “UNREST.”

What are your thoughts on the current crisis? Do you believe that God’s Word can help us think rightly about culture? Are you saved? Invite your friends and family to worship this weekend. This is a message that none of us can afford to miss!

Confidence by Dr. Abidan Shah

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CONFIDENCE by Dr. Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson, NC

Introduction: When our kids were young, they loved watching Winnie the Pooh. Their favorite characters were Pooh, Piglet, Rabbit, and Tigger. My favorite was Eeyore—always pessimistic and down on life. I’ve met a lot of people who may not sound like Eeyore but they definitely have an Eeyore view of life. They have a victim mindset. They feel that life is just a series of unfortunate events. They often compare themselves to others and wish that fate had dealt them a better hand. They often moan, “all these things are against me.” As we stand at the starting line of a new year and a new decade, does that describe you? How confident are you about your future? Here’s the gist of the message: How you see your life—past and future—is a direct result of what you believe about the sovereignty of God. The right view of the sovereignty of God will give you the right perspective on your past and give you the confidence to face whatever lies ahead and win. That’s the title of our message today—CONFIDENCE.

Genesis 42:36 And Jacob their father said to them, “You have bereaved me: Joseph is no more, Simeon is no more, and you want to take Benjamin. All these things are against me.”

Romans 8:28 And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.

Question: Which one are you? Are you like Jacob who moaned “All these things are against me” or are you like Paul who proclaimed “All things work together for good to those who love God?” Do you love God? Are you saved?

Context: The first passage we just read from Genesis 42 is one of the most depressing statements in the Bible. Listen to it again36 “And Jacob their father said to them, ‘You have bereaved me: Joseph is no more, Simeon is no more, and you want to take Benjamin…’” The Hebrew word for “bereave” is “shekel,” which translates as “childless.” Why did Jacob make such a drastic claim? Like always, we need to look at the context in which Jacob said those words. The beginning of Genesis 42 tells us that there was a famine in the land and Jacob had sent his sons to Egypt to get some grain. His sons had just returned home, but, unfortunately, one of their brothers Simeon was not with them. He had been held hostage by the ruler of Egypt, who they didn’t know at the time was Joseph, their younger brother. He had told them that he was going to keep Simeon there until they returned with their younger brother Benjamin. Keep in mind, Joseph and Benjamin were the only sons from Rachel, the wife he really wanted to marry. Joseph had mysteriously died (or so Jacob thought) and now they had to take Benjamin back with them to Egypt. To make matters worse, when they opened their sacks of grain, their money pouches were still there! Now, they were probably deemed thieves in Egypt for stealing grain or so they thought. When Jacob heard all this, he cried out “You have made me childless!” Keep in mind that 10 of his sons were standing before him! In other words, in his anguish, he was exaggerating the situation.

Application: Do you exaggerate your situation? You may not say “You’ve bereaved me,” but how about, “You’ve ruined my life” or “he/she has ruined my life?” Don’t misunderstand. It is bad what’s happened to you and people may have to be held accountable for what they did to you. But, do you exaggerate what’s happened to you?

Nonetheless, all this was still understandable until Jacob said something that went beyond the immediate context. He cried out “All these things are against me.” What was Jacob talking about? This was the magma, volcanic ash, and gases that were churning below the surface in Jacob’s heart that finally burst through into a devastating volcano. This is how he had been feeling for quite some time and he finally just let it out. In some ways, Jacob had every reason to say what he did. Yes, things had been rough for him. At a young age, he had to leave his home and run for his life. All this because his brother Esau had tried to steal the birthright that rightfully belonged to him and his father Isaac was more concerned about his taste buds than the plan of God. Then, his uncle Laban had tricked him into working for 7 years and gave him the wrong daughter for a wife. That’s enough to ruin your day! After working for 7 more years, he finally got the right one. But now, he had 2 wives plus 2 concubines! If that wasn’t enough, Uncle and now Father-in-law Laban even tried to take advantage of Jacob by giving him the defective livestock. Fast forward a few years, Jacob’s sons killed all the men of Shechem out of revenge over their sister Dinah. If you remember Jacob’s words in Genesis 34:30 “You have troubled me by making me obnoxious among the inhabitants of the land…” In other words, he couldn’t control his sons any longer. Then, Rachel, Jacob’s love of his life, died in childbirth. Finally, the worst happened when Jacob sent Joseph to take some food to his brothers and a few days later, his sons returned with Joseph’s tunic of many colors covered in blood and asked him, “We have found this. Do you know whether it is your son’s tunic or not?” Deep down, Jacob knew that his sons had something to do with Joseph’s death. Now Simeon was held hostage in Egypt and Benjamin had to be taken to meet this Egyptian ruler. Any wonder that Jacob exploded like he did!

Application: Have you ever exploded like Jacob—“All these things are against me?” Have you ever felt like he did?

