Thursday, May 5, 2011

The True Confessions of a Real Life Worry Wart

Today's post will be rather ironic for me to write.  I say that because it is a message that I need to hear it just as much as I need to write it.  If there is one area I struggle in with my faith, it is the area of worry.  While it may seem disingenuous for a worry-wart to write about how to to worry, I do not think so.  My message will be premised on the Word of God and I hope to learn from it just as much as I share.  I can also tell you first hand the misery that worry will cause in your life.  Here is today's text:
Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? Which of you by worrying can add one cubit to his stature? So why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; and yet I say to you that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. Now if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, [will He] not much more [clothe] you, O you of little faith? Therefore do not worry, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?' For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day [is] its own trouble.  Matthew 6:25-34 NKJV
Jesus begins by saying "Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; nor about your body, what you will put on."  Yesterday in talking about treasure, I mentioned in passing that even necessities can be a treasure we serve over God.  I did not go into detail on that point yesterday because today Jesus is addressing it in detail in today's text.  That really is the underlying message of today.  We must even be willing to give up those things that we believe we absolutely need if so called to do so by God.  You see, if you strive after which you think is necessary for life, you are not spending that time serving God.  I know many missionaries who left jobs, homes, family, supermarkets, clean water, safe hospitals, and every other possible modern convenience found in America to go and live and serve is some far off poverty-stricken land.  While we may not all have the same calling, we should all have that same heart. Even the necessities of life become treasures we serve if we hold onto them rather than stepping out in faith is so called to do so by God.

Jesus continues "Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing?"  That is a curious question.  Of course life is more than food and the body is more than clothing, but do we not need those things to survive?  Of course we do, but what is more important is the "we" that are surviving.  What I mean is that food and clothing are just means to the end of our own survival.  They are not to be served, but God created them to serve us.  Life was not created to consume food, food was created to support life.  The body was not created to hang clothes, but clothes were created to protect the body.  They are mere tools created of God to assist us in our own survival.  Life is not about food and clothes.  Life is so much more.  Life is about loving and being loved by God.  Life is about sharing the Gospel and love of Jesus Christ.  Life is about experiencing the joy and peace of the Lord.  Life is about fellowship with our brothers and sisters in the Lord.  If we make life about food and clothing, then life merely becomes survival.  But when you take survival in faith and put things like food and clothing in their proper perspective then life becomes about living. 

Jesus then goes on to explain what he means.  He says "Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?"  Birds may build nests, but they do not plant farms. They also do not have factories to make them food.  What they do is the hunt and they scavenge and they do so as they need or to meet the needs of themselves and of their babies.  You do not see a bird losing feathers trying to figure out where the next meal will come from, they just go on being birds.  God created what we know as the ecosystem and through that system, birds are fed quite naturally.  And if God so created a system for birds, then how much more will He do for us?  And we are much more important to God than birds.  We were created with a soul, birds were not.  Birds were created to minister to man, not man to minister to bird.  Therefore, if God takes care of birds, how much more will He take care of us. 

Jesus then says something I know all too much about.  He says "Which of you by worrying can add one cubit to his stature?"  Speaking from vast personal experience, I can tell you that worrying is worthless, useless, pointless, and miserable.  A pastor of mine once said that if you worry about something and it happens, you worried for no reason and if you worry for something and it does not happen, you worried for no reason.  That is because in the first case, worrying did not prevent it and in the second there was never anything there to even be worried about.  Worrying is of no value and only serves as notice that what we are focusing on our present circumstances and not on the Lord. 

Jesus now turns his attention to clothing.  He says "So why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; and yet I say to you that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. Now if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, [will He] not much more [clothe] you, O you of little faith?"  Humans do not have natural fur or feathers and we are not cold-blooded.  What this means is that we have none of the natural in-born protection from the elements that other animals have.  Humans also have spread out across the whole earth whereas animals and plants do not grow where the climate is not hospitable to their design.  In that, humans require clothing to survive.  Without clothing, we would be more susceptible to injury and completely open to the elements.  Jesus again uses a natural example of something that does not need to make or even find its own clothes.  He brings up plants.  That is an interesting choice because plants can not move and they have no minds to think so not only do they not go out and get clothes, they can not.  They can not even want to.  Despite that, they are gloriously clothed and pictures of beauty admired even to this day by most of the world.  Fashions go in and out of style just about every season, yet lilies, green fields of grass, and other things like roses are continuously admired for their beauty.  In other words, flowers do not go out of style.  Being that the grass of the field, which is harvested and burned in the fire when it dries out and dies and even flowers that die back every year, are clothed as wonderfully as they are, how much more so will God clothe us?  Plants were created to serve not only our needs, but the needs of much of the rest of creation.  They are the bottom of the food chain yet God still cares for them as much as He does.  We can rest assured that He will care even more for us. 

