Sermon: Daily Bread

I invite you, this morning, to open your bibles to Matthew Chapter 6. Matthew is in the New Testament, the first book. Matthew 6.

Last week we began a series on the Lord’s Prayer. Pastor Stephen led us through the first three petitions of the prayer: Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come. Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. We learned about how the Lord’s Prayer is God-centered, how God is the subject in each of these first three petitions, and that prayer starts by putting God first, by placing His glory and His name ahead of our own.

This morning we move on to the fourth petition. But before we hear God’s word this morning, please pray with me.

Father, may your Word be our rule, Your Holy Spirit our teacher, And the glory of Jesus Christ, our single concern. Amen.

Matthew 6, beginning in verse 9.

“Pray then in this way:

Our Father in heaven,

    hallowed be your name.

    Your kingdom come.

    Your will be done,

        on earth as it is in heaven.

    Give us this day our daily bread.

    And forgive us our debts,

        as we also have forgiven our debtors.

    And do not bring us to the time of trial,

        but rescue us from the evil one.

For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you; but if you do not forgive others, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.

These are the very words of God. Thanks be to God.

Give us this day our daily bread.

This fourth petition of the Lord’s Prayer marks a shift. The prayer began with “Your” — hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done. Now it shifts to “us” — give us this day our daily bread, forgive us, rescue us from the evil one. We shift from confessing God’s greatness to acknowledging our neediness and dependence on Him.

Give us this day our daily bread.

Praying for bread admits need. I must admit that I had never really thought about how counter-cultural this statement really is. Asking God for daily bread admits that we can’t do it on our own. We need help.

I’m not asking you to raise your hands, but how many of us struggle with asking for help? How many of us see this as a weakness? I’m guessing a lot of us have grown up in a culture that teaches us these things. And yet, Jesus teaches us to pray, Give us this day our daily bread. When we pray those words we are asking God for help. We need God to supply us every day because we cannot provide for ourselves what we truly need. Its an admission that we can’t do this on our own, and that we are not in control. We have limits.

And friends, limits are good. Eugene Peterson writes, “Limits don’t limit us from being fully human. They only limit us from being God… Do we want to live without needs? Then we want to live without God.”

Give us this day our daily bread.

I want to remind us of a story. It’s one of many stories in the Bible that tells us of how God provides daily bread for his people. This story takes place in the wilderness. The Israelites had just witnessed amazing wonders. They had been in slavery in Egypt, but God brought them out with a mighty hand. He parted the Red Sea, bringing them safely out of Egypt, and away from their life of slavery. But it didn’t take long before they started complaining. They said,

If only we had died by the hand of the Lord in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the fleshpots and ate our fill of bread; for you have brought us out into this wilderness to kill this whole assembly with hunger.

Then the Lord said to Moses, “I am going to rain bread from heaven for you, and each day the people shall go out and gather enough for that day. In that way I will test them, whether they will follow my instruction or not. On the sixth day, when they prepare what they bring in, it will be twice as much as they gather on other days.” So Moses and Aaron said to all the Israelites, “In the evening you shall know that it was the Lord who brought you out of the land of Egypt, and in the morning you shall see the glory of the Lord, because he has heard your complaining against the Lord. (Exodus 16:3-7a)

In the evening quails came up and covered the camp; and in the morning there was a layer of dew around the camp. When the layer of dew lifted, there on the surface of the wilderness was a fine flaky substance, as fine as frost on the ground. When the Israelites saw it, they said to one another, “What is it?” For they did not know what it was. Moses said to them, “It is the bread that the Lord has given you to eat. (Exodus 16:13-15)

The Lord commanded them to gather as much as each person needed, and do you know what? Each person had exactly enough.

The Israelites learned that they needed to rely upon God for their daily bread. They learned that God provided for their needs and gave them just what they needed. For forty years, God provided just enough bread for his people. They got up every morning and God provided them with enough for that day, and then the next day, and the next day.

He gave them their daily bread.

Where have you seen God give you just enough for today? Your daily bread? Have there been times or seasons where you didn’t know how you were going to make it and yet God provided for you one day at a time?

Today is Mission Fest. Our missionaries too know what it is like to rely upon God for daily bread. It may not be literal bread, but God provides for our needs in many ways, exactly when we need them. I wanted to share a few of their stories with you this morning.

R and P have recently gone through a lot of transition. But, they have seen God’s provision in the midst of it. Here is their story.

Our family has been through a couple of hard years, in kind of a hard place to live in Central Asia. Although it was hard, we loved the people and we loved being there. The problem is that we had to leave because the government was no longer allowing us to work. We struggled, asking God where His provision was in this. We came through it learning a deeper trust in God, learning again that His ways are higher than our ways, even though we, to this day, do not understand how He is working in that land or why we had to leave.

