Monday, July 18, 2016

Do Not Worry

Introduction
            Today, I would like to write about one of my all-time favorite passages.  It’s very poignant today as we reflect on so many troubling events in our world. In Matthew 6:25-34, Jesus reminds us not to worry.

Matthew 6:25-34
25 “That is why I tell you not to worry about everyday life—whether you have enough food and drink, or enough clothes to wear. Isn’t life more than food, and your body more than clothing? 26 Look at the birds. They don’t plant or harvest or store food in barns, for your heavenly Father feeds them. And aren’t you far more valuable to him than they are? 27 Can all your worries add a single moment to your life?
28 “And why worry about your clothing? Look at the lilies of the field and how they grow. They don’t work or make their clothing, 29 yet Solomon in all his glory was not dressed as beautifully as they are. 30 And if God cares so wonderfully for wildflowers that are here today and thrown into the fire tomorrow, he will certainly care for you. Why do you have so little faith?
31 “So don’t worry about these things, saying, ‘What will we eat? What will we drink? What will we wear?’ 32 These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers, but your heavenly Father already knows all your needs. 33 Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.
34 “So don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today.

What is Worry?
            Worry is:  “To allow one's mind to dwell on difficulty or troubles”  Some people are more prone to worrying than others, but we all worry.  It is part of our fallen, human nature; we forget to trust God or we never really knew we could trust God.  
            Sometimes, we even worry about problems that are only imaginary.  For instance, a teenager might worry themselves sick wondering whether there will be any friends in their classes when school starts back.  This may be a potential problem, but it’s not a real problem right now.  And there may be plenty of friends in their classes, we just don’t know yet.  But people will worry even about things that are only potential problems.
             Worry is a waste of time and energy.  It’s not healthy.  It’s like spinning your tires—it doesn’t get you anywhere and it ruins your tires.  If you can do something productive about your problem, do it.  But then, stop worrying about the problem over and over.
            What would it feel like not to worry?  How much time do we waste worrying?  How much mental, emotional, and spiritual energy do we waste in the unhealthy habit of worrying?  What would it be like to be free from the anxiety of worry?  To know that God has got your back.  Oh, what a wonderful thing!  Our lives would be less stressful and so much happier, peaceful, and serene if we gave up worry.

The  Basics
            The Scripture lists two things we should not worry about:  food and clothing.  But it’s really about more than just food and clothing.  Food and clothing represent the basic necessities of life.  To these, you could add other basic necessities like water, air, shelter, companionship, etc.  God will make sure we have the basics we need to live.
            There is something else implied in Jesus statement.  You may have a deeper spiritual problem if you are worrying about more than the basics.  Perhaps you have become self-absorbed and fallen too deeply in love with the things of this world.
            What do we really need to be satisfied?  Perhaps it would be enlightening to compare our problems in America (a first-world country) to those who live in third world countries.  Consider the following meme's about our first world problems:











            Meanwhile, most people around the world earn less than $2/day and struggle to find enough food and clean water.  Now, I know that all our problems are not so trivial.  We have real problems too.  However, we already have so much.  Sometimes we lose perspective about real problems and what are just our “worldly” concerns.  Sadly, the only time we may regain a proper perspective is when a real tragedy strikes.
            If we want to be truly happy, we should learn to be happy with the basics.  Paul tells us in Philippians 4:12, “I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little.”  We would all do well to learn Paul's secret to a contented life.  I suggest you practice needing less.  Here are some ways you can improve:
            Simplify your life.  Get rid of things you don’t need.  Resist the urge to buy more and more new things.  Learn to live with what you have.  Borrow or rent instead of buying if it’s practical.
            Go without.  Fasting is the spiritual practice of going without.  Typcally, fasting involves giving up food, but it can be other things as well like watching TV or using Facebook.  Fasting can help us discover what we can do without, remind us what we really need, and it can also help us to be more grateful for what we already have.
            Practice being thankful.  Genuine gratitude for what we already have helps us to be more satisfied and need less.  We stop looking for the next great thing that might make us satisfied and start to realize how blessed and satisfied we already are.  Being thankful actually helps you to be a happier person.  Take the "Gratitude Quiz" and see if you are a grateful person – http://greatergood.berkeley.edu/quizzes/take_quiz/6
            The point is, God is going to provide for your basic needs.  You don’t need to worry about the basics.  And don’t allow yourself to become consumed by yearning for more and more beyond the basics.  When you are satisfied with the basics in life, you will worry less and have less stress.  You will have a happier, more peaceful life and you will be more focused what’s truly important.