Jesus also says something at the end of this sentence that just stabs me in the heart. He says "O you of little faith."  How much we worry about and cling to what we perceive as necessities is a measure of our faith.  When I worry, it is a lack of faith.  When I struggle to think of how bills are going to get paid and stress over it, I am expressing a lack of faith.  May God forgive me for those times!  May God forgive any of us when we fail to trust God to provide our means no matter the circumstances.  May God forgive us when we refuse to give up what we think we need when called to do so by God.  How can we know that God will provide our means?  Jesus tells us as He continues.

Jesus says "Therefore do not worry, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?' For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things."  God is not ignorant of our needs.  Not only is He not ignorant of our needs, but He cares for our needs.  Just as He cares for plants and animals, so will He care for us.  Those who do not know God seek after those things because they have nothing to put their faith in.  For those of us who know God, we know God will take care of us.  The more we toil for our basic life necessities, the more it shows we do not have as much faith in God as we should. 

Earlier in this passage, Jesus told us that life is more than food and the body is more than clothing.  Jesus is now going to bring that message home.  He says "But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you."  That is what life is about.  That is where our minds and bodies should be focused.  Sure we can strive for our own necessities, but I would much rather seek after Him in the faith that He will provide it.  This is where our faith meets reality.  This is where it is more than words, but when we put our very lives into His hands as we begin to rely on Him to provide for us.  I know it is hard, and, to be honest, it is not an area I mastered yet.  I do know that when I worry and fret about my temporal needs, I am not focused on His kingdom and His righteousness.  As a result of the wrong focus, I am no longer living for God but for myself at those times.  The more I seek after my needs and necessities, the more I make them my mammon and the more they become my lord.  We need to seek after His kingdom, that is the world to come, and this world will not seem as important.  How small are our temporal worries when weighted against the glory of eternity?  We seek after His righteousness by realizing that we have imputed upon us the righteousness of Christ and in our desire to be more and more like Him everyday.  As we focus on eternity and as we grow more and more like Jesus, we see that provision of God come through for us in amazing ways and more than that our minds are so filled with God that nothing on this earth is big enough to worry us.  That is truly living.

Concluding this section, Jesus says "Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day [is] its own trouble."  This is a verse I need to always keep on my mind.  I am a master at worrying about tomorrow.  When I do, it brings me no joy nor does it have any affect on tomorrow.  All it does is make me miserable today.  I also know that the root cause of my worry, and probably that of anyone else caught up in worry, is a poor focus resulting in weak faith.  I know that when I worry, my eyes are not on the God who already sees tomorrow but they are focused on my own present circumstances and what I think tomorrow will bring.  I know that then I worry about what is to come tomorrow, I am not thinking of what is to come for eternity.  I know that when I take on a woe-me attitude, I am focusing on myself and not on the God who saved me, is sanctifying me, and who will glorify me.  I know that when I worry, I am not seeking first His kingdom and His righteousness.  I think it was a good thing that I had a bad day yesterday.  It was a day where few things went really well.  I discovered a bill was going to be larger than I thought, I was awaiting what is to be a very expensive repair on my car,  I was worried that I won't have time for a garden this year, and I was angered when a giant rock hit my windshield on the way home and how I was going to pay for that repair on top of everything else. When that happens, my focus is taken off the Lord and on my own circumstances and when they are on my own circumstances, the problem is compounded.  You see, when my eyes are off of God, all those problems of the world pile on my heart.  Yesterday it was how we were ever going to get a mortgage and sell our condo.   It was on when our cars finally do wear down how we would pay for a new one.  It was our upcoming vacation and if it will be impacted by the extra bills.  I was miserable and I was worrying about today, tomorrow, and every other day. 

That was yesterday.  Today, on my way to work, a song came on my iPod.  I keep it on random play, and more often than coincidence would allow for,  the right song comes on at the right time. Today, it was a song about the kingdom to come.  That is when God brought me back into focus.  That was when He showed me that I just need to worry about seeking after Him and that He would take care of all those other things in His time and in His way.  That was when He showed me that no matter how large those hurdles looked to me, they were nothing to Him.  That was when he showed me that He was bigger than any mortgage company, auto repair, windshield crack, Federal Student Loan Servicing Officer, or anything else I was fretting about the day before.  Those may all seem bigger than me, but God showed me that not only do I not have to face them on my own, but that He does not even want me to try. There are many parents who teach their children to fight their own battles.  Fortunately, we all have a Father who believes differently.   God will fight those battles for us so long as we do not get in the way with our own feeble attempts.  Seek Him, seek His kingdom, and seek His righteousness.  That is what truly living is.  The rest are just details that we need not worry ourselves about. 
Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.  Philippians 4:6-7 NKJV

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