And it's based on 1 Peter 5 verses 6 and 7. God cares and what I want to try and do Brenda, is to take some of the practical areas of life where we struggle and get a handle on just how much God cares about us in that burden, that uncertainty, that real point of concern - but more than that - what He can do to help us through it. That's the really important thing.
That's what Word Alive is all about really. We tackle life issues by seeing what the Bible has to say and how it can help. And I've been involved with the Bible and people long enough now to know it really does help.
So this series is for us all and Derek tackles just how much God cares about our anxiety. I'll be doing my usual thing of quoting from the Bible here and there and throwing in the odd comment or question - But - let's get started. Derek!
Well let's start this way Brenda.
DEATH was walking into a city. LIFE asked, "Where are you going?" "To claim 10,000 people by night fall," replied DEATH. "That's awful." "It's my job", said DEATH.
Later that evening DEATH was seen walking out of the city." LIFE saw him and said, "You lied. You said that you would claim 10,000 people but 20,000 dies today." DEATH replied, "I did only claim 10,000. Worry and anxiety killed the rest."
In terms of technology we have an easier life than any previous generation. And yet there is more uneasiness than ever before.
I want to assure you God cares for you, and He has some profound words to say to you. They are found in 1 Peter 5:6-7.
Listen to this: "Humble yourselves, therefore, under God's mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him for he cares for you."
Verse 7 is such a powerful statement it cannot be ignored. It has only eleven words, and ten of them are one-syllable words-only the word "anxiety" has more than a single syllable. It's a simple verse, but carries a profound message. It's a message this stressed-out generation needs to hear.
So - if you've just joined us or got mentally switched on to what you're hearing - Dr Stringer is tackling the problem of anxiety. The CD of this series is available and there are (as ever) free transcripts which we'll send to an email address.
Well now - A lot of us are suffering from emotional overload. Have you ever felt the same way David did when he wrote these words? "My pain has overwhelmed me like a burden too heavy to bear."
You may be thinking, "I'm having to carry more than I can bear." I want to share with you how to unload your burdens.
The Bible word for anxiety means "to divide" or "to distract." Anxiety is having a
disturbed and distracted mind. It's a fear or dread about some real or perceived threat. This definition of anxiety isn't from a medical journal, but it describes anxiety in a way most can understand: Anxiety is a gnawing dread in your gut that something bad may happen.
Some of the visible symptoms of anxiety are restlessness, irritability, fatigue, difficulty in concentrating, and difficulty sleeping.
In the Bible, Job was a man who suffered severe anxiety. In a single day he lost his fortune, family, and his health. This is how he described his feeling of anxiety: "The churning inside me never stops; days of suffering confront me."
Now, if Job had known in the end God was going to reward his faithfulness with twice as much wealth, and another house full of children, that inner churning wouldn't have been as difficult to handle.
Our culture is experiencing an infectious anxiety epidemic. But medical studies have shown much of what we worry about constitutes needless anxiety.
Studies reveal 40 percent of what we worry about will never happen.
30 percent of what we worry about is from the past and can't be changed.
12 percent is worry about criticism from others, much of it untrue.
10 percent of the things we worry about are health issues, which actually are worse when we worry.
And only 8 percent of what we worry about constitutes real problems we have to face.
So, 92 percent of your anxiety is needless. And the Bible says we are to cast 100 percent of our anxiety on God!
I had to smile when someone said, "Don't tell me 'worry doesn't do any good. When I really worry about something, it doesn't happen."
Let's check out what anxiety does to us.
Well - It doesn't empty tomorrow of its sorrows but today of it's strength.
It doesn't allow you to escape trouble but it does make you unfit to cope when the trouble comes. Anxiety is like a rocking chair. It will give you something to do but you're going nowhere with it!
Let me make a confession to you. Right now I'm worried! But what I'm worried about is that I will pile guilt on you by telling you not to worry. We need something more helpful than that - and we have it!
People were anxious in the time of Jesus, too. Even people who knew Him personally suffered from worry. Jesus once visited the home of Mary and Martha for a meal. Because of the heat, many meals were eaten outdoors in a shaded atrium. Imagine Jesus is talking to Mary, sitting at his feet, just enjoying their conversation. We often assume Jesus was doing all the talking-like giving a sermon on the porch or something. But having been a husband for a long time, I suspect Mary was talking at least as much to Jesus-probably more. She was sharing her thoughts, her feelings, and her pain.
Martha just explodes at this. She said to Jesus: "Lord DON'T YOU CARE that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!"
