Month: September, 2016

The Seven Deadly Sins: The Sin of Gluttony

Text:  Luke 16:19-25

Grace, mercy and peace To you from God our Father…

Please pray with me…

A hiker was charged with eating an endangered species while tracking the woods of California. After hearing the man had eaten a condor, the judge quickly passed a harsh sentence of 10 years behind bars. The man pleaded with the judge to hear his side of the story because he felt circumstances justified his actions. The judge was interested to hear how anyone could rationalize killing a protected bird so he allowed the man to speak. The hiker explained how he had been lost in the wilderness for 3 days and nights without any food or water. He then spotted the bird sitting on a rock. With the little strength he had left, he threw a rock and killed the bird. After eating the condor he walked another 3 days without food or water before being rescued. He said, “Your honor, had I not eaten that bird, I wouldn’t be here today.” The judge was moved by the story and suspended the hiker’s sentence. As they left the courtroom the judge asked the man what a condor tastes like. The man thought for a moment and said, “It’s kind of a cross between a bald eagle and a spotted owl.”

Today we study the sin of gluttony, the second in our series of the 7 deadly sins. I was going to save this one for thanksgiving but thought better of it because it’s during this holiday and some others that we choose to ignore this particular sin the most.

After all, it’s easy to ignore it isn’t it. I mean, look around. It’s evident by all the full bellies that we constantly eat more than we need. I’ve chosen to tell others my belly is just a benign cyst so I guess I ignore it more than most.

We are quick to condemn other sins, even sins as prevalent as smoking or drinking, but for some reason, here in the rich and prosperous United States we are easy to ignore the excess of gluttony. Yet, many of the problems we see caused by smoking and drinking are also caused by overeating. In fact, some of the harm overeating does to us can be seen even more than the harmful effects of other vices.

By overeating we damage the Lord’s temple by being overweight, increasing our risk for heart disease, cancer and stroke, fatigue, high blood pressure, Type 2 diabetes and sleep apnea. It leads to low self-esteem, depression and guilt. Many believers would not even consider having too much wine wine or smoking a cigarette but have no qualms about gorging themselves at the dinner table, especially during religious holidays such as Thanksgiving and Christmas.

But Proverbs 23, our proverb for today, warns us, Be not among drunkards or among gluttonous eaters of meat, for the drunkard and the glutton will come to poverty, and slumber will clothe them with rags.”

Proverbs 28:7, “He who keeps the law is a discerning son, but a companion of gluttons disgraces his father.” And finally back to Proverbs 23 for the most shocking warning of all in verse 2, Put a knife to your throat if you are given to gluttony.” Sounds like God is pretty serious about this.

Now, one might say that we have to take this in context, that hunger was a bigger problem then and gluttony was a more selfish thing. To that I say poppycock. I invite you sometime to come with me to the homeless camps around our area. If you want to find the hungry, it’s just as easy now as it was then. We choose to ignore the problem anyway recalling all the programs we have in the area to feed people of need. Let me remind you, they had great programs even then and, just like today, it wasn’t enough. Yet we continue to bury our heads in the nearest bowl of Doritoes.

Our physical appetites show just how much in control of our bodies we really are. Our gluttony is a proof of the lack of control we truly have. If we are unable to control even our eating habits, how much control have we lost in other areas of our life? If we’re unable to control our eating, were probably also unable to control other bad habits, many of which lead to sin. It’s about Godly discipline that starts in our devotion to stay from things which defy God’s design for our lives. Just as with other vices and sins, we are not to let gluttony overcome us.

Deuteronomy 21:20, “This our son is stubborn and rebellious; he will not obey our voice; he is a glutton and a drunkard.” And…

2 Peter 1:5-9, “make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love.

For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.

For whoever lacks these qualities is so nearsighted that he is blind, having forgotten that he was cleansed from his former sins.

The ability to say “no” and to see sin for what it is, is one of the fruits of the Spirit common to all believers. Galatians 5: 22-23, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.”

The truth is, gluttony is nothing to ignore, yet of the seven deadly sins, it’s the one most accepted in society. Do you think the devil is ignorant to that? 60% of all professing Christians are overweight and out of shape because they haven’t mastered their appetites, and sadly I have to count myself as one of them and, just like me, we can’t blame pot lucks or our wife’s fine cooking. It’s on us and we have violated the trust God has given us to take care of His temple.

