sermon follow-up: worry

If I was a gambling man – and I’m not – I’d be willing to wager you’ve not heard a sermon on “worry” before on Mother’s Day Sunday morning. It was no doubt a slight surprise to most, but I decided this year I’d just stay “in series” rather than jump off track for a “traditional” Mother’s Day sermon. And judging by some of the remarks I received following the sermon’s delivery, I think this was something of a needed scratch to a troublesome itch.

Worry is one of those things we may frown about a bit, but we don’t usually consider much of a “big deal.” Jesus thought otherwise. Among the wide variety of subjects Jesus dealt with in his Sermon on the Mount, Jesus spent more time elaborating on worry than any other subject, except prayer. That’s impressive given that he talked about matters such as anger, adultery, false teaching, revenge, etc. If worry is known by the company it keeps, it keeps some truly “bad company” and if Jesus spent the most amount of time on the matters that need the most attention, worry ranks up near the top. That’s something to think about!

But what exactly is worry? Worry is more than just “too much of a good thing” (concern); it’s something based on the wrong thing entirely: fear, not faith. Worry is, at best, a lopsided measure of concern built on a foundation of  a larger-than-life measure of fear.

The clear and present danger with worry is that it shifts our attention from our God to our goods, from our Savior to our situation and our stuff. It can, if left untreated, metastasize and take over a person’s life, becoming an “idol” to the person caught up in it. In short, worry replaces God as the center of things with our needs as the center. Worry, then, is no “second-class” or “side” issue, but is, as Jesus spoke of it, a front-line issue that must be confronted.

So will we ever get to the place where Jesus says “Don’t worry?” If so, when will we get serious about it and start? And when we set out on this mission to conquer worry in our life, with what shall we be armed?

You’ve heard me say before that the best way to have a great looking yard is to spend more time feeding the grass than you do fighting the weeds. I believe that holds true for most matters spiritual, certainly in regard to how to deal successfully with worry. Telling yourself not to worry will more often than not just keep you focused on your fears and viewing things as a struggle. In such an environment of the mind, worry can grow like weeds. However, if you deliberately feed your spirit with reminders of God’s goodness and generosity, if you deliberately look for the good and count your blessings, though you might not realize it at the time, you will be doing some of the best things you can possibly do to push yourself and your fears from the center of things.

Thanking God for the smallest of things – even things you might at face value consider “bad,” not good – is where our personal battle with worry will be won or lost. It is exceedingly difficult for worry to gain anything like a permanent foothold in a Christian heart that feeds on a steady diet of gratitude and thanksgiving to God. I believe that’s true no matter the context or person.

Have you ever heard of Corrie Ten Boom? She was a survivor of the Holocaust. Her account of how the prisoners in her bunkroom in the horrific Ravensbruck concentration camp came to thank God for fleas is a powerful illustration of how a heart seeking for things for which to be grateful to God is a heart that can bear any load placed upon it. Worry has no hope of survival in the soil of a heart full of thanksgiving.

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