Yes, Jacob had every reason to say what he said but he knew better than to say what he said. God had given him plenty of assurance that he was with him, guiding and protecting him.

  • When Jacob was fleeing from his brother, he had a special vision of the ladder reaching from earth to heaven with angels ascending and descending. It was a reminder that God was with him.
  • When Laban was cheating Jacob, he had a special visit from God warning him and calling him to head back to the land of his family.
  • When Jacob was afraid to face his brother Esau, he had a personal visit from the pre-incarnate Christ. In fact, he wrestled with God and prevailed. He received a new name.
  • When Jacob was afraid of the repercussion of his sons killing the people of Shechem, “the terror of God was upon the cities that were all around them, and they did not pursue them.” God appeared to him again in Bethel and assured him in Genesis 3510 “Your name is Jacob; your name shall not be called Jacob anymore, but Israel shall be your name…” 11 “…I am God Almighty. Be fruitful and multiply; a nation and a company of nations shall proceed from you, and kings shall come from your body. 12The land which I gave Abraham and Isaac I give to you; and to your descendants after you I give this land.”

Even after all this, he still said, “All things are against me.” What a poor testimony before his children!

Application: Have you done that? You need to repent.

But, thank God that for every negative example, he has given us a positive one to follow. Just a few chapters later, in Genesis 50:20, we find a different declaration—“But as for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, in order to bring it about as it is this day, to save many people alive.” Who said this? Jacob’s son Joseph. Yes, Jacob had a rough life no doubt, but Joseph’s was no less. For starters, his mother Rachel died giving birth to his brother Benjamin. That’s rough on any child. Next, his brothers envied him and could not speak peaceably to him. As we’ve already discussed, they did the ultimate—sold him into slavery. Imagine that! In Egypt, he was bought by an influential man named Potiphar who was super impressed with his work ethic and integrity and made him the head of his household. Just when things began to look up for Joseph, Potiphar’s wife falsely accused him of trying to rape her and had him thrown into prison. In prison, he interpreted the dream of the chief baker and the chief butler. The chief butler’s dream restored him to his previous position. As he was leaving, Joseph begged him “remember me when it is well with you, and please show kindness to me; make mention of me to Pharaoh, and get me out of this house.”Unfortunately, the chief butler did not remember him for some time. Joseph could’ve had a horrible attitude towards life. When his brothers came before him, he could have taken his revenge. Instead, he did what he did to bring them to a point of repentance (I don’t have time to get into that right now) and reconciled with them. But, after their father Jacob died, the brothers were afraid that Joseph would try to take his revenge now. Instead, he said to them, “You meant evil against me but God meant it for good.” Don’t miss this: He didn’t excuse their behavior. Neither did he blame them for everything. By the way, blame is a tell-tale sign that you are still not over your past and you’re not ready to move forward. Instead, he simply chose to affirm the sovereignty of God in his life. To say it another way—the son succeeded where the father failed!

Listen carefully: For every negative experience in your life, God has given you a positive one. You have to choose to see it:

  • You have to choose to see the sovereign hand of God guiding you and protecting you as you walked through the valley of the shadow of death.
  • You have to choose to praise God than to curse those who have caused you pain.
  • You have to choose to proclaim “all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to his purpose” rather than to moan “All these things are against me.”

Unless you have the proper view of the sovereignty of God in your life and in this world, you will not have the confidence to face whatever lies ahead and win. Are you a Jacob or a Joseph? Are you saved?

Divisive Mind by Pastor Abidan Shah

DIVISIVE MIND by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson, NC

Introduction: One of my favorite episodes on the Andy Griffith Show is the one where Andy plays the marriage counsellor. Fred Boone and his wife Jennie are some of the nicest people in Mayberry but they have one problem – they can’t get along with each other. They fight all the time. When they run out of words, they start throwing dishes at each other. Andy feels like he can help them out. So, he tries to teach them how to speak lovingly to each other, hoping that in time it’ll become a habit. It actually works but then something happens. Fred and Jennie begin fighting with everybody else in town. That’s when Andy and Barney realize that it is so much better to let them fight with each other, if they want to have peace in Mayberry. Do you know people like that? They are always fighting with someone. For them, its normal to be at odds with someone. They have a divisive mind. Unfortunately, such people are also in the church. Today’s message will help us deal with a divisive mind and exchange it for the mind of Christ.

Philippians 2:1-2“Therefore if there is any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and mercy, fulfill my joy by being like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind.”

Question: Do you have a divisive mind? Do you know what it means to be of one mind with others? Are you saved? Do you have the mind of Christ?

