Saturday, May 19, 2007

Not to Worry-- A Guest Sermon

Marc Axelrod was one of my best students at Ashland Theological Seminary many years ago. He is now a fine pastor in Wisconsin. Recently, he sent me this sermon which I thought was helpful in various ways. So I am reprinting it here. See what you think. BW3

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NOT TO WORRY

Two business executives meet at for lunch. Gene asks “How’s your health?” Ed said, "I feel great! My ulcers are gone. And I don’t have a care in the world!"

Gene says, "How did that happen?"

Ed said, "Well, you know my doctor told me my ulcers were caused from worrying. So, I hired myself a professional worrier. Whenever something worrisome comes up, I turn it over to him, and he does all my worrying for me!"

Gene says, "Wow, I’d like to hire someone like that! How much does he charge?"

Ed says "One hundred thousand dollars!" Gene asked, "How in the world can you afford $100,000?"

Ed says, "I don’t know. I let him worry about that!"

Wouldn’t it be great if you knew someone who could handle all of your worries? All of your anxieties? All of your stresses?

Guess what? I know someone like that! I know someone who can handle all these things! As we look at Matthew chapter 6, verses 25-34, we’ll see that He gives us 5 reasons why we do not need to worry about anything in our lives. Then we’ll get into the nitty gritty and talk about HOW to stop worrying.

In verses 19-21, Jesus is telling us not to base our lives around the acquisition of earthly treasures. And then in verses 22-23, he explains why. He says that if you keep your eyes focused on the things of God, your body will be full of light. But if your eyes are always focused on the things of this world, then your body and soul will be full of darkness.

“Therefore, since we are not supposed to base our lives around the things of this world, there’s no need to worry about them! Jesus says in verse 25 “Do not worry about your life.”

Notice that Jesus isn’t giving us a suggestion. He isn’t saying, “Well, in my humble opinion, it might be a good idea not to worry!” No! In the original Greek, this is a strong command! Do not worry!

The Greek New Testament word for worry means to be divided and distracted. The word is used in Luke 10:41 to describe Martha. Jesus says in verse 41 “Martha, Martha, you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen to spend time with ME. She has chosen what is better and it will not be taken away from her.”

Martha is yelling at Mary for spending time with Jesus instead of helping with the housework. But she is so stressed out that she needs to spend time with Jesus just as much as Mary does! She needs to give her worries over to the Lord.

Jesus is teaching us the same thing in Matthew chapter 6. The first thing that He says is that worry is UNREASONABLE. Verse 25 says “Is not life more important than food and the body more important than clothes?” In other words, God has already given you the two earthly treasures that are more valuable than anything else! He’s given you life! And He’s given you a body! Since God has already given you the most important stuff, how reasonable is it to worry about the lesser stuff like food and clothing?

Since God loves you enough to give you life, then I’m thinking that He loves you enough to give you the other things that you need. You might not have the exact job that you want, or the car that you want, or the 42 inch SamSung LCD Television that you want. But God will always make sure that you have what you need.

Let me ask you this: How many of you have ever been worried about your finances? How many of you have ever been worried about your health? How many of you have been worried about school or work?

The next time that happens, I want you to say, “Lord, I’m not being reasonable. You’ve been taking care of your people for thousands of years. I think I can trust you to take care of me. Help me to trust and obey, for there’s no other way to be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey.”

And then beginning with verse 26, Jesus gives us two illustrations of why worrying is unreasonable. He says “look at the birds. They don’t sow or reap or store away in barns. They don’t worry about where the next meal is going to come from. All they do is fly around and look for the food, and God makes sure they can find it!”

Then in verse 28, Jesus says “Look at the lilies of the field! Look at how colorful they are! Look at how pretty they are! Those flowers are indisputable evidence that God knows how to take care of His creation!”

The fact of the matter is, animals don't worry, trees don’t worry, and plants don't worry. There's only one thing in all of God's creation that worries – that’s us. Human beings.

And God did not design us to be able to take the stress of worrying. That's why when we worry, we get back aches, stomach aches, headaches. I read that this year there will be 7.5 billion headaches in America. Every day Americans consume fifteen tons of aspirin. You know why? We’re worried. We're up tight.

The Bible says in Proverbs 12:25, "An anxious heart weighs a man down." Worry will weigh you down even more than work. If you worry about something, you're much more fatigued than if you just went out and did some work. Worrying is simply unreasonable.

The second thing Jesus says is that worrying is UNPRODUCTIVE. It doesn't work. It's useless. It’s is like rocking in a rocking chair. You've got a lot of activity, but you don't go anywhere. You don’t make any progress. That's what worry is. It doesn’t change yesterday. It doesn’t affect tomorrow. All it can do is make you miserable today.

Jesus says in verse 27, “Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?” Not only will worrying not add anything to your life, it might end up SHORTENING your life! If you have a heart condition or a digestive condition, worrying can make your symptoms worse!

Worrying is stewing without doing. It is unreasonable, and it is unproductive.

The third thing Jesus says is that worry is UNNECESSARY. Verse 30 says that since 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?" In other words, “Since God knows how to take care of the birds of the air and the grass of the field, then what makes you think He can’t take care of you?”

