Sunday – March 10, 2019 Gospel of Luke – Luke 15:1-31 “Lost and Found” Part 2

Sunday – March 10, 2019

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Word On Worship – Sunday – March 10, 2019

Luke 15:31-32
“‘My son,’ the father said, ‘you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.'”

The Bible is like a mirror. At first, we look into it and think that we are reading stories about others. It’s interesting to see how they are portrayed. We may chuckle at their antics or shake our heads in disbelief at their stupid ways. But the longer we look, the more we begin to notice that those characters in the Bible look more like us! Gradually, we begin to realize (with some embarrassment), “That is me!” The parable of the prodigal son is like that mirror. At first it just seems like an interesting and touching story. But the more you look, the more you begin to see your own heart either in the prodigal or in his older brother, or in both.

But the Bible not only reveals what we are like, it also reveals what God is like. This is important, because we cannot know what God is like apart from His revealing Himself to us. We can speculate on what we think God is like, but such speculations don’t mean anything, because they are just our opinions, not based in fact. Jesus Christ reveals to us what God the Father is truly like. While it is not a comprehensive picture, the father of the prodigal son gives us an important aspect of God’s character, namely, His abundant mercy toward all who will repent of their sins.

At the end, Jesus leaves the story hanging, with the older brother outside. We don’t know if he ever came in to join the party, in spite of the father’s gracious and gentle appeal. Jesus leaves the story there to make us consider our own response. If we are like the older brother, if we pride ourselves in being good, church-going people, if we see ourselves as better than prostitutes and drug dealers and thieves and other obvious sinners, then we need to judge our self-righteous pride. In the same way, we would be greatly wrong to go out and join in the sins of the prodigal, so that grace might abound. Neither son was right in their response to the abundance of their father.

We’re all sinners, desperately in need of mercy, not justice. Perhaps we started laboring in God’s field at sunrise and someone else comes in at 5 p.m. and gets the same pay as we do. Don’t begrudge him; just be glad that God is a God of great mercy, even toward the proud if they repent. If you, like the prodigal, have rebelled against God and have come to see your wretched condition, your response should be like his: Get up, leave your sin, go to the Father and appeal for His mercy. You will find it in abundance.

Sunday – March 3, 2019 Gospel of Luke – Luke 1:1-31 “Lost and Found” Part 1

Sunday – March 3, 2019

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Word On Worship – Sunday – March 3, 2019

Luke 15:3-5
So He told them this parable, saying, “What man among you, if he has a hundred sheep and has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open pasture and go after the one which is lost until he finds it? When he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing”.

From early in the book of Luke, the Pharisees chaffed over Jesus’ association with sinners, and the mood of joy and celebration which dominated the scene of His eating together with them. The Pharisees found no joy in repentance of sinners at all. What was it that caused them such pain to have Jesus associating with sinners and enjoying them?

Jesus began by directing His critics’ attention to their own attitudes and actions as it related to a lost sheep. Which one of them, if they owned 100 sheep, would not leave the 99 to search for but one lost sheep? After a diligent search, would they not rejoice greatly at finding the one lost sheep? Would they not tenderly put the sheep on their shoulders, lovingly carrying it back to the fold, rather than “kicking it back,” scolding it all the way? And would they not then let their friends know of their success and have them over to celebrate the finding of the one lost sheep?

The assumption is that every one of the Pharisees would have responded to the loss and finding of one sheep just as Jesus suggested. In a similar way, Jesus added, all of heaven rejoices over the repentance of one lost sinner. Heaven, too, rejoices more at the repentance of one lost sinner, more than over the 99 “righteous” who seemingly did not need to repent.  When you think about it, the parable of the lost sheep presents us with some haunting questions. Would it be wise, even profitable, for a man to put 99 sheep at risk, leaving them unprotected in an open field, to search for one lost lamb? That is not good economics. It is a very sentimental story, but once the reality of it sets in it just doesn’t seem to square with real life.