Gluttony is clearly a big problem, especially in American society. The average person will spend some 20,000 hours feeding themselves between the ages of 20 and 50. Yet the Bible says it is better to cut your throat than to be a glutton. Clearly there has been created a disconnect between our Savior and us.

Now, when we think about gluttony, most of us think about overeating but, really, gluttony involves an appetite out of control for most anything. We can be gluttonous for power, for riches, for sex, for anything that commands the most of our attention. The word “gluttony” means to be mastered by your appetites and we see it everywhere. All over the world, we see people replacing the one true God to gluttonous appetites for other god’s. Again, it’s a matter of self-control.

Our over-appetite for anything is important to God. Our body is His temple and just as the Israelites brought foreign God’s into His temple, so do we defile the temple of our body with things that were never meant to be there. Many of us are content to plop ourselves on a couch somewhere and stuff our faces when, instead, we should be doing all we can to take care of the body God has given us.

1 Corinthians 6:12, “All things are lawful for me, but not all things are helpful. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be enslaved by anything.

 That should be the call of our church. We have only one master and His name is Jesus Christ.

Last week we spoke of the sin of lust and gluttony has much to do with lust. Both of them are natural, legitimate God-given appetites but somewhere along the line, they wander far from the healthy boundaries God had established for them. They are outside God’s design for us. Maybe that’s why Paul equates gluttony with paganism and worldliness. Philippians 3:18-19, “For many, of whom I have often told you and now tell you even with tears, walk as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things.”

Paul’s point here is that it is ungodly to think of your belly before all things. It is ungodly to hoard your own food as you ignore the plight of the hungry. It is ungodly, to eat without thinking about what it’s doing to you. Yes, the devil knows full well how we ignore God’s plea to flee from gluttony.

From a Biblical perspective, gluttony has to do with self. Self-indulgence, self-satisfaction, self-abuse. The devil knows this as he opens your eyes to that banana crème pie Aunt Mabel brought to the picnic. It’s giving your body more than it was designed to receive. We crave so we cave. We hear, “Let’s eat, drink and be marry and we respond, yes sir, just show me the way to the buffet.”

Now, just as in all things, our gracious God gave us an appetite for things that we should enjoy them. It’s in the abuse of these appetites where sin fits in. It’s when we become intoxicated with over-indulgence to the point it’s what we focus on, where we lose the ability to say “no”. Gluttony is putting the things God gave us to enjoy in moderation, into an entirely new level greater than God Himself.

Yet, as in all things, when we “overdo” it, God provides us a way out of our sin and back into His grace. Because we are people who sometimes suffer from a lack of control, He gives us repentance, a chance to change for the better the things we have abused. Through our repentance God has provided for us another chance to make things right. It’s a sincere plea to God saying, “I can do better and I pledge that I will.”

Then we must back that up in submission, giving to God our whole heart. Regarding the act of gluttony, we ask Him to help us to overcome it through the guidance of His Holy Spirit and resist the devil through prayer and obedience submitting ourselves 100% to His mercy and guidance. James 4:7. “Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.”

In your prayers, ask for God’s direction in overcoming whatever gluttonous activity you find yourself controlled by. He knows your body better than you know it and He will direct you onto the right plan if you take the time to listen. 1 John 5:14-15, “and this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us. And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests that we have asked of him.”

And, make it your daily habit to thank God in all areas of your life. Learn to respect yourself once again and don’t allow the devil to discourage you with his condemning whispers. Don’t be put-off if God seems to be taking His time but rather be steadfast in your requests to Him with thanksgiving and praise. Romans 8:1-4:

“There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.”

And finally, find your full trust in the Lord because, if we’re being honest, it was a lack of trust that got us into this gluttonous situation in the first place. Be satisfied with what you have been given.

Conform yourself into godliness through the direction of His Holy Spirit. Dedicate your body to God with the understanding that you are His holy temple. Vow not to abuse the gifts He has given you by over-indulging in those things that God has given us to bring us joy.

Our Savior died so that you might be free from sin. He served as the perfect example of a life without the need for gluttony. May he guide and keep you in the true faith and towards the understanding of His will for you. Amen.

Bible Study: The Sin of Gluttony

 

Why do you think God was so against gluttony?

Why is it proper to see gluttony as a lack of self-control?

