For those of us with a credit card, how prophetic is the name ‘Mastercard’; rather that our slave, it has become our master and we are its slave as we work to pay it off! ‘I have a mountain of credit card dept’, one man told the other. I’ve lost my job, my car is being repossessed, and our house is in foreclosure, but I’m not worried about it.’
‘Not worried about it!’ exclaimed his friend.
‘No. I’ve hired a professional worrier. He does all my worrying for me, and that way I don’t have to think about it.’
‘That’s fantastic. How much does your professional worrier charge for his services?’
‘Fifty thousand dollars a year’ replied the first man.
Fifty thousand dollars a year? Where are you going to get that kind of money?’
‘I don’t know’, came the reply. ‘That’s his worry’.
For a country that rides on the back of the saying ‘now worries mate’, surprisingly, we are a bunch of worriers. Anxiety and stress in Australia is at an all time high. Stress management experts say that only two percent of our “worrying time” is spent on things that might actually be helped by worrying. The figures below illustrate how the other 98 percent of this time is spent: 40% on things that never happen 35% on things that can’t be changed 15% on things that turn out better than expected 8% on useless, petty worries 98% of the time our worrying doesn’t accomplish anything, yet we continually worry. We worry about our treasures, our homes, our possessions. We worry about finances, about children, about parents. We worry about our health, our futures, and Jesus names some more things we worry about ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’
Why is it we worry so much? Is it the things that happen in our lives that are the cause of our worry? Or is it deeper? Is there something other the ‘things’ which cause us to worry, what is at the root of our anxiety? Surely God did not create us to be worry warts. In John 16:24 Jesus says us saying ‘Until now you have not asked for anything in my name. Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete.’
Jesus, when confronted with so many people without joy, worrying about things, and I am not talking about non-believers, but those who believe in God, he was frustrated with their internal suffering; he was hurt that their worry robbed them of the joy he wanted for them. He said to them ‘For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them.’ Jesus tells the believers, and he is telling us, God knows what you need, so trust in him to provide everything; stop worrying. But he doesn’t just say that, Jesus goes to the core of our worry; the reason we worry ‘seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.’
Worry, anxiety, angst; the 98% factor, Jesus says, is a sign that we have not put the kingdom of God and his righteousness first; that we in fact have an idol in place of God; that what we are worrying about, has in fact replaced God and it has become our worship, our hope of joy…our idol; it consumes all our thoughts, desires and hopes.
As Luther says ‘a god is whatever you look to for fulfilment, for good things and what you run to for help in trouble.’ If indeed God is put first and his righteousness, then we would not be so worried, because we would trust that God would give us what we need; We would place all our worries onto him as Peter says ‘Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you’. Let me say it again ‘Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.’
A doctor once said ‘you don’t get stomach ulcers from what you eat, you get ulcers from what is eating you’. In other words, worry and anxiety reveals we have become enslaved to an idea, a vision, a hope or dream which we desire at all costs, even if it hurts us or other to get it. And this happens surprisingly easy. There is a progression, a slippery slope which leads to something becoming idol in our life and replacing God and causing us to worry. I would like to list for you four steps which lead to worry. (modified from the book ‘Peace maker’ by Ken Sande pgs 102-109)
Idols and worry begin with;
Some desires are inherently wrong –like vengeance, lust or greed. But many desires are not. There is nothing wrong with desiring peace and quiet, respectful children, a loving spouse, a new computer or even a growing church. It’s the choices we make when our good desire is not met, that can cause us to make an idol of our desire.
There are two choices we can make.
o We can choose to place our trust in God and seek our fulfilment in him. And ask that God would grow and mature us in faith so that if things don’t work out, we will graciously accept it. And in doing so we become more like Christ (Romans 8:28-29 ‘And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son’ -JOY-
The slippery slope begins: .-THE SEEDS OF WORRY-
o Or we can keep fighting to achieve our desire, dwelling on our disappointment and allowing our desire and disappointment to control our lives. This leads to self-pity and bitterness towards those who stand in our way, including God
2) Demand: -THE CULTIVATION OF THE SEED
Unmet desires can work themselves deeper and deeper into our hearts. Especially true when we see our desire as something we need or deserve and therefore must have in order to be happy or fulfilled.
o When we see our desire as being essential to our fulfilment and well-being, it moves from desire to demand. It evolves from ‘I wish I could have this’ to ‘I must have this’
o When a desire becomes a ‘must have’, it has grown so strong that it begins to control our thoughts and behaviour. In biblical terms, it has become an idol.
o An Idol is anything apart from God that we depend on to be happy, fulfilled, or secure. A demand de-thrones God from our lives.
o It is often not what we want that is the problem, but that we want it too much.
3) Worry THE SPROUTING OF THE PLANT
A demand that is unfulfilled, that has become an idol, usually leads us to worry and anxiety; about the unresolved desire; about God and others.
o We worry about what is going to happen; we worry how we can be happy; we worry over why God does not fulfil our desire.
o We begin to play God, by worrying and making judgements about ourselves and others.
o We have set our desire up as a mini-god and place all trust in it eg; ‘once I have a loving relationship I desire, then I will be happy and fulfilled.
4) Punish BEARING FRUIT
Idols always demand sacrifices. When our idolatrous desire is not met, someone suffers; someone must be sacrificed.
o Others are sacrificed- we react in anger, lashing out with hurtful words, our actions to inflict pain. We reject and hurt God
o We sacrifice ourselves by withdrawal from relationships and from the ones we love and who can help us; from God himself. We fall into to bitterness and become miserable and lose our joy.
If this is you, if your desire has brought you to the point of constant worry, or to the point of punishing others or yourself in order to fulfil the desire, then Jesus words are for you: ‘seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.’ Redirect your desire onto the Lord, onto God our Father who knows what you need. Confess to him, Lord Jesus I need you right now; Ask God to deal with the self-made idol and to replace it and to fulfil you with his righteousness, his presence, with his goodness and love, which surpasses any human desire.
This is the good news we have; Jesus has come to release us from whatever holds us captive; whatever makes us a slave. He is our professional worrier. How are we to pay for such a service…well, thanks be to God, that’s his worry.