The Pharisees cared very much for that which was lost, and they rejoiced greatly concerning the recovery of what was lost. The critical difference between Jesus and the Pharisees is they cared about possessions, while Jesus cared about people. The Pharisees were hypocrites. They grumbled that Jesus could gladly receive back repentant sinners and rejoice in their salvation, yet they would diligently search for lost possessions and celebrate when they found them. You see, we tend to appraise sin (and “sinners”) by merely external standards and criteria. Jesus always looked at the heart. We quickly grant that stealing, murder, rape, and violence are wrong, especially when they are perpetrated on us. But Jesus goes on to show us in the gospels that prayer, giving, preaching, or showing charity can be sinful, when the motive of the heart is wrong.

Sunday – February 17, 2019 Gospel of Luke – Luke 14:1-14 “Table Talks”

Sunday – February 17, 2019

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Word On Worship – Sunday – February 17, 2019

Luke 14:1-2
It happened that when He went into the house of one of the leaders of the Pharisees on the Sabbath to eat bread, they were watching Him closely.

The meal table is one of the social centers of the home. Think of some of your warmest memories, and many of them will be associated with meal-time. Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Easter, usually include a festive meal, fellowship, and pleasant memories. The “external glue” of Luke 14, which gives it a unity, is the dinner table. Everything which is said here is said at or near the dinner table, and about the dinner table. But there is an “internal glue” which should be recognized as well, providing us with an even deeper unity. That “silver thread” is the concept of self-interest. Think about the ways in which self-interest can be found at the heart of every sin which our Lord condemns in these verses.

Self-interest caused the Pharisees to reject Jesus, angry that He spent great amounts of time and energy with “sinners” and the unsuitable people, rather than with them. Self-interest caused the Pharisees to want Jesus out of the way, lest He overthrow their system, and prevent them from all the “perks” which it afforded them. It was also self-interest which motivated each person to seek to sit in the places of honor at the dinner table. And self-interest that caused the Israelites of Jesus’ day to reject Him as Messiah. It is self-interest which keeps men from coming to Christ for salvation. Men wish to enter into the kingdom, but do not wish to create any pain, displeasure, or sacrifice for themselves.

Our culture is more permeated by self-interest than any other people at any other time in history. We may laugh at the antics of the Pharisees to get the best places at the dinner table, but we also sign up for classes which teach us how to assert ourselves, so that we can be more successful. Nearly every problem which man experiences today is now linked (in some mysterious way) to a poor self-esteem. We are truly a self-oriented society, just as Paul described the culture of those in the last days (2 Timothy 3:1-5). While we may not fight for the chair of honor at the dinner table, many Christians will line up for leadership training classes, positions of prominence and public visibility. At the same time, those tasks which call for menial service, with little recognition, seem to go begging for faithful people to carry out. Ministries where people don’t seem to appreciate us and our contribution are quickly left behind, replaced by some ministry which is more “fulfilling.”

Let us recognize how much self-interest paralyzes and perverts our ministry, our worship, and our Christian walk. Let us learn from the Master our reward in heaven will be great, and that it comes to those who “give up their life” to gain it, while those who seek to save their lives lose them. May the Spirit of God work through the Word of God to replace self-seeking with self-sacrifice, to the glory of God and for our own good as well.

Sunday – February 10, 2019 Gospel of Luke – Luke 13:31-36 “Christ Would But They Would Not”

Sunday – February 10, 2019

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Word On Worship – Sunday – February 10, 2019

Luke 13:31-33
Just at that time some Pharisees approached, saying to Him, “Go away, leave here, for Herod wants to kill You.” And He said to them, “Go and tell that fox, ‘Behold, I cast out demons and perform cures today and tomorrow, and the third day I reach My goal.’  Nevertheless, I must journey on today and tomorrow and the next day; for it cannot be that a prophet would perish outside of Jerusalem.”

We have been told by Luke (once again) that Jesus was on His way to Jerusalem, teaching and ministering as He went (Luke 13:22). Jesus’ exodus from Jerusalem (via His death and ascension) will eventually close the narrow door, which He has urged His listeners to pass through. Verses 23-30 therefore stress the implications of Jesus’ approaching Jerusalem for the nation Israel. Verses 31-35 stress the implications of arriving in Jerusalem for Jesus.