Why is it proper to see it as selfish?

What common thread weaves through the biblical examples of selfishness? Genesis 4:9; I Samuel 25:2-11; Esther 6:4-6; Mark 10:35-37; Luke 10:29-32.

Why is it proper to see it as greedy? Colossians 3:5

Why is gluttony a sin? Ecclesiastes 7:2, 10:17; Proverbs 23:1-3, 20-21, 25:16; Job 15:20-21, 27; Luke 12:19-20, 45-46; Romans 7:22-23, 8:5, 13:13-14; Galatians 5:16-17; 1 Peter 2:11

If Gluttony is a sin, then which one of the 10 commandments does it break? Isaiah 58:13-14; Jeremiah 3:6-10; 1 Corinthians 6:19; Philippians 3:18-19; Colossians 3:5; 1 John 2:16; 1 Peter 1:14-15; 2:4-5; James 2:10

How can gluttony lead to even worse spiritual problems? Deuteronomy 32:15; Romans 13:13-14; 2 Timothy 4:3-4

Name some ways gluttony can be destructive in body and apart from the body. Proverbs 30:21-22

How is gluttony connected to lust and greed? James 4:1-2

How can we define gluttony in someone by his actions? Matthew 11:18-19 (What are the children of wisdom?)

How can someone go about conquering gluttony? Psalm 34:8; Isaiah 55:1-2; John 6:35; 1 Corinthians 6:12, 9:26-27; Galatians 5:24; 1 Peter 2:2

What is the root of gluttony? Philippians 4:11-12

Gluttony was really the first sin, how? Genesis 2:16-17, 3:1-7

So, where do we draw the line? When does a situation become gluttonous?

In what ways can this church help in the battle against gluttony?

What about those people who have medical problems that lead to obesity? Are they guilty of sin? 1 Corinthians 10:31

With all this evidence in Scripture, why has gluttony been so ignored?

The Seven Deadly Sins: “The Sin of Lust”

 

Matthew 5:27-30

Grace, mercy and peace to you from God our Father…

Please pray with me…

Today we start a new sermon series entitled the 7 deadly sins and as luck would have it, I get to speak about Lust. I’m usually better at pawning the harder one’s off on Pastor Mossman or Rex, but this time I get the touchy one.

And why is it so touchy? Because we don’t want to know the truth, just how sick we are as a nation. When we think of lust we imagine the dark urgings of man. Those things kept in the shadows, too private and too perverse to admit.

German poet Heinrich Heine said you cannot feed the hungry statistics. Well- researched stats can only illuminate the problem. And let me tell you, according to the statistics, we have a major problem.

With the proliferation of free pornography on the web, the problem has skyrocketed. Lust has found its new home and the devil sings its praises. In private, we, especially men, are slipping into a very dark and dangerous place that is ruining relationships, darkening lives, and pulling people away from God in their guilt.

From 2001 to 2007, the internet porn industry went from a $1 Billion a year industry to a $3 Billion a year industry in the U.S. alone. In 2014, that number had risen to $5 Billion.

12% of all websites on the net are pornographic. Every second, $3075.64 is spent on pornography and at any given time 26, 258 people are viewing it. 40 Million people are regular visitors to porn sites. 1 in three porn viewers are women. 70% of men aged 18-24 visit porn sites in a typical month. 2.5 Billion pornographic e-mails are sent each day. 25% of all search engine requests are pornographic related, that’s 68 Million a day. 35% of all internet downloads are pornographic. Surprisingly, Utah is the state with the highest porn subscription rate in the states at 5.47 per thousand. There are 116,000 searches for child pornography a day. The average age of a first time user is age 11. And on and on and on.

THE SONG OF THE SIRENS- carried by the wind, skimming the surface of the sea, captured in the sails of the ship-lured many a captain and his sailors to change their charted course. Powerless to resist the sirens’ mesmerizing song, the bewitched men set their sails for the sirens’ shore, unaware that beneath the surface of the sparkling waters that danced along the coast, jagged rocks awaited. Blinded by lust, some didn’t wait for the inevitable shipwreck but flung themselves into the waters and swam towards shore, only to be devoured by the sirens. The sirens’ seductive attire cloaked a cannibal appetite that savagely consumed their victims’ flesh.

