Have you ever had one of those days that scare you so much that you end up remembering it for a long time? I had one of those days on the Tuesday before Easter, 2009. I experienced shortness of breath and a tightness in my chest. I was scared. I thought – here it is, a heart attack. I ended up quickly in the hospital with all sorts of tests and monitors. After two days the conclusion was that my heart was healthy – I was experiencing anxiety attacks. I guess when I look back, that moment was proceeded by other moments of anxiety: waking up in the middle of the night gasping for air; weight gain; stress. I was carrying around a tremendous amount of anxiety and worry. I changed some habits and now I find that I don’t worry like I used to.
This week I asked you on Facebook: “what makes you worry?” You responded – the state of our country; my children and their future; my job and its future security, health of family and friends, focusing on the important things. All things worthy of our attention. You know, as well as I do, that excessive worry just sucks the life out of us.
Worry starts in our minds. We’re concerned about a real or imagined issue. We worry about what we lack; about things we cannot control. And if the worry is excessive we discover that it has negative health effects – anxiety attacks, panic, an impact on our appetite, difficulty in relationships, sleep, job performance.
Worry is such a real and regular phenomenon in our human experience that Jesus spends significant time talking about “worry.” In fact he uses the word “worry” 6 times in 10 verses. And he uses it in the same context of the things that cause us worry – will I have enough? Will I have enough food, drink, clothes, life? Will my children have enough? But he also speaks about these things in another context – in the context of how what I have compares to what my neighbor has. In verses 19-24, Jesus spends some time on the accumulation of things and of wealth; about serving money and hoarding against an unexpected future. Now, preparing is crucial. God gives us a brain, talents and means to provide and make good decisions about tomorrow. But he is speaking specifically to kingdom of God people who are overly concerned about control; about trusting in what they can control instead of trusting the God who provides everything. Any conversation about worry needs to happen in the context of a conversation about faith. Who do you trust?
When all is said and done worry is distraction. When I worry about a real or imagined issue I am saying I don’t believe in or trust God. What a sly temptation. If, even for a moment, I stop trusting the omnipresent; omniscient; all-powerful God, Satan wins. Worry is a distraction that clouds my focus on what matters most.
Look at how Jesus speaks into worry. The Father knows you. I’ll confess that one of the worries/fears that I live with is being forgotten; of not being recognized. I haven’t given that to God, yet. But what a word – God knows you! Jeremiah 1:5 – “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you..” You have not been forgotten. You are not alone.
The Father knows your name. Isaiah 43:1
But now thus says the Lord, he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel: “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. You belong to God; God will protect you. God has written his name across the journey of your life.
The Father knows tomorrow. God is already at tomorrow. He is already at the place of what we worry about. Some of you said, I “I worry about the world in which my kids will grow.” God is already in that world. God stands above time, space and history. Everything is happening in the now for God. The same God here today, is the same God who is already in tomorrow.
The distraction of worry says that God is not enough; God does not know enough; God is not in control – so I better do something.
Into this conversation Jesus inserts a revolutionary statement which draws a clear line. The line is drawn between kingdom people (people who belong to Jesus) and the pagans (people without God). Look at 6:32 – “For the pagans run after all these things…” If you don’t know God your worry will drive you to be in control; to accumulate against the future; to trust your wealth for protection; to smother your children; to protect your job. The only option for those who do not know or trust the One who created is to trust in their own power, intellect and ability. Again, this is a revolutionary word to us whose life is in Jesus. Don’t exert the energy/run after in an attempt to control what makes you stay awake at night. God is on the throne of history. God is already in tomorrow.
For Jesus, a revolutionary reliance begins at the place of worship. He says, 6:33 – “Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness.”
This language of seek is incredibly deep. The word used is zeteo and it literally means worship/desire. Revolutionary reliance is worry that turns to worship. Desire God/worship God first and then God will care for all that you were worried about in his way and in his time.
It is revolutionary to turn to God and trust when everyone around you is running to control all that they are worrying about. Stand apart! Don’t act as if you don’t know God.
Here’s the challenge. It does not come naturally to trust God. It takes practice. To Jesus worry vanishes only when two things happen.
First worry dissipates in the context of a growing relationship with God. Seek first his righteousness. Seek the transformation of a new life in Jesus. When we are in a deepening and daily relationship with God it becomes easier to trust; easier to release what is on our mind to God. Daily worship; daily Scripture; daily prayer; daily relationship with other people who are walking with God. When God is close; worry is far away. When God is close the things we worry about don’t seem so large. Worship and desire God and worry is transformed into faith.
Second, an undivided focus on God’s purpose removes worry from the picture. The pagans run after their own purposes. God’s people run after what God prioritizes. So when you are focused on God’s call and purposes – making disciples, transforming the world; God takes care of everything else. This is revolutionary. I will live for God and trust that God will take care of everything. If we focus on problems, we are consumed with self and worry. When we focus on God’s will, the worry goes away. That’s discipline, isn’t it?
Conclude – 1Kings 17:7-16