And someone says to you “Don’t worry”
What’s the first thought that occurs, is it:
“Oh thanks, I never thought of that, I had just decided to worry because I wasn’t aware that the “don’t worry” alternative existed.
But now you have pointed out to me that there is another way, the “don’t worry” way, I will of course now stop worrying,
And you send the “Don’t worry” signal to your brain, to your stomach and the other parts of you that have been worrying, and once the signal arrives, you stop worrying.”
Of course it doesn’t work like that.
When folk say to you “Don’t worry” I feel like they are criticising me for having a nervous disposition.
Or “Don’t panic” – which always feels like I am being judged for being panicky
Or “Just relax” which feels like I am being told I off for excessive nervousness
“It’ll all be okay” which means I lack sufficient positive energy.
Whatever it is that people say “Don’ worry”, it never seems to work.
So if it is so useless for someone to say to me “Don’t worry”.
Why does the Bible say this exact same thing time and time again.
I have never counted this, but I believe that the Bible says this 366 times, that’s one for every day and one spare for leap years.
It says “Don’t worry” 366 times, but we find this hard to get a hold of this.
And yet this ability not to worry has been something which has characterised the best of Christians over the years. There must be a way that these 366 injunctions not to worry can make a difference to us.
Do how do we let these “Don’t worries” speak to us.
Getting Folk To Worry
It used to be my job to get people to worry.
I wasn’t a dentist or a debt collector.
It was when I was an outdoor instructor.
When I worked in the outdoors, a large part of what we did was work with young people who were in either primary 6 or 7, and have come away with the rest of their class for a week in the outdoors.
For them, and for me, the two parts of the week they looked forward to the most, and dreaded the most (because they had been told about this by folk in the year above them) were the abseil tree and the aerial runway.
The abseil tree was about 35 foot up. You would begin at the bottom of the tree, and right at the start you deal with people’s worries.
An easy way to deal with the worry would be to say “We’re not going to do this.”
But what you do instead is deal with folks worries.
Folk are thinking
The rope is going to snap
The instructor has it in for me
Folk have all these worries swirling around inside them
I am not going to be able to climb up there
If I fall the instructor is going to be asleep.
All the time you are dealing with these worries.
You would tell people how to put their harnesses on properly, and then you would get them to stand in a line and let them know that you had checked their harness and it was on safely.
You would show people how to use a karabiner, one of these metal clips that go onto the rope.
When you were up the tree you would show them the rope, and tell them that it was strong enough to lift a truck
And show them the safety rope, which meant that even if they let you go, you would be holding on to them.
You would divert them away from thinking about height and the ground and falling down there very fast and other thoughts that would be racing through their minds, and get them to concentrate on things that would help them, like how to stand with their feet and where to put their hands.
Folk would have these worries swirling around, And you would try and you would manage
To get to those worries, and get them up and down that tree.
The Thoughts That Go Around
It’s the same when Jesus tells us not to worry, he knows about these worries swirling around
And he wants to deal with them
These thoughts that set our hearts pounding, our blood pressure rocketing and our sweat glands pumping.
My Life Depends On It (v22-23)
The first thought that Jesus wants us to deal with is the “My Life Depends On It” thought.
The “Life depends on it” thought has a habit of attaching itself to all kinds of things that our life does not actually depend upon.
It could be a particular car, that we have staked our happiness on,
“My life depends on an Audi” or whatever
More often perhaps it is a particular house or property, the dream home,
“My life depends on getting that home in 22 Alder Gate”
Or perhaps getting our children into a particular school.
Or perhaps a figure that we need to get for our home when we sell it.
Or making this deadline, getting this job, or getting this central heating to work, or this iPod to work.
These things that we have accorded life status.
Jesus deals with this, by taking the two most basic things – food and clothing.
Note that Jesus is not talking about nice clothing, he is talking about actually having a clothing.
You would think if any two things could claim “Life depends on it” status
Then food and having clothes would get close.
But Jesus says even these are not as important as we think.
“Isn’t life more than food”, “Isn’t body more than clothes”.
Life is more than food
Body more than clothes
What is the more than?
In the Bible, relationships always count for more than stuff.
When stuff is destroyed you can normally recover
When relationships are destroyed, the consequences are far more disastrous.
The ten commandments depend on looking after three main relationships
– Relationship with God – the first three commandments
– Relationships with parents – one commandment
– Relationships with neighbours – Last five and mentioned particularly in three.