In Homer’s Odyssey, we read of the mythical hero Odysseus (Ulysses) and his adventures as he returned home from war, including an encounter with the sirens. Circe, the enchantress, warned Odysseus of the lure of the sirens’ song. As his ship neared the island, he ordered his sailors to fill their ears with wax to prevent their being seduced by the sirens. But Odysseus, his curiosity aroused, longed to hear their glorious voices. He instructed his crew to lash him to the ship’s mast and warned that no matter how fervently he begged, they were not to untie him until they were far from the shores of the sirens’ island. How wise Odysseus was to listen and so act. The sirens’ song was so seductive-his death would have been certain.

Lust is a powerful force that has led many a man to the rocky shores of sin. It is defined as an intense or unrestrained sexual craving and the Bible has many warnings for us about it.

In our 10 Commandments there is warnings not to covet your neighbor’s things and in that is included his wife, though sexual lust is only one type of lust. In Matthew 5:28 Jesus warns us with these words, “But I say, anyone who even looks at a woman with lust in his eye has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” In Job 31 we read, “For lust is a shameful sin, a crime that should be punished. It is a devastating fire that destroys to hell. It would wipe out everything I own.”

Just like most sin, lust is a selfish thing that focuses on ourselves rather than others and it most often leads to unwholesome actions to fulfill that desire in the heart with no regard for consequences. Lust is about possession and greed. Lust turns us all into Gollums, uninterested in anything but to satisfy our desires. There is nothing sacred in it.

The Christian life, on the other hand is about selflessness and is marked by holy living:

Romans 6:19 – For just as you once presented your members as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness leading to more lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness leading to sanctification.

Romans 12: 1-2 – “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”

1 Corinthians 6: 19-20 – “Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.”

Ephesians 4: 17-24 – Now this I say and testify in the Lord, that you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds. They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart. They have become callous and have given themselves up to sensuality, greedy to practice every kind of impurity. But that is not the way you learned Christ!—assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus, to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness. And there are many more than these.

Laura Esquivel said of lust, “Each of us is born with a box of matches inside us, but we can’t strike them all by ourselves. So let me be clear before we go on. I am not saying sexual desire is a sin, in fact it’s a necessary element in nature that drives us to reproduce. Sexual desire for one’s spouse is a normal and beautiful thing. These desires become sinful, however, when they fall out of God’s order and design, when we engage in them beyond the proper context of God’s creation.

Examples of this are sexual relations outside of marriage whether single or married to someone else. As Christ has said, even using pornography falls in this category.

Perhaps the biggest reason that lust is a sin is because it a killer of love. We were all created to love God and to love each other. To love you think of others first. You serve your neighbor before you serve yourself. When we engage in lustful activity, it’s always at the expense of another human being.

We look at pornography and this perpetuates the business of pornography which brings young sons and daughters who want to profit from this interest by starring in pornographic videos. Every time you look at pornography you support the vile sin against someone’s son or daughter for your own pleasure.

When you engage in sex outside of marriage, you likewise use someone else for your own pleasure. You support the sin because your lust has overpowered your desire to serve God. We mistake lust for love but prove ourselves wrong by engaging in it outside of the parameters God uses to define love.

Our culture has gotten to the point where sex outside of marriage and viewing pornography is no big deal. In fact, it’s probably expected of us, especially now that it’s so easy to find. We even have websites advertised on national channels encouraging married couples to cheat on their marriage vows, even providing the partners with whom to cheat. We have become numb to the dangers because the thrill has become too intoxicating.

Knowing God in a way that can be seen in your actions keeps sexual desire from becoming lust. Holiness is living in supreme regard for a holy God and lust is the opposite of that. Lust is sexual desire which is not regulated or governed or guided by any kind of supreme regard for our most holy God. It is a sexual desire that dishonors its object and disregards God.

We are saved because of our belief and our respect for Jesus Christ the very Son of the living God. Those who persevere in this faith will live eternally with Christ in paradise. Those who choose the wider way to hell will end up with the greatest of destructions because, by choosing to live apart from God’s will, one destroys the very soul which God had created to be holy. One who losses themselves to the lusts of the world is bound for the wider path.

What I am saying is that, daily we fight to be obedient to God and this is absolutely necessary for salvation because, every day, the devil will try to rip you out of God’s family picture. Every day we fight the fight of faith and the battle against lust is absolutely necessary for salvation because it is the battle against unbelief. Faith alone delivers us from hell and the faith that delivers from hell also delivers us from lust.