Context: Many of you have shared with me how much the sketch of the volcano and the plant has helped you. So, here it is once again. All of us have certain EXPECTATIONSin life. These Expectations represent our goals in life and how we expect life to turn out through the good times and the bad. These Expectations are motivated by certain ASSUMPTIONSthat we have accumulated through life. These Assumptions come from how our mind has been built by God through our parents, through our upbringing, and through the circumstances in life. What happens when our Expectations don’t turn out according to our Assumptions? We have FRUSTRATIONS. These are usually manifested as Anxiety, Guilt, and Resentment. In the past two sermons I gave you some illustrations from wanting success in life, marriage, and child-raising. Here’s another one from being hurt in life. If your Expectation is that the world owes you for the pain you have suffered in your past, you are in for a lot of Frustrations in life. This false Expectation is based on the false Assumption that life is perfect, that human beings are inherently good, that hurts can be rectified in this life, and that if you are hurt, you are entitled to special privileges. That’s not true. You have to abandon the volcano model for the tree planted by rivers of water. Instead of Assumptions, you have to seek after BIBLICAL TRUTHSi.e. THE MIND OF CHRIST. Instead of Expectations, you have to trust in the PROMISES OF GOD. Then, instead of Frustrations, you will have FRUITS. You will have to believe in the fallenness of human beings, the reality of sin, the necessity of Jesus’ sacrifice, and the importance of forgiveness.

Now back to our message on the Divisive Mind – Listen again to Philippians 2:1-2“Therefore if there is any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and mercy, fulfill my joy by being like-minded..” In order to understand why Paul said those words, we need to take this passage apart and look at it a section at a time. To start with, Paul implores the Philippians – “Fulfill my joyby being likeminded.”The word for joy is “chara” which Paul uses 5 times in various forms in this letter:

  • In Philippians 1:4Paul prays for the Philippians with joy.
  • In Philippians 1:25Paul wants to continue with them for their“progress and joyof faith.”
  • Of course, here in Philippians 2:2 Paul wants them to fulfill his joyby being like-minded.”
  • In Philippians 2:29Paul wants them to receive Epaphroditus, one of his companions in ministry, with joy
  • In Philippians 4:1 Paul calls the Philippians his “joyand crown.”

I don’t have time to look at the related word “chairo” meaning rejoice, which is found about 7 times in various forms. The most famous one being Philippians 4:4Rejoicein the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice!” Why is Paul so obsessed with joy and rejoice in his letter to the Philippians?

Before we answer that question, what is the meaning of this word “joy” and even “rejoice?” Of course, we can go to the Lexicons and the Greek dictionaries but the best way to discover the true meaning is by looking at the context in which those words are used in the Bible. Here is what I have found: Joy is a feeling of deep happiness based on biblical truths.What does this “deep happiness” feel like? C.S. Lewis, in his book Surprised by Joy,describes it as “an unsatisfied desire which is itself more desirable than any other satisfaction.” What Lewis is saying is that true joy never runs out or reaches its goal but keeps multiplying. Furthermore, it is not depended on our circumstances.

Back to our question – Why did Paul use the words “joy” and “rejoice” so many times in his letter to the Philippians? Listen again to Philippians 2:2Fulfillmy joy…” Fulfill implies that at the moment Paul’s joy was incomplete. It had depleted. It was leaking. What caused it to leak? “Fulfill my joy by being like-minded..” Just in case the Philippians were to misunderstand what Paul meant, he clarified it in 3 different ways – “fulfill my joy by being like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind.” Talk about being emphatic! Why did Paul restate this in 4 ways? Because the Philippians were either divided or on their way to being divided. 

Listen very carefully – Nothing will deplete your joy in the Christian life faster than division in your life, your marriage, your family, and your church.

Where do divisions come from? 3“Letnothingbe donethrough selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself.4Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.”Divisions come from selfish ambitions, conceit (excessive pride), sense of superiority (especially spiritual superiority, legalism), and self-interest. If a person has grown up in an environment marred by arguments and fights because of these negative qualities, it becomes a normal “Assumption” for them to live in contention with those around them. It is an unhealthy, evil, and destructive normal. It takes one divisive person to start something and before you know it, the whole body is infected with a spirit of division. 

