What uncertainties are you facing with work or at home? Maybe God can use this challenge to remove the illusion of control and lead us to greater dependence on Him. Worry is assuming responsibility God never intended for us to have. It's playing God, trying to control the uncontrollable. The good news is, we can rest in Him. Our future is unknown, but our God has made himself known. Our future is uncertain, but we worship the One who holds the future as an absolute certainty in Him. If we want to manage money like a boss, we need to trust God’s control with the things we can’t control. When we place our faith in God, it puts worry in its place.
Jesus is offering us an opportunity. An incredible thing can happen in our lives even if our financial situation doesn’t change—we can stop worrying. We can live with greater peace even if our home value doesn’t improve. We can live with faith even if our future contains uncertainties. We can experience a joy that’s independent from our stuff. It all hinges on faith and if we’re willing to really trust God in the financial areas of our lives. There are a lot of things we cannot control, but we can control our worry, and that will vastly improve our lives. How do we do that? We trust God’s control, care, and provision.
Jesus is challenging us to remember who our Heavenly Father is. Trust Him. Trust His care. When you worry and fret about the future, channel those thoughts into a prayer to God and with childlike faith move on. Control what is within your control, but then surrender it to God and trust that He’ll handle it. Financially it might mean you stop, look at your spending patterns, and get a budget worked out. It might mean you make a commitment to be here all four weeks of this series. It might mean you stop hoarding and let your resources flow to others who need them. It might mean you stop spending and save a little for an emergency. It might mean you actually open up all your credit cards and figure out where you are financially. Do what you can do, and then give it to God. When you place your faith in God, it puts worry in its place.
The command to not worry includes the idea of stopping what is already being done. In other words, we’re to stop worrying and never start it again. The English term “worry” comes from an old German word meaning to strangle or choke. That is exactly what worry does; it’s a kind of mental and emotional strangulation, which probably causes more mental and physical afflictions than any other single cause. Jesus says to stop worrying about your everyday life. Life is a comprehensive term that encompasses all of a person’s being--physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual. Jesus refers to life in its fullest possible sense. Absolutely nothing in any aspect of our lives, internal or external, justifies our being worried when we serve the God we do. Worry is taking responsibility for things God never intended us to have. Worry never fixes tomorrow, but it always ruins today.
Normally when we worry, we seek assurance. We seek solutions. We seek security. When we feel empty, we seek the next purchase or next experience. When we get in over our head, we seek more credit, we seek payday loans, or we seek a second or third job. All that does is make these issues dominate our thoughts. The only solution, according to the Boss, is to seek the Kingdom of God first. We don’t get everything we need by seeking it. We get everything we need by seeking God first. Out of all the options we have, out of all the things we can seek for and be occupied with, we’re to seek first the things of the One to whom we belong. The term Kingdom does not refer to a geographical territory but to a dominion or rule. God’s Kingdom is God’s sovereign rule, and therefore to seek first His kingdom is to seek first His rule, His will, and His authority. Seek God above all else and He’ll provide everything you need.
Big opportunities come with big fear. Fear of proposing or being proposed to. Fear of buying your first car or house. Fear of going or not going to college. Fear of having your first child. Fear of switching jobs or starting a business or chasing a dream. If we aren’t careful, fear can hold us back from advancing into what God wants for our life. One kind of fear is self-doubt. We might say, “Oh, I could never do that. I’m just not qualified. I’m just not trained.” Another kind is the fear of failure. Maybe it’s self-pity. “Well I failed in the past, so I’ll never try again.” That’s the beauty of Christianity. Through grace God gives you another chance. Jesus’ blood cleanses us from sin and allows us to get a fresh start. We need to win the battle against fear, because God expects us to invest our gifts for Him
We can never own enough to be secure. Never store enough money or food to get the security only God can provide. That’s why He tells us not to worry. Jesus asked, ‘who by worrying has added even a single day to their life?’ Worrying steals our life. We shouldn’t seek security in money or stuff, because we can only find security in God. We should be wise. We should save and plan ahead. None of us know what the future holds, but we can know this: our heavenly Father cares for us. He knows what we need before we ask it. We can trust Him. We can let our soul ‘take it easy’ in Him. We can be satisfied with what He has provided whether it is a little or a lot. Life is not measured by how much we own.
