It is extremely difficult to not worry in this life. In this sermon our guest speaker, Nick Cunningham, shows us how to deal with worry in this life. Through setting our priorities in order, being aware of God’s goodness and participating in that goodness, we find that we have much less to worry about than we thought.
Life can be really demanding. We all have our responsibilities in life; the deadlines, the expectations and pressures, and our to-do lists. We are all very familiar with the fear that there isn’t enough to go around. However, all of our worries, anxieties, and insecurities come from a misconception of God.
In Luke 12, we see Jesus telling people not to worry about their lives. This sounds much easier said than done, and what makes these words so hard to accept is that people have plenty to worry about. But Jesus wasn’t just pulling this thought out of thin air; rather, he was saying this because he understood something profound about God.
In Luke chapter 12, Jesus uses the phrase “how much more” several times. This was a popular way in which Jewish Rabbis would present an argument. Essentially they would use a lesser point to prove a greater point. Jesus is saying that if God cares for the birds and the flowers and the grass, then how much more does God care for human beings—you and I—who have been created in God’s image. In fact, Jesus was the walking/talking manifestation of the “how much more”, this abundant goodness of God.
It’s safe to say that the majority of us would profess a belief in this God of how much more; however the majority of us operate according to a belief in a God of scarcity. For instance, we say we believe in a God who loves unconditionally, and yet we spend so much energy trying to earn what is already ours. We know that God has promised to never leave us or forsake us, and yet our constant fear keeps us from taking risks. We may talk about the hope that we have because of our God, but we continually find ourselves giving into depression and defeat. We say we believe in a God who is eager to forgive, and yet we can’t seem to forgive ourselves or the people around us. We say that the God we worship is recklessly generous, and yet we hoard our time, our money, and our energy. We say we believe in a God of abundant goodness, and yet we find ourselves stricken with envy and resentment when something good happens to someone else. Can you see the disconnect? We may profess a belief in a God of how much more, but we tend to operate out of the belief in a God of scarcity.
The really dangerous thing about all of this is that if we aren’t careful it isn’t very long before a spirit of entitlement creeps in. In fact, what sparked this teaching by Jesus in Luke chapter 12 was a guy who wanted Jesus to settle a dispute between him and his brother over their inheritance. Entitlement is the belief that we are owed, and it blinds us to the how much more of God. Entitlement will steal your joy because, instead of empowering us to embrace what we do have, it points our attention constantly toward what we don’t have. It points us towards what isn’t ours or what isn’t happening and so no matter what we get our hands on, it’s never enough. But there is a way to fight this entitlement head on.
First, it’s a matter of priorities. Jesus is saying that God’s Kingdom, and the way of living that goes along with it, should be our aim. And when this becomes our primary focus, all of that other stuff becomes less important, and it all seems to take care of itself.
Next, it’s a matter of awareness. Instead of pointing us towards our worry, Jesus points us toward the goodness of God. Jesus points our attention to the birds of the air and the flowers of the field. Jesus draws our attention to these gifts that we are surrounded by all the time. Jesus is saying, “You want proof that God is good? Look around, it’s all around you.” Experiencing the how much more of God is gratitude-this keen awareness that all of life is a gift. We tend to think of gratitude as this spontaneous response to something good that happens to us, but the truth is gratitude is a discipline; it’s something we learn to do.
Finally, experiencing the how much more of God is a matter of participation. In other words Jesus is telling us though that the true way to experience the abundant goodness of God is through participation—demonstrating God’s goodness in the world around us. We are never closer to God than when we are demonstrating God’s character. One of the ways we experience God’s love towards us is by demonstrating that love towards others. We experience God’s grace by extending that grace towards others, and we experience God’s forgiveness towards us as we choose to forgive the world around us.
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