Those are the bedrock
They are more important
Even more important than having clothes.
Deal with the “Life depends on it thought”, there are some things that get close to life depends on it status and those are relationships
And the only relationship that your life truly depends on is God.
Life Is Untended (v24)
The next thought that swirls around is, is the notion that life is unsupervised.
That it is like playtime at school, no longer is the teacher keeping an eye on things
You have to fight for yourself now.
Or it is like leaving home, and no longer are Mum and Dad around to help with things.
And Jesus says that life is not unsupervised, abandoned, a vast vacuum in which we are at the mercy of fate, luck, they system.
That is the message that the ravens bring to us. In fact the word in Greek means any black bird – so it could be crows, starlings, or blackbirds. Any bird that is black, and they are hundreds of them, bring us a message, life is tended, as these birds are looked after, so are we.
And these birds have a big lesson to teach us,
You should almost be able to hear them say one word, as they caw, crow or cheep
You can just about hear them say “We had breakfast this morning”
Jesus does not say
“Do not worry, everything is going to be alright”
“Do not worry, it might never happen”
“Do not worry, because life is tended, because even the blackbirds are fed.”
Life is tended by God
There is enough
There is enough
And we do not need to be scared.
Next time you see a black bird, be reminded
That bird was fed because there was enough
How much more does God care for us.
Worrying Helps (v25-26)
The next thought that Jesus asks us to deal with,
Is to the “it helps to worry thought”
I don’t know where this one comes from.
I think we imagine that if we worry, then when the worst happens it will not have surprised, we will have thought it through.
There is some truth to that.
I remember before Ellen McArthur was about to go round the world in the yacht B & Q she was asked by an interviewer, “What happens if you are travelling round the Southern Ocean, something happens to the yacht, you get thrown about, you get knocked unconscious” and then the interviewer added as an afterthought, “but I suppose you don’t want to think about that.”
And Ellen McArthur said, “That is exactly the sort of thing I want to think about.” And so her and her team have talked through the procedure that will happen if that ever happens to Ellen.
And that is the kind of worrying that will add an hour to your life.
But there comes a point after Ellen is on the boat, and she has to stop her thinking about this. She has to manage her mind. She has to keep this stuff, because it is not going to add an hour to her life.
When we decide to let worries into our head, we have to ask the question, “Is this worry going to add an hour to my life.” And if it’s a worry about what happens when you got knocked unconscious at sea, or what happens if the car breaks down in the middle of nowhere, or how can we make sure our children know how to cross the road, or do I need to get down to the doctors to get myself looked at, then those are concerns that can add an hour to your life, so they are worth dealing with.
But if it is the kind of worry that is not going to add any time to life.
Are the kids going to be alright at school today? Or what did she mean when they ended the telephone conversation that way? Or what is going to happen to property prices.
If it is not going to add hours off our life, then we need to get in the habit of cutting off air time.
And this done
We are now free to strive for the kingdom.
That is the one the Christian should strive for,
Strive for the kingdom.
We are here that the poor may be fed
That the weak may be defended
We are here that the a godless and broken world
May be inspired to follow Jesus when they see something in us
We are to leave our mark, and yet with such humility that only a few will remember our name
We are cultivate the gracious
We are ensure that our neighbours are loved
We are to comfort those who mourn and be vulnerable that others might occasionally see our own tears
We are to serve, and to have the grace to let others serve us
To enjoy God
To enjoy God
To live like Jesus
This is the kingdom
Before I nail the final two thoughts, can I say that what I am not talking about this morning is the same as depression, or anxiety depression, or stress related depression.
What I am talking about this morning is being a better Christian, is putting the words of Jesus into practice.
Depression, is never dealt with by our failures as a Christian
An expert on this John Lockley, says that Depression rarely has a Spiritual Cause.
But what happens is that when Christians do suffer from depression, it feels for them like it does have a spiritual cause.
Let me give you some examples.
One of the symptoms of depression is low self-esteem.
When the Christian suffers from low self-esteem this feels like “God does not love me”
It is not the withdrawal of God’s love that has caused the Christian to feel like this. God still does love that person. But the low self-esteem which is caused by the depression has caused them to feel like this.
