Grace, mercy and peace to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
If you have read the topic for today, you might have entered the worship service a little apprehensive. I mean, who wants to talk about shame and guilt? Don’t we here enough sermons that make us feel that already?
If you feel this way, I agree with you. We’re all experts on shame and guilt and we don’t need to be reminded again that we have much to be shameful and guilty about. That is why I’m going to shake it up a little and talk about the by-product of these two unfortunate parts of life. Its really a continuation of what we spoke of last week.
This morning I want to focus on what shame and guilt bring us, the act of worrying. Worry over the guilt that I haven’t denied myself enough. Worry from the shame that I haven’t taken up the cross of Christ like I should. Worry that I can’t seem to shed my guilt and shame because of the selfishness I continually fall into.
Worry is the number one mental disorder in America. “The Mayo Clinic claims 80-85% of total caseload is due directly to worry and anxiety. Many experts say that coping with stress is the #1 health priority of our day.
One leading physician has stated that, in his opinion, 70% of all medical patients could cure themselves if only they got rid of their worries and fears.
We know that medical science has closely tied worry to heart trouble, blood pressure problems, ulcers, thyroid malfunction, migraine headaches, a host of stomach disorders, amongst others. For example 25 million Americans have high blood pressure due to stress/anxiety; 1 million more develop high blood pressure each year. 8 million have stomach ulcers, every week 112 million people take medication for stress related symptoms.”
The world today seems to be filled with more and more stimuli that cause us to worry. Along with our guilt and shame there is jobs, politics, violence, families, vacations, relationships, and on and on. It seems that as times go on, there is more and more to worry about and less time to cope with the situations that are caused by our constant need to manage our everyday lives. With all that is happening, one might think that we are living in the hardest of times. Yet in Jesus times, life was much, much harder akin to life in a third world country today.
It is In this setting that Jesus speaks to His disciples in Luke 12 verse 22, “And He said to His disciples, “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat; nor about the body, what you will put on.”
In a text I was studying for this sermon I learned that the primary New Testament word for worry is (merimnao) which means “to take thought of” or “to be careful about.” It is this same word Jesus used when He said, “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat; or about your body, what you will wear. For life more than food, and the body more than clothing?” And Paul used it when he wrote in Philippians 4:6, “Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God”.
At first glance they appear to be simple things. But it actually gives the picture of a divided mind. The worrier has a mind that is torn between the real and the possible, what we know to be true and what has the potential for truth. He is trying to fight the battle of life on two fronts at the same time and he is bound to lose the war. The worrier attempts to live in the future today, but that’s impossible, the future isn’t here and the future isn’t his.
To worry is to be distracted or preoccupied. No matter what else you’re doing, part of your mind is worrying. Worry puts the future in the present. Worry is the obsession of what “might” happen.
Worry is really a bad idea for two reasons. First, Jesus tells us that worry is foolish in verses twenty-three – twenty-four. “Life is more than food, and the body is more than clothing. “Consider the ravens, they neither sow nor reap, which have neither storehouse nor barn; and God feeds them. Of how much more value are you than the birds?”
This tells us that worry is especially foolish for Christians who should know better. To worry is foolishly to forget who we are – we are children of God. It is like a woman worrying about how her hair looks as she sits in a boat about to go over the Niagara Falls.
Secondly, Worry is not only foolish it is useless. “And which of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life? Since you cannot do this very little thing, why do you worry about the rest? Consider how the lilies 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, O you of little faith! Luke 12: 25-28
Worry cannot lengthen life, but it can certainly shorten it. In fact, worry can rob us of two things in life, we won’t live as long and it will be much more difficult to live a happy and fulfilled life. People get ulcers not so much from what they eat as what is eating them. The alternative is not to be care-less but to be trust –full
So, if worrying is such a useless activity because it does not work, why are we consuming so much of our time and our energy doing it?
The raven demonstrates God’s gift of food and the lilies of the field of God’s gift of clothing. It seems interesting that the Raven, which is not even considered a clean bird, is still provided for by God.
When I think of these lilies of the field I think of the flowers that are called “day lilies.” They are called this because the bloom only seems to last for a day. They are beautiful but they are very short lived, and they have no real purpose other than their beauty.
If then two such unimportant and insignificant things as ravens and day lilies receive such generous gifts from God, doesn’t it stand to reason that God’s children will fare much better?
Someone once said that “Worry is wasting today’s time to clutter up tomorrow’s opportunities with yesterday’s troubles.”
Simply telling us not to worry isn’t very helpful, however. People who tell us that usually seem unrealistic, uninformed, or patronizing. A simple “don’t worry be happy,” just won’t cut it. So how can we attempt to overcome worry? In Luke 12 we find three great ways for overcoming worry.
First we read verses 29 and 30. “And do not seek what you are to eat and what you are to drink, nor be worried. For all the nations of the world seek after these things, and your Father knows that you need them.” Jesus literally says here that believers are to stop seeking and stop doubting or worrying. This is not a suggestion, these are necessities, they are commands.
Instead, Whenever we start to feel anxious we are to give our burdens over to the Lord. (1 Peter 5:7) is the invitation of God to “Cast all your care upon Him for he cares for you.” Scripture says in Psalms 46:1 that God is “our refuge and strength, a very present help in a time of trouble.”
We then see the second way to deal with worry in verse 31, “But seek his kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well.”
We need to get our priorities straight. We speak a lot of priorities. If we let the wrong thing be “number one” in our lives, it will create an enormous amount of stress and guilt as we attempt to deal with it. But when we put God first, when we put our trust in Him, it is amazing what will happen. I didn’t say what could happen. I said what will happen.
Seeking the kingdom of God is the way to achieve our material needs. Now wait a minute that doesn’t make sense! But then the Christian life is often the opposite of what would seem right. We gain our life by loosing it, we lead by serving, and we have our material needs met by not worrying about them, but by seeking the kingdom as a priority.
We see way number three in v. 32 “Do not fear little flock for it is your Fathers’ pleasure to give you the kingdom” In verse thirty-two Jesus really gets to the bottom line, WORRY IS REALLY FEAR! As we said last week, Jesus tells the believer that they are to stop being afraid, it is this fear that reveals itself in our lives as we worry.
The antidote to fear is faith. Dr. E Stanley Jones explained this a long time ago when he said; “I am inwardly fashioned for faith, not for fear. Fear is not my native land; faith is. I am so made that worry and anxiety are sand in the machinery of life; faith is the oil. I live better by faith and confidence than by fear, doubt and anxiety. In anxiety and worry, my being is gasping for breath—these are not my native air. But in faith and confidence, I breathe freely—these are my native air.
So, what is your native air? Do you find yourself gasping for breath at times because guilt and shame rule your life? If so, remember that you are forgiven just in the asking. Remember also where the true power lies. Remember to place your faith in the one who loved you enough to send his only Son to die for you so that you might have a reason to live a life of faith, hope and trust. When you come up to partake in the Lord’s Supper, remember why that blood was shed, so that that same faith, hope and trust might be renewed and forgiveness given.
Place your concerns at the feet of Christ. Every morning, visualize yourself taking that load of fear and anxiety and giving it up to the one who brings you courage to face the day.
Worry is one of the devil’s greatest tools to run our lives, but we have one who is greater than the devil to fight for us. I invite you to give your shame and guilt to God. Trust in Him to lead your life. Rely on His promises to care and protect you in this life all the way to the next. And may the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen