Jesus spoke the parable of the rich fool to a crowd of thousands. He warned them that life without being rich toward God has eternal consequences. Then He addressed only His disciples showing the close connection between richness toward God and the removal of fear and anxiety. Right after the words, “So is the one who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God” St. Luke records Jesus saying this and more to His disciples: “Therefore (for this reason) I tell you, do not be anxious about your life…which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?...Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.
TEXT: Luke 12:22-40
GOD’S GOOD PLEASURE IN CHRIST ANSWERS OUR WORRY
Preached by Rev. Kenneth W. Wieting

In many and various ways God spoke to His people of old by the prophets, but now in these last days, He has spoken to us by His Son (Heb. 1:1, 2). Dear hearers of the Word made flesh;

Jesus spoke the parable of the rich fool to a crowd of thousands. He warned them that life without being rich toward God has eternal consequences. Then He addressed only His disciples showing the close connection between richness toward God and the removal of fear and anxiety. Right after the words, “So is the one who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God” St. Luke records Jesus saying this and more to His disciples: “Therefore (for this reason) I tell you, do not be anxious about your life…which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?...Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.

Anxiety and fear! Oh to live your life without anxiety and fear! When I was young one of my occasional nighttime fears was the bear up above the attic hatch in our bedroom closet. This fear was, of course, unfounded. It was nonetheless a fear encouraged and fed from time to time by my older brother who shared that room. Keeping the closet door tightly shut and huddling under thick quilts in winter months were helpful fear reducers. But that attic was always there, right behind the closet door and oh my, what boyhood imagination could put in it!

Anxiety and fear! How glorious a week would be without that pair! As we age, however, there are so many more things, real things to be afraid of and to worry about. Quite early you learn about accidents and disease that take the life of friends and family. You learn about the consequences of failure and the fearful results of crime. You fear missing out and worry about fitting in. You worry about grades in college and fear the years of study might not provide that rewarding vocation. You may worry about finding a spouse or fear losing personal freedom if you do.

Anxiety and fear! If God gives you children, the fears and worries can multiply exponentially. And with aging there are even more uncertainties and more threats to add to the mix. What about failing eyesight and hearing and memory? What about health care and loss of independence?

Anxiety and fear! How are you handling that pair today? Is your heart free from worry over health – family – finances – the state of this country - the state of the church? Is your heart free from fear of cancer and strokes and accidents and Islamic terrorism and falling bridges and the decay of our culture and the effects of bad decisions and threats against the Christian faith of yourself and those you love?

Jesus’ exhortations “not to worry” presuppose the presence of anxieties in the lives of His disciples. The context shows that the worries Jesus identified here were over possessions, over stuff, over the things of life that provide food and clothing. “Life is more than food, and the body more than clothing.” He said. We do take great care over these things that will not last. We are tempted to covet and to brood over and strive after things that are passing away.

The truth is that there has always been anxiety in this world ever since sin came into the world. There has been concern over clothing ever since Adam and Eve sought to cover up with fig leaves. There has been concern over food ever since they ate of the one tree God separated from the menu of human life. “Cursed is the ground because of you; in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life; thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you…you are dust to dust you shall return.”

This means that none of us can avoid anxieties. The diseased and disfigured world we live in offers a profuse menu of threats. But our Lord Jesus teaches us here not to be taken captive by them. There will be duties and responsibilities to harass us in daily life. There will be cares for food and livelihood and loved ones. There will be thorns and thistles aplenty. There will be fear of death as we await our own body’s return to dust.

In fact, it is that final fear that Jesus here addresses with His ultimate admonition. “Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.” A better translation might read “stop being afraid little flock for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.” Or some 2000 years earlier to Abraham, “Stop being afraid…for I am your shield; your reward shall be very great.” In His gifts to us through Abrahams’ Seed, God gives us the answer to all our worries and all our fears. They won’t go away, but neither will God leave us or forsake us.

Dear Christians, here is more help and healing for fear and worry than in the psychology books and counseling techniques of the world. This is not meant to negate the positive help counseling may offer for facing the phobias of life. But here, the Shepherd speaks to His sheep. Here the holy LORD speaks to those who know His voice.