Freeze frame those four words for a minute: 'Lord, don't you care?' Have you ever said or thought those exact words? I know I have. "Lord, I'm hurting here. Things are tough. It's as if you have your back turned to me. Lord, don't you even care?" But Jesus does care. He replied to Mary in words that contained both the diagnosis and the prescription for anxiety: "Martha, Martha, (repeating someone's name was a sign of affection) you are worried (the same word in 1 Peter 5:7-a distracted, dreading, attitude) Jesus continued, "You are upset about many things, but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken from her."
The one thing I need when I'm full of anxiety and upset about many things is to fall at the feet of Jesus and cast my cares and anxiety on Him. Let me underline that - When I'm full of worry and upset about many things I need to get on my knees and give my anxiety to Jesus, because He cares for me!"
1 Peter 5:7 spells it out: "Cast all your anxiety On Him because he cares for you."
Just notice two important truths in this verse.
NOTICE GOD'S PROPOSAL.
"Cast all your anxiety on Him."
We try to carry our own burdens, but God invites us to cast them on Him. It's easier said than done.
I can personally relate to the little poem that says:
It is His will that I should cast
My care on Him each day.
He also bids me not to cast
My confidence away.
But oh, how foolishly I act
When taken unaware;
I cast away my confidence
And carry all my care!
Think about that word 'cast'. 'The Greek word for cast means "to toss or to throw." The disciples of Jesus threw their cloaks onto the back of a borrowed colt for Jesus to ride into Jerusalem. It's the same word that's used here.
Casting your anxiety on the Lord is like putting a saddle on a horse before you ride it. It would be preposterous for you to ride a horse while carrying the saddle on your shoulders. But that's what many of you are doing today with your problems-you're trying to carry them yourself instead of tossing them on the Lord.
So - let's get a handle on how we do that. How do we cast cares, or throw them on the Lord?
Do you know this little ditty?
"I've joined the new 'Don't Worry' club
And now I hold my breath.
I'm scared I'm going to worry,
So I'm frightened half to death."
Will-power alone won't get us free from anxiety or worry.
Golfers talk about 'learning on the other guys ball." In other words seeing the flight of his ball and reading it for your own attempt.
If you want to learn how to do something well, you should seek out someone who is already doing it well and let them teach you. The Apostle Paul was an expert at
casting his anxiety on the Lord. He had been stoned, shipwrecked, and beaten with sticks. He had plenty to worry about but he refused to be anxious. When he was in prison he wrote to teach us how to cast our anxiety on the Lord:
"Don't fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns. Before you know it, a sense of God's wholeness will come and settle you down. It's wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the centre of your life."
When you are worrying about something, you can't be praying about it. But when you are praying about something you can't be worrying about it. Too many Christians make the mistake of getting on their knees and telling God about their problems; then they get up and keep on carrying the burden themselves.
Like the old song says,
"Take your burdens to the Lord and leave them there."
There's a short story called "The Trouble Tree." (We don't know the authors name). I'll tell it in the first person voice of the writer.
Some years ago I hired a local carpenter to restore this old cabin. When he arrived he was frustrated because a traffic jam had made him late. The day only got worse. Some of the building material I had ordered never arrived, and then the motor in his electric saw burned out. Then, when he got ready to go home, his truck wouldn't start. So, he was pretty upset when I offered to drive him home, but he accepted my offer. I could still hear the traces of anger in his voice as he talked about the job. When we arrived he thanked me for the ride and invited me to meet his family. Just before he walked into his little house, he stepped over to a small tree and paused for a minute. He took his strong hands and touched the tips of several of the branches. As he opened the back door an amazing transformation occurred. A smile split his tanned face as he hugged his two daughters and wife, then as if he didn't have a care in the world he introduced me to his family.
As he walked me back to my car I pointed to the tree and asked him about it. He said, "Oh, that's my trouble tree. It's not usual for me to have the kind of frustrating trouble I experienced today, but one thing's for sure, those troubles from the job don't belong in the house with my wife and girls. So every afternoon I just hang my troubles on this tree and then I pick 'em back up the next morning when I leave for work."
He smiled and said, "It's a funny thing, though. When I come out in the morning to pick 'em up, there ain't nearly as many as I remember hanging there the night before-and they ain't nearly as heavy as they was yesterday."
Wouldn't it be great if you had a trouble tree? We've got something, or actually, Someone much better than a trouble tree. Jesus Christ hung on His very own trouble tree at Calvary. He did that because He cares for you. He cares for you so much He invites you to cast all your anxiety on Him.