Our focus, daily, with every step we take in life, should be on the victory that has been won on our behalf.

The Gospel we should focus on is the one that proclaims this victory over sin and death, not the one that proclaims the tolerance of sin of which we are hearing, even in more and more churches.

Romans 6:14 promises us that, “Sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.” That is God’s grace, almighty grace, untarnished grace.

As we heard in our Sermon Hymn:

He breaks the power of cancelled sin,

He sets the prisoner free;

His blood can make the foulest clean,

His blood avails for me.

God wishes you to approach his throne with a pure heart, a heart that can’t help to proclaim His glory. It is God’s demand and it is also His gift. Despite our failings He offers us His grace. Along with this He offers us the power to overcome the lusts we have for the world. The only fight we are expected to fight is the fight of faith and the devil will do whatever he can to see us fail.

But he has no power over God, so be satisfied with what God has given you and with the guidance He has sent His Holy Spirit to give us. By God’s grace, our temptations lose their power because faith is greater than the world. True faith will lead you all the way to everlasting and it will help you fight the battles you will face, no matter how scary they may seem.

Not knowing God is the very root of every sin, including the sin of lust. He is a God of relationship and His greatest joy is when you come to Him. This commitment speaks of more than head knowledge. It speaks to a total submersion in Christ and Him crucified. It speaks to a total commitment to the only one who can provide for you eternal life. Even Satan and his demons know this and they shudder.

The knowledge I am speaking of described in 2 Corinthians 4:5-6 when the Holy Spirit says through Paul:

For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.

It’s the knowledge of God’s greatness, so great that there is no need for worldly things like lust, or any other sin for that matter. A God who is worth the praise we send Him. It should be a knowledge that overwhelms you, a knowledge that claims the victory over you and holds you.

A knowledge so real and satisfying, so precious as to lead you away from the devil’s whispers. This is the fight of faith and God has given you everything you need to win the battle, even over your lustful desires.

So come to Jesus, the very person who has provided you the way towards heaven. Come to know the Lord through Word and Sacrament as you have never done Him before. Shed the lusts of the world and replace them with the knowledge of God’s unending grace provided by His immeasurable love. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.

If you don’t yet know God in this way, He invites you in. Don’t let this opportunity pass you by. He is willing to provide much more than your lustful desires ever could. Walk in Him and He will lead you all the way to glory. Amen

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dealing With Doubt

“Dealing With Anxiety”

Text:  Matthew 10:26-33

 

Grace, mercy and peace to you from God our Father…

Please pray with me…

Martin Luther once said, “Whatever (anxiety) still assails us is either a temptation of Satan or a remnant of the old man, for in Christ there can be nothing, but supreme assurance and joy.”

Well, if that’s true, many of us would have to say we know this old man a little too well. No one here can say they have never been anxious about something. I’m not talking about the kind of anxious feeling we have when we’re about to see the latest movie or meet a date for the first time. By anxious I mean that feeling of uncertainty and trepidation that sometimes comes over us when we feel out of control.

Lately my family has had to deal with this kind of anxiety on a regular basis and, before this, we’ve never really been a family touched by great anxiety. Sometimes we don’t know what to do when one of our loved ones is raked with so much anxiety they can barely function.

In any given year about 20% of adults in the United States experience one type or another of anxiety disorder so, if you are currently suffering you are in good company. As a rep. for Thrivent financial, having to do medical questionnaires for a certain insurance product, I would say that almost half of all my applicants took some kind of anxiety medication or another.

And it’s no wonder in our fast paced world filled with the need for quick decisions, fast food, instant access and overnight delivery. The faster we get the faster we want to be.

Remember when we were kids and everything went so much slower. Sure, it was frustrating at times but it was something we learned to live with because we didn’t know any better. If we wanted to research something we went to the library. If we wanted to check in on the news we had to wait until it came on at 6:00 and 10:00. If we wanted to play a video game, we had to go to the local arcade. If we needed to call someone we had to find a phone somewhere. If you were suddenly to make things like they were when we were growing up people would lose their minds.

Yet, even with this slower pace, there didn’t seem to be nearly as much anxiety in people as there is today, at least in my little corner of life. We just did what could be done no matter how long it took.

