July 9, 2017
Last Tuesday, we celebrated one of my favorite holidays. In fact, I would say that the 4th of July is my favorite holiday, but since Jesus was born on Christmas and rose on Easter, those two have a special place in my heart. But after those two, then comes the 4th of July.
On the 4th of July, I get up and put on my red, white, and blue clothes, my American flag swimsuit, and my red, white, and blue baseball hat and I listen to America songs all day long. I have an America playlist in my iTunes that contains 24 songs that are all about America. From the very moment I wake up, that playlist is on repeat. I think I listened to “Born in the USA” 6 times this year.
But seriously, there’s a reason why I love the 4th of July so much. It’s not because of the hot dogs and hamburgers. It’s not the hot weather. It’s the freedom.
July 4th, 1776, America proclaimed its independence from Britain. Lady Liberty and Uncle Sam have been ringing the bell of freedom ever since. I think it’s safe to say that we all love freedom.
The irony is that as much as we love freedom, we still live as slaves. Though we are free physically, we tend to live in emotional chains. All it takes is one evaluation of our emotional state and we see that. We have so much going on in our lives and so much responsibility. We get so caught up in everything that we rely on ourselves and the pressure mounts. You’re living in chains as you feel the weight on your chest; as you lose sleep at night because the pressure is mounting. You’ve tried going to the bar and surrounding yourself with people. You’ve tried getting a dog, but you still can’t shake loose from these chains of loneliness. Wouldn’t it be great to be free of that? Wouldn’t it be nice if you looked through social media and was only thankful for what other people had, and never compared yourself to them? You never compared your looks, your parenting, your marriage, your gifts and abilities, or your stuff. Wouldn’t it be nice to live a life of contentment free from bitterness and this feeling of entitlement?
That’s what we are going to be talking about over the next 5 weeks. Because here’s the harsh reality: we often know that Jesus has freed us from sin, the devil, and death. But we still live in chains. Today, we look at a topic that has taken us all captive at some point, and it’s hard to break free from it. And that is worry.
We all worry at some point in our life, don’t we? Maybe we turn on the news at night and worry about this world. What is North Korea doing? What is President Trump going to do? For others, you worry about disappointing others. Just the thought of not succeeding gives you an anxiety attack because of the people you’d disappoint. For some, you’re worried about your children and their future. Others are worried about their health. Maybe you’re worried that something is going to happen to a loved one. Wouldn’t it be great to never worry?
Like Isaiah 61 said, “He has set the captive free.” And to really be free from worry, we need to realize this…
Freedom from worry begins with knowing our value.
Jesus addressed worry during his famous sermon on the mount. Here’s what he said.
25 “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? 26 Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? 27 Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?
28 “And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. 29 Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. 30 If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith?
Jesus says, look at the birds. They don’t work. They don’t grow food. They don’t have any control over what they eat or when. Yet they always have food. That’s because God takes care of them. God is the one who brings the worm up to the surface at just the right time. God is the one who makes sure a seed is on the sidewalk and the bird sees it. God is the one who prevented the coyotes from eating the carcass so that the vultures can eat. Jesus says, “Look at how God takes care of the birds. They are just birds. Aren’t you much more valuable than they?”
Then he points our eyes to the grass and the lilies of the field. Jesus says, “Look at how beautifully dressed the lilies are. Not even King Solomon was dressed like one of these.” King Solomon was King David’s son. He ruled over Israel around 950 BC. He was the wealthiest man to ever live. Yet, even he wasn’t as beautifully dressed as these lilies. If that is how God takes care of the grass and the lilies which are here today and gone tomorrow, how much more will he take care of you?
Here’s Jesus’ point: If this is how God treats the birds, the grass, and the lilies, which aren’t really that important, won’t he take care of you? You are much more valuable to him than they are. And when someone highly values something they are going to take care of it.
How many of you have seen Ferris Bueller’s Day off? Do you remember the scene toward the beginning of the movie where Ferris and his best friend Cameron walk into Cameron’s garage? The camera is on Cameron and Ferris as Cameron says, “The 1961 Ferrari 250 GT California. Less than 100 were made. My father spent three years restoring this car. It is his love. It is his passion.” And Ferris interrupts him and says, “It is his fault for not locking the garage.” Cameron says, “Ferris you don’t understand. He doesn’t drive the car. He simply rubs it with a diaper.” Talk about valuing something. It was his love. His passion. And he proved it by taking care of it.
