07 August 2016

Your Life Is in the Lord's Hands

When the Lord Jesus Christ admonishes you not to worry, as He does several times over in this Holy Gospel, He is not thereby urging you to complacency or to be oblivious about the world around you.  He is not calling you to laziness, nor to go through life without paying attention to your job and your family and your responsibilities.  It is no better to be consumed by nothing at all than it is to be consumed by the pleasures and pursuits of this world.

When the Lord Jesus Christ admonishes you not to worry, He is urging you to live by faith.  To set your heart upon God.  To fear, love, and trust in Him for all that you need in all that you do.

You are not to worry and fret with great anxiety, which is idolatrous and unfaithful.  Such worry and fear are a kind of self-righteousness which destroys both faith and love.

Rather, living in faith, you simply do what you are given to do, wherever God has put you in this world, whatever your place in life may be, whatever your office and stations.  If you are a husband and father, then love your wife and family.  If you are a wife and mother, love your husband and your children.  If you are a son or daughter, honor your father and mother.  If you are a student, study hard and learn what you are given to learn.  In any case, do your job.  Do it in the fear of the Lord.  Do it, not as though your life depended on it, but because your life is given to you by God.

And as you live that life, with all its ups and downs, come what may, pray, praise, and give thanks to Him, your Father in heaven.  Give thanks to Him for your life, even when your life does not seem to be going as you would like it to go.  Pray to Him at all times, knowing that His hand opens to provide your every need.  Rely upon Him in all that you do.

And seek His Kingdom first of all, above all else.  That is to say, seek the righteousness of Christ, which is by grace through faith in His Gospel, the forgiveness of your sins.  That is where you daily find your life, your hope, and your confidence.  And clinging to that Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ, invest your heart and life in the treasures of heaven, which cannot be taken from you.

You are not to establish a kingdom for yourself here on earth, which will be destroyed in any case.  You are to live as a stranger, and as an alien, as a citizen of another country, a citizen of heaven.  Look, therefore, to the City of God, and make your home there.  For your own dear Father is the Architect and Builder of that City, which shall never crumble or fall.

Hold on to your possessions here — those things that God has given to you and entrusted to your stewardship — but hold on to them loosely, and use them to serve your neighbor in love.  Not only your nearest and dearest kin, your family and friends, but even those who rub you the wrong way.  This is the true purpose for which God has put things into your hand.  Not simply to comfort yourself and please yourself, but to serve and support your neighbor in all of his needs, to the glory of your God and Father.  And above all, to serve and support the Church and Ministry of Christ to the glory of His Name and to the benefit of both yourself and your neighbors.

In living thus by faith and in love, you are living always ready for the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ, your heavenly Bridegroom, your Savior and your God.

Sounds pretty good, and easy enough, doesn’t it?  But how on earth do you do it?

Your heart is so divided and distracted, how shall you live in that way?  How shall you believe?

How can you be ready and waiting, fully dressed, and with your lamps lit at all times?  And how shall you not resort to worrying about yourself and your body, and your life, and what you should do, and what you haven’t done?  Are you doing enough?  Are you even able to do it all?

Truth be told, your sinfulness leads you in a different direction altogether — away from faith and love, into all manner of depravity and selfishness.  How, then, shall your heart be detached from the life that you know here and now?  How shall your heart let go of those things that you see?  Things that you possess, and things that you so desperately want to possess here on earth.

How shall your heart and mind be set free from the cares and occupations of this life, which so easily consume you day and night?  For do they not consume your attention, your time, and your energies, until there’s nothing left for anyone, and no faith in God?

How shall you ever set yourself, with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength, with single minded devotion, upon Christ your Lord?

You cannot do this thing for yourself.  It’s no good pretending that you can simply decide that this is how you’re going to be.  It’s not a matter of New Year’s resolutions, or turning a new leaf, or trying harder in order to do better; though, perhaps, all of these things may well have their place.

It is by repentant faith that you wait upon the Lord and live in Him.  But when you are called to repentance, and when you are called to faith, you are not being called to do something for yourself.  You’re not being given one more thing to work and worry about!  In many ways, that is the point.  You cannot help yourself.  You cannot save yourself.  You cannot turn your own heart of stone into a believing heart of flesh.  You cannot fix what is broken, because you are what is broken.

When the Lord calls you to repent, when He calls you to believe, to fear, love, and trust in God above all things, it is His Word that does it.  It is His Word that breaks you, in order to heal you.  It is His Word that raises you from the death of your unbelief and sin to love and trust in Him.