His encouragement acknowledges that his sheep will not transform the world; that the huge herd of the world’s masses will not jump on board. He calls His disciples, not the big gang, but the little flock. That in it self can be a fearful thing in this statistically driven society. “Fear not, little flock.”

Then follow some of the most beautiful words in Holy Scripture. Jesus unveils again the ultimate ground of our comfort, the ultimate source of our salvation, the ultimate reason for us not to fear and not to worry. “Stop being afraid, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure…”

The Father has absolute freedom of will. The crucial issue then is His will toward us? What is the beating heart of what the Father in heaven wants for us fearful, anxious, sinners? What pleases Him in regard to this death-dealing predicament in which we find ourselves? “Fear not, little flock, for it is the Father’s good pleasure…to what? If it is the Father’s good pleasure to require or to punish or to pay us what we deserve, then our life is hopeless, then there is reason for depression and despair. You see, everything for us depends upon what follows, what springs forth from the Father’s good pleasure.
“Fear not, little flock, for it is the Father’s good pleasure to give you…”

Beloved, rejoice in that word “give”! “To give” is a word rich in grace. It is a word that reaches back to eternity. “To give” to you is the opposite of taking from you. “To give” is fundamentally different than “to pay what is earned”. “To give” is not dependent upon merit or worth. “It is the Father’s good pleasure to give you… the kingdom!”

The kingdom! That’s what we daily pray for in the Lord’s Prayer…Thy Kingdom come. Not possessions that grow old and wear out, not temporary pleasures, not bigger barns, not my self determined kingdom but the kingdom – God’s kingdom. All that God possesses, He desires to give to you!

Beloved, stop being afraid that God’s hidden agenda is to give you evil. Stop worrying that God’s deep-down intention might be to delight in making you suffer! He has no secret scheme to get even with you or to make you pay. Rather, He has bared His heart to you in Jesus. He wants you to know the unmistakable, unchanging treasure of His grace toward you. The reason for you not to fear lies within the Father Himself. The reason for you not to worry comes to you through the Son Himself.

The very one speaking to Abraham is the very one who spoke the words in our Gospel and the one who Himself is your shield. He is a shield which nothing can get through. In Hebrews we heard that from one man and him as good as dead, were born descendants as many as the stars. The Gospel tells us that from one man who was dead, crucified, dead and buried are born these descendants of Abraham who live by faith (Gal. 3). You are part of that host, numbered as the stars in the sky. Your worry can’t add one hour to your life, but Jesus’ work adds eternity to your life. He is your shield. On the cross He stepped between your punishment and you. Not one accusation of Satan can penetrate your shield. Even when Satan throws flaming arrows of temptation related to death your way, your shield stands firm. The Shepherd of the little flock stepped forth from His grave in resurrection victory, giving us the kingdom. The risen Christ comes into our midst today not to be served but to serve, to continue His gracious giving.

Anxiety and fear! Oh to live your life without anxiety and fear! The truth is that that’s not going to happen. There are too many thorns and thistles! This world is under a curse and besides, our old nature is a master at manufacturing worries even where there are none. While there are no bears in the attic closet (no skeletons either – in Jesus), there is a roaring Lion, prowling around seeking to devour us. There are dangers and disappointments that pursue us and death that awaits us. There is more than enough anxiety and fear to go around. But our Lord teaches us here not to be taken captive by any of it.

“Fear not little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.” You are His treasure! His heart is set on you! Let your heart take comfort in Him. When you speak the invocation in daily prayer and as you make the sign of the cross (if that is your practice) remember God’s good pleasure in you through His washing of rebirth. He has not lost one drop of the ocean of love behind that blessed, cleansing flood!

When you pray “Our Father” this week, remember that Jesus prays with you. You are not praying to a neutral God. You are not praying to a fickle, moody God. You are not praying to some generic power or spirit of the universe or nature. And you are not praying alone. You are praying to the Father in heaven who spared not His Son but gave Him up for you. As you pray, Jesus also prays for you and with you in keeping with the Father’s will. And you know what His will for you is. “Fear not little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.”

In Him you go home today at peace with God. In Him you lay down in sleep tonight at peace with God. In Him you depart this life in peace even through the valley of the shadow of death. Thank God that in these last days He continues to speak to us by His Son. Amen.

Luther Memorial Chapel & University Student Center | 3833 N Maryland Ave | Shorewood, WI  53211
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