How do you counteract such a divisive mind?Listen to what Paul says in Philippians 2:14-15“Do all things without complaining and disputing, that you may become blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation…”Philippians 4:8“Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things.” What do you do when someone brings negative divisive junk to you? Here’s an example from the Old Testament worth considering – David and Jonathan were best friends even though Saul (Jonathan’s father) hated him. After Saul’s house collapsed and David became the King over Israel, David wanted to do something nice for his old friend Jonathan. He asked if there was anyone left and a servant of Saul by the name of Ziba informed him that Jonathan had a son by the name of Mephibosheth who was lame in his feet. David had him brought and told him not to fear and that he will give him all the inheritance of his grandfather Saul. Wow! Then he told Ziba that he is to serve Mephibosheth the way he served Saul. All sounds great. Jump ahead to Absalom’s rebellion against David, his father. David had to run for his life and Mephibosheth could not accompany him because of his handicap and sent Ziba to help David fight against Absalom. Ziba met David and told David that he has come to help even though his master Mephibosheth has pledged his allegiance to Absalom. David told Ziba that in that case, all that belongs to Mephibosheth is now his. The battle is over, Absalom dies and David is victorious. Mephibosheth comes to congratulate David and David asks him why he did not go with him. He replied that he couldn’t because of his handicap and that Ziba had lied to him.What did David do next? Did he put Ziba on trial? Did he return Mephibosheth his property? No. He said in 2 Samuel 19:29“You and Ziba divide the land.” Why? Even though Ziba had lied, David’s mind was now contaminated against Mephibosheth and he could never trust him again. Factually he knew that Mephibosheth was good but emotionally he couldn’t trust him anymore. This is what happens when you allow a divisive person to speak into your life.

What needs to happen is that your assumptions have to be replaced by biblical truths. Philippians 2:1“Therefore if there isany consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and mercy.” So much I could say about each – Salvation through Jesus, love for one another, Holy Spirit binding us in him and actively showing affection and mercy is need to deal with a divisive mind, whether yours or someone else’s.

Do you have a divisive mind? Do you know someone who does? Pray for them. Are you saved?

Envious Mind by Pastor Abidan Shah

ENVIOUS MIND by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Introduction: People often associate certain colors with certain moods, emotions, or attitudes. Red = Anger; Blue = Sadness/Peaceful; Yellow = Fear/Weakness; Gold = Greed/Rich; Purple = Pride/Royalty; Green = Envy. In our western society, we call Envy the Green-Eyed Monster because green is a color associated with sickness. Sometimes when people get sick their skin takes on a slightly yellow/green tinge. So also, when a person is infected with Envy, their demeanor/countenance takes on a sick appearance, if you know what I mean. Here’s the message in a nutshell: An envious mind will take your focus away from God and his goodness and leave you sick in your spirit with doubts and resentment. What you need is the mind of Christ. What you need is the replacing of your false assumptions with biblical truth and principles.

Philippians 1    14“and most of the brethren in the Lord, having become confident by my chains, are much more bold to speak the word without fear. 15Some indeed preach Christ even from envy and strife, and some also from goodwill: 16The former preach Christ from selfish ambition, not sincerely, supposing to add affliction to my chains; 17but the latter out of love, knowing that I am appointed for the defense of the gospel. 18What then? Onlythatin every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is preached; and in this I rejoice, yes, and will rejoice.”

Question: Do you have an envious mind? Are you struggling with doubts and resentment? How do you feel when someone in your field or age group or social circle, even at church, starts advancing? Are you happy or are you resentful? Are you saved?

Premise: For the benefit of those who weren’t here last week, let me once again sketch for you how we work as human beings. Keep in mind that psychology is a very complex and highly nuanced subject but I’m making it simple for us to understand. In life, all of us have certain EXPECTATIONS. They can be our personal goals in life or how we expect things to turn out through circumstances. These expectations are motivated by certain ASSUMPTIONSthat we have accumulated through life. When expectations don’t turn out according to our assumptions, they lead to FRUSTRATIONS. These can be manifested as anxiety, guilt, and resentment. I gave you some examples last time from the subject of material success and marriage. Here’s another example from the subject of raising children. If you’re expectation is that “My child can do no wrong. He/she is perfect,” then you’re in for a lot of frustrations in life. Not only will they disappoint you but they will destroy their life as well. They will go through life thinking that they are the center of the universe and expect you to defend and bail them out. Where did this expectation come from? It came from false assumptions. Maybe it’s because you think that children have no sin nature and they don’t need to be disciplined or corrected. Maybe it’s because your parents were too harsh on you and you swore that you would never do that with your children. Maybe it’s because you are trying to copy the pattern of how your friends are raising their children. These assumptions can come from a myriad of places. What has to change are your assumptions. They have to be replaced by BIBLICAL TRUTHS. Replacing false assumptions with biblical truths is another way of saying “Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus.” When this happens, instead of expectations, you’ll have PROMISESand instead of frustrations, you’ll have FRUITS.

Context: Last week we learned that the Philippians had a fearful mind. Today we’re going to see that they also had an envious mind.Listen again to Philippians 1:14“and most of the brethren in the Lord, having become confident by my chains, are much more bold to speak the word without fear.” When word got out that Paul was reaching the praetorian guards in prison, other pastors and leaders became more courageous in sharing the gospel. Unfortunately, human nature is prone to sin and evil.Although some were preaching for the right reasons, some were for an ulterior motive. Listen to verse 15“Some indeed preach Christ even from envyand strife…”To begin with, don’t confuse Envy with Jealousy.“Jealousy” is “I have something that I will not share with you.” For e.g. a jealous boyfriend or girlfriend. “Envy”is “You have something that I wish I had and so I resent you for it.” Jealousy is possessive and Envy is resentful.

