The Real Jesus: Lessons in Worry

Good morning Journey Church.  My name is Phil Human and I’m one of the pastors here on staff and it’s a pleasure today to continue our series we’re calling the Real Jesus.  And today we continue to dive into the heart of Jesus’ teachings.  And we’ve discovered along the way that Jesus wants us to be able to envision a different kind of humanity that comes to us through faith in Jesus.

Jesus envisions that we can be the kinds of people who recognize that being #blessed means walking through this life with God by our side, a friend who will never forsake us.  Jesus cuts us free from the false narrative that we must be powerful, or comfortable, or successful or be recognized will lead to blessings.

Jesus envisions us becoming the kind of people who can rid our souls of the destructive force of anger and contempt, and instead, become people who love others so deeply and so freely, that we might even become people who love people who consider us enemies.

Jesus envisions us becoming people who think so highly of him that we trust him enough to obey him – to believe that he knows best how life should be lived.

And last week we talked about Jesus’ warning about the sneaky soul suffocating sin of greed – and we talked about how we can keep a proper relationship with money – so that money becomes something we have instead of another thing that has us.

It truly is a testimony to the incredible understanding that Jesus has of life that 2,000 years later, all of those topics are still pertinent to us.  And today’s topic is certainly no different.

Today we learn of the second major warning that Jesus teaches us to be on alert for.  And that is the danger – and the fruitlessness – of worry.

Do you ever worry?  That is of course a rhetorical question.  I’m going to assume that all of us are prone to worry.  Why else would Jesus talk about it?  He knows worry is a universal plague.

I don’t know where my worry button is located on my body – but I know that there is an alarm on it that is set to go off in my life about 3am.  That’s me.  I will go to bed not really thinking about too much, but for some reason at 3am Worry grabs my brain and shakes me awake!  It will quite often grab my brain and say – wake up!  We’ve got some fretting to do!

So what does Jesus tell us about this kind of thing?  He preaches in Luke chapter 12 – And I’m going to do something different – I’m going to read the passage and just have you listen to it while you watch the most boring video I’ve ever put up here.

But the story is this – knowing that I was going to preach on this passage, and knowing that I am capable of worry from time to time, I suggested to Jody that we go to Lowes and buy a bird feeder to put in the tree in our front yard – so that we can look out the window and remember what Jesus taught.

So I took this video yesterday at lunch from the window of my living room.  And you can watch it while I read…

22 Then, turning to his disciples, Jesus said, “That is why I tell you not to worry about everyday life—whether you have enough food to eat or enough clothes to wear. 23 For life is more than food, and your body more than clothing. 24 Look at the ravens. They don’t plant or harvest or store food in barns, for God feeds them. And you are far more valuable to him than any birds!

25 Can all your worries add a single moment to your life? 26 And if worry can’t accomplish a little thing like that, what’s the use of worrying over bigger things?

27 “Look at the lilies and how they grow. They don’t work or make their clothing, yet Solomon in all his glory was not dressed as beautifully as they are. 28 And if God cares so wonderfully for flowers that are here today and thrown into the fire tomorrow, he will certainly care for you. Why do you have so little faith?

29 “And don’t be concerned about what to eat and what to drink. Don’t worry about such things. 30 These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers all over the world, but your Father already knows your needs. 31 Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and he will give you everything you need.

32 “So don’t be afraid, little flock. For it gives your Father great happiness to give you the Kingdom.

Let me ask you as we let the video run out – how many birds are you worth?  How many birds is the person you are sitting next to worth?  How many birds are you worth?

Valentines day is coming so here’s your chance to mess it up – because there’s no right answer here.    Any answer would be ridiculous, right?  Even if meant as a compliment – baby you are worth a dozen of sparrow – Really?  I think you mean that as a compliment but I am still insulted!   A million birds baby!  Still not working.

All of us would intuitively say, I am worth more than a bird.  And Jesus says, you are right.  Our father thinks the same thing.  So if he takes care of birds, he will certainly take care of you.

