August 21, 2011

Pastor Joe Wittwer

The Jesus Revolution

Part 16: Worry-free Living

Matthew 6:25-34

 

Opening:

ILL: True story: An astronaut preparing for a launch into space was asked how he felt.  The astronaut replied, “How would you feel knowing you were going into space in an aircraft with over 140,000 parts and they were all supplied by the lowest bidders?”

I’d be worried too!  Today we’re going to talk about worry. Check out this picture: church sign that says, “Don’t let worries kill you.  Let the church help.” It’s the Jesus Revolution, and Jesus calls us to trust God and experience worry-free living.  

 

Announcements and JH/HS Baptisms—with video:

Men’s BBQ (left page)—Tuesday evening at 6 PM in the courtyard; no need to register—just show up with something to throw on the grill and a friend.

Service Time Change (middle page)—moving back to 5 PM for fall on September 11 (the Sunday after Labor Day weekend)

Upcoming Classes (back of tear-off)—some new for fall, some returning  (orientations for Financial Peace are today, next Sunday and a week from Wednesday).

Show video and pump camp before we introduce students!

 

Offering and Introduction:

    This is the Jesus Revolution: we are taking a close look at Jesus’ famous Sermon on the Mount, considered to be the greatest ethical teaching ever.  But our contention has been that Jesus is not just giving us a new and higher ethic; he is calling us to a new relationship.  “Follow me, and I will make you a new person.”  That new person is described in the Sermon on the Mount.  So we’ve been saying every week: Follow Jesus and he will change you.  One of the changes is that Jesus wants us to free us from worry to live a life of trust.

    How many of you consider yourselves to be worry-warts?      Did you know that anxiety is considered to be the number one mental health disorder in America?  Drs. Frank Minirth and Paul Meier, directors of the Minirth-Meier Clinic, one of the largest psychiatric clinics in the world, say that they treat more cases of anxiety than any other type of mental disorder. In fact, they describe the times we are living in as “The Age of Anxiety”. In their excellent book, Worry-Free Living, Minirth and Meier define anxiety as the emotion a person feels in the face of a perceived threat or danger, and point out that anxiety ranges all the way from a mild case of worry to full-blown panic attacks that render a person completely dysfunctional.  

    We live in the Age of Anxiety; we are surrounded by uncertainty: consider the stock market this past week!  And yet Jesus tells us not to worry. Three times in our text today Jesus says, “Do not worry.” Jesus calls us to worry-free living, and we’re going to see how.  

ILL: In a first-century manuscript, there is mention of a Christian man named Titus Amerimnos.  Titus is a proper name, but Amerimnos is a descriptive label, like “Frederick the Great”, “James the Just”, or “Joe the Handyman”. Amerimnos means “not worried”. Titus who never worries.  Put your

name in there: “Joe who never worries”.  I like the sound of it! Wouldn’t you like that label to be true of you?  

    By the way, we even discovered an ancient picture of Titus Amerimnos painted on a catacomb wall!  Here it is!  

Let’s look at Jesus’ revolutionary words:

Matthew 6:25-34 “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? 26Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? 27Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?

28“And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. 29Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. 30If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? 31So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

Three times Jesus says it: Don’t worry.  Don’t worry.  Don’t worry.  Our first question is…

 

1. Why not worry?

    In the face of all the trouble and problems and uncertainty in the world, why not worry?  It seems like there’s plenty to worry about!  Jesus gives us at least four good reasons not to worry:

 

  1. We worry about the wrong things.  

Matthew 6:25 “Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes?”  We worry about food and clothes, but Jesus says that there are more important things than those.  The truth is that we usually worry about the wrong things.  We worry about the temporary things that are relatively unimportant, or will never happen

ILL: Jeffrey Kluger wrote an article for Time Magazine in December of 2006, entitled, “Why We Worry About the Things We Shouldn’t.”  He writes:

As human beings, we pride ourselves on being the only species that understands the concept of risk. Yet we have a confounding habit of worrying about mere possibilities while ignoring probabilities.  

