March 21, 2021
• Rev. Jevon Caldwell-Gross
For those of you who are just joining us, my name is Jevon Caldwell-Gross. one of the associate pastors here at St Lukes. And these past several weeks we've been in a series entitled The Good Life. And today we just want to have a conversation around learning how to live without worry. I know it sounds hard, but I think together I think together we can do it. Listen right where you are. How about you join me in a word of prayer? God, we are so grateful for the many ways that you have moved. For this past year you have moved in ways that we never imagined. You moved in new places. You move through new people, you went beyond our imagination. So God, that is simply our prayer today that on this day that you would not just give us the word that we want. But you will give us the word that our souls need. So God even now we are reminded of just how much you love us and how you are present with us. For this is our prayer in Christ's name. we pray. Amen. Learning how to live without worry. So we were living in New Jersey and we had a really great family rhythm going. The kids were both out of diapers. They were fully functional human beings. They were around four and five. We were finally hitting our stride. I mean, we started planning on vacations without the kids. I mean, it was one of those times where we could finally see the light at the end of the tunnel. Now, for just a second, I want you to take your judgmental hat off, because because one day Nicole comes in the midst of all of this, this stride and all of this planning. Nicole comes to me one day and says I'm pregnant. Now she had to add to that. It's all your fault. I don't see how that's possible. But But But needless to say, I must confess, because when she when she said those words, I'm pregnant, my heart sank. In fact, I couldn't truly celebrate celebrate the moment because because I was worried it was. I mean, I mean, it felt like something just just just knocked the wind out of me. I mean, I knew all of what that would entail, and I was just worried. I knew we'd have to pay East Coast childcare prices all over again. I was worried about the extra space. I was worried about not having enough help around. I was worried we didn't have enough stamina. In fact, during the actual pregnancy, Nicole passed out while she was giving a Bible study that had to be rushed to the hospital. I mean, I think we were pretty much worried every step of the way, and I don't think we expressed it at the time. But we were two ordained clergy. They were absolutely worried. I want you to write in the chat something that you've been worrying about for the past seven days. I want you to just take some time just to write it right there in the chat. Look at what you're writing. Look at what other people are writing because it's a reminder that all of us worry about something. And maybe that's why Jesus didn't hold back when he told his disciples not to worry, because we all worry. We worry about our health. We worry about our relationships, our jobs, our kids. We worry about the world, right, regardless of where you are. We worry. And Jesus addressed the very things that they worried about 2000 years ago. And he's still addressing the very things that you're writing in the chat or that's been on your mind, because these past several weeks we've been looking at the characteristics of a good life that Jesus offers. And during that sermon 2000 years ago, Jesus challenged them to learn how to live a life without worry. Now, let me just clear some things up because Jesus is not offering a life with our head in the sand and one that is detached from reality or all emotion because there's a difference between being concerned and being worried. Now the author to the Good Life, James Bryan Smith, gives the definition That worry is a disproportionate concern based on an inappropriate measure of fear. In many ways, worry is our attempt to control an outcome that has yet to occur. I mean, we do. We do all of this worrying. We put all of this emotion into something that hasn't happened. That might not happen and most often isn't as bad as it seems. It's almost as though Jesus is reading their minds, because in the middle of his sermon he was telling them not to worry, not even about what they would, eat or even drink and the tense he uses. It hints to the reality that this is something that they are currently feeling. He's addressing a real worry, not just a general lesson addressing worry. But these are actual worries that they are having because remember, he's speaking on the hills to people that have literally left everything to follow him. He just called them a few chapters ago, so they are still pretty early in their ministry. He's still talking to fishermen that have left their nets and their boats to follow him. He's talking to a tax collector that has turned over a new leaf. A doctor that sold his practice. Now imagine that he's speaking to some very real concerns and questions that they might be having as they begin their ministry with this carpenter. I mean, it's no wonder why they were worried. They left everything for him. So listen to the question that Jesus asked his disciples in the midst of their worry in the midst of all of the emotions he's addressing real concerns. And he asked, Can any of you by worrying at a single hour to your span of life? I mean that right there is a lesson on how to learn to live without worry. And here it is. I mean, let's let that sink in fact, let's let's look at it a different way. Let me let me be a little more blunt. Worrying is a waste of your time because regardless of how much we worry, regardless of how much we worry, it still won't change things because worrying has never been a valuable solution to solve a problem. It doesn't give more insight. It doesn't offer any more clarity or strength. I mean, think about that for a moment. We devote a lot of energy into an emotion that doesn't even work or solve the problem. In fact, there was a study done, and researchers wanted to look into the imagined worries that actually materialized. They wanted to see if the things people worried about really came true. So they asked subjects to write down their worries over an extended period of time and then identify which of their imagine worries actually happen. And it turns out that 85% of what subjects worried about never even happened to occur. Think about that for a second. 