But then someone said, “I can make life easier by making it faster,” and then someone else said, “ I know how to make it faster still.” We did this in the interest of getting as much done as possible in the shortest time possible so it would free us up to do other things we enjoy. Instead it created a monster, trying to do more and more and more with the time that should have gone to helping us relax a little.

Life is full of triggers toward anxiety. People are consumed with fear and worry more now than ever, even with all the supposed conveniences we’ve been given. These stresses stem from the absence of certainty and the control we lack over the future. The world keeps pushing us to accomplish more, produce more, do more until we have no more time to do…. One of the devil’s favorite targets is our time because he knows that if he can get us stressed out doing things to qualify for worldly approval, we’ll soon forget about the peace that God offers us.

Every day we feel the wear and tear of relentless pressure, worry and stress. The lack of peace that a loving God so freely offers us. In our New Testament lesson we heard these words:

“do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.

And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

Many of us have forgotten these words. We have tried and tried to find our own answers to resolve our stress. Take this pill, drink this drink, massage this, relax that, be at one with yourself in the tranquil waters of your mind. Yet, all too soon we’re right back to that place we were so desperately trying to avoid.

Now, I’m not speaking against legal drugs and counseling. God gave us many things in life to help us cope and these are some of them. But we have, all too often, discredited by our actions the peace that can be found only in Christ Jesus. In many ways it’s a problem giving up control. Trusting someone else, even Christ, seems too risky in our delicate situation.

Worry is proportional to our sense of security. When life is going well, we feel safe in our routines and worry subsides. Likewise, when life finds us in the valleys of our lives or when we feel threatened or insecure somehow, we tend to focus on the negative and anxiety riddles us.

1 Peter 5:6-7 says:

“Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.”

Did you hear that? Jesus Christ, the very Son of God, cares…for…YOU! He values YOU! He loves YOU! And He wants you to shed all your anxiety on HIM. He wants you to be dependent on HIM to give you peace.

Worries increase because our attention is usually drawn to the things of the world. Jesus said in Matthew 6, “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither rust not moth destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

It’s a question of priorities really. Do you focus on God or on success? Is your God Almighty God or money? Do you try to find peace in Christ or do you search for worldly answers for tranquility?

It is Almighty God who provides you with all things. A little further on in Matthew 6 it warns us, “No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.” The same can be said of worldly success, worldly fame, or any worldly reward. It is God who provides life and deserves our praise. It is God we come to for our peace. Without these things, the other concerns of our life are meaningless.

When we are in the throngs of anxiety, it is good to know where peace may be found. Worry causes us to have ulcers and mental disabilities that can be destructive and even fatal, but what amount of worry will add even one hour to someone’s life. Therefore, why worry?

Yes, I know much easier said than done, I know. But God can truly be your answer in the understanding that there is nothing that God cannot help us to overcome. There is nothing so big that He cannot handle it. He looks at His faithful servants and He says, “I got this.”

Holy Scripture teaches us that we should deal with each day’s problem’s when they occur and to not be obsessed with future concerns that may not happen.

Again in Matthew 6, “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.

Probably my favorite story having to do with anxiety in Scripture is the story of Jesus and the disciples’ visit to Mary and Martha’s home. My wife Cheryl is a little bit like Martha. She’s better now, but it used to be that if someone was coming over to deliver a pizza she had to have the place clean before they came, and when I say she had to, that meant we had to. So here we are cleaning the house in the off-chance the delivery driver is also the President of the United Sates. I can’t even imagine what we would have had to do if it were actually Jesus coming for a visit.

Well, Martha is the same in our story. Anxiety has overcome her because Jesus and his disciples are due any moment and there many details to accomplish to make their stay comfortable. The house must be cleaned, the bread must be baked, the meal must be made. Busy, busy, busy.

Then there is Mary. She’s much less stressed. Her anxiousness is the kind you get when someone you truly love is coming over. She’s stuck in the daydream of all that Jesus will teach her. She has no time for all this busy work. Meanwhile, all of Martha’s details are not being detailed.

Finally, Jesus arrives with His disciples and the work, at least to Martha, is not done. There is still food to be made and cleaning to be accomplished. And to make matters worse, instead of helping, Mary plops herself down at Jesus feet looking up with cooing eyes waiting to be taught.

