Then Jesus said to his disciples: “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat; or about your body, what you will wear. For life is more than food, and the body more than clothes.
Consider the ravens: They do not sow or reap, they have no storeroom or barn; yet God feeds them. And how much more valuable you are than birds!
Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to your life? Since you cannot do this very little thing, why do you worry about the rest?
“Consider how the wild flowers grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you, not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today, and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, how much more will he clothe you—you of little faith!
And do not set your heart on what you will eat or drink; do not worry about it. For the pagan world runs after all such things, and your Father knows that you need them. But seek his kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well.Luke 12:22-31
If you still have your Bible open, I want you to go back with me for a minute and count. How many times today does Jesus say for us not to worry?
He says, “Don’t worry about your life, what you eat, or what you’ll wear. . .” That’s one.
He says, “If you worry, can you add a single hour to your lifetime?” That’s two.
Jesus says, “If you can’t do such a little thing, why do you worry about the rest?” That’s three.
Jesus says, “Why do you keep striving for food and drink? Stop worrying!” That’s four times.
Four times, Jesus tells us not to worry. And yet, worry is what most people do, all the time.
We worry about what’s in the fridge, and what’s on the pantry shelf. We worry about whether our pantry is full, and we worry about clothes even when our closets are full.
We worry endlessly about our health. Dozens of times a week, somebody on TV tells us about this new medicine we have to try, with all the side effects, and then we worry about those, too.
We worry about politics, even though each of us only has just one vote. Think it over, decide who you like best, cast your vote, and then stop worrying about what they’re doing down in Raleigh or up in Washington. You’ve only got one vote. Don’t raise your blood pressure listening to people who try to get you all excited.
There’s an infinite list of things people get worried about. Most of them aren’t that important.
People ask me why I don’t get excited more, and I tell them it’s because of the training I received, back when I worked on the ambulance, before I was married. I was an EMT – an Emergency Medical Technician – and we almost never knew ahead of time what we’d have to deal with when the ambulance rolled out of quarters. Car wrecks, stabbings, broken hips, we saw it all.
What I learned, was that only three things mattered. Was the person still breathing? Was their heart still beating? Were they bleeding quarts of blood all over the floor? If those three things are OK, then we’ve got time to step back and think a little more about what we’re going to do next.
If you’ve got that perspective, it makes you get less excited. You worry less! Everyone’s breathing, their heart is still beating, nobody’s bleeding to death. OK, we’ve got time to think this out.
But Jesus takes it deeper, when he says, “Don’t worry.” Don’t be anxious he says. Don’t wear yourself out.
It’s amazing, how much of the world is driven by anxiety. We worry about what our neighbors are going to say. We worry about what the bank is going to do. We worry about whether prices will go up. We worry about whether our team is going to lose.
We worry about what that strange feeling we had is – is that a symptom? Are we falling apart? Should we take another pill? Are we going to die?
We worry about our parents, our children, our boss, our relatives, our pets, our cars and our grass. Name me almost anything, and I show you how we worry about it.
Our whole society runs on adrenaline and anxiety. If we’re not worrying, we think something’s got to be wrong.
And here comes Jesus, and he says, “That’s no way to live. Your life is more than food. Your body is more than the clothes you put on today. Look at the birds. There’s beautiful birds out there, and God feeds every one of them. Aren’t you more valuable to God than a sparrow? God knows every sparrow that falls to the ground. Don’t you think God cares about you?”
Jesus says, “Let’s try an experiment. Let’s see if you can make your life one hour longer by worrying. I bet you can’t!”
It may seem like we’re getting something done by worrying. It may seem like time drags slower when we worry, but you know, it’s the same 24 hours in a day, whether you worry, or not. Our lives are the same length of time, without the anxiety, and we’ll be so much happier.
I love this time of year, when the leaves start to turn. I go out for a walk every day, just to enjoy how beautiful it is. The light does such incredible things with the color shining through the trees. It feels like a gift, every day.
I was out walking this week, and I saw three deer, running through the woods. I was out one evening, and I saw the moon rise, and the stars up in the sky. I listen to the wind, and smell the wood smoke, and the leaves crackle underfoot. I love fall. It’s so beautiful!
What’s even more beautiful, is every time I see somebody being kind, or going out of their way to be nice to someone. I love it when I see somebody trying their best, whatever it is they’re doing. I love it when I see someone being courteous, or helpful, because they respect other people and care about how they respond.
And that’s just what people do. When I think about what God does, it takes my breath away. God is so good to us! God is good, all the time. God provides for us.
Next time you catch yourself worrying, next time you start circling down the drain into that anxiety hole again, stop. Just stop.
Stopping is one of the key spiritual skills we need to have. It sounds simple, but it’s something we need to practice, every day. We would be so much stronger, if we got in the habit of hitting the “Pause” button at least 8 or 10 times a day.
And instead of falling down into the black hole of anxiety, where nothing good ever comes out again, just stop everything, and say, “Thank you, Lord, for something good. Thank you for my life. Thank you for my health. Thank you for providing for me. Thank you for the friends that I have. Thank you for your grace. Thank you for forgiving me, more times than I can count. Thank you for being so patient with me. Thank you for being my light. Thank you for Jesus. Thank you for all my blessings.”
If we do that, if we pull off Anxiety Highway, and park the car, and set the brake, and focus on our thanks and our blessings, we’re going to feel a whole lot better. And when we start the car, we might not even keep going in that same old direction. We might turn the car around, and head someplace different than we were going before.