The Greek word that Paul uses for envy is the word “phthonos.” It is found only 10 times in the New Testament in various forms. First time in Matthew and Mark when Pilate asked the people “Whom do you want me to release to you? Barabbas or Jesus?” It says in Mark 15:10“For he knew that the chief priests had handed Him over because of envy.” Pilate must have noticed their “evil eyes.” The chief priests were envious of Jesus because the people loved him and not them. It is a residue of our life before Christ – Titus 3:3 “For we ourselves were also once foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving various lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful and hating one another.” We are to lay aside envy and grow in Christ – I Peter 2:1-2 “Therefore, laying aside all malice, all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and all evil speaking, as newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the word, that you may grow thereby, if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is gracious.”

Paul identifies for us the source of this envy in some of the preachers and leaders: Listen to verse16“The former preach Christ from selfish ambition…” (There is a situation of verse inversion happening here in some versions that I don’t have time to get into but it does not change the meaning of the passage.)Some of the leaders were saying, “How come Paul is getting all this attention from prison? Are we any less than Paul? Are we not going through similar suffering? The other day some of the Roman soldiers roughed us up too.” Paul calls their behavior “erithea” = “selfish ambition” because they were more concerned about gaining notoriety rather than seeking lost souls. Furthermore, they were also trying to send word to Paul that they were winning more souls than him. 16“The former preach Christ from selfish ambition, not sincerely, supposing to add affliction to my chains.” This behavior represented their ungodly assumptions. What were Paul’s assumptions/biblical truths?18 “What then? Onlythatin every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is preached; and in this I rejoice, yes, and will rejoice.” Wow!

Why did Paul go into all this detail about the brethren in the Lord who were preaching out of envy and selfish ambition? Because the same behavior was being displayed among the Philippian believers. Listen to Philippian 2     1Therefore if there isany consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and mercy, 2fulfill my joy by being like-minded, having the same love, beingof one accord, of one mind. 3Letnothingbe donethrough selfish ambitionor conceit…” It is the same word “erithea” that he used to describe the envious brethren. Apparently, the Philippians had the same assumptions. Paul was exposing their sin in a roundabout way.

Envy coming from selfish ambition has been around for a long time.

  • Lucifer became envious of God and wanted a share of the worship.
  • Eve envied God and wanted to have His knowledge.
  • Cainkilled his brother Abel because he envied his sacrifice.
  • Down through the ages, brothers have been envying each other –Esau envied Jacob. Joseph was envied by his brothers. Moses was envied by his brother and sister. David was envied by his brothers and later by Saul. 
  • Don’t think that only men get infected with envy.Rachel and Leah envied each other in the OT and Mary and Martha in the NT.Envy is an Equal Gender Employer.

Do you struggle with envy? How do you feel when a friend gets a better job or finds a relationship and you don’t? How do you feel when you see someone on a vacation having a great time and you’re stuck because of health, money, or work? You have children who seem average or sick but then there are other families that have healthy children and great performers. Then the big source of envy – HOW YOU LOOK. Why do I have a weight problem, height problem? I don’t like my nose, my chin, my eyes and on and on. We often feel like God is so unfair in giving looks. The only way you can handle envy is by replacing your false assumptions with biblical truths. Listen to Paul in Philippians 4   11“…for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content: 12I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. 13I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”

Are you a victim of envy? One way God deals with envy is that He crucifies the one being envied. If I were God, I would crucify the one who is envying – right? Not really. As someone said, “He never makes the path of greater fruitfulness enviable.”When you have a problem with someone because of envy, God says “I will crucify that guy for you.” Cain– you have a problem with Abel, I will take him early in life; Ishmael– you have a problem with Isaac, I will take him up on Mt. Moriah and sacrifice him; Esau– you have a problem with Jacob, I will keep him running all his life; Joseph’s brothers– you have a problem with Joseph, I will have him sold into slavery; David’s brothers– you have a problem with David, I will keep him running from cave to cave hunted by Saul. Chief Priests– you have a problem with Jesus, I will crucify him. Don’t misunderstand: Through their pain and trials God blesses them even more but he removes every opportunity for you to envy that person.

How do you beat Envy? Become grateful to God. Become an encourager to others.

Are you saved?

