Are you a worrywart?

given on Sunday, September 22, 2013

How many times have we come together on Sunday morning bemoaning what has happened during the week?  Monday I stopped at the dentist office and started watching the news report about the shooting in Washington D.C.  The report was another horrendous violent act by one forlorn man shooting lunch-eating workers.  Why?

As I was getting the answer for my own question, I chatted with the receptionist about the horror of the day and even more.  The flooding in Colorado has been unbelievable.  The pictures and reports caused flashbacks to the 1993 flood here in Missouri, but this flooding was along the Rocky Mountains and its valleys.  The news said it was a 1,000-year flood—1993 was called a 500-year flood.

Let’s begin with a word of caution, though.  The events that we see on our nightly news are brought directly into our homes and can feel overwhelming.  The urge is to say the world is coming apart and God is about to destroy everything.  For many, the anxiety brought on by these news events creates a lifestyle of worry.  Individuals cannot look at the world without fear, and they become the worrywarts.

Another caution is also about reading the Bible too literally.  In the conversation I had at the dentist’s office, the receptionist wrote down a Bible scripture she wanted me to read:  2 Timothy 3.  She went on to suggest I should then read Titus.  I was curious, so when I got home lat, I opened up the Bible and read these scriptures:

3 You should know this, Timothy, that in the last days there will be very difficult times. For people will love only themselves and their money. They will be boastful and proud, scoffing at God, disobedient to their parents, and ungrateful. They will consider nothing sacred. They will be unloving and unforgiving; they will slander others and have no self-control. They will be cruel and hate what is good. They will betray their friends, be reckless, be puffed up with pride, and love pleasure rather than God. They will act religious, but they will reject the power that could make them godly. Stay away from people like that! [the NLT]

Those words could easily send fear through the hearts of Christians around this world, but Paul was warning the earliest Christians.  In fact, this book is the last letter Paul was able to write before his death, not Titus.  Reading through the study helps, 1 Timothy and Titus were written in 64 AD, during a brief time out of jail.  The second letter to Timothy was written in 66 AD, while in jail and shortly before he was executed.

The words from this scripture seem to parallel much of what we are witnessing in our 21st century world right now.  The list in this book sounds all too familiar.  In fact it would be so easy to create a list that was as unchristian or even worse right now in 2013.  For so many of us we could easily be lured to believe the end of the world was coming soon.

Those are the concerns, and that is why so many are becoming worrywarts.  Maybe I unintentionally fed worrywarts last Sunday when I talked about looking at how we serve.  With all these concerns, I looked for answers—again in scripture.   Reading on in 2 Timothy and Titus does improve the understanding; but turning back to Jesus’ “Sermon on the Mount,” (Matthew 6:28-30) worrywarts can find some assurance that as bad as things get, God is there to take care of everything:

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.

What a relief!  Worrywarts all over the world need to hear Jesus’ words of assurance.

Granted, saying we have nothing to worry about is somewhat a ‘Pollyanna’ view.  We certainly cannot just sit back and not do anything, not try to do the right things, to live a Christian lifestyle, or work to help others.  Paul spoke to Timothy trying to assure him, to prepare him for his continued ministry once he was gone.  Jesus was trying to prepare his followers for handling the evils of the world in which they were living.  The masses following him were hungry for his teaching.

The words from Matthew 6:25-34 sound like a guarantee for a life when times were extremely difficult.  Hear those words of promise:

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.

Can you just imagine how those words sounded to the people crowding around Jesus there on a mountainside?

Do these words provide us the very same sense of relief?  If we sit down to the nightly news and hear of one more tragedy, can we turn to the words in Matthew and experience a release from worry?  Can we share these words with the other worrywarts we know in our own world in an effort to relieve them?

Our role in today’s world is no different than it was for the earliest Christians who were taught by Jesus himself.  Our role in today’s world is to lead others to know that with God nothing can be against us.  We do not have to feel as though all the bad things happening are because God is missing in our lives.  Or even more, the bad things are not because God is punishing us.

The entire Sermon on the Mount provides Christians today as much training as it did the first Christians, the ones who were still Jews or Gentiles not realizing the fulfillment of an ancient prophecy had happened.  We need to take some time to focus on those very basic lessons for us in an effort to lesson the worry that seems to consume us.

I am one of the biggest worrywarts I know.  I have struggled to keep my life moving forward rather than give in to the negative experiences I have confronted.  And, just like eating too many sweets, when I try to change my bad habits, I can make mistakes.  But, I never give up.  Jesus tells us that we simply must believe and to turn over our worries to God.

Turning over our worries is not turning our backs on the causes of worry.  God asks us to follow the one commandment: to love one another.  Anything we can do to maintain that one law is our responsibility.  For every single human we can reach and turn into a believer, we take one more step to transform the world.

We may not be able to prevent all the evil in the world, but we can wrap up the evil in prayer, turn it over to God, and do what we can to keep the evil away from our Christian foundation.

When we begin to feel the negatives in the world wearing us down, we need to look around us carefully and see the good that still exists right there along with the bad.  We are to look for the proverbial silver lining in the clouds, and then reveal that silver lining to others.  If we share the good with others, we can defend ourselves from evil.

Each one of us has the potential of being a Christian leader.  Each one of us can model the lessons Jesus taught us from the mountainside.  Each one of us can read the scripture to renew our own understanding of God’s grace.  There is nothing to stop us from talking with others, just like the receptionist at the office, and sharing the confidence we have in God.

In casual conversations, rather than dwell on the negative, look for the positives.  We do not have to take the evil reports and accept them as today’s new standards.  We have a job to do:  share!  Share the good news with others you meet along the way.  Be prepared with a verse or two to share with others.  Model a worry-free life to family, friends, neighbors, and even strangers.  Use the words without guilt.

Look at Paul’s words to Timothy as he concludes his warning of all the trials that may confront him in his ministry–2 Timothy 3:10-11, 13-14

10 But you, Timothy, certainly know what I teach, and how I live, and what my purpose in life is. You know my faith, my patience, my love, and my endurance. 11 You know how much persecution and suffering I have endured.  . . . 13 But evil people and impostors will flourish. They will deceive others and will themselves be deceived.  . . . 14 But you must remain faithful to the things you have been taught.

Worrywarts, let those worries go!  Christians, remain faithful to God.  Then watch carefully as evil looses its control over our world.

Closing prayer:

Dear Master Teacher,

Over and over we are challenged by evil.

We feel our joyful selves draining dry.

Open our memories to the words Jesus taught.

Remind us that worry is an enemy, too.

Help us keep worry from controlling our lives.

Help us defend ourselves while helping others, too.

Help us to see God’s glory amongst the troubles.

Then fill us with joy as we release our worries.

Then let us share with others the wonder of God’s grace.

May we all do all we can for other worrywarts

so they can find the excitement of living

in God’s world now and forever.  –Amen

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