Some Pharisees arrived, seemingly from Jerusalem. It appears that they have a kind of “news flash” for Jesus. Apparently, they have learned of Herod’s intention to put Jesus to death if He made an appearance in Jerusalem. They had come to warn Jesus of the danger of persisting on His present course. Herod earlier was desiring to see Jesus (Luke 9:9). The Pharisees, on the other hand, had rejected Him and had determined to put Him to death. Did they really wish to save Jesus from Herod’s treachery? It didn’t matter. Jesus would use this as a further occasion for teaching.

Jesus’ response to this warning was to tell these Pharisees to report back to Herod His commitment to carry on His ministry, as given by God, and as planned. It was business as usual for Jesus, even if that was dangerous, even if it meant death. Jesus was determined to finish what He had been sent to accomplish. No threat of danger would turn Him from His mission or from His ministry. The fainthearted might be tempted to pursue the same ministry, but in a safer location. Jesus was not going to let anything cause Him to take a detour, so that He could avoid the danger which lay ahead. How much this is like the warning which Paul received in Acts 21, telling Him that persisting on with his course would lead him into bondage. Paul’s response is in the footsteps of His Lord’s. Neither would let danger keep them from fulfilling their mission.

Jesus made it clear that He knew He would die in Jerusalem. He was not naive of the danger. He was not oblivious to the pain and the persecution which was ahead. He was conscious that this was His calling. Would He urge men to “strive” to enter the door? He was striving to open the door to salvation, by His sacrificial death. Today, when “playing it safe” seems to be the name of the game, even the smallest danger or threat may be enough to deter us. We conclude that “the Lord has closed the door,” when He may only have purposed for us to walk in His footsteps.

Sunday – January 20, 2019 Gospel of Luke – Luke 13:22-35 “Strive to Enter the Narrow Way”

Sunday – January 20, 2019

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Word On Worship – Sunday – January 20, 2019

Luke 13:23-24
And someone said to Him, “Lord, are there just a few who are being saved?” And He said to them, “Strive to enter through the narrow door; for many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able.

Somewhere in some village some unnamed person in the crowd asked Jesus an interesting theological question: “Lord, are there just a few who are being saved?” I don’t know the man’s motives for asking the question. Perhaps he saw the increasing opposition from the religious leaders and he could sense that the crowds tended to side with their leaders. But he asked this question, “Are there just a few who are being saved?” It would have made for an interesting theological discussion. But Jesus directed the question away from abstract theological speculation and toward specific application for each person in the crowd. The man had asked, “Will the saved be few?” Jesus turned it around to ask, “Will the saved be you?”

The man who put the question to Jesus seems to have assumed that he was among the “few” who were being saved. He may, like his fellow Israelites, have thought that the “few” being saved were Israelites, while the “many” who were not were Gentiles. Jesus has some very distressing words for those who would think such thoughts. Jesus first shocked His listeners by indicating that they were not already on the inside, so far as the kingdom is concerned. Then, He went on to say that many of His fellow-Israelites who were not on the inside would not ever be in the kingdom.

They believe that mere association with Jesus was sufficient to save them. They had eaten in His presence. He had taught in their streets. Wasn’t this enough? No. John the Baptist, followed by Jesus, required the followers of Jesus—those who would be truly be saved—to identify with Him. This is what baptism was all about. Did the Israelite(s) think that being a Jew saved him/them (choose sing. or pl. for both)? He was wrong. Baptism was a public testimony of the Jew’s break with his culture, and with the legalism and ritualism of Judaism. It was a profession of identifying with Jesus as the Messiah. Identification with Jesus was, to put it in the terms Jesus is using in our text, passing through the narrow door.

May I press this point a little more personally? How many people think that they are going to be in God’s kingdom because they are a part of some religious sect or denomination? How many suppose they are saved because they come from a Christian family? How many think that they are saved by mere association with spiritual things? Nothing could be further from the truth. You are only saved by identification with Christ. Association with Christ (by going to church, reading the Bible, or whatever) isn’t enough. It wasn’t the truth for the Jews of Jesus’ day. It isn’t enough for you either.

