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Songs of Faith – Sermons of Grace: Stop Stewing And Start Cooking

Matthew 6:25-34

In this business of preaching I get by with a lot of help from my friends. Here’s a little story shared with me by one of my friends over on the coast, Ken Davies.

It seems that a photographer from a well-known national magazine was assigned to cover the forest fires raging through Yellowstone National Park. The magazine wanted to show the heroic work of the firefighters as they battled the blaze. When the photographer arrived on the scene, he realized that the thick smoke would make it impossible for him to photograph anything from ground level, so he requested permission to rent a plane and take photos from the air. The editor of the magazine approved his request, made the arrangements, and told him to report to a nearby airport where a plane would be waiting for him. He arrived at the airport, saw a small plane warming up out on the apron, so he ran to the plane, jumped in with his bag of equipment and shouted, “Let’s go!” The pilot swung the little plane into the wind and within a few moments they were in the air. The photographer then said: “Now I want you to fly over the Yellowstone fires and make two or three very low passes so that I can take some pictures.” The pilot asked, “Why?” “Because I am a photographer,” the man replied, “and photographers take photographs.” The pilot wheeled around in horror and stammered: “You mean you’re not the flight instructor?” Ai-yi-yi! The two fellows in that plane were just about to leam the true meaning of the word “worry”! Of course if we are at all honest, we all have to admit that we know only too well what it means to worry and to be anxious in life.

A new pop song swept the country a few years ago and it soared to the top of the hit parades all over America. President George Bush was in the White House at the time and he called it one of his personal favorites. The song had a catchy tune and a light, fun sound. It was called, “Don’t Worry! Be Happy!” It seems to me that everywhere I turn these days I’m confronted with variations on the theme of that popular song: “Don’t Worry! Be Happy!” I went to the bookstore not long ago and I found a whole shelf of books with titles like: How to Stop Worrying and Start Living, How to Kick the Worry Habit, Spiritual Vitamins for Chronic Worriers, and How to Trust More and Worry Less. There was even a book with this title: How to Cope When You’re as Worried as a Long-Tailed Cat in a Room Full of Rocking Chairs! So you go to the drugstore and you will find an unbelievable array of medicines designed to reduce tension and anxiety, to calm us down and help us sleep, to ease our stress and relieve our apprehensions. Even bumper stickers preach the theme. I saw one that read: “Worry is like a rocking chair—it’s something to do but it won’t get you anywhere!” My favorite one was this one: “Stop stewing and start cooking!”

Now the very fact that so much is being written or prescribed with regard to the problem of worry and stress tells me something. It tells me that there are large numbers of people today plagued with the agony of anxiety who are screaming for help and looking for answers. And yet, amazingly enough, the best answer of all comes straight from the lips of Jesus. Listen: “Therefore, I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you shall eat or what you shall drink, nor about your body, what you shall put on. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing?” Jesus then goes on to deliver a ringing declaration that the way to whip worry in life is to remember that God will take care of you.

“God will take care of you.” Great line, isn’t it? Actually, it’s the title of a hymn which was inspired by the remark of a young boy to his father. Back in 1904, Stillman Martin and his wife, Civilla, were leading evangelistic services in upstate New York. One Sunday morning during the crusade, Civilla was taken quite ill. Stillman Martin’s first thought was to cancel the services that day and remain at home with his wife. It was at that point that his nine-year-old son said to his father: “Father, don’t you think that if God wants you to preach today, he will take care of Mother while you are away?”

Well, Civilla overheard those words and she prevailed upon her husband to summon medical help for her and then to go on and preach. Later that day, Civilla was feeling better, and she was moved by her son’s words to his father earlier that day so she wrote out the text to a hymn. When her husband returned that evening, excited by the overwhelming spiritual renewal which occurred during the services that day, he found Civilla much improved. After she showed him the hymn text she had written, he sat down at his small reed organ and composed the melody. It is sung today exactly as the Martin’s wrote it more than 90 years ago. It is a wonderful little hymn which repeats the phrase “God will take care of you.” That’s the spiritual terrain I’d like to explore with you now…

Jesus understood that the answer to short-term worry is to remember that God will take care of you.

Now let me be the first to say that there are things I get anxious about. To be perfectly frank, if I didn’t worry about some things, I wouldn’t get anything done. I subscribe to the Rubber Band Theory of life—you know, the rubber band doesn’t really work until it gets some tension in it. I do not get anything done until I get a little tension in me either. So some worry can be creative. Some anxiety can spur us into action. Moreover, there’s a big difference between creative worry and silly fretting. Creative worry works for us; silly fretting works against us. Someone expressed it in a little verse called “The Worry Cow”:

“The worry cow would have lived ‘til now
If she hadn’t lost her breath,
But she thought her hay wouldn’t last all day
So she mooed herself to death.”

That kind of worry can kill us. It certainly can rob us of our vitality and power and the ability to think straight. It makes us emotional wrecks and we lose the luster of our living.