Stopping and praying, stopping and giving thanks, stopping to receive a blessing, can have such a powerful effect on our lives. There’s something deeply unnhealthy about the pace of modern life. Modern life is fueled, not just with oil and electrons, it’s fueled with adrenaline and anxiety.
And Jesus says, “Don’t keep striving! Don’t keep pushing so much! The godless world, the world that has no faith, is always striving for these things. But you know what? God knows what you need. God knows every day what you need most. God gives daily bread, and God gives living water. God gives hope, and peace, and grace, and mercy. God gives all these things, and so much more!”
“God gives you all the things that the godless world, the world that has no faith – all the things that other world promises, but can’t deliver. God gives us everything we truly need, on time and in abundance. So, why worry?”
And then Jesus says, “Seek God’s kingdom first, and all these things will be given to you as well.”
“Seeking the kingdom” sounds really old-fashioned and other-worldly. It sounds like being out of touch with reality. But the kingdom is one of the core ideas of Jesus’ teaching.
There are two worlds, Jesus says, that wrap around us, every day. There’s the godless world, the world without faith, the world of worry and anxiety, the world of grabbing and greed, the world of lies and violence, the world of rage and arrogance.
And there’s another world, Jesus says, a world that’s right beside us, every day. I’m not talking about here on earth and heaven somewhere up in the sky. I’m not talking about heaven someday and reality now.
Jesus says that these two worlds overlap with each other. There’s the kingdom of this world. It’s about politics and power, domination and deceit. Those are its tools, and those are it’s goals. The kingdom of “the world” wasn’t set up by God, and it doesn’t do God’s work.
And then there’s another kingdom, Jesus says, right beside it. It’s the kingdom God set up. God’s kingdom can seem invisible, but when you open your eyes, it’s all around us.
God’s kingdom shines whenever people stop, and look, and listen. Jesus talked about the kingdom in every teaching story he told. He showed us the kingdom every time he healed someone, every time he fed people, every time he blessed them, every time he forgave them.
Jesus often said, “You don’t have to look here or look there – the kingdom of God is within you, inside you.”
He said that the kingdom breaks into the world, not just when people say Jesus’ name, but whenever people hear God’s will, and do it. When we try to do things God’s way, and not the world’s way, even if we do something really small, then God’s kingdom bursts like a firework, or shines like the sun, or springs up like a field of flowers.
It’s there all the time, and it always has been. All we need to do is open our eyes, and take the first one or two steps in the right direction, and the kingdom of God is here.
November is the month of thanksgiving, and this is a good Scripture for us to be reading right now. If we want to spend more time in the kingdom of heaven, and less time in the world of unfaith, one way to do that is to be thankful.
Christians give thanks all the time. It’s because we realize that we’re not responsible for most of our blessings. God is.
When someone gives you something, common politeness means saying thank you. If someone you love gives you something special, we say thank you SO MUCH, and we drop everything, and give them a hug, and we try to think of something we can give back in return.
Living in the kingdom of God is kind of like a game. God gives us things, and we say thank you. God gives us more good things, and we say thank you, back. We keep trying to say thank you, more often, and God keeps upping the game.
We can never say thank you, enough. Because God has a whole world to share with us. All we can do is stop, and take time to appreciate God’s gifts, and try to say thank you more deeply, by doing the things Jesus said.
The other world, the world of unfaith, always tries to pull us back. Some people think the world of unfaith is the real world, but it’s not.
The world of unfaith appeals to us through our fear and anxiety. It works on us with greed, telling us all about things it says we need, when we don’t need them at all. The world of unfaith shouts about things like pride and arrogance, trying to drown out what Jesus says about being servants and disciples.
The world of unfaith sometimes honors God with words. But in the kingdom, God is honored with deeds – by what we do, every day.
God is honored, when we truly give thanks, when we’re grateful to the bottom of our hearts, when our thanks are undistracted and without maybes.
God is honored, whenever we pray, and say, “I love you, Lord. I want to follow your way. I put my trust in you.”
God rejoices, every time we turn back from going the wrong way. Turning back is another one of those basic Christian moves that we all need to practice. When we turn back, to faith from unfaith, God comes running to meet us.
God walks with us, when we try to live generous lives, prayer-filled lives, whenever we try to live more deeply. We will find Jesus beside us, whenever we try to be more humble, whenever we forgive, whenever we try to restore a broken friendship.
When two or three people get together in his name, Jesus says, he’s there among them. Whenever we sit down and eat together, and remember him, Jesus is here. Whenever we choose Jesus’ way, the way of faith, whenever we come to a fork in the road and choose to go Jesus’ way, he’s walking beside us. When we call him, he’s here.
The kingdom of God isn’t something strange, or new. It’s been here for a long time, and we have so many saints who have been here before us, and lived in God’s kingdom. If we live in the kingdom, we have friends who are living, and we have friends who have lived before us, and who are still here, in glory.
Jesus says, “God knows what you need, and it’s God’s joy to give you everything in the kingdom. All you have to do is start looking, and put God’s kingdom first.”
We don’t need to be anxious. We don’t need to be burdened. We don’t need to be afraid. Worrying won’t make our lives last one hour longer. Worry never saved anyone.
God’s kingdom is truth and trust, giving and thanksgiving, prayer and peace, faith and freedom.
Let’s live there, OK?