If you feel discouraged or like you won’t make it today, remember this: “To live is Christ and to die is gain.” As long as you have breath, God isn’t finished with you yet. There is no pain He can’t redeem. No life He can’t use. No situation so dark that His light can’t come in and make all things new. He is God. He is Good. He is with you and for you. He has a habit of taking people who’ve given up on themselves and saying to them, “Give me a shot at your life! Let me show you what I can do. You’re at the end of your rope. Good! I’ve been waiting for you here. Now let’s get started!”
We all have different pathways that make us feel closer to God. Be who you are, not what you aren’t. Don’t envy other people’s pathways. Don’t project your pathway onto others. Simply own your own pathway. Try different things. See what works and then commit to feed yourself. You have the Bible or you can pick up a study Bible that helps you read and understand the Bible on your own. There is Christian radio, Podcasts, iTunes, the Bible App, or RightNow Media filled with worship artists and teachers who can keep you going throughout the week. There are countless books and video teachings available to help people gain knowledge and receive encouragement about whatever topic they are wrestling with. Feeding yourself is not just about books or music or teaching. It’s about finding what fires you up and makes you feel closer to God. Get close to God. Grow in your faith.
Love does not demand its own way. If we’re making demands, we aren’t acting in love. We’re making a withdrawal from that relationship that will ultimately lead to more unhappiness. The answer is kindness. The word kindness in the original language means to be “beneficial or useful.” Spend time and energy to discover what would be useful or beneficial to the other person in your relationship and choose to do it. The results can be startling. Kindness often begets kindness because love is kind.
The Bible has a lot to say about the Spirit’s role in your life. The Spirit empowers you to love. He reveals the deep things of God. He enables you to declare “Jesus is Lord!” He distributes gifts to those who believe, unifies the Church, brings freedom, gives you access to the Father, strengthens you with power in your inner being, makes you righteous and holy, sets you apart as a child of God, and builds you into the person you’re meant to become. The Spirit produces the qualities of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control in your life and character. He empowers you to speak God’s good news to others, gives you the energy to accomplish things that matter, helps you understand and recall the teachings of Jesus, leads and directs you in serving God, comforts you, fills you with joy, fills you with hope, gives you discernment, compels you to act, pours the love of God into your heart, helps you in your weakness, prays for you when you don’t know how to pray, and pleads your case before God. He is your advocate, your helper, your defense attorney, a down payment on heaven, and the very presence and power of God living within you and promising to complete the work Jesus began in you on the day you believed!
God sustains us when we feel life’s pressure. Sometimes we can be tempted to think the problem in our lives is the pressure we are under. If we could get out of the pressure, there wouldn’t be any problems. But pressure is just a part of life. Some of the greatest achievements wouldn’t have been possible without the pressure that helped produce them. We tend to see pressure as a problem we need to solve. We might say, “If I didn’t have relational pressure, or money pressure, or work pressure—I’d be happy. I just need to get away from the pressure.” While there may be valid points there, I’d suggest pressure is more like a tension we need to manage than a problem we solve. If you get out of one area of pressure, you’ll just find yourself in another. Often pressure isn’t the problem. Belief in Jesus isn’t the problem. A lack of spiritual practices that allow us to regularly rehydrate—to come and drink spiritually, to be filled with God’s spirit daily,—is the core problem. We’re doing the survival course of life without taking advantage of the spiritual power that’s available to us. Pressure mixed with God’s purpose and provision is a recipe for profound growth. How do we stay hydrated spiritually? By engaging in our faith personally and committing to the Church community.
John 7:38 (NLT) says, “Anyone who believes in me may come and drink! For the Scriptures declare, ‘Rivers of living water will flow from his heart.” Rivers of living water will flow from God’s heart. The New Living Translation Bible uses the word heart. The King James Bible states it this way: “Out of His belly will flow rivers of living water.” The belly is the deepest place inside you—the place where you get anxious or afraid. Where you feel hollow or empty when you’re disappointed. When worry or fear or anxiety hit us we describe it as going all the way to our gut. We talk of having a pit in our stomach. It is here, in the deepest part of us, Jesus says He will produce vitality. If we come to Him and drink, rivers of living water will flow from our inner most self.
How do you seek God’s overflow when you feel overwhelmed? John 4:14 says, “But those who drink the water I give will never be thirsty again. It becomes a fresh, bubbling spring within them, giving them eternal life.” The term Jesus uses for the flowing of water indicates it isn’t simply a stream that bubbles forth in the rainy season. He is describing a continual stream of water that leads to eternal life. It’s more than just life that doesn’t stop. It’s not just life as we know it now, but a deeper, more satisfying, and dynamic life that comes from God’s spirit within us. God’s Spirit is the source of life that moves you from overwhelmed to overflowing.