HOW TO HANDLE TOXIC PEOPLE (Article) by Abidan Paul Shah

HOW TO HANDLE TOXIC PEOPLE (Article) by Abidan Paul Shah 

(Published in the newspaper Daily Dispatch, Henderson on August 19, 2017)

It was a perfect end to a busy week. I had accomplished everything on my agenda, which is rare. Now it was time to head home and catch up on some well-needed family time. My face was smiling, my shoulders were relaxed, my mind was clear, my steps were unhurried, and I was humming Old Satch, “What a Wonderful World.” Then it happened. In a matter of seconds, the smile vanished, the shoulders became tense, the mind turned muddy, the swag was gone, and I think I began humming Old Hank, “I’m so Lonesome I Could Cry.” The family time was nothing like I had envisioned. If truth be told, it was a rather miserable weekend. You ask, “What brought such sudden and miserable change?” Well, I ran into a toxic person. You know the type who pushes you into Bunyan’s Slough of Despond, the fictional bog in which a person sinks under the weight of sin, guilt, shame, and discouragement. Have you ever been a victim of a toxic person? Let me share with you how to handle them:

First, recognize them for who they are. Toxic people come in all types. Dr. Travis Bradberry (double PhD in Clinical and Industrial-Organizational Psychology from the California School of Professional Psychology and author of the best seller Emotional Intelligence 2.0) identifies 10 kinds of toxic people: The Gossip, The Temperamental, The Victim, The Self-Absorbed, The Envious, The Manipulator, The Dementor, The Twisted, The Judgmental, and The Arrogant. Most of these designations are self-explanatory except for maybe the Dementor and the Twisted. The former are the kind who suck the life out of the room by their negativity and pessimism and the latter are out to hurt you, make you feel bad, or get something from you. Bradberry warns, “toxic people drive your brain into a stressed-out state that should be avoided at all costs…Toxic people don’t just make you miserable—they’re really hard on your brain.”

Next, always be prepared to face toxic people. To think that we can avoid them completely is unrealistic and naïve. They might be in the family, neighborhood, workplace, or social organizations (even church!). Trying to ignore them or keep them at arm’s length will only aggravate the situation and attempting to mirror their behavior will only lead to disaster. Instead, learn their behavior patterns and establish the appropriate emotional boundaries in your mind. Don’t get smug like me and stumble into a bad weekend. Also, avoid any toxic song, show, movie, book, or event in your life. Such things only add unnecessary toxicity to your life.

What if the damage has been done? Many years ago I allowed a toxic person to steal my joy. It took a toll on my health, family, and spiritual life. God in his mercy sent a mature person into my life who immediately recognized my distress. He pointedly asked, “Do you want this toxin out of your system?” At first I pretended to be fine and then the Holy Spirit convicted me of my pride. This godly person told me that he too struggled with it and he found help in Jesus’ words in Matthew 5:44 “love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you.” He said, “Start praying that God would bless this person who has been toxic in your life. Pray for the next 20 days for physical, spiritual, and financial blessing in their life. Be aware that the first time you pray that it will be impossible to mouth those words. Do it again the next day and you might feel sick to your stomach but don’t stop. Eventually, it will become easier and easier. Then, there will come a day when you will pray and actually find yourself praying sincerely as if for a friend. Somewhere towards the end of the 20 days, you’ll wake up one morning and realize that you are free. The toxin has cleared out of your system.” Guess what! It actually worked!

Ultimately, sin is the toxin and only the grace of God through Jesus Christ can heal your life. Give it a try today.

REST A WHILE (Article) by Abidan Paul Shah

REST A WHILE (Article) by Abidan Paul Shah

(Published in the newspaper Daily Dispatch, Henderson on June 24, 2017)

“Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Come aside by yourselves to a deserted place and rest a while.’ For there were many coming and going, and they did not even have time to eat.” (Mark 6:31)

Summer is here. Those who can are taking every opportunity to get away to the lake, beach, mountains, or some place other than home. But will they truly rest? Most don’t. Many complain on returning that they need a vacation to recuperate from their vacation! Then there are those who are staying home and getting caught up on all the unfinished projects. No rest for the weary. I confess that I fall into the latter category. I enjoy work! It energizes me. It bothers me to see able-bodied people being lazy.

So who is better? The ones who get away or the ones who keep going? Neither, because both are still failing to rest. Here’s why:

God’s idea of rest is to cease from labor. In the Book of Genesis he set the pattern for us. After creating the world and everything in it in six days, he rested on the seventh day, and even blessed and sanctified it as a Day of Rest. Of course, God didn’t need to rest. “Behold, He who keeps Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep.” (Psalm 121:4) He did it to remind us that without adequate rest we will fail to function to the level of our abilities and even fall apart. As the old Greco-Roman saying goes, “If you keep your bow tightly strung at all times, it will quickly break, but if you let it rest, it will be ready to use whenever you need it.” True rest is complete cessation of work.