Sunday – January 13, 2019 Gospel of Luke – Luke 13:1-21 “A Matter of Perspective”

Sunday – January 13, 2019

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Word On Worship – Sunday – January 13, 2019

Luke 13:1-3
Now on the same occasion there were some present who reported to Him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices. And Jesus said to them, “Do you suppose that these Galileans were greater sinners than all other Galileans because they suffered this fate? I tell you, no, but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.”

In the past year we have been shocked by the shooting of 17 people at a synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. We hear of natural disasters that have killed thousands around the world. On a personal level, many of us struggle with private tragedies—loved ones who die untimely deaths, accidents that leave devastating consequences, children who suffer from birth defects or serious diseases. Naturally, we always ask, “Why?” Why did this have to happen to this person? I can understand why many people question God’s goodness and fairness, even doubting His existence. It’s the classic philosophic problem of evil: How can an all-good and all-powerful God allow good people to suffer and wicked people to prosper?

The Lord Jesus gives us some answers to these difficult questions in Luke 13. We don’t know any more about these events other than what is reported. Pilate had sent in his troops to break up a gathering of Galilean Jews that he deemed dangerous. The Roman soldiers did not care that the Jews were worshiping God by offering sacrifices. They slaughtered them so that their blood flowed together with the blood of their sacrifices. Then Jesus brings up another tragedy when a tower fell down and killed 18 people.

Jesus was speaking to people who did not apply spiritual truth to themselves (12:56-57). From His reply, we can see these men were smugly thinking that those who suffered such tragedies were deserving of God’s judgment, but the fact that they had been spared such tragedies meant that they were pleasing to God. Their theology was like that of Job’s comforters, who thought that Job was suffering because he had sinned. Jesus corrects this mistaken view by showing that we all are sinners worthy of God’s judgment. Twice (13:3 & 5), He drives home the application: Were those who suffered greater sinners? “I tell you, no, but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.”

Rather than asking the question “Why?” with regard to suffering, we should ask the question, “What?” What does this tragedy teach me? The fact that a tragedy has not hit you should show you God’s great patience. If you have not repented of your sins and if you’re not bearing fruit in God’s vineyard, there is still time. But, don’t mistake God’s patience to mean that His axe will never fall. His patience does have a limit. Life is fragile; none are exempt from tragedies. But, if you have fled to Christ for refuge and you are bringing forth the fruits of repentance in your life, you are ready if/when tragedy strikes.

Sunday – January 6, 2019 Gospel of Luke – Luke 12:49-59 “The Consequences of Christ’s Coming”

Sunday – January 6, 2019

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Word On Worship – Sunday – January 6, 2019

Luke 12:49-51
I have come to cast fire upon the earth; and how I wish it were already kindled!  But I have a baptism to undergo, and how distressed I am until it is accomplished! Do you suppose that I came to grant peace on earth? I tell you, no, but rather division.

The word “fire” can arouse a wide variety of responses. If someone were to yell, “Fire!” at the top of their lungs, it would probably produce a great commotion. One the other hand, on a cold winter night, the suggestion to “build a fire in the fireplace” arouses all kinds of warm emotions. And who can forget singing “chestnuts roasting on an open fire” at Christmas time? Now, that give us a warm, sentimental feeling. But when Jesus said/says that He had come to “kindle a fire,” He was/is saying that He has come to bring about the outpouring of God’s wrath on sinful Israel. That certainly is neither warm nor sentimental!

There are a number of seeming contradictions in our Lord’s words, here and elsewhere in the gospels. He is the Prince of Peace, but He will bring division. He promises men life, but He calls on them to give up life. He tells men to lay up treasure in heaven, but they are to give up the pursuit of riches in this life, and to give to the poor. The difference is between the “ends” and the “means” by which they are achieved. “Peace” is the end, but a sword and division are the means. “Life” is the end, but death—our Lord’s death, and the/each disciple’s “taking up his cross” is the means. “Blessing and riches” are the end, but giving up the pursuit of them is the means. Since the means appear to contradict the ends, we must go about these means by faith, and not by sight.