How to Overcome Worry 
            Jesus said “do not worry.”  But how can we actually overcome worry?  It is hard sometimes because worry is not just mental; it can physically take over your body.  For some, worry can become a paralyzing medical disorder that requires medication to overcome.  If that is the case, I encourage you to get medical help.  Regardless of your situation, the following steps can help you overcome worry.
            Pray about it.  Philippians 4:6, “Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done.”  Putting it in God's hands through prayer is the first step and can make all the difference.  Remember, God can handle any problem you have.
            Talk about it.  Another thing you can do is talk about your worries with a trusted friend or two.  Talking about your concern can relieve stress and bring fresh insight.  However, don’t keep talking about your worries over and over again all day long to everyone you meet.  That’s just an outward form of worry and will only aggravate and prolong your anxiety.
            Make a plan.  You can deal with worry by making a plan of action.  Worry is often mistaken for planning because both require you to think ahead and consider a plan of action.  The difference is, planning is productive.  Planning sets up goals and identifies practical steps that can change a situation.  Worry is unproductive because it just keeps going around and around about potential scenarios and possibilities over and over again.  Planning turns into worry when you go too far and your planning stops being practical and productive.
            Do what you can.  Instead of worrying, make a plan and then do what you can do.  Instead of thinking, do.  If you can’t do something, stop worrying about it.  You’ve done all you can.
            Let it go.  Once you’ve done all you can do (at least for right now, in this moment) then, let it go.  Don’t go on worrying about it.  You’ve prayed and put it in God’s hands.  You’ve done what you can do.  Now, let it go.

How to Let Go
            Sometimes, you get stuck and just can’t stop worrying.  When that happens, here’s what works for me.  First, I meditate.  I make a concerted effort to quiet my mind while asking God to help me.  I concentrate on my breathing.  People often comment that I am so relaxed and calm when I preach.  I can tell you, it takes effort.  I am not a natural public speaker.  It has always made me nervous--even after 17 years.  I've learned to relax through lots of practice.  One of the biggest things that helps me relax is concentrating on my breathing--breathing slow and deep.
            Then, if your mind continues to wander back to your worries, try to think of something else. It helps me when I listen to music.  Another thing that helps me is to watch a commedian or something funny on TV.  It's hard for me to worry when I am laughing.  I will also sometimes blow off steam by joking around with others or just being silly.  Another thing that helps is to go out and have some fun.  These are all things that have helped me break the cycle of worry.  Maybe they will help you too.

Closing
            There is one thing you should worry about:  Is your heart right with God?  Have you repented of your sins?  Have you asked the Lord’s forgiveness?  Have you decided to follow Jesus?  To listen to his instructions and obey?  Has the Spirit of God assured you of your salvation—that you are a forgiven, child of God?
            If your heart is right with God, you have nothing to worry about.  Even if terrorists attack. Even if the wrong person gets elected.  Even if the country falls apart.  Even if the Methodist church splits apart.  Even if you lose your job.  Even if your children go astray.  Even if things seem completely out of control, remember, God is in control!
            If your heart is not right with God, I beg you to get it right with Him today.  Won't you repent of your sins, turn to Jesus, let him take control of your life, and commit to follow him the rest of your days?  If so, perhaps you would like to use the following prayer to guide your words to Jesus.

Lord, come in and take control of my life.
Fill me up with Your wonderful grace.
Cleanse my heart and my wretched soul.
Lord, take control of my life.
I know Jesus is the blessed son of God
and that He died on the cross for my sin
and that He rose from the grave
and is living again.
Lord, I confess my sin.
Lord please come in.
Forgive my sin and make me anew.
Teach me to walk in Your ways.
Shine in my life for the world to see.
Lord, take control of my life.
Amen.