This past summer we decided to follow God to a new land. We are currently in Southeast Asia, with a new job and a new people group. During this move, we came to realize that a number of the things we had available in Central Asia were not going to be available in Southeast Asia. Specifically, we were going to need to purchase a car. P and I know that we can trust God and that He has everything under control, but this small financial matter disrupted us for a few days. We kind of came to the conclusion that we assumed God would provide, but we weren’t specifically asking Him to meet this need. We were just kind of bummed about it. The day before we left to come to Southeast Asia, a friend who had served in ** came to visit us. He talked with love for this area, and we were amazed at His heart for the people and land, knowing that he hadn’t come under the best of circumstances. Before he left, he gave P an envelope with enough money in it to cover the vast majority of what a car would cost us. He said his wife had been putting money aside this year for us. 

In the grand scheme of things, the money is a small issue. But, what God did in the heart of the giver and in our hearts was huge. God took me, a person who should know better, but still often defaults to “logically” knowing I can trust Him, and blew my heart open with His generosity and love for me. I hadn’t really even been asking for God to provide a car, and was rather sulking. Meanwhile, he had already been preparing this gift all year long before we ever knew we had the need. Talk about humbling. Talk about giving more than we ask or imagine. Talk about being cared for in this amazing way because He delights to give us good things. Our faith has grown partly because of a sour attitude that was blessed anyway, and partly because He continues to show us His faithful love so that we can be faithful to Him.

R and P’s story is not all that different from the Israelite’s story. They had a need, and before they thought to bring that need to God, God provided for them. He gave them the daily bread they needed.

Give us this day our daily bread.

J, working in Annville Kentucky, shared this with me.

There are many stories that we can share about how God has provided for us just when we needed it.  Some may call these coincidences but we prefer to call it the Providence of God:

Consider these examples:

1) After receiving a list of “bad news” one morning I was really feeling down.  A card from a supporter arrived in the mail that day.  The words of encouragement that were written a week earlier spoke directly about the issues we were facing.  Coincidence? I think not.

2) Several times when we were facing some financial cash flow issues the mail arrived with a check written a week earlier with the amount needed.  Coincidence? I think not.

3) Many times on home repair projects (and on our campus projects) the next volunteer group had the people with the right experience needed to continue the work.  A great example of this was when a fine group of volunteers came to Annville (a week picked out months earlier) from your congregation at a time when we had above normal snowfall and an all-time record low temperature, which resulted in a number of frozen and broken water pipes.  Your group knew how to remove snow with a front end loader and also how to fix the pipes.  Today our staff still remembers that week, and how God provided the resources just when we needed it most.  Coincidence?  We know that was not the case, but that this was just another reminder of how God provides for his children as they need it.

Give us this day our daily bread.

We have limits. We have needs. And God is more than willing and able to provide for those needs.

Our last story for now, comes to us from M, who serves in Cambodia. Three years ago he was diagnosed with an infection that was very painful and debilitating. He had to spend time Stateside for treatment. His wife D and son Z had already returned to Cambodia for Z’s schooling, so he was “alone” in Holland, MI. He writes,

One morning I was feeling particularly sorry for myself when I came to the beginning chapter of Exodus in my extended quiet time reading. Through that text God reminded me that while I was in pain and I was sick, I was not alone. God heard their groaning, and God remembered his covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. God looked upon the Israelites, and God took notice of them (Exodus 2:24-25). Later in Exodus 16, I read about how God provides for our daily needs and sometimes we do not recognize it! When the Israelites saw it, they said to one another, “What is it?” For they did not know what it was. Moses said to them, “It is the bread that the Lord has given you to eat (Exodus 16:15). The lesson came across clearly — I was not alone, God knew my situation, His promises were sure, He would provide. God then opened my eyes to see all of his provision around me: competent medical care, the mission house to stay at, church members who volunteered to take me to doctors appointments, health and strength enough to continue deputation, and more. God has heard my groaning, remembered, saw, knew, and responded. At first I did not see how He provided; then He opened my eyes. I was thankful.

Where have you seen God give you just enough for today? Your daily bread? I bet many of us can think of times when we thought we wouldn’t make it through, when we were in the wilderness, and then God provided enough for today, and then the next day, and the day after that.

God provided daily bread: for R & P, for J, for M, and for us.

We can pray this part of the Lord’s prayer because God continues to answer it all the days of our lives.

Earlier in Matthew 6 Jesus says that your father knows what you need before you ask him. God already anticipates, already knows all our needs before we pray, but He also calls us to pray for those needs. God provides our daily bread, but when we come before Him in prayer, we acknowledge our need for His care for us.

In a few moments, we will share in a meal of bread and wine together. This is yet another reminder of how God provides our daily bread. We are fallen people. We are sinners. Each one of us is deserving of death for that sinfulness. We all need a savior. We cannot provide for ourselves the one thing we most desperately need — to be right with God.

And God provided that savior in sending into the world His son, Jesus Christ, who died for us and for our salvation. This bread reminds us of Jesus’ body, nailed to a cross, given for us; and this cup reminds us of his blood, shed for us.

As we prepare ourselves to share this meal together, I invite you all to stand, and together let us confess the words of the Apostles’ Creed.

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