Big blue bird at the Sedgwick County Zoo, Wichita, KS

What good does worrying do?

I want to make God happy. I want Him to look at my life and my choices and be pleased with me. And as a result of that desire, I usually end up agreeing to do a lot. But I’m a doer. It’s part of my make up. I’m not good at just sitting around.

But the unfortunate side effects of being a doer is that I wear myself out. Over and over and over again. And the more responsibility I take on, the more prone I am to worrying about whether or not I’m going to do well.

I want to know that the things I’m focusing on are the things that matter to God, and one way to identify what matters to God is knowing what not to do.

Big blue bird at the Sedgwick County Zoo, Wichita, KS

Big blue bird at the Sedgwick County Zoo, Wichita, KS

Today’s verses are Luke 12:22-32.

Then, turning to his disciples, Jesus said, “That is why I tell you not to worry about everyday life—whether you have enough food to eat or enough clothes to wear. For life is more than food, and your body more than clothing. Look at the ravens. They don’t plant or harvest or store food in barns, for God feeds them. And you are far more valuable to him than any birds! Can all your worries add a single moment to your life? And if worry can’t accomplish a little thing like that, what’s the use of worrying over bigger things?

“Look at the lilies and how they grow. They don’t work or make their clothing, yet Solomon in all his glory was not dressed as beautifully as they are. And if God cares so wonderfully for flowers that are here today and thrown into the fire tomorrow, he will certainly care for you. Why do you have so little faith?

“And don’t be concerned about what to eat and what to drink. Don’t worry about such things. These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers all over the world, but your Father already knows your needs. Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and he will give you everything you need.

“So don’t be afraid, little flock. For it gives your Father great happiness to give you the Kingdom.”

I don’t usually put so much Scripture up at one time, but Jesus just says this so well. And it’s something I really need to hear this morning, especially where I am at the moment.

I’m composing this post in a hotel room getting ready to run the PowerPoint presentations at my company’s national sales meeting. This event is the biggest thing we do, so it has to be flawless. It’s a huge responsibility. There are so many aspects to keep straight. And I worry. And I stress. And I drive myself crazy thinking about everything that could go wrong.

Isn’t that ridiculous?

So I’m focusing on what Jesus says here. We’re not supposed to worry. We’re not supposed to focus on those things that He provides for us. And while maybe Christ hasn’t provided these PowerPoint slides for me to work with today, He’s given me everything I need to deal with them. I’ve done my best to prepare, and now all I can do is the best I can and trust Him with the rest.

If we could all wrap our heads around that concept, I think our lives would be a lot less stressful. Like Jesus said, why do we worry about what we are going to eat or what we are going to drink or what we are going to wear? He provides for the least of His creation; so why wouldn’t He provide for us?

True, His provision usually means that we have to submit to what He wants us to do, and what He wants us to do doesn’t always match up with what we want to do. But that choice is up to us.

So if you’re facing something stressful today, stop worrying about it. Whatever it is, let it go. In our pursuit to focus on the things that really matter, let’s remember that worrying isn’t something that matters. It’s not even a blip on God’s radar. It’s not something we’re supposed to be anywhere close to.

Do what you can, and leave it alone. God will work it out. And even if it doesn’t feel like He’s working it out, He is. Because that’s who He is and that’s what He does.

So don’t stress. And I’m talking to myself, here. There are more important things in your life that need your attention and your focus than whatever it is you’re worrying about.

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Rough road to San Miguel Alto Uno, Peten, Guatemala

Get your head out of yesterday

I don’t run. I’m not built for it. My body tends to revolt against me whenever I try, but I have a lot of friends who run. And they don’t just run; they compete. These folks do triathlons and marathons and all sorts of other forms of torture like that. And one thing that I have noticed when you’re running is that you really need to keep your focus on what’s in front of you, otherwise you could run into trouble … literally.

I’ve never seen a runner trying to compete by running forward and looking backward. I’m sure people do it because people are strange, but I’d be willing to bet, they don’t run well. Because even if you find a way to look backward as you’re running forward, your focus won’t be where it needs to be–on the goal.

I’m also reminded of a line from an older movie, Gumball Rally, an old racing movie we used to watch with my dad. It was a movie about racing. All these different people in all kinds of different cars had to race from coast to coast, regardless of the legality of their actions, and one of the racers was this Italian guy who ripped the rearview mirror off the car windshield and tossed it in the backseat, proclaiming: “What’s behind me is not important!”

These people race. They’re moving forward toward a goal. Looking behind and focusing on where they’ve been will only slow them down and make them unhappy in most cases. And in all honesty, following Christ is very much the same.

 

Rough road to San Miguel Alto Uno, Peten, Guatemala

Rough road to San Miguel Alto Uno, Peten, Guatemala

Today’s verses are Philippians 3:12-14.

I don’t mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection. But I press on to possess that perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed me. No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.

We all came from somewhere. Some Christ-followers came from Christian homes; some didn’t. Some have come from a legacy of people who always loved God; some didn’t.  But no matter where we started, God is moving us somewhere else, sometimes physically, always spiritually. We’re all moving forward, and if we look backward, we’re going to slow down or we’re going to hamper the efforts that are going on around us.

Paul was majorly into sports from what we can tell from Scripture. He talks about running and racing and fighting and wrestling, and actually there are a lot of comparisons between the Christian life and sports. Sports require training. They require focus. They require pushing yourself to achieve something you’re pretty sure you aren’t able to achieve. They require teamwork most of the time. The Christian life isn’t a competition, though, but the other similarities are kind of cool.

And in this case, running is a great example because all of us are runners. If you follow Christ, you’re in a race. You’re not competing against anyone. It’s like a marathon or a triathlon, and Christ has already run the race and won. So the rest of us are competing against ourselves really, and it’s our goal to finish. And you can’t finish the race in front of you if you can’t get your eyes of what’s behind you.

The past is important. Don’t get me wrong. In some cases, it is important to remember the past. We need to remember where we’ve been and recognize what God wants us to learn from where we’ve been, but you can’t focus on yesterday. What’s done is done and can’t be changed; what can change is how you react to it.

I know people who bury themselves in the past. They forget about today and don’t even consider tomorrow, and all they can talk about is what happened before. Where they used to be. What they used to do. And living today is torture for them because all their focus is on yesterday, and they can’t handle the stress of right now or the implications of what might happen tomorrow because they can’t get their heads out of yesterday. And they’re miserable for it.

So what does this mean for us in 2013? Stop living life in a rearview mirror. Stop looking backward to find happiness and contentment in yesterday and start looking forward to what’s coming. Yes, what’s coming is unknown. What’s coming might not be fun at all. But it’s very likely that you’re already prepared for what’s coming, whether you know it or not. You probably experienced yesterday what you needed to know for today and for tomorrow. That’s what yesterday is for.

Learning.

You can learn from yesterday. Just don’t live there.

God sets our paths. He doesn’t let us run alone. And He always provides exactly what we need exactly when we need it.

Keep your eyes forward and run. Don’t worry about the other runners; they’ll handle themselves. Don’t worry about the road behind you; it’s past. Don’t worry about the road ahead of you; take it a day at a time.