85% of what subjects worried about it never happened. And with the other 15% that did happen, 79% of subjects discovered. Either they could handle the difficulty better than expected or the difficulty taught them a lesson worth learning. Uh, in other words, most of the things that we worry about never actually happened, And the rest of the stuff wasn't as bad as we thought, so that hard conversation wasn't as bad as we thought. The experience wasn't as dreadful as we imagined. The process wasn't as impossible as we thought it was going to be. The move didn't kill us. The conclusion of the study was this that only 3% of what they're worried about actually happened. Think about it, let it sink in 3%. I mean, that's a lot of energy to put into 3%. That's a lot of emotion, a lot of worrying to put into 3%. I mean I mean, when when was the last time that we've been able to confidently saying Wow, worrying really helped me to get my life back on track or wow, worrying really saved my marriage. Worrying really helped me to become more active in the church and grow in my faith or worrying about that made me feel so much better. It sounds absolutely crazy, doesn't it? And it should, because worrying is never a valuable solution to any problem that you or I have in our lives. In fact, let's test it out. Let's test it. Let's take a poll. Let's take a poll. Has worry ever paid a single one of your bills? I'll wait. Has worry ever dried a tear? Has it ever forgiven you? Has it ever mended a broken heart has it ever hired an employee, cooked the meal, fed a hungry stomach, composed the song, held a hand. Worry has never done anything worth while it doesn't solve problems, but it definitely creates them. In fact, it has the adverse effect than what was attended. The only thing that worry ever changes is us. We can't sleep. We don't eat right. We can't focus. It changes our mood. It changes our outlook. It changes us physically. It changes us spiritually. It changes. It changes us psychologically. I mean, we do all of this for something that's not certain or something that is often not as bad as it seems. We do all of this, all of this. We do it for 3% As the people of God watching how much of our lives, how much of our relationships, how much of our growth, how much of our everyday lives is governed by 3%. Maybe that's why Jesus knows what they in us sometimes don't realize, because remember, they've just given up everything to follow Jesus. And with so much of their lives uncertain, Jesus speaks to the general dysfunction. He doesn't just speak to the general dysfunction of worry, but Jesus says, Watch what he says. He says, Don't worry about tomorrow. This is imperative to the good life because because when I'm worried about tomorrow, I can't fully be present with Today. In fact, the author calls worry a distraction. Think of how imperative this is for the disciples. They have an up close and personal encounter with the savior of the world. They get to sit at his feet, learn from his teachings, and they will get a front row seat watching him, watching him walk on water and calming the storms and healing the sick and giving sight to the blind, raising people from the dead and standing up to Pharisees forgiving sins and would soon be doing miracles of their own. And yet, in the midst of all that was in front of them, they will worry about what they would eat or drink because they couldn't see until tomorrow. I mean, I mean, they might. They might miss the magnitude of this moment because of the simple fact that they were worried about how they were going to get the basic necessities of life taken care of. And yet, as Jesus is addressing them. He's also addressing us and I get it because here's what happens here is what happens. See if this doesn't sound familiar. Too often we get tempted to start looking to tomorrow, a day we haven't seen a day we've never experienced and we start making assumptions about the outcome. This won't turn out well. We won't recover from this. They won't accept us. They won't like us. They're going to say no, it won't work and we look to tomorrow and start anticipating the worst case scenarios. So we borrow. Here's what we do. We borrow all of the emotions from a day that we've never experienced, and we put them all onto today then. Now we've increased the burden of today because we've borrowed from tomorrow. Now we've added the burdens that were never designed for that day. And it's unfair to put tomorrow's troubles on today's agenda because the scales of today were never designed to hold all of the problems of today and tomorrow. No wonder. No wonder why we can't enjoy today. No wonder why we don't have peace enjoy today. No wonder why the good life seems so impossible. No wonder what life seems so heavy at times because Jesus is reminding his disciples to stay present in the moment. I mean I mean, this is this is really nothing new. Let's be honest. This isn't This isn't anything new because God has been trying to get them to do this for a long time. Now, if you don't if you don't believe me, let's go down memory lane because you remember when the Israelites first experience freedom from Egyptian Egyptian slavery. They were so worried about what they were going to eat and worried about what they were going to drink, that they were ready to forfeit their entire futures. They were ready to cash in their chips on today over what had never happened. So here's what God does. Here's what God does in God's own wave. God says okay, I'll provide water from rocks. That manna will rain down from heaven every day. But you can't save anything for tomorrow. You can't look to tomorrow. You got to stay present in the moment. Notice God does not give it in bulk. He doesn't give the manna in bulk. This is not a Costco run. This is not a Costco blessing. This is not something that you can store or save, but instead you have to get into the habit of trusting me every single day. You have to get the manna and daily bread for that day. And for that moment and for 40 years, God was teaching them how to stay in the moment, how to live, day by day, how to put one foot in front of the other, how not to get so distracted and what has not happened, that they missed the life that they were living currently in that moment, maybe. Maybe that's why the root word of worry means to choke or to strangle and to literally cut off. Because I wonder how many moments we have missed, how many opportunities we have missed or have strangled because we allowed a worry to cut off the possibilities of joy and peace. In that moment, I mean, I mean, I mean, you're sitting right in the presence of the savior of the world, preaching one of the most powerful sermons that will ever be preached in all of humanity. Man if someone is sitting there in the crowd, worried about what they will eat or drink the next day. So every day