For example, we agonize over the avian flu, which [as of December 2006] had killed no one in the U.S., but won’t get vaccinated for the common flu, which contributes to the deaths of 36,000 Americans each year.

We are afraid to fly despite the fact that only a few hundred people die in U.S. commercial airline crashes in a year, compared with 44,000 killed in motor-vehicle wrecks.

We worry about the mad cow pathogen that might be (but almost certainly isn’t) in our hamburger, yet worry far less about the cholesterol that contributes to the heart disease that kills 700,000 of us annually. Shoppers avoid a bag of spinach for fear of E. coli bacteria while filling their carts with fat-sodden French fries and salt-crusted nachos.

We put filters on faucets, install air ionizers in our homes, and lather ourselves with antibacterial soap. At the same time, 20 percent of all adults still smoke; nearly 20-30 percent of us don’t use seatbelts; and two-thirds of us are overweight or obese.

We worry about the wrong things. We fret and wring our hands over possibilities that never materialize.  Most of what we worry about never happens.

ILL: I remember once I got a message that a certain person had called me and wanted to talk with me.  I began to wonder what they wanted (have you ever done this?) and before long I had constructed several very unpleasant scenarios: he was mad at me about something and was leaving the church and telling all his friends to do the same.  I pushed the call slip to the bottom of my pile of calls to return, and every time it worked its way to the top, I imagined all those unpleasant scenarios, and pushed it back down again.  Finally, the guy called me back; it turned out he just wanted to ask me a question, and then he told me that he loved our church.

All that wasted emotion, all that worry over nothing!  Someone has estimated that well over 90% of our worries never materialize.  We literally worry for nothing.  Someone defined worry as “fear in search of a cause”; most of our worry is without cause.

    Don’t worry, because we worry about the wrong things.  There are more important things to be thinking about.

 

    B. Worry adds nothing, but costs lots.  

Matthew 6: 27  “Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?”  It’s a rhetorical question: the answer is, “no one”!  Worry can’t add any time to your life; in fact, we know that worry can subtract time from your life.  Worry is a major cause of illness; many people are literally “worried sick”.  Worry is a prime cause of ulcers, colitis, migraine headaches, insomnia, hives, high blood pressure, weariness and a host of other physical maladies.  Worry can’t add hours to your life, but it can sure shorten it!

    Worry not only robs you of physical health, but it robs you of emotional health.  It’s hard to enjoy life when you are worrying; worry robs you of the joy of life.  At a more serious level, worry can lead to serious mental disorders that can result in total incapacitation.  

    Don’t worry; worry adds nothing to your life, but costs lots.

 

    C. Why worry about tomorrow when you’ve got today?  

Matthew 6 34  “Do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself.  Each day has enough trouble of its own.”  I think Jesus said this with a twinkle in his eye, and that those who heard him might have chuckled.  Isn’t it true that each day has enough trouble of its own! It makes no sense to borrow tomorrow’s troubles today.  Worry is the interest we pay today on tomorrow’s troubles!  Don’t borrow tomorrow’s troubles today; leave them for tomorrow.  

    Jesus is encouraging us to live one day at a time.  Millions of people miss out on today because they are too busy reliving yesterday or fretting about tomorrow.  Guilt and regret about the past ruin the present; so does worry about the future.  Don’t miss the moment!  Enjoy today!

    Worry is wasted time and energy; it changes nothing, it accomplishes nothing.  Worry consumes time and energy that could be spent enjoying life or working toward positive solutions for your problems.

ILL: Do you spend your money on things that are a total waste?  How many of you would spend money to buy a machine that would put fresh air in your car tires every night–take out that old stale air and replace it with nice fresh air?  That’s pointless!   Or how many of you would spend money to buy a huge solar blanket to keep your grass warm at night?  Pretty stupid!  How many of you would spend money to insure things you don’t have–like pay an extra thousand dollars a year to insure a new sports car that you don’t have but hope you might get someday? Really dumb!