If God takes care of the birds how much more will he take of you!  His cherished daughter?  His beloved son?

God doesn’t want to see us getting chewed up by worry.  It’s not God’s desire for us.

Now let’s stop here for an important clarification.  There is a difference between a worry and a concern.  They are not the same thing.

The reality is that sometimes life is going to put you into situations that are difficult situations that will cause great concern.  As they should.  Life will deliver difficult blows that it would be inhuman to try to dismiss as “No big deal, man!”

Life brings lots of big deals.  Jesus doesn’t mince words -listen to Him in John 16:33 – 33 I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.”  This is one of the scariest and simultaneously comforting in the Bible.

It’s kind of like Psalm 23 – Where we learn that there will be times in our life when we walk through the valley of the shadow of death.  It’s not the valley of the shadow of no big deal.  It’s the valley of the shadow of death. But even there – we can take heart – fear not- because Thou art with me.  #blessed in the Kingdom of Heaven life.

So what it the point I’m making?  It’s not a sin in any sense to say, I am concerned about the health of my marriage – I’m concerned about this medical test that I’m waiting results on, or that I’m concerned we will not be able to pay this bill.

It’s important and necessary that we be able to differentiate between a concern and a worry.  Because life will offer us many concerning things.  And many of those concerns will leave us afraid.  Scared even.  It’s not a sin to be afraid.  It’s not where God would want us setting up camp for an extended stay – but all of these feelings are natural results of the concerns of this life.

The question is, what are we to do with our concerns?  1 Peter 5:17 Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you.  I like how the New Living Translation differentiates – we have concerns, but sometimes our concerns morph into worry.

Peter says bring them both to the Lord.

What does this sound like to bring a concern to the Lord?  Lord, I am concerned for our financial picture.  We haven’t enough money to get to the end of the month.  And so, I am praying Lord that you will provide for our financial need.  You own the cattle on a thousand hills and you know my need.  Please help provide the resources and wisdom I need to find my way through this difficult time.

Now what’s the difference between a concern and a worry?  A worry is something that eats your lunch.  A worry I a concern that has burst it’s banks and floods your soul with dread.

Worry sounds like..  we won’t be able to pay this bill, we will get evicted, our credit will be ruined.  they will repo my car – we can’t afford to sell it or buy a new one…   We’ll end up on the street!  And our brain kicks into a gear that imagines what might happen to you – if you had no God.

But you do have a God who cares for you deeply!

No let me show you a scene in the life of Jesus that, in my opinion, perfectly shows us that it’s okay to have concerns.  We read it in Matthew 26, and also in Luke 22 – about Jesus praying in the garden of Gethsemane on the night he was betrayed.

36 Then Jesus went with them to the olive grove called Gethsemane, and he said, “Sit here while I go over there to pray.” 37 He took Peter and Zebedee’s two sons, James and John, and he became anguished and distressed. 38 He told them, “My soul is crushed with grief to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.”

Can we just stop here for a moment and allow this to minister to us.  Was Jesus worried?  No.  Was he concerned about the valley of death he was about to endure?  You bet.   Jesus knows what concern feels like.  He is crushed with grief.  He feels like this concern is about to kill him.

What does Jesus do with his grief?  What does he do with his trouble?

39 He went on a little farther and bowed with his face to the ground, praying, “My Father! If it is possible, let this cup of suffering be taken away from me.

He brought his concern to his Father in Heaven.  And he asked – if it’s possible, would you let the suffering be taken away from me.  He prayed for relief from his agony.

And according to Luke 22 – Luke 22 44 He prayed more fervently, and he was in such agony of spirit that his sweat fell to the ground like great drops of blood.

Jesus is about to die on a cross – he is about to shoulder the sins of all of mankind past, present and future – he is about to be separated from his eternal relationship with his Father the Spirit – is Jesus concerned?   He is crushed.

Now – does Jesus know how the story ends?  Of course he does!    He knows he will rise from the dead three days later.  Just like you might know that God will work things out for you – but in the middle of that valley – what is Jesus feeling?  Crushed – and he isn’t afraid to let his father know it.  And he isn’t afraid to ask that if there was any other way he’s prefer to not have to walk it.