But when Jesus said that we are not to worry about the basic necessities of life, He was reminding us that we are not just machines, constructed for the purpose of consuming meats and vegetables. We are not just collections of bone, flesh, muscles and skin on which to hang a set of clothes. We are the children of God. We have been fashioned by the loving hands of the Almighty, and we have been set upon this earth with a particular purpose for our living. We are made of the dust of the earth, yes, but also of the dust of the stars. We are the children of God!

T.E. Lawrence—we know him as “Lawrence of Arabia”—once took a group of Arabian Bedouin chieftains to Paris for a meeting. They saw all the sights of Paris and accomplished the purpose of their meetings, but what they enjoyed most were the water faucets in their hotel room. They were desert people and it was marvelous to them to be able to turn the little handle and be able to get all the clear, cold water they wanted. When it came time for them to leave, they didn’t appear in the lobby at the appointed time. Lawrence had to go find them, only to discover that they were trying to pull those faucets out of the walls of their rooms. They wanted to take them back to the desert so that they could have all the water they wanted. Lawrence had to explain to them that behind those faucets were pipes, and behind those pipes were more pipes, and behind those pipes were aqueducts, and behind those aqueducts were reservoirs, and behind those reservoirs were mountains, and on those mountains was the snow, and the snow would come from the heavens of God. All of that had come together to provide the water.

I tell you that to remind you that in the midst of this vast universe you may feel as insignificant and as inconspicuous as a water faucet. Please remember that behind you are all the reservoirs of God’s grace and all the mountains of God’s Spirit and all the power and capacity of heaven—all of it waiting to flow through your life. Remember that and you will never be choked by senseless worry. You are a child of God and God will take care of you.

Jesus also understood that the answer to long-term worry is to remember that God will take care of you.

Did you hear about the little girl who stood with her father at the pet store? The father said: “Mary, I’d like for you to pick out a puppy of your very own.” The little girl looked very carefully at each of the puppies. Finally the father said: “Well, have you decided which one you want?” The little girl replied: “Yes, Sir, I want that one”—and she pointed to a puppy with its tail wagging back and forth. “I want that one,” she said, “the one with the happy ending.” Well, we all want happy endings in life. I think that’s why the reality of death tends to choke us with worry and anxiety.

I know it’s trite but true: I’ve been with lots of people who were dying and have never yet met anyone who said that they wished they had spent more time at the office. It’s an amazing thing what facing up to the reality of death and its consequences can do for a person. Suddenly the things in life worth worrying about and the things not worth worrying about become absolutely crystal clear.

There’s a wonderful little story which has become for me a hilltop from which I can see the truth clearly. It seems that an old country doctor used to make house calls in his horse-drawn carriage. His dog would always ride along in the carriage with him. One day he had to go to a man’s house to deliver some bad news about that man’s health. So he went inside, leaving his dog out on the porch. The doctor then launched into a lengthy and detailed explanation of the man’s condition. When he had finished, the man said: “Doc, what does all that really mean?” The doctor replied, “I am afraid it doesn’t look good, my friend.” There was a long silence and then the man, with worry and anxiety creasing his brow said: “Tell me, Doc, what’s it like to die?” Well, at that moment the doctor’s dog began pawing at the front door, whimpering to come in. The doctor said: “Do you hear that? That’s my dog. He’s never been in your house before and he doesn’t know what’s inside. However, he does know that his master is in here and because he knows that, he knows that everything is all right. That’s the way death is. We’ve never been there before, but we do know that God is there and because we know that we know that everything will be all right.”

The Christian promise is that nothing separates us from God. Did you hear that? If we have strayed away from God, then God is always about the task of bringing us back into the fold. The Bible is one story after another of people turning their back toward God and God refusing to let go, refusing to give up on them. He stays after us until we reach out to Him in faith and then He never lets us go—not now, not ever. Remember that and you will never be choked with senseless worry about how your life is going to end up or what death will be like. You will know that God will take care of you.

So…

Do you remember that scene in the Book of Exodus where Moses asked God: “What is your name?” And God answered: “I am who I am.” Well, the great theologian, Martin Buber, after studying that passage in the Hebrew language for years came to the conclusion that we have mistranslated the words. Instead of “ I am who I am,” Buber believed that it should read: “I shall be there.” Isn’t that beautiful? The name of God is: “I shall be there.” When we face the difficulties and the hardships of life, the name of God is “I shall be there.” When we are frightened or lonely or sick with worry and anxiety, the name of God is “I shall be there.” When we face sickness or heartache or even death, the name of God is “I shall be there.” When we are laid out in the tomb, the name of God is “I shall be there.” And when the day of resurrection comes, the name of God is “I shall be there.”

Jesus knew that. That’s why He was so strong. That’s why He couldn’t be strangled by worry and anxiety. And that’s why He is saying to us today: “Quit worrying about worry. Stop stewing and start cooking in your life.” Your heavenly Father knows the things you need…

God will take care of you.

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