If our time and energy were money, we would never use them to buy worry; we would see it for the bad investment that it is!  Our time is really more precious than money; once it is gone, you can’t get more; yet we thoughtlessly burn it up worrying.  

    So Jesus says to live one day at a time.  That doesn’t mean that we don’t care about the future or don’t make wise plans.  Forethought is not forbidden; anxious thought is.  Planning isn’t forbidden; worry is.  Planning and forethought change the future; worry changes nothing.  

    Don’t worry about tomorrow when you’ve got today; live one day at a time.

 

    D. God is watching out for you. Jesus says that we shouldn’t worry because God is watching out for us.  He tells us three wonderful things about God that should dispel our worry:

 

  1. God knows what you need.  

Matthew 6:32 “Your heavenly Father knows that you need them.”  God knows what you need.  Jesus said the same thing earlier in this chapter in the context of prayer: V. 8 “Do not be like the pagans, who think they need to keep on babbling in order to be heard by God, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.”  Your Father knows what you need.

    Do you know what your children need?  

ILL: When our kids were young, and Laina and I left town together, she always made sure the kids were cared for.  We never just packed up and left town, and left the kids to fend for themselves.  (I might do that, but Laina never would.)  Laina made careful provision.  She planned the meals and stocked up the fridge and freezer; she left written instructions and reminders; she left money for gas and emergencies, and phone numbers where we could be reached.  She thought of everything!  She knew what the kids needed and made sure they were cared for.  She’s like the Heavenly Mother!  She knows!

You know what your children need and you provide; God our Father knows what you need.  Nothing catches him by surprise.  He is never in the dark.  

    God knows you far better than you know yourself!  How many of you know how many hairs are on your head?  God knows!  Matthew 10:30 says “even the very hairs of your head are all numbered.”  God knows!  He knows every detail about you; nothing escapes His watchful eye.  Right now, today…God knows what you are facing, what you are feeling, what you need.  

    God knows, so don’t worry!  But that’s not all!

 

  1. God cares for you.  

Matthew 6:26 “Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?”  Matthew 6:30 “If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?”  

 

    God cares for the birds of the air; aren’t you much more valuable than they?  God cares for the flowers of the field; won’t He care much more for you?  Jesus argues from the lesser to the greater; if God cares for the lesser (birds and flowers), won’t he care for the greater (people).  

ILL: I fertilize our lawn 3 or 4 times a year so that it will be well-fed and healthy.  Every morning and evening I set out a small bowl of food and fresh water for our dog, Lucy.  I do that so she will be well-fed and healthy.  So it is not surprising that I made sure that my five kids got three squares a day, plus lots of healthy snacks (like candy, cookies, chips and pop!).  I wanted them to be well-fed and healthy.  If it were ever a choice between fertilizer and dog food or food for the kids, which would I choose?  The kids are much more important than either the lawn or the dog!

And that’s what these verses say!  You are God’s kid!  You are much more important than the birds or the flowers.  If He cares for them, He’ll care for you…much more.

    Do you know that you matter to God more than anything else.  God created all that is; but you are the pinnacle of His creation, the most important and valuable thing He made.  He values you above all else. Just like I value my wife and kids far more than anything that I own, so God values you far above anything else in creation.  Your value to God was supremely expressed in the price He paid for you; He gave His own Son, Jesus Christ, to die in your place.  The Cross of Christ is God’s statement of your value.  You matter to God far more than you imagine.  Some of you are struggling to believe that; you don’t even value yourself, and you can’t imagine why God would value you.  But He does.  In Matthew 10:29-31 Jesus says, “Aren’t two sparrows sold for a penny?  Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from the will of your Father…So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.”  You are worth more.

    Would you say this with me: “I matter to God.  More than anything.  Much more!”

    So God cares for you because you matter to Him.  And God’s care means you don’t have to worry.  1 Peter 5:7 says “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.”  God cares for you so take all your worries, all your anxieties and all your fears, and drop them at His feet.  

    God cares for you…but that’s not all.

 

  1. God provides for you.  

Matthew 6:33 “But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness and all these things will be given to you as well.”  