New Testament scholar Leon Morris puts it like this: “since God takes such good care of the lower orders of creation, God will certainly take care of the crown of His creation.” Psalm 145:15 says “The eyes of all creation look to you, and you give them their food at the proper time.”

Not only is worry unreasonable, unproductive, and unnecessary. It is UNCHRISTIAN. Verse 31 says “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!

In other words, “Worrying about what we’re going to eat and what we’re going to wear is something that NON-Christians do! THEY’RE the ones who are always worried about money and food and social status! THEY’RE the ones who panic every time the price of gas goes up! THEY’RE the ones who are trying to make it through this life without the one true God!”

Worry is atheism in action. It's acting as if there's no God. It's saying, "I don’t believe that there’s anyone out there who can take care of me. I don’t believe that God can help me with my two sick toddlers at home! I don’t believe that God cares about the fact that I barely have enough to make my monthly mortgage payment! I’ve got to take matters into my own hands!”

Now don’t get me wrong. I’m not trying to say that work and planning for the future are bad things. Even birds don’t sit around waiting for God to drop the food into their beaks. But I am saying that when we worry about the things of this life, we’re acting like atheists. We’re forgetting that God is actively involved in our lives. We’re forgetting to trust and obey.

You say, Well Pastor Marc, what should we do instead of all this worrying and all this fretting?” I’m glad you asked! Jesus says in verse 33, “Seek first His kingdom and His righteousness and all these things will be given to you as well.” If you put your relationship with God ahead of everything else, He’ll make sure that you have everything you need.

Trusting God to provide eliminates the need for worrying. In Genesis 12, God tells Abram “Leave your country, your people and your father's household and go to the land I will show you.

2 "I will make you into a great nation
and I will bless you;
I will make your name great,
and you will be a blessing.”

And Abram could have said, “But Lord, how can I leave my country when I don’t know where I’m going? How am I going to make it financially? How am I going to be able to support my family? What if the people in the land of Canaan are hostile toward me?”

Abram could have worried himself right out of the will of God. But instead, the Bible tells us in Genesis 15:6 that “Abram believed the Lord, and it was credited to him as righteousness.” And as a result, God blessed him and made him the father of many nations. Trusting God to provide eliminates the need for worrying.

And over in Philippians 4:6, Paul says “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.” In other words, “if you hand everything over to God in prayer, He will provide you with peace of heart and peace of mind. And He’ll take care of all the other worries in your life, because verse 19 goes on to say that “my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus.” There can be no doubt that Trusting God to provide eliminates the need for worrying.

So let me ask you: What's got you worried this morning? The economy? Your job? A personal problem? Your marriage? Health? A problem with friends? A problem at school?

Jesus Christ has made it possible for you to live without worry. There's absolutely no reason for you to live with worry in your life. It is simply a matter of coming to Christ, putting your life in His hands and trusting Him on a day by day, moment by moment basis.

I want to help you get started with that. I want you to write down on an index card your biggest worries. You don’t need to sign your card.

Then right before we sing the final hymn, I’m going have you come up to the altar, one row at a time. And I’m going to ask you to put your worries in this worry box. It’s your way of saying, “God, I’m giving you all my anxieties. I’m asking you handle all the things that stress me out.” Jesus says “Do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself.”

Maybe your biggest worry is your salvation. You’re not sure if you’re going to heaven when you die. Write that down on the card. Tell the Lord that you want to walk out of church this morning with the gift of eternal life. John 6:40 says that “everyone who looks to the Son of God and believes in Him will have eternal life.” Let’s pray together.

6 comments:

Jeff said...

Good stuff.

How long ago were you at ATS? My wife works there, and I know some of the professors.

Ben Witherington said...

I left in 1995 to come to Asbury.

Prescription info said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
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Lorna said...

I especially loved the beginning of this.

Elizabeth Mary said...

OK the prescription info spam is really hysterically funny. Read the sermon. Don't worry! Trust in...Aciphex! [Jesus smiles and holds up the product for the camera]

Read the Sermon on the Mount as a whole and you'll make more connections. Our hoarding behavior makes us worry. We are terrified to be poor, and it's the cause and result of our hoarding. If we live simply and don't get sucked into the escalating hyperconsumerist acquisitive culture, we have more resources to share with the poor, thereby living our likeness. God provides for us; those who are well provisioned, provision others. Spread the blessing. Couple that with direct face-to-face service of poor people--and you will lose your fear and worry.

Not making the mortgage payment? Stressed out about finances? How self-indulgent have you been? To the point of being in hock up to the hilt? (Like most Americans?) Your appetites are infinite--even secular economics says so. Your hoarding is your faith in stuff.

Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and rust destroy, and thieves break in and steal.

Moths never attacked anyone's clothes while they wore them. Rust doesn't catch up to stuff in use (except cars in the salty North)! Thieves steal things that elicit envy.

If you have stuff you don't use, it belongs to someone else. Clear your house, clear your mind, clear your heart. Bless someone else from your excess stuff. Decide to be rust and moth free! No storage units!

If you live ostentation, do not be surprised at the thieves; they are responding to your message. Rethink your ostentation. How does it imitate the humility of the Lord?

Mt 25 deserves a good reading and praying over in this light, too.

So, yeah, it's much bigger than trust in the Lord...God will provide. We think of this idea as, what's in it for me? rather than, God will provide...through me, to others.

(I'm preaching primarily at myself.)