What season are you in and what’s the purpose for it? Maybe you’re working full time with little kids. It can feel overwhelming, but it’s a season. Some people are taking on new jobs and there may be seasons where they have to make sacrifices for the family. Some people are starting new companies and going through seasons of sacrifice to get it off the ground. Others may be in a place of retirement, but we still have to manage it. Just do your best to recognize the season and make room to breathe in it. How do we do that? Take a day of rest each week. No matter the season, the Biblical principle of the Sabbath, or a day of rest and worship, was important. Say no to the good so you can say yes to the best. Sometimes you have to say no to good things in one season to give yourself to the best things for that season. Create a stop doing list. It’s so helpful once a year or so to stop and create of list of things you need to stop doing so you can give yourself to the most important things. Fight to get some margin in your life so you don’t lose perspective.
I hope God restores the old wound you’re carrying. I hope God answers all of your prayers for healing. Your life will never be right until you’re right with God. He has already initiated the process. Just like Jesus in the crowd, He’s looking, He’s calling out your name. There are a lot of people in this world. We might feel like a face in the crowd, but are we going to come forward and speak to Jesus face-to-face? When we reach out, He seeks us out. C.S. Lewis once said, “Man’s search for God is like the mouse’s search for the cat.” We think we’re the ones firing it up, but it’s something He initiated a long time ago. Because God wants a restored relationship with us, and He’s already paid the price to make things right.
A lot of things in life can make you feel like a face in the crowd. You go to a place like the DMV and you literally become a number. You try to go to restaurant at 7 on a Friday night without reservations...good luck. Prepare to be one in the crowd. People can even bring this mindset to God thinking that He’s too busy to listen to our little concerns. He’s too important to be bothered. Or, how could He ever give personal attention to me when there are hundreds of millions of people praying right now? But God can pick you out of a crowd. You’re not a number to God—you’re a person. You will not be overlooked. You will not be ignored. You will be noticed even if you don’t want to be.
Some of us have that thing in our lives we want to stay hidden. Maybe it’s an addiction, a behavior you keep secret, a weakness, a stronghold of sin, a thing that’s bleeding you dry and draining your life away…the thing that is getting worse and worse. We may think the worst thing in our lives is if someone found out. The real worst thing is not bringing it to Jesus and seeking His healing. Some of us are seeking solutions everywhere; we’re trying to handle it on our own. We need to bring our troubles to Jesus. Maybe you’re doubting, you’re scared, you don’t know about God, you think He’s mad, you think He doesn’t care, or you think He’ll judge you. Listen, we can’t be stubborn when we have a nail in our heart. Instead we need to go to our nail-scarred Savior and He will begin to restore us. That’s why we have a motto around Central Church: it’s okay to not be okay. Without God, no one is okay. Everyone comes to God in a full-on, NOT okay state. With His grace and action within us, He can turn old wounds we want to hide into a new story of restoration we want to share. Jesus meets people at their worst to offer His best.
In my wife Lori’s book, My Name is Victorious, she writes about the Japanese art of Kintsugi, meaning “to patch with gold.” When using the Kintsugi technique, the artist takes broken ceramics or pottery and reassembles the pieces in an unusual way. Typically, restoration of damage is done so breaks are hidden and concealed, making the item as good as new. Kintsugi, however, uses precious metals such as gold and copper to reattach the shards and highlight the breaks instead of hiding them. The pottery becomes artistically better than new and can even become more valuable. Kintsugi is an art making broken things more beautiful than before they were broken. Isn’t that just like God? He’s in the business of healing hurts. He is the master at taking the broken pieces of our lives, restoring them, and making them even more beautiful than they’ve ever been. He loves restoring broken people and turning the damaged areas into gold. God can make your brokenness beautiful.
We’re not alone in our struggle. God has not abandoned us. He has passion for us. He longs to restore us. He wants to know us. He wants us to know Him. We may desperately want God to restore our body. We may desperately want God to restore a relationship in our lives. We may desperately want God to restore our finances, to restore a dream we have, to restore a place—where we feel wounded, broken, and damaged. I hope and pray He will, but God is desperate to restore your broken relationship with Him. God is desperate to call you daughter. God is desperate to call you son. Then, and only then, do you get to “go in peace,” (see Mark 5:34).