(Luke 12: 22-34)
Why is this happening? When will it end? I feel so helpless. The worry and anxiety I’m feeling is overwhelming. My problems seem to be multiplying to where I am at the point of despair and am depressed all the time. I can barely get out of bed in the morning. This isolation is so stressful, I’m so lonely and I just feel like giving up. The weight of this burden is more than I can bear. If any of these statements describe how you or a loved one is feeling, you are not alone. These are extraordinary times to be sure. If we had been dealt a one-two punch, we could have easily picked ourselves up, dusted ourselves off and recover quickly. But such is not the case. We’ve been dealt a series of blows and may feel we are down for the count. It seems as if one problem feeds off the other problem spawning new problems. Even the strongest of people feel as if they are drowning under the cascading effect of this raging river of hard times. I won’t waste time listing all the things that are going wrong as you already know what they are and could only add several more of your own. We just want someone to make it stop. And, hey, where is God is all of this? That’s okay. It’s understandable to ask such a question, especially for us who believe that God is in control and that He will not abandon his children. Sure, that’s what I would expect a pastor to say, but how does that help me now? A fair question.
Several years ago, when I first started here at Community UMC, I read a great little book by Adam Hamilton entitled: Why? Making Sense of God’s Will. In the book he addressed several of the issues we face during our lifetimes; such as why did I or a loved one get sick, or why did my loved one have to die in a car crash, or why is there so much famine, tragedy and natural disasters in the world? How can a loving God allow his children to suffer so? Of course, the trite answer would be: This Ain’t the Garden of Eden. Sure, man through his disobedience to God allowed sin to enter the world to become a fact of life. Yeah, I get that, but it’s still not very reassuring. To help us understand Hamilton points to the fact that God has given us free will, the freedom to make our own decisions and our own mistakes. Unfortunately, much of what happens to us is not of our own doing. It’s the result of someone else exercising their own free will. Someone drinks too much and makes the decision to get behind the wheel of a car, runs a red light or crosses the center line, and injures or kills an innocent person. Someone snaps under the pressure and goes on a shooting spree to vent his anger taking it out on innocent people. A straw breaks a camel’s back and all hell breaks loose and nobody can figure out why or how to stop it. We have imperfect bodies and do get sick and sometimes the doctors can’t fix us. Natural disasters occur because Mother Nature needs to make an adjustment to relieve some pressure, so we get volcanoes and earthquakes, or floods to cool the earth and so on. And where is God in all this? Right there with us, ready to listen, talk us through it, and maybe even help direct our response to show He is still present.
And, that’s where we find ourselves in our scripture reading for this morning. Jesus felt the need to sit his disciples down to talk to them about worry and how debilitating it could be and how it could impact the mission of spreading the Good News and raising up shepherds for God’s vulnerable flock. He starts out by saying; Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat; or about your body, what you will wear. Life is more than food, and the body more than clothes. Consider the ravens: They do not sow or reap, they have no storeroom or barn; yet God feeds them. And how much more valuable you are than birds! Jesus gets right to the point of emphasizing how much God cares for us, as he also cares for all his creation. He poses the rhetorical question that if God has arranged it so ravens and other creatures are taken care of, why should we waste our time worrying as to whether or not God will take care of us? Jesus underscores his point by asking; Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life? Since you cannot do this very little thing, why do you worry about the rest? I understand that as there have been many times that I’ve whipped myself up into a frenzy worrying about something I had no control over. Time spent worrying is a waste of time, time is better spent praying for grace, mercy and a pathway out. Jesus continues by saying; Consider how the lilies grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you, not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today, and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, how much more will he clothe you, O you of little faith. Jesus is telling us to look around at the wonders and beauty of nature and consider the wonder of God’s creation and how they are here today and gone tomorrow. As we are his children, he will care for us that much more. Jesus continues by telling us not to set our hearts on what we’re going to eat or drink and not to worry about it. The pagan world runs after these things and our Father knows that we need them. Jesus says to seek his kingdom and these things will be given to you as well. He says; Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom. God has invested in us and we are an integral part of his kingdom both here on earth and in eternity.
Jesus commands us not to worry, but how can we avoid it? It’s like it’s a natural human response to these triggers we experience in our lives. Working and planning responsibly are good but dwelling on all the ways our planning could go wrong is bad. Because of these ill effects of worry, Jesus tells us not to worry about those needs that God promises to supply. Worry may; 1) damage your health, 2) cause the object of your worry to consume your thoughts, 3) disrupt your productivity, 4) negatively affect the way you treat others, and 5) reduce your ability to trust in God. Worry is pointless because it can’t fill any of our needs; worry is foolish because the Creator of the universe loves us and knows what we need. He promises to meet all our real needs, but not necessarily all our desires. But worry is something we must overcome, or it will immobilize and debilitate us. Overcoming worry requires; 1) simple trust in God, your heavenly Father. This trust is expressed by praying to him rather than worrying. 2) You have to put your problems in the right perspective. This can be gained by developing a strategy for addressing and correcting your problems. 3) And, you may need a support team to help. You may need some fellow believers who will pray for you to find the wisdom and strength to deal with your worries.
The Apostle Paul tells us in Philippians 4: 6,7; Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Imagine never being anxious about anything. It seems like an impossibility. We all have worries, those things that haunt us in the night, but Paul’s advice is to turn those worries into prayers. Paul’s essentially saying; Want to worry less? Pray more. Whenever you start to worry, stop, take a breath and pray. Paul is telling us that if we do that, stop and pray, petition God for help, we will receive a peace from God that will transcend all understanding. You’ll experience that moment of clarity, and your heart and mind will be safeguarded in Jesus. But we have to realize that God’s peace is different from the world’s peace which is always being disrupted and turned upside down. True peace is not found in positive thinking, in the absence of conflict, or in good feelings. True peace comes from knowing that God is in control. Our citizenship in Christ’s kingdom is sure, our destiny is set, and we have victory over sin. We have to let God’s peace guard our hearts against anxiety.
This same scripture is also found in Matthew 6: 25-34, and in verse 33 Jesus says; But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. Jesus is telling us to turn to God first for help, to fill your thoughts with his desires, to take his character for your pattern, and to serve and obey him in everything. Do that and everything else will take care of itself and fall into place.
So, in your search for tomorrow, time spent planning is well spent, but worrying about tomorrow is time wasted. Sometimes it’s difficult telling the difference. Careful planning is thinking ahead about goals, steps, and schedules, and trusting in God’s guidance. When done well, planning can help alleviate worry. Worriers by contrast, are consumed by fear and find it difficult to trust God. Don’t let worries about tomorrow affect your relationship with God today. Don’t let it affect your relationships with family, loved ones, friends and co-workers. Take heart. If Jesus’ eye is on the sparrow then you know he watches over you. What more could you want? Won’t you let him help?
Please pray with me.
Why should we feel discouraged? Why should the shadows come? Why should our hearts be lonely and long for heaven and home? Jesus is our portion and a constant friend is he. If his eye is on the sparrow then surely, he must be watching us. With Jesus as our constant companion we should not let our hearts be troubled as we pause to hear his tender words giving us rest in his goodness. As we put our trust in Jesus, we lose all our doubts and fears as he leads us along the pathway of life. Draw closer to him and you will be set free from your cares. Sing because you’re happy. Sing because you’re free. Sing because his eye is on the sparrow and know that he watches you. In Jesus’ name, we pray, Amen.