    It is possible that someone could know all about you and care for you, but be unable to help.  But God can do anything!  He knows what you need; He cares for you; and He is able to provide for you.  He who feeds the birds of the air, and clothes the flowers of the field, is able to meet your needs.  

ILL:     Several years ago, Jim and Masako Millard, our missionaries to Japan, decided to celebrate their 20th wedding anniversary in characteristically unselfish fashion.  They took their 4 kids with them to China…to smuggle Bibles!  Between the six of them, they were carrying 6-700 pounds of Bibles.  They packed light—just a few clothes each; the kids weren’t able to bring along their walkmans or gameboys or comic books.  They wanted to carry in as many Bibles as possible.

    At Chinese customs, they usually x-ray random bags, but when the Millards arrived, they were inspecting everyone’s bags.  When it was their turn, the line stopped, the workers were distracted with something else, and the Millards were able to walk right through without any inspection.  A Chinese Christian was waiting for them in an old station wagon at the airport curb.  Masako helped him transfer the Bibles since she would not draw attention.

    A few days later, they were at a Chinese home church.  A man was there, a pastor who oversaw about 200 underground home churches representing 20,000 Chinese Christians.  The man had traveled 3 hours by bus and 25 hours by train in search of a Chinese study Bible.  He had never seen a study Bible, but heard that they existed, and he wanted one to help in his ministry.  Someone had told him that there was a man in Beijing who sometimes got Bibles, but they didn’t know if he would have any now, or if he had a study Bible.  The pastor prayed, and decided to make the long trip; his parishioners had taken an offering to pay his way.  He hadn’t eaten anything on his long journey; he was fasting and praying, asking God for a study Bible.

    The Millards had given all their Bibles away at the airport…except for 40 Bibles…40 study Bibles.  When they gave him the Bibles, the man wept.  The Millards also gave him money to rent a private vehicle to return home.  If he took the train, it was likely that the Bibles would be confiscated.

God can do anything!  He knows what you need; He cares for you; and He is able to provide for you.  He who feeds the birds of the air, and clothes the flowers of the field, is able to meet your needs. So don’t worry.

 

2. How to live worry-free!

    Let me finish by sharing two ideas from Jesus’ revolutionary teaching about how to live worry-free.

 

    A. Trust God.

    Here is the truth: God knows and cares and provides.  But if you want to win the worry war, you’ve got to believe it.  It is true, but until you believe it, you’ll continue to worry.  Let me say it another way.  Worry is unbelief.  Someone defined worry as “temporary atheism.”  When we worry, we act like God doesn’t exist.  Jesus asked his disciples, “If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?”  This was the source of their worry: unbelief.  It wasn’t that God didn’t care and provide, but that they didn’t trust Him to do it.  If you want to be free from worry, you have to trust God; you must learn to believe Him when He says that He’ll care for you.

ILL: Imagine a benefactor coming into your life, someone with incredible wealth.  Let’s imagine that you become friends with Bill Gates, the CEO of Microsoft, and the richest man in our state, and very generous too (Bill and Melinda Gates have given billions to charitable causes in education, and medicine).  So you and Bill are tight, you’re buds, true friends, and Bill says to you, “If you ever need anything, call me.  You’re my friend and I’d love to help you out…no strings attached.  I’ve got plenty of liquid capital, more than enough to meet any need that you might have.  So call me…I mean it.”  You can tell he’s sincere, you know that your friendship is genuine, and you know that he has the resources to back up his offer.  What a deal!  But it all depends on one thing: your faith.  Do you believe him?  

    Imagine a month later that you have emergency surgery and miss two weeks of work without pay; you’re strapped financially, and you’re worrying, “How are we going to pay our bills and eat this month?”  Hey!  Call Bill!  We’d all tell you that you’re crazy for worrying…Bill will take care of it!  If you believe Bill’s word, you won’t worry, you’ll just call.  If you don’t believe, you’ll worry.