Repentant faith is not your own choice or decision.  It is not the product of your own works or efforts.  It is not something you can do for yourself.  It is given to you and worked in you by the Lord through His Word.  It is the divine service and gift of the Holy Spirit through the preaching of the Cross and Resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ.

In calling you to repentance, the Lord is calling you and wooing you to Himself.  Away from sin and death.  Away from your false belief, despair, and idolatry, to the true worship of God by faith in His Word and promises.  And in calling you to faith, He bids your heart to rest in Him, and to be at peace.  In forgiving you all of your sins, He gives you real life in the Body of Christ Jesus.

See, everything depends on God, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.  The one true God who loves you.  Who takes care of you, because He cares for you.  Who provides for all of your needs.  Who even gets down on His hands and knees to serve you with gentle compassion.  And all of this He does for His own sake, because of who He is.  Because He is Love.  Because He loves you.

All of your work and worry, all of your anxious striving and fretting — none of this feeds you or clothes you.  It does not save your life, or preserve your life, or even extend your life by one hour.

But the Lord does all of this and more.

He does it for you daily and richly, even when you forget to pray, just as He causes the sun to shine and the rain to fall on both the evil and the good.  Even in your idolatrous and unbelieving worry and fear, He still takes care of you.  Even when you’re railing away at Him, and yelling and screaming that He’s “so unfair,” He still takes care of you.  He keeps on loving you.

It is all for Jesus’ sake.  You are so valuable to God — more so than the birds and flowers by far.  Not because of your possessions and income, all of which come from Him in the first place.  Not because of your savings and investments and life insurance policies and inheritances and whatever else it is that you think has established your legacy in the world and secured your future.  None of that gives you any lasting value.  That is not where your life is found.  Not now, and not forever.

You are so valuable to God because the Father loves the Son, and for His sake He has created you to live with Him in the holiness of His Spirit.  It is for His sake that He has not cast you away from His presence but saved you.  He rescues you from sin and death, forgives you, and gives you life, all for the sake of Christ Jesus, the incarnate God, who shed His holy and precious blood for you to redeem you, to buy you back, to make you His own.  Who gave His Life as a Ransom for you.

It is in and with Christ Jesus, and for His sake, that the Father desires and has gladly chosen to give you the Kingdom.  As He has done in your Holy Baptism, and as He does, day after day and week after week throughout your life, by the Ministry of the Gospel and in the Holy Communion.

Though you are so small and weak and frail and helpless, the very Son of God has made Himself small and weak and frail and seemingly helpless on the Cross, in order to save you.  He has laid down His life on your behalf in order to raise you up with Himself, so that you may live with Him in His Kingdom — in His Righteousness, His innocence, His blessedness and holiness, forever.

For His sake, your dear God and Father in heaven surely does provide you with all that you need to support this body and life.  He has not failed you, and He will not fail you.

But He does abundantly more than this.  For both body and soul.  For ever.  For Life everlasting.

The Lord Jesus Christ, who gave Himself up for you, also cleanses you and washes you and dresses you in His Righteousness.  He covers you with Himself.  He adorns you as His own holy Bride, precious in His sight, like a diadem in the palm of His hand, without any spot or wrinkle or blemish or any such thing.  You are His very own, and in His love He cares for you, as a Husband for His Wife, as a Father for His children, as a Brother and a Friend.

With His Word of Holy Absolution, His free and spoken Word of forgiveness, He girds Himself, and He gets down on His knees as He did for His disciples on that Maundy Thursday, in order to cleanse your dirty feet.  And in cleansing your feet, He cleanses all of you.  He calls you and claims you as His own, again and again and again.  He forgives your sins and heals your infirmities of body and soul.  He strengthens and sustains your faith.  And with all of this, He gives you life —  Real Life that shall never be taken from you, because you cannot be taken away from Him.

The Lord Himself invites you to recline at His Table, here and now within His House, and here it is that He serves you.  He feeds you from His own hand.  He gives you to eat such a Meal that He has prepared in love for you by His own death.  He gives to you His holy Body and pours out for you His precious Blood.  What more could He possibly do or give than that?

You see how everything is turned around, inside out, and upside down.  It is not your work, but His.  The Son of Man has not come to be served by you, but to serve you.  And in doing so, He provides you with all that you need.  He cares for you and grants to you His Spirit, His Name, and His own Life in body and soul; so that, at whatever hour He comes, be it by day or by night, you are ready to receive Him in peace.  For you are His very own, both now and forevermore.

In the Name + of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

No comments: