Worry seems so natural to human life that we think that it is a natural and okay for a Christian to worry too. But it is not. Jesus makes that very clear in Matthew 6:25 when He said, “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life.” When Jesus tells us not to do something and we do it anyway, that is called sin. So worry is a sin. And the reason that worry is a sin is because it is the opposite of faith. Faith says, “God can.” Worry says, “God cannot.”
Worry leads us to some very dark places. Sometimes worry says, “God cannot, therefore I must” which means that we are putting ourselves in the place of God, and that is not a good thing. Other times, Worry says, “God cannot, therefore things are hopeless” which means that we have closed ourselves off from the possibility of God bringing anything good into our lives from the challenge that we face. That’s called despair and that is not a good thing either.
Now God is not limited by our lack of faith. He can and will bring good things out of the challenges people face whether they believe that He will or not. But when we worry, we lose the joy of anticipating what God is going to do in our lives. We lose the blessedness of being aware that we are being carried along by God even in the midst of the trouble we face. And we cannot experience the fullness of the new life that Jesus gives us if we are going to hang on to our worry habit.
If ever there was a time when Jesus would have been justified in worrying it would have been when He was in the Garden of Gethsemane. This happened right after the Last Supper and just before Jesus is betrayed by Judas. Jesus knew that He was going to have to suffer greatly so He went with His band of followers to the Garden of Gethsemane to pray. Matthew records this for us in chapter 26 of his Gospel, starting at verse 36:
36 Then Jesus went with his disciples to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to them, “Sit here while I go over there and pray.” 37 He took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee along with him, and he began to be sorrowful and troubled. 38 Then he said to them, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.”
39 Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.”
40 Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. “Couldn’t you men keep watch with me for one hour?” he asked Peter. 41 “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.”
42 He went away a second time and prayed, “My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done.”
43 When he came back, he again found them sleeping, because their eyes were heavy. 44 So he left them and went away once more and prayed the third time, saying the same thing.
45 Then he returned to the disciples and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and resting? Look, the hour has come, and the Son of Man is delivered into the hands of sinners. 46 Rise! Let us go! Here comes my betrayer!”
47 While he was still speaking, Judas, one of the Twelve, arrived. With him was a large crowd armed with swords and clubs, sent from the chief priests and the elders of the people. (Matthew 26:36-47)
Let’s think about Jesus’ state of mind for a moment. Was He afraid? Absolutely. Was He filled with dread? Most certainly. Jesus described His own state of mind by saying, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death.” (v. 38). But was Jesus worried? I don’t think so. I say that on the basis of Jesus’ own words when He prayed to His heavenly Father, “Yet, not as I will, but as you will.” (v. 39) Jesus was not worried because He placed His life in His Father’s hands and trusted that somehow, someway, His Father would bring about His best for Him.
And here was God the Father’s best for His Son, Jesus: Within moments, Jesus was betrayed by one of His own followers and arrested. He was beaten and mistreated by His own people, by the leaders of His own faith. He was turned over to the Roman governor, Pontius Pilate, who had Jesus brutally flogged and then condemned Him to be taken outside of the city walls, stripped naked and nailed to a cross to suffer and die. While Jesus hung there in excruciating pain, people who passed by mocked him and hurled insults at him. Even when He died, Jesus could not be left alone, for a soldier plunged a spear into His side just to make sure that He was really dead. As nightfall approached, Jesus’ body was taken down from the cross and hurriedly placed in a nearby tomb so as not to defile the Sabbath Day which was about to begin.
Now if the story had ended right at this point, we would think that God the Father was a monster for allowing such things to happen to His Son. But that is not the end of the story. For on the third day that followed, Jesus walked out of that tomb fully alive and fully human.
And because Jesus did that, everyone who believes in Him has forgiveness of all their sins and a new life with Him that will last forever. And everyone who looks to Jesus also has the sure and certain promise that this earth, with all of the evil that it contains, will pass away. And Jesus will bring into being a new heaven and earth in which there will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things will have passed away (Rev. 21:4). And you will have a new body that will never get sick, never grow old and never die. You will see Jesus face to face and He will wipe every tear from your eyes. And now, billions of people are part of God’s family. And that all happened because Jesus placed His life and all that He had in His Father’s hands and God the Father gave Jesus His best.
So how can we live a worry-free life? First of all, we release every part of our life in this world into God’s care. That includes our own lives, the lives of all of our loved ones, all of our activities and possessions and all of our time: past, present and future. We give it all to God and we let Him take care of all those things.
Second, we trust. We trust that God will take care of those things in the way that He knows is best. Our trust is not a blind trust. We put those things into God’s hands and we trust that He will take care of them because we know God’s Love, Wisdom and Ability.
We know God’s Love. As valuable as all those people and things are to us, they are more valuable to God. God loves our life more than we love ourselves. Our loved ones are loved by God more than we ever could love them. Our possessions were made by God and our abilities came from God, so we know that He cares about all those things. Therefore, we release all of those people and things into God’s loving care, knowing that He loves them with infinite love.
We know God’s Wisdom. God’s wisdom and knowledge is infinite, therefore we trust that He will know what is best for all of our earthly people and possessions.
We know God’s Ability. God’s power and ability are infinite, so God not only knows what is the wisest and most loving thing to do, He is also able to make it happen. And God has promised us that He will indeed bring to fulfillment the wisest and most loving result for our lives on the Day of Resurrection. For a time, in this life, we have to suffer. But later, God’s best for us will come and it will all be a beautiful, sweet gift to us from Jesus. As Paul writes in Romans 8:18: I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. (Romans 8:18)
We release and we trust and then, third, we refocus. We ask God to help us to love what is in heaven more than we love what is on earth. So what is there in heaven to love? God. God is in heaven and God is the reason that we love heaven. We also love heaven because of the things that are in heaven. In Heaven, there is perfect peace, perfect justice, perfect life and perfect love. All the things that we long for here on earth already exist in heaven, so we learn to love what is in heaven. And we fill our minds with thoughts of God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. We reflect on God’s actions: what He has done for us in the past, is doing for us in the present, and will do for us in the future. We reflect on His qualities and characteristics, for example, His love, His wisdom and His perfection. And as we do that, as we re-focus on God, our love for Him will grow so that we not only love God, we adore Him.
As our love for God grows, then we will also begin to see our life in this world in a different light. It will seem to us as though this world is a garden and our time here is a season like Spring. And God has put us in this world to be His gardeners where we plant the seeds of God’s Word and we nurture any new seedlings of faith in Jesus that germinate and grow. And that work of sowing and nurturing is very, very important because we are planting and nurturing for a future harvest that is going to happen in the life to come.
When we see our life in this world for what it really is, then we invest in storing up treasure in heaven, we invest in sharing this Good News about Jesus and we do that because we love what is going to result in heaven.
And that treasure in heaven in which we invest is not personal benefit or reward. The treasure that we seek to store up in heaven is people: People who know Jesus and trust in Him, people who will be in heaven because of Jesus, people who will get to enjoy resurrection life in the new heaven and earth to come because of Jesus.
And here is the thing about investing in treasure in heaven. Whatever treasure you have in heaven is safe and secure. The people that you love who died believing in Jesus can never be taken away from you. Jesus is keeping them alive and safe in His loving arms. And, one day, Jesus is going to invite you to put your hand in His and He will lead you through death’s dark door into the brilliant light of heaven. And Jesus is going to say to you, “Come over here. There is someone who has been looking forward to seeing you again.” And there your loved ones will be. Amen.
(This message was shared at Walnut Grove Lutheran Church in Langley BC on February 28, 2018 and it is based on Mt. 6:19-27.)