In her book, You Can Too, Christian businesswoman Mary Crowley writes about how she learned to cast her anxiety on the Lord. She wrote: "When things go wrong, I just don't go with them. Every evening I turn my worries over to God. He's going to be up all night anyway."
Our problem is anxiety. God's proposal is to cast all our anxiety on Him.
Let me say something important in this regard. There is a difference between a problem and a fact. God doesn't deal with problems he deals with facts.
Dogs bark, that's not a problem that's a fact. Cats meow, that's not a problem that's a fact. Leaves fall from trees in Autumn, it's not a problem it's a fact.
You have a health problem - what can you do about it, do it and work it down to a fact then give it to God.
You have a money problem - what can you do about it, do it and work it down to a fact then give it to God.
You have a relationship problem - do what you can and then give it to God.
Where we are anxious we must confront the problem and always work it down to a fact we then give to God.
How can we give it to God and leave it with Him? We must let it go round and round our minds - GOD'S PROMISE: HE CARES FOR YOU!
There are hundreds of promises in the Bible that assure us God really does care for you and for me. I want to share just a few statements about God's character to prove just how much He cares for you. For those of you who like English grammar, these four statements are similes. A simile is a figure of speech in which two essentially different things are compared-often using the words "as" or "like." If you remove the first "I" in the word simile, you're left with the word smile. It's true in the Christian life also that whenever you remove your ego, (the big "I" who tries to be first) you'll smile at the result.
A smile takes 17 muscles, a frown takes 43. You really are making your face work harder with a frown! Christian have more to smile about than anybody else.
Each one of these similes about God should make you smile:
Number One: God cares for you like a daddy counting his child's first steps.
I remember how exciting it was when my baby girls took their first steps. One, two, three steps on her own. We were so excited! And then in a flash it seemed as
if she had her driver's license and she was gone!
Parents, do you remember how excited you were when your baby took those first steps? You probably called the grandparents and said, "John took four steps today." But you probably stopped counting the steps and started trying to chase them down!
God is like that. He counts your steps, and He never stops counting.
The Bible says: "For what is man's lot from God above, his heritage from the Almighty on high? Does he not see my ways and count my every step?"..."Surely then, you count my steps but do not keep track of my sin."
Isn't that wonderful? God counts our steps, but He doesn't keep track of the times we fall. You've already taken many steps, and perhaps you have many more steps to take-rest assured that God is watching and counting your every step. Your steps may lead you into a hospital room where you sit by the side of a suffering loved one-God counts those steps. Your steps may take you into a funeral home to look at the human remains of someone you loved-He counts those steps. Your steps may take you through divorce, disaster, and despair-God's counting them.
Few people work harder than birds. But they don't worry, they sing!
"Said the Robin to the Sparrow,
I should really like to know,
Why these anxious human beings rush and worry so.
Said the Sparrow to the Robin,
Friend, I think that it must be,
That they have no Heavenly Father,
Such as cares for you and me."
Who cares? God cares for you, like a father counting his child's first steps!
Second: God cares for you like a mother calming her hurting child.
Every mother has an instinctive desire to protect her children from danger and to comfort them when they're hurting. A mother's touch and voice can soothe a troubled child like nothing else.
Mothers also want their children to be happy. You might not remember it, but there was probably a time when your mother bounced you on her knee and chanted, "Ride a little horsy, down to town; Watch out baby, or you'll fall down!"
Did you know the Bible says God cares for you like a mother bouncing her child on her knee?
In Isaiah 66 God says, "I will extend peace to her like a river, and the wealth of nations like a flooding stream; you will nurse and be carried on her arm and dandled on her knees. As a mother comforts her child, so will I comfort you."
We all know the Bible teaches God is our Heavenly Father, but did you know God reveals He relates to us as a mother as well?
If you're a mum, I think you'll agree that there is an amazing connection between a mother and a baby. It goes deeper than just a physical relationship. A psychology professor conducted a test to determine this mother/child connection at a university hospital. Forty six mothers who gave birth in the previous five to seventy hours participated. Each mother was blindfolded and asked to identify which of three sleeping babies was hers. They were not told in advance, so they couldn't prepare by studying their child. In this test nearly 70 percent of the mothers correctly identified their babies.
This mysterious connection between a mother and her baby is profound. Now multiply that connection a trillion times and you will begin to grasp how much God cares for you. He created you in love so you could be His child. Who cares? God cares for you like a mother comforting her hurting child!
And let me give you another simile - God cares for you like a hen covering her frightened chicks.