Here Jesus is saying, “You are God’s love. You are his passion. You are more than just an object to God, rather he wants a relationship with you. You are worth more than anything in this world to him. You are worth so much to him that he’s paying the highest price to have you: that price is me.” See, God values you so much, his love and passion for you are so deep that he paid the price to have you. It wasn’t gold or silver, but the innocent blood of Jesus. That’s what God gave up to purchase you back from sin, death, and the devil. Now, your sins aren’t held against you, now you will rise from the dead, now the devil has no power over you. If he was willing to pay the price to set you free from that, he is going to take care of you. Because when you care about something, you take care of it. And you, you are his love. His passion. And he values you more than anything else in this world.
Doesn’t that give you so much comfort and free you from worry? Look how valuable to God you are! He is going to take care of you since he paid such a high price for you…
Yet, we still fear. We still worry. When we fear and worry, it’s because…
We don’t trust the Father to provide the way we want.
Here’s what Jesus says:
31 So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them.
Jesus says, “Stop worrying as if you don’t have a heavenly Father who is providing for you. That’s how the non-Christians live. But you know you have a heavenly father who has all abilities to provide for you.” And that’s true isn’t it? Non-Christians worry and fear because they don’t know that God is providing for them. We know God. Our issue isn’t that we don’t think God has the ability. We don’t trust that God will provide for us the way we want. We don’t trust God to keep us from tragedies in this life.
We stress and worry about work because unless we have this job, our future might not be how we want it. We exercise, eat healthy, stay away from potentially bad chemicals because we think that if we do, we won’t get cancer or some other disease. We try to prolong our life as much as we can. We lose sleep at night worrying. We play images in our heads of what could happen and we live in fear. Am I going to get cancer? Will my child? Will my loved one get in an accident?
See, we end up worrying because we don’t trust God to save us from every tragedy. So we look to ourselves to avoid them, but deep down we realize we have no control. Despite the measures we take. Despite how healthy we are. We can’t control when tragedies happen and when they don’t. But here’s what we need to realize: this isn’t heaven. This isn’t the kingdom of peace and security. This life is filled with sin, and bad things are going to happen. Your heavenly father knows that this life is full of sin and tragedies. In fact, that is why he has saved you, and he is bringing you to his kingdom. See, true freedom…
True freedom comes when we seek his Kingdom.
33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.
For a non-Christian, this life is all that there is. When this life is all that you have, of course you’re going to worry and fear. And sometimes we live that way too. We act and believe that this life is all we have, and so we worry. But you know that this isn’t it. You know that has saved you from all this. Jesus didn’t come to bring you a nice and easy life here. He came to save you from this life of tragedy. He’s brought you into God’s kingdom which is never going to end. In that kingdom, there is no death, crying or mourning. There is no sin, no tragedies. There is peace, safety, and not a single worry. This is the kingdom we seek. This is the kingdom we long for.
So, seek his kingdom and his righteousness and worry and fear will leave you. How do you do that? Replace what you don’t know about the future with what you do know about God. Here’s what you know about God: he values you. He values you so much that he gave his Son, Jesus so that you can enter his kingdom. It’s by his perfect life and innocent death that you have forgiveness. He’s conquered death for you. He promises to give you everything you need for this life. He promises that he will always be with you. He will strengthen you. He is working all things for your eternal good until you reach his kingdom in safety. Until then, He promises that nothing can separate you from his love.
So here’s your challenge this week: when you feel worry and anxiety building up in you, stop and journal how God has provided for you. Literally open up a journal and start writing. Whether it be forgiveness, life, and salvation, a good night sleep, your food, your clothing, protection of your family, health, money to make a purchase, a car for you to drive to work, another car for your spouse to drive to work, friends and family to help you with a problem you have, and whatever else he may provide. When you actively realize what God has done for you and is doing for you, it frees you from fear.
Then the time that you spent worrying can be time in God’s word, or thinking about God’s Word. The more time you spend thinking about those things, the more you are free from worry.
We can worry and fear tomorrow all we want, but we’ll just remain in chains. Because tomorrow never comes. Tomorrow is always tomorrow. There’s only today. And today God is taking care of you. That doesn’t mean tragedies won’t happen. After all, we live in a sinful world. But know that God values you more than anything. He’s proven that by sending Jesus to live and die for you. So seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and a calm heart will be given to you as well no matter what happens. May the God of all love bless us to this end.