While it is obvious that those who stay home and keep working are failing to follow God’s mandate, it is not as apparent but many who are getting away are also just as guilty. The culprit is our world of hyper-connectivity. It’s no secret that technology has changed our world radically in the past decade or so, in some ways to our detriment. I’m not advocating abandoning our smart phones or deleting our social media accounts. We’re way past the exit ramp. What I am suggesting is taking breaks from our statuses and stories and allowing our minds to rest. Constantly checking and scrolling through updates is just disguised labor. Just like Jesus and his disciples were constantly bombarded by people coming and going, we too have people dropping in every moment, albeit behind a touch screen.

So, whether you get away or stay home, truly rest. If you’re on the beach or the lake, post pictures of how amazing it is to be you! But then put it away. Enjoy nature, God’s natural relaxant. Take the time to connect with the loved ones near you, especially the young. They’re not as addicted to social media as you may think. In the absence of genuine, fun, and meaningful interactions with the adults in their lives, they have defaulted to poor but enticing substitutes. I fear that if we don’t break our addiction, we’re headed towards a relationship precipice that will be much worse than Harry Chapin ever imagined in “Cat’s in the Cradle.”

By the way, don’t neglect the more essential spiritual rest which only Christ can provide, as he said – “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28)

Episode 17: Running the Race (ft. Dr David Alan Black)

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In this episode, Abidan Paul Shah will be talking with Dr. David Alan Black about his newest book “Running My Race: Reflections on Life, Loss, Aging, and Forty Years of Teaching.” It’s about learning to deal with the pains of life in a way that draws us closer to the heart of God. Both laypeople and scholars will benefit from this book.

If you have any questions or topics you would like to be discussed, please tweet them to @hoipolloiradio.

Steer Your Thoughts by Pastor Abidan Shah

STEER YOUR THOUGHTS by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

steeryourthoughtsIntroduction: This is our 5th message in our series “PUTTING ANXIETY TO WORK” and this one is called “STEER YOUR THOUGHTS.”

Matthew 6   25 “Therefore I say to you, do not worry 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, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? 27 Which of you by worrying can add one cubit to his stature? 28 “So why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; 29 and yet I say to you that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 30 Now if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will He not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? 31 “Therefore do not worry, saying, “What shall we eat?’ or “What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. 33 But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.

Bridge: Would you agree that worry is the result of unguided thoughts? Think about it – what happens to children who are left to themselves without proper guidance and discipline? They become monsters. So also our thoughts, if they are left to themselves without proper facts and supervision, they become monsters.

Background of the passage: So far in this series, which began in verse 19, Jesus told us that to deal with worry we have to change our thoughts: change our thoughts about wealth – “Don’t hoard but share”; change our thoughts about other people’s success – “Don’t let your eye be evil but good”; and change our thoughts about who controls your life – “Don’t have two masters. Only Christ.” But all that was to lead us to this section. To get to the heart of worry, we have to change what we fundamentally think about our relationship with God.

Question: What do you believe about God? Do you believe that He cares for your needs? Do you believe that He is a good Father who cares for His children? Do you believe He is a sovereign God who has the best in store for us? Are you saved? Romans 8:32 “He who did not spare His own Son…how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?”

So how do you steer your thoughts?

I. CHANGE WHAT YOU THINK ABOUT LIFE. 

25 “Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; nor about your body, what you will put on.”

Background: When Jesus made that statement, He was not advocating some vagrant life, with no responsibilities. Neither was He suggesting some monastic life, all detached and otherworldly. Instead, He was teaching His listeners how to have the proper perspective on the daily necessities of life. Think about Jesus’ listeners. Most of them were the common people from first century Palestine. For food, they had to depend on the rainfall and even if they had adequate rainfall, insects, locusts, and wild fire could destroy their crops. For water, they had to rely on wells and springs but what if there was a drought? For clothes, the poor people generally wore woolen garments. At the most they would have one change of clothing but what if there was a fire? By the way, this is how most of the world still lives at this very moment, just day to day.

Jesus was not telling them not to plan for their lives. He was only telling them not to be overcome by “merimnaw.” It’s a Greek word for “worry” that’s much more than daily care. It is “paralyzing anxiety.” We find it used in Psalm 55 in the LXX where David is describing a time of deep trouble and anxiety in his life. In verse 22 he says, “Cast your burden on the LORD, And He shall sustain you.” The word for burden is “merimnaw”. The only way He could rid himself of this paralyzing anxiety is by casting it on God. We could substitute that word here. Jesus was saying – “Do not be burdened about your life.”

Question: Are you burdened about your life? Are you living under this paralyzed anxiety? With the election year upon us, many are wondering what’s going to happen. Is there going to be another financial crisis? Will we lose our jobs, our homes? Will we be able to meet our daily needs? What’s going to happen to our children, our grandchildren?