Or another symptom of depression is guilt or paranoia – and to the Christian this feels like they have committed some heinous sin, possibly even the unforgiveable sin (as a rule with the unforgiveable sin, if you worry you have committed it, then you haven’t).
What I am saying here, is that the depression is cured by the depression
Not by the commandment to worry less.
So if you have depression or anxiety, the relief for you today is that is caused by what your own insight, or possibly the doctor is telling you that it caused by.
It is not caused by your failure as a Christian. In fact the two most obvious examples of depression in the Bible, to Elijah the prophet and to Paul the apostle, happened after their most effective times as a followers of God, not after their failures.
All this stuff about black birds might help, but it must be part of the other things – getting a routine, antidepressents, behavioural therapies or whatever the doctor recommends.
God Loves The Blessed Ones
The next worry causer which flies around us and which God wants us to nail is the idea that God only looks out of the blessed ones, the important Christians, and that our day-to-day struggles which are not titanic, or life and death; that God cares for the important ones, but we are left behind.
Occasionally I get emails from a website called “Friends Reunited”. It’s that website that you go to find out what people you went to school with are now getting up to. I got an email to say that someone in my class at school had recently updated their biography, and I found that one of these had been a girl I was maths class with, a girl called “XXX XXX.”
Now XXXhad always had a little something about her, a sense that she was destined for greater things.
What I am about to read out is based not on her profile, but on a CV for her on the web which I found through her profile. This is what it said.
“XXX XXXX iis Head of External Affairs for The RadioCentre, the venture which promotes and represents commercial radio in the UK, responsible for fostering relationships with government, parliament, regulators and other bodies concerned with radio. She was previously Managing Director of one of the UK’s largest groups of local radio stations and was an award winning radio presenter and producer at Radio Forth and Classic FM.
A graduate of the University of York’s music department, Lisa previously served on the boards of the Salisbury International Arts Festival and the Canterbury Festival. She is a governor of Gordonstoun Schools and lives near Elgin with her husband and daughter”
XXX is clearly one of the blessed ones, and good on her. But there is a feeling that whilst God has nicely arranged for Lisa to get her radio awards, he perhaps has forgotten to sort me out as well, my wee worries are low down the scale.
Jesus deals with that thought by saying “Consider the Lilies”. (vv 27-28)
Jesus says consider the lilies, which is a word for any field flower, and then says “If that is how God looks after the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, how much more does he care for you.”
Your front lawn that you walked past this morning, and which you are planning to mow before the winter sets in – God cares for that lawn
The grass verge that you saw on the side of the road – God cares for the verge, how much more does he care for you.
God cares for your window box, for your borders, for the wood up on Dechmont hill, for the grass that the sheep are munching on, for the heather on the side of ever Munro, how much more does he care for you.
Just like those black birds are a reminder of the care of God
So too is your lawn.
This is a resplendent, well tended creation
A garden of nourishment
A vibrant playground of crawling, swimming, flying
Of sprouting, flowering and growing
None of it is still, none of it is forgotten
If God cares for the least of things, how much more does he care for you.
God Has Concentration Lapses
Final thought, is God has concentration lapses.
Who here has ever had the experience of going into a Doctor’s waiting room, and wondering if the doctor has forgotten to call you.
I had it this week, and it seemed that the whole waiting room emptied before I was seen.
You do not know what is going behind the screens, you do not see what the queue is for your particular doctor, or why it is that some people seem to be getting seen straightaway.
And because you do not see things happen immediately we get anxious, and we soon assume that we have been forgotten about.
It is the same with faith.
We have an immediate tendency to assume that we have been forgotten about.
So our prayers
Whether to do with some danger
Or whether to do with the weather
Or whether to do with the years of support we have given to a football club are now dependent on one penalty kick
We seem to immediately assume that God has forgotten what we need.
We have plans at work, and some major interruption spears us
Or someone becomes ill and plans are thrown into chaos
And you say, God had you forgotten that I was busy this week
And could have done without that.
We must always reminds ourselves that God knows what we need
Remind yourself that today you need food, and God already knows this
Remind yourself that today you need to be loved, and God already knows this
Remind yourself that you need to have clothes on around you, and God already knows
God has not forgotten
His plan does not match our timetable
His purpose does not match our tick-list
His blessing does not match our shopping list
But God does know what we need
And we do need to panic like heathen
And when we worry is defeated
We are free to strive, to strive for the kingdom.