But how can Jesus be so zealous for this “fire” to be kindled? If He is going to bring about the judgment of God upon sinners, and if this is not a work in which He takes pleasure, why is He eager for the “fire” to be kindled? I think the answer is simple—this painful and unpleasant (for both God and men, I believe) outpouring of wrath is a prerequisite of and preliminary to the establishment of the kingdom of God. In order for the kingdom of God to be established, sinners must be punished and sin eliminated.

The means by which God has determined to bring about His kingdom is not just painful to sinful men, it is exceedingly painful to God. Not only because men will suffer for their sins, but because Jesus Christ, God’s Son, will suffer His wrath as a payment for man’s sins. Jesus said that before He casts fire on the earth, He had a baptism with which to be baptized. This baptism is the death which He would die on the cross of Calvary. His death on the cross would set in motion a series of events, which will conclude in the pouring out of God’s divine wrath on sinners. The sad reality is that it is not really necessary, because Jesus experienced the full extent of God’s wrath on the cross. For those who trust in Him, that is the full payment for their sins, but for those who reject Him, there is yet to come the outpouring of God’s wrath in the day of judgment.

Sunday – December 30, 2018 Gospel of Luke – Luke 12:35-48 “The Way to Wait”

Sunday – December 30, 2018

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Word On Worship – Sunday – December 30, 2018

Luke 12:42-43
And the Lord said, “Who then is the faithful and sensible steward, whom his master will put in charge of his servants, to give them their rations at the proper time?  43 “Blessed is that slave whom his master finds so doing when he comes.

I doubt that there is anything I dislike more than waiting. It may be that you can identify with me in my annoyance with waiting. How many people, during the peak travel times of Thanksgiving and Christmas, were forced to spend a day or more in the airport waiting for the weather to clear or for the airline schedules to be untangled. Think of how many “fast food” restaurants there are compared with those which cook food the slow, old-fashioned way. Credit cards appeal to us because we can buy what we want without having to wait till we have the cash.

When you think of the Bible, waiting is one of the things which men and women of faith are called upon to do. All of those named in the “hall of faith” in Hebrews 11 had to wait for the promised blessings of God. Their wait was even longer than we would like to contemplate—they were still waiting when they died. They are still waiting! If we are required to wait, then you and I had better learn how to do it right.

The problem of waiting usually comes the fact we rarely, if ever, think about the future. When we only think about today, if we get some money, we don’t think about the rent that will be due in two weeks or other bills coming due. We celebrate that we’ve got money in our pocket today, but the one thing we will not do is save any money, because we don’t think about the future. Our Lord taught that we should not be anxious about tomorrow, but He did not teach that we should ignore tomorrow! In fact, to the contrary, Jesus taught that our view of the future ought to be uppermost in our thinking about how we should live today. We should view ourselves as stewards who have been entrusted with time, money, and abilities, which we are to use for our Master’s kingdom and not hypocritically on ourselves.

As I have suggested before, Jesus is dealing with hypocrisy in Luke 12. The other side of the coin of hypocrisy is stewardship- living in a way that is consistent with our calling and the use of the resources God has provided, knowing we are accountable to Him. From the perspective of stewardship, verses 1-12 addressed the disciple’s stewardship of the gospel. The disciple must make good use of the gospel by boldly living and proclaiming it. Verses 13-34 addressed the stewardship of possessions. Our preoccupation must not be with material things, but with true “life.” We need not worry about our life, but we should use things to minister to men’s needs now, which is laying up treasure for ourselves in heaven. In verses 35 and following our Lord turns to the stewardship of time. He will instruct us as how we are to view and use the time which remains until he comes.

Sunday – December 23, 2018 Christmas 2018 – Acts 20:33-38 “The Blessing of Giving”

Sunday – December 23, 2018

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Word On Worship – Sunday – December 23, 2018

John 3:16-17
For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him.

As Christians we should be able to think of numerous texts which encourage or even command us to give. Likewise, the Scriptures give us directives as to how much we should give (generously), how we should give (cheerfully), and to whom we should give (e.g. those who proclaim God’s Word, and those in need).