Of all of God's creatures, the hen is one of the most protective of her young. The
Bible affirms that God will "cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge."
Before His arrest and crucifixion, Jesus walked down the Mount of Olives and as He surveyed the panorama of the city of Jerusalem, He wept because the people rejected His offer of love and forgiveness. Today there is a chapel in that very spot on the Mount of Olives called the Chapel of Tears. Inside you can find a mosaic of a hen protecting her chicks.
Jesus said, "How often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing!"
A forest fire burnt down a farmhouse. As the embers cooled, the devastated farmer was walking over the ruins and noticed a burned lump on the ground. He prodded it with his stick and saw it was a hen, burned to death. The farmer turned the hen over and, to his surprise out ran three chirping baby chicks. The hen died in the flames even as it saved the lives of her helpless chicks. Jesus loves you so much He was willing to cover our sinfulness and to die so we can live. Who cares? God cares for you...like a hen covering her frightened chicks.
And let me add this: God cares for you like an eagle coaxing its young to fly.
While you may not think a little hen is a noble analogy for God, you must admit that a soaring eagle is the most majestic of all the birds in God's creation.
The Bible says, "Like an eagle that stirs up its nest and hovers over its young, that spreads its wings to catch them and carries them on its pinions. The Lord alone led him (Jacob)."
The parent Golden Eagles teach their young to fly in a very unusual way. For the first ten weeks of their lives, an eaglet is safe and secure in its nest. The parent eagles
protect and feed their young. A baby eagle doesn't fly instinctively, they have to be taught. At first they resist flying-who could blame them? They have a comfort zone in the nest! So the parents have to force their newborn eaglets to fly. They literally kick them out of the nest.
First, they use their talons to stir up the nest. They expose the sharp ends of the sticks so that the eaglets are no longer in a comfort zone. Then the parent eagle flaps its wings furiously until the eaglets jump to the edge of the nest. Then the parent eagle pushes a single eaglet out and it falls- screeching as it plummets down. If the eaglet spreads its wings and catches the airflow, he may fly on the first try, but that seldom happens. If the eaglet doesn't fly, the parent eagle that has been falling with its young spreads its wings and flies under the eaglet. The eagle catches the
eaglet and carries it on it pinions back to the nest. Then the process is repeated until each eaglet learns to fly.
The behaviour of the parents may seem harsh, because some eaglets die learning to fly. But it is the desire of the parent eagles that their young spread their wings and soar into the sky.
What a great lesson for us!
Absolutely right - Some of you may think God is harsh toward you right now because He's stirred up your nest. Maybe God knows you've been stuck in your comfort zone too long. God loves you so much He is stirring up your life and He may be getting ready to push you out of your nest of complacency. Or you may have already been pushed out and it seems as if you're plummeting toward a hard landing. Don't worry God will be there to catch you. It may be terrifying at first, but God knows what He's doing. Who cares? God cares-like an eagle coaxing its young to fly.
Anxiety over your problems can be like bricks weighing you down.
Life is full of these heavy bricks of adversity. Your bricks may be money, or health, or career, or school, or terrorism, or marriage, or children, or parents, or retirement, or even death-the ultimate anxiety. Imagine you are carrying these bricks of anxiety around in a backpack. It's going to make you miserable. And the whole time, Jesus is there, holding out His strong arms inviting you to cast all those anxieties on Him.
While you're walking around bent over with the cares of the world, you need to hear the encouraging words of that great old hymn.
A neighbour sat with a very ill man. Looking at a manuscript he discovered that the ill man had written the words for his mother when she was going through a special sorrow.
This is what Joseph Scriven wrote:
"What a friend we have in Jesus!
All our sins and griefs to bear.
What a privilege to carry-
everything go God in prayer.
Oh, what peace we often forfeit,
Oh, what needless pain we bear.
All because we do not carry
everything to God in prayerâ€¦
It goes in to say -
Are we weak and heavy laden?
Cumbered with a load of care?
Precious Saviour still our refuge.
Take it to the Lord in prayer.
Can we find a friend so faithful,
who will all our sorrows share?
Jesus knows our every weakness.
Take it to the Lord in prayer."
When you stop trying to carry the weight of your problems and cast them into His arms, then you can experience the freedom and lightness of having a tremendous burden lifted off your shoulders.
Derek Stringer has been taking us through Part 1 of a short series about How To Combat Worry - I hope that you will plan to join us next time.
This is a Good News Broadcasting Association production - good bye for now and God bless you.