The Weekly Epistle 11/29/23

Hi Church Family,
It has been said, “To carry worry to bed is to sleep with a pack on your back.”

I couldn’t sleep the other night. It wasn’t because I had too much caffeine. It wasn’t because I wasn’t tired enough- I was exhausted. I had carried to bed with me a backpack of worry. I was rehearsing in my mind a bunch of “what if” scenarios. I was thinking about what needed to be done. 

We are finite beings in a big world that we cannot control. So, we worry. Young people worry, adults worry, missionaries worry, parents worry, pastors worry, everyone worries. Worry is one of those “acceptable” sins in the Christian community. 

We like to downplay it by even giving it a nicer name, “A concern.” “I am not worried, I am concerned.” It is true that there are legitimate concerns that we carry that may not lead to the sin of worry. Is every concern sinful? Is it sinful for me to worry about my teenager who should have been home an hour ago? Is it sinful for me to worry about that gang of kids headed towards me as I make my way into my car? Should I be concerned about locking doors, driving carefully on slippery roads, wearing sunscreen and seatbelts, looking both ways before crossing the street, managing our money wisely? 

When does a legitimate concern or burden become the sin of worry? Worry enters in when we obsess over these things or go beyond caution and concern to fearing what we can’t control. 

The issue is not that the worry is showing up, that is quite normal. It is an issue of how you will deal with it when it shows up. It is a question of where you will go with those anxieties. When Scripture says, “Cast all your anxieties on the Lord,” it is assumed you will have anxieties. But what will you do with them when they show up? 

In the passage in Matthew 6 where Jesus addresses this issue of worry, He directs us to a better way to live (check out Matthew 6:25-34). The key is verse 33. “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” Matthew 6:33 is one of those verses we can throw around. What does it mean to seek first his kingdom and his righteousness? 

Kingdom means God’s rule, God’s program, God’s plan, God’s agenda. When we seek God’s kingdom, our primary concern is what God is doing. Kingdom seekers find out what His agenda is and set their goals accordingly. That means we pour ourselves into eternal work. That means we seek to advance his kingdom by winning people to Christ. That means we set our sights on the great purposes of God. His kingdom is never in trouble! We never have to worry about that. 

When worry sneaks in that means that there is too much of me in what I am doing. To put God first means I quit living like it is all up to me, because it isn’t. Yes! I am to live responsibly. Yes! I will have to work. But I don’t have to worry. I can place all my cares in the hands of the Almighty, Sovereign Lord. 

Still a work in progress,

Pastor Brian