What is Jesus’ solution? “Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing?” Seems like an odd response but think about it for a moment – “Is not life more than our basic necessities?” Animals live only for their daily necessities, minus clothing. We human beings were created for things far greater. We were created in the image of God and with the ability to relate with Him. We were given the gift to create new things and solve problems and improve our standard of life. We were created with godly attributes of love and justice so we could help those who are weak and abused. We were created with a sense of purpose in life so we could go out and build God’s kingdom. One verse that comes to mind is Ephesians 2:10 says, “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.”

Application: What do you think about your life? Do you look beyond your daily necessities? Have you ever stopped and asked God – “Why did you create me?” “What would you have me to do in this world?” Most human beings will never ask that question. Have you? Are you living this life of paralyzed anxiety? Stop asking, “Are we going to make it?” and start asking, “What am I made for?” It’s only when your mind is on greater things that you can deal with the lesser concerns of life.

II. CHANGE WHAT YOU THINK ABOUT YOUR SELF.

26 Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them.

Israel Raven 1

Israel Raven 1 (All images © Abidan and Nicole Shah)

Background: Here Jesus appeals to nature to make a very important point. God didn’t just create this world and leave it to fend for itself. He’s not just the Creator of life but He’s also the Sustainer of life. It’s like in our culture today – “Any man can be a father but a dad is someone who sticks around to take responsibility and provide care after conception.” By the way, Luke in his gospel is even more specific about Jesus’ words and he identifies the birds as ravens. These were unclean birds but God cares for them too. The conclusion Jesus draws is “Are you not of more value than they?”

Israel Raven 2

Israel Raven 2 (All images © Abidan and Nicole Shah)

If that wasn’t enough, Jesus gives another illustration from nature. By the way, one of the best cures for anxiety and worry is nature. People think that rest and relaxation is watching TV or going shopping or working in the yard or playing golf. All those things are fine but that’s just substituting one activity for another. True rest is when you actually sleep and true relaxation is when you stop all activity and allow your body to return to zero. Spending time in nature will do that for you more than anything else.

Israel Raven 3

Israel Raven 3 (All images © Abidan and Nicole Shah)

Israel Raven 4

Israel Raven 4 (All images © Abidan and Nicole Shah)

Listen to verse 27 Which of you by worrying can add one cubit to his stature? 28 “So why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; 29 and yet I say to you that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 30 Now if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will He not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? Again, the point is that if God cares for the less desirable and less worthy things in creation, will He not care for the crown of His creation? This may be hard for some of us to understand. We’re living in a world where every effort is made to neutralize any distinction between the creation and us. I love animals and we need to treat them with kindness and compassion. Having said that, there is a world of difference between animals and us. Please don’t blur the lines that God has drawn. God made everything by the word of His mouth but He created us by His own hands. Yes – He gave them life but only we are made in His image. We are of far more value than animals and plants.

Question: Do you know how valuable you are to God? Psalm 8 says, 5 For You have made him a little lower than the angels, And You have crowned him with glory and honor. 6 You have made him to have dominion over the works of Your hands; You have put all things under his feet, 7 All sheep and oxen—Even the beasts of the field, 8 The birds of the air, And the fish of the sea… Psalm 139:14 says, “I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.” This is biblical self-esteem.

Application: How is your biblical self-esteem? There’s a difference between self-esteem and biblical self-esteem. Self-esteem only asks – “What do you think of your self?” Biblical self-esteem asks – “What do you think God thinks of you?” Do you believe He cares for your daily needs? Do you believe that He has the best in store for you? Do you believe that He won’t abandon you?

III. CHANGE WHAT YOU THINK ABOUT BEING A BELIEVER. 

31 “Therefore do not worry, saying, “What shall we eat?’ or “What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For after all these things the Gentiles seek.

Background: The biblical concept of God as our Father is without parallel in other religions. Sometimes I hear people from other religions trying to claim it but they are forcing their view on their religious texts and making them say something they’re not. It’s only in the Bible (Old Testament and New Testament) and Judeo-Christian writings that we find the belief that God is the Heavenly Father of His people and as their Heavenly Father He provides for them and protects them. Since Gentiles or unbelievers don’t truly believe that God is their Father, it affects how they live their daily lives. They are vexed with worries and anxieties. They are burdened with paralyzing fears over daily necessities of life. They are out there fending for themselves, trying to survive.

Question: Are you constantly living in worries and anxieties? Then you are living more like Gentiles and unbelievers, than as the people of God.

So how should you live? “For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. 33 But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.” The Greek word for “seek” is “zeteo” and in this context it has the idea of “eagerly seek.” Meaning: Eagerly seek after what God is doing in your life and in this world. Submit to His will and purpose. Join Him in building His kingdom and spreading His righteousness in your life and in the world. As you work for Him, He will take care of you.

Invitation: Whose kingdom are you building? Yours or God’s. If it’s yours, then you will labor and sweat and worry and panic. If it’s God’s, then, as you work for Him, He will take care of you. Are you working for Him? Are you saved? Do you belong to Him?

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