they are now learning how to trust that God will give them enough God. But God shows us that Jesus. But Jesus would meet us every single day of our lives to give us exactly what we need. Watch. It gives us exactly what we need for that day. And for that moment, the promise of faith is God. God says I'll give you enough strength. I'll give you enough manna. Enough patience. I'll give you enough of whatever you need for that day. So don't worry about tomorrow. Just focus on getting through today and I can hear it now. I can I can I can hear it. I can feel it because already somebody is saying. But what about tomorrow? You don't have to worry about tomorrow because the same God that meets you today will meet you tomorrow. Because tomorrow becomes another opportunity just to meet God. So let today be enough. Let let today be enough. Because tomorrow is not yours to solve. I know that that that doesn't even sound right. But listen, listen, listen. Listen. I'm trying to help somebody listen. Hear me. Hear me? hear me? Don't To me out tomorrow, Tomorrow is not yours to solve. It's not yours to figure out. You can plan for it, but you can't solve it. And I know that doesn't sit right with some of you. I know. Listen, I said I can feel it. It didn't even sound right saying it because because because we wouldn't worry so much if we could just control or change the outcome of what hasn't happened yet. I mean, tomorrow, tomorrow we'll come tomorrow. We'll come with you not doing a single thing. I promise you, it'll come tomorrow will come without you doing a single thing. Because this is where Jesus makes the turn. He makes a simple act filled with faith implications. This is less about them and more about God's provision. Because as we grow in our faith, we learn to replace worry with trust. And it's not. It's not so easy. That's why that's why that's why Jesus says, just just just look at the birds when when in doubt I mean, this is this is the most profound thing that Jesus tells them. When in doubt, just go bird watching. Just go, Just go bird watching because birds don't worry about what you're going to think of them. Birds don't worry about when the rainfall is going to come. They don't worry about what they will eat or drink. And yet every single day, God provides for them. So I'm going to let you in on a little secret. And if you tell Pastor Robert or other pastors I said it, I'm going to deny it and burn all the footage, But I'm going to show you how the magic is done. I'm going to give you a behind the scenes look at what happens in the sermon series because the power of the sermon is not what it says on Sunday, but if it sticks with you throughout the rest of the week. So, uh, it's why, sometimes in our sermon series, we will choose objects or experiences to go along with the series using things like shoes and and TV shows. I mean, we're doing those things on purpose because it's a way of adding new meaning to everyday images of your lives. It's a way for the message to live beyond the day. So when you see the shoes you hear the sermon or when you, when you hear the TV show, right, you see the sermon right? It's the simple things that remind us of that which is holy. So you can imagine. For the listeners, he takes something that they will likely see every single day of their lives and gives it a different meaning. Because now the bird is no longer a bird. That lily that they walk past every single day is no longer just the lily. But now it becomes a reference point for God's provision and for God's power. So he's simply saying the next time you get worried, just go bird watching the next time that you question God's provision, just go bird watching. The next time you wonder whether about to eat or drink, how it's gonna work out. Just go birdwatching. Find the reference point to remind you that tomorrow is not yours to solve, because let me show you how God works, not how worry works. But let me show you how God works. I told you I told you before how we worried, or how I worried when we found out that we were going to take this parent Journey third time and for months are worried. Stayed up all night. We argued about who left the top off the orange juice. I mean, but but I remember how, how, how hard and how tough things got. But remember, worry is a declaration about what hasn't happened. It's abstract. It's an unfair expectation about the future we can control or accurately see, regardless of how hard would try. It has zero power to change our situations, but watch how God works. Watch how God transformed situations. So so so in the midst of our worries. Apparently one of our members used to have a daycare in her home and without us even asking, said that she would be honored to watch her pastors baby at her house. Done worried for nothing. Did you see how God worked it out then? Then Nicole randomly gets a substantial raise on her job. Done right, didn't even expect it. But you see how God is working things out. You can you can see it. I mean, then then then a fellow school board member volunteer to cook us meals every single time. I had to be away at a board meeting handled. I wasn't worried. Handled right. You see God working and to top it off the top, to top it off, Isabella came home pretty much sleeping six hours through the night, right? So? So most of what we worried about literally never happened. 3%. It's fitting. It's fitting. It's fitting that we gave her the name Joy. We gave her the middle name Joy because it was like it was like our birdwatching. When we get when we worry how something is going to work out, we just go birdwatching. When we worry about how this situation is going to turn out, we just go birdwatching, right? We just we just We find some common reference point to remind us of that which is holy So tomorrow, next week or next year. It is not yours to figure out. You can't control it, you can't change it, you can't see it, and most times we can't predict it. So why not stay fully in the present and let God work out what's going to happen tomorrow? Because here's what it says. In 1 Peter 5 and 7 because it is through prayer that we learn what is so truly real, then that is trusting God with things that we can't control. It is trusting God. But even in the midst of our worries and even in the midst of a tomorrow, that we cannot predict that God is better equipped to handle tomorrow than we ever will. So why not give God all of your cares? Why not in the face of worry why not try trust? So I want to invite Pastor Mindie up to lead us in our spiritual practice for the week because I know that all of us worry. But all of us still can trust in the power of prayer.