There are no commands for God to give, only instances in which He does freely give, and give generously. So, what is it that prompts God to be a giver? Giving is God’s nature; it is God’s predisposition. He delights in giving freely, and He savors the opportunity to do so. Christmas is the season we celebrate the greatest gift ever given by God to mankind – the free gift of God’s Son, Jesus Christ. It is amazing to ponder the truth that our Lord left the splendor of heaven to come and dwell on earth, to live among sinners like us. But what is even more amazing is that the incarnation qualified our Lord to die as an innocent sacrifice in order to bear our sins on the cross of Calvary.

Many efforts to convince Christians to give come from the exhortation or instructions found in God’s Word. But the ultimate basis for becoming a giver is because God is a giver, by nature, and when we come to faith in Christ we become partakers of His divine nature (2 Peter 1:4). We should not be surprised, then, when the first thing we read about the new believers in Jesus in the Book of Acts is that they gave, and gave generously (Acts 2, 4, and 11). And saints like those in Macedonia gave gladly and enthusiastically, even with their limited means (2 Corinthians 8-9).

We may think that our giving nature is adequately expressed by giving gifts to friends and family at Christmas time, but we should give this matter more thought. The magi did not come with gifts for Mary and Joseph, but rather with gifts for the Lord Jesus. To what use were these gifts put? We are not told, but one plausible option is that these gifts were the resources which sustained Jesus and His parents in the years they spent in Egypt. The gifts supported the person and work of the Savior. I want us to consider the privilege that is ours to be a generous giver, because we share the nature of a generous, giving God. Give, not just because you are instructed by the Scriptures to do so, but because it is your nature and predisposition to do so, as it is with our Great Giving God.

Sunday – December 16, 2018 Gospel of Luke – Luke 12:22-34 “Perspective on Possessions”

Sunday – December 16, 2018

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Word On Worship – Sunday – December 16, 2018

Luke 12:29-32
Do not seek what you will eat and what you will drink, and do not keep worrying.  For all these things the nations of the world eagerly seek; but your Father knows that you need these things.  But seek His kingdom, and these things will be added to you.  Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has chosen gladly to give you the kingdom.

Economist John Kenneth Galbraith observed, “Money is a singular thing. It ranks with love as man’s greatest source of joy—and with death as his greatest source of anxiety”. Most of us are prone to worry about money. If we don’t have enough, we worry about how to get it; if we have plenty, we worry about whether we really have enough and about how to hang on to what we have. Worry has been described as “a thin stream of fear trickling through the mind. If encouraged, it cuts a channel into which all other thoughts are drained”.

Worry, Jesus reminds us, simply doesn’t satisfy. Worry does not make one more comfortable, nor does it extend one’s life. And if worry will not do such a little thing, why should we think it would do any greater thing? Worry never produced a single meal. Worry has not produced a stitch of clothing. A little thought would even lead you to conclude that worry has probably hindered in these matters. Worry is really fear, and its ultimate cause is a lack of faith in God, in His goodness, in His power, and in His promises to provide for all our needs, beginning with the most important- LIFE.

Ultimately, worry disregards God’s care of His creation and disbelieves His love and care. The problem with material things is just that, they are material. They can be seen. Faith is not rooted in what is seen, but in what is not seen. When we seek after material things, like food and clothing, we seek after that which we can see, and so we live according to sight, rather than faith. As Paul reminds us “… we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal” (2 Corinthians 4:18).

Faith is rooted in the Word of God, which is both certain and eternal, not in those things which we see, which are soon to pass away. Heaven and earth will pass away, but not His word. The Word of God is the basis, both for faith and for life.  The antidote to fear is faith. The fuel of faith is that which is not material, but is eternal, the Word of God. His “flock” does not need to fear about food and clothing, or anything else, for His kingdom is assured. And not only is it certain that His “flock” will be given the kingdom, God has purposed to gladly give it. We can be assured that God will do that which gives Him pleasure, and giving us His kingdom will be pleasurable to Him, and so it is sure for us.