It’s no sin to feel crushed under the concerns of this life.  It is no sin to lose sleep – or to spend all night in anguished prayer.  It’s no sin to ask out of the path.  But note how Jesus ends his prayer.

“Yet I want your will to be done, not mine.”  Matthew 26:39

Being a Christian does not mean we float through life without taking serious things seriously.  In fact, becoming a Christian will soften our hearts and make us feel more pain – we will become more compassionate our hearts will become more easily broken as we feel the pain of others more deeply than we ever have before.

But – being a Christian does mean we don’t have to give ourselves over to worry.  We can carry our concerns and our concern for others without allowing them to spill their banks into worry and anxiety.

So again – let’s take another brief look at why Jesus tells us not to worry.  And the first point – We reject worry, because God loves us more than a bird. – the first point Jesus makes is – you are worth more than a bird.  And if God takes care of a bird, well then…  you can be sure that God has your back.

We bought our bird feeder at Lowes for like $12.  And the bag of birdseed was $12.  And we everytime we see them birds out there we saw – look at those birds.  They don’t worry and look at how God is providing.

Secondly, we reject worry because worry is fruitless.  Jesus goes on to say that worry is fruitless.  25 Can all your worries add a single moment to your life?  I like how Jesus says – if worry can’t even do a simple thing like add an hour to your life, then why trust it to do the big thing?  No – worry will never help.

Author John Piper points out “The argument is very pragmatic: anxiety doesn’t get you anywhere. It doesn’t do you any good. Whatever problem is causing you to feel anxious, you can be sure your anxiety will not lessen the problem. It will only make you miserable while you try to deal with it. So don’t be anxious.” 

Now I understand that it often doesn’t help to be told this.  When you are going through a tough stretch you don’t want your friend to preach this verse – but I think that what Jesus is trying to do is help us change our mindset about the worries of this life.  And sometimes you do need to remind your soul and your feelings – of reality.

And reality is – God loves you.  God knows your needs.  And sometimes we need to remind ourselvelves – okay – I’m worth more to God than a bird.  And worrying isn’t helping.  So I will bring my concerns to the Lord and tell him how I’m feeling about these concerns and ask him to help bring my soul back into alignment with what I know to be the case.

So let me talk about a couple of helpful things you can do the next time you receive an invitation to worry.

First.  One thing I’ve found to be helpful when my mind wants to race into worry – is to do my best to recite a bible verse I memorized a long time ago for just such occasions.  And the verse is found in 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. 

And I find it’s helpful to pray this with open hands – to signify this thing I’m praying about I have little control over.  I don’t have the power to grab it and make it right!  So I release these things to you Lord.

And I do like how that verse guides my prayer towards thankfulness.  Reminding my soul of all the ways God has provided for me in the past will help my soul trust him for my future.

Second suggestion – and this is from Claire Cunningham – who is one of our counselors here at Journey that we partner with, and also a neighbor and friend of ours…  I asked Claire about her ideas regarding this topic, and Claire said that she will often encourage people who are dealing with worry to take their concern to God – and then pair it up with an attribute of God.

We can bring our concern and pair it up with a character trait of God’s.  Okay I’m sick.  But God is faithful.  And he promises to never leave me.

Okay Lord I can’t figure out a way to get out of this jam – but you are all wise.  And all loving, and so I present this request to you and ask for your help and patience as I walk through it.

And honestly, I think that the way we need to end any of these prayers is – but, Lord,  not my will but yours will be done.  Just like Jesus ended his prayer in gethsemane.

And how does Jesus end his sermon?  31 Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and he will give you everything you need. 32 “So don’t be afraid, little flock. For it gives your Father great happiness to give you the Kingdom.

That term there – little flock – is something akin to what you might say to a child – like – hey little buddy – it’s going to be okay.  Why?  Because, Jesus tells us – it brings God delight to care for us.

So let’s go ahead an end our sermon in prayer.