We have a benefactor far richer and more generous than Bill Gates!  The God of all creation, the all-knowing, all-loving, all-powerful one, has promised to care for us!  The most important battle in winning the worry war is faith: do you trust God?  Do you believe what He says?  Do you believe that He knows and cares and can provide?  

    If you believed Bill Gate’s offer, you’d call him.  If you believe God’s offer, you’ll call Him.  That’s prayer.  Rather than worrying, pray.

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 minds in Christ Jesus.  

Rather than worrying, we pray; and when we pray, God’s peace fills our hearts and minds.  And God’s peace transcends all understanding.  People will not understand how you can be so peaceful in the middle of worrisome circumstances.  That’s God’s peace.

    Have you ever wondered, “What should I pray about?”  What worries you?  What gives you anxiety?  What concerns you?  Pray about those things!  Let worry become a catalyst to prayer, and watch worry take wings and fly away!      Do you trust God?  It’s the first step in winning the worry war.

ILL: This story was reported in the April 28, 2011 issue of Time Magazine.

While staying alone in her convent, Sister Margaret Geary, an 85-year-old Catholic nun got trapped inside a broken elevator for four nights and three days. She tried pushing the inside elevator door, but the electricity went off. She had her cell phone with her, but there wasn’t a signal. Fortunately, she had carried a jar of water, some celery sticks, and a few cough drops into the elevator.

At first Sister Margaret said to herself, “This can’t happen!” But then she decided to turn her elevator into a personal prayer retreat. “It was either panic or pray,” she later told an interviewer for CNN. She started viewing the experience as a “gift.” “I believe that God’s presence was my strength and my joy—really,” she said. “I felt God’s presence almost immediately. I felt like he provided the opportunity for a closer relationship.”

It’s either panic or pray—what are you going to do.  Remember: worry is temporary atheism.  God knows, cares and provides; trust Him!  

 

  1. Put God first.  

Matthew 6:33 “Seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”  

    Jesus says that if you want to win the worry war, put God first.  In v. 32 he says that the pagans, those who don’t know and trust God, run after all these things.  They spend their lives frantically pursuing food, clothes, financial and physical security.  They seek all these things, but we are to seek God first.  Please notice that Jesus doesn’t forbid working to meet our needs, but He forbids putting these things first.  God is first.  

    This is the distinctive of the Christian life: it is a God-first life.  Jesus taught us to pray God-first.  Our first requests are “may Your name be honored, may Your kingdom come, may Your will be done”, then we pray about our daily bread, our sins, our protection.  So we pray God-first.  And here He teaches us that we live God-first.  Our first concern isn’t the meeting of our own needs, our financial or physical security; our first concern is God’s kingdom and righteousness.  We live God-first.  When you look out for God’s concerns, He looks out for yours.  

ILL: During the reign of Queen Elizabeth I in Great Britain, a wealthy businessman was chosen by her for a delicate ambassadorial mission. When he was informed of his monarch’s wishes, he asked to be excused, saying that to go would cause him monetary loss and might even ruin his business. To this the queen replied, “You look after my business abroad, and I will look after yours at home.”  The man accepted the appointment and was gone for several years.  When he returned he found that the queen, true to her word, had indeed taken care of his affairs, and that he was much wealthier than he would have been had he remained at home.  

“You look out for my business, and I’ll look out for yours.”  That’s what Jesus says here.  When you look out for God, God looks out for you.  Who would you rather have looking out for you: you or God?  

    I know that some of you are thinking: “Me.  I’d rather look out for myself.  I can count on myself.”  OK.  I understand that.  You are still struggling with the first issue: trust.  You are having a hard time believing that God will take care of you.  I encourage you to watch God closely; see if He is trustworthy.  Don’t just take my word for it.  Investigate.  Take a close look. I believe that if you look, you’ll see and believe!  So check it out.

    For those of you who have already looked and seen and believe, I encourage you to put God first.  When we do, “all these things will be given you.”  When we live God-first, God has committed Himself to meeting our needs, and our worries are over.  Put God first and experience the freedom from worry that God gives to His kids.