Well, Martha’s has had just about enough of this and she complains, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her to help me.”

But Martha didn’t get the response she wanted because her priorities were all askew. Jesus says to her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.”

You see, many times we worry because we have our priorities all wrong. We want to please the world before we want to please Christ. We want worldly success at the expense of Spiritual success. We want world approval before Godly approval. But only one thing is needed and God wishes you to choose the right portion.

Mary was freed from a world of anxiety because her one focus was Christ. She chose to listen and learn. Martha looked to worldly things but Mary focused on the spiritual. Just as we should, she sat at the foot of Christ, having shed all her other anxieties, and attended to Christ’s every Word. In this she found her peace.

Mary wasn’t being irresponsible because this was no ordinary dinner guest. She had her priorities in line with Christ’s because she put God first and, because of this, she was free from worry.

So what did we learn today that might help us shed our anxieties?

First we learned to focus on the concerns of today without worrying about the future for “Tomorrow will worry for itself.”

Secondly, we learned that a life in Christ is necessary to find true peace. In this we learned that we don’t have to face each day with the limitations of our resources because God is bigger than our concerns. “If God is for us, who can be against us.”

Thirdly we learned that we are like everyone else. We all have anxiety from time to time. Some have learned to control it while other have become overwhelmed with it. The difference, other than mental illness, is in how we set our priorities.

In his first letter, Peter says in chapter 4:

“Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed.”

Our lives are not one’s that were created to be filled with anxiety but in rejoicing. There will always be trials but always and forever there will be a God who can help us to overcome those trials, if only we put our faith and trust in Him.

God has promised that He will never leave us or forsake us. In that we can place our trust because God is always good to His word. His peace may not come in our time, but it will most assuredly come. That is His promise.

What we truly need is to be aware of the immense love that God has for His children. He doesn’t want us to live lives of stress and worry. That’s why He offers us His peace. He wants us to fall in love with Him. He wants us to have that same love for each other. Paul says in 1 Corinthians 13 that, regardless of how virtuous our display of faith may be, if we do not have love, it amounts to nothing. I guess Dionne Warwick was right. What the world needs now is love sweet love.

God’s grace will always abound and His patience with us is never ending. If we want to understand how to handle anxiety, we have but to be reminded of God’s tolerance of us.

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. Whatever you have learned and received and heard and seen in me – practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.”

This is Godly advice. Cast your cares…cast your worries…Your anxiety…on Him and he will give you peace. May the God of peace, which passes all understanding, guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

 

Bible Study: Dealing With Anxiety

 

Text:  Matthew 10:26-33

What is Anxiety? What does it feel like?

What does the bible say about dealing with worry? Philippians 4:6-7; 1 Peter 5:6-7

What is a primary cause of anxiety?

Can our actions or lack of actions give us things to worry about as well? Explain Job 4:8; Proverbs 27:12; Luke 8:14; Philippians 2:14-16

Is anxiety caused only by “wrong” thoughts and actions, or are there other sources? Proverbs 13:4, 23:4

Can worry alter our circumstances or change our lives for the better? Luke 12:22-31

If there is nothing to be gained from anxiety, how does it really affect our lives? Proverbs 12:25

What should we focus on? Mark 8:35; John 14:27; Matthew 6:25-34

What is the core problem with worry and anxiety? Jeremiah 17:5-6; Proverbs 3:5-6

What did David do when he faced severe anxieties? Psalm 34:4-6 How about Paul? 2 Corinthians 1:8-10 How about Jesus? Matthew 26:37-39

Is anxiety something we must face alone? 1 Corinthians 12:22-25; 2 Corinthians 11:22-28; Philippians 2:19-20

How effective can prayer be in times of fear and worry? Matthew 6:5-6; Romans 8:26-27; Hebrews 4:14-16; 1 John 1:7-9

How does giving thanks to God help us in our anxieties? Proverbs 30:7-9; Jeremiah 32:17; 1 Thessalonians 5:18

What is the best explanation you can give to describe the peace that God offers us? Philippians 4:7

What has God given us to overcome anxiety? Ephesians 6:10-18; Hebrews 1;14

What other methods, then those we’ve spoken of already, are available to help us overcome our fears and our worries?

What worldly ways to cope with worry usually prove to do the opposite? Who is the advocate of these ways? Why?