Matthew 6:24-34

In 1979 the Coca Cola Company created a soft drink called Mello Yello. They wanted to portray the image that if you drank this soft drink you could mellow out – you could become detached from worry and stress and relax for a little while.

I think that’s what people are going for when they pop the cork on a bottle of wine.

I’ve met a few people that just seem to be mellow all the time. They seem unflappable. Nothing ever seems to bother them. But for every one of them I’ve met, I’ve met a dozen like my mother-in-law who is a confessed worrier. Back in the seventies when CB radios were the craze her handle was “Worry Wart.” If worrying were a martial art she’d be a tenth degree black belt.

Thankfully, it skipped a generation. My wife is as mellow as jazz music being played in downtown New Orleans.

Once when we lived in Clarkesville, a neighbor called really concerned because our six-year-old was in the woods with a hatchet chopping on a stump and Tina replied calmly, “It’s O.K., I gave it to him.” But even she has her moments.

Wouldn’t it be great if we could learn not to worry, if the things that stressed most people didn’t rattle our chains? Wouldn’t it be nice when we laid our heads down at night if we never woke up thinking about our problems and how to solve them?

Wouldn’t it be nice if we could travel without worrying if some crazy person was going to try and harm us because we are Americans?

Wouldn’t it be nice if we had more confidence in the future of our country and the leadership that’s coming?

Wouldn’t it be nice if we could add some hours to our lives by worrying because if we could, some of us, like my mother-in-law would never die?

If Jesus were on earth today, he’d still be asking this question: “Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?”

We must think that worrying is a good thing because we have become professionals at it. If some of you could get paid for worrying, you would be making six-figure incomes.   Maybe Coca Cola was onto something in branding Mello Yello.  Only if we could pop the lid on a soft drink and chill.  images-1

Have you noticed the names of drinks of this new generation?  They go by names like Red Bull, Full Throttle, Burn, and Monster. These are drinks for people whose lives are lived on the edge, who actually seek out things that can kill you, but they embrace them and call these things “fun.”

These people don’t seem to worry about anything, at least things that put their lives in danger.  But I have a theory.  I believe that these extreme sports are a diversion from other issues in their lives that they are having problems navigating, like relationships, finances, purpose, direction, fulfillment, and acceptance.  They had rather stare death in the face and get a high from the adrenaline than face the realities of life because those things worry them.

When we worry, we are in a battle with a force that wants to master us and we must find a way not to allow that to happen.

Jesus said in Mark 6 that “No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.”

I believe this passage about money and the passage about worry are together for a reason. Worry and money seem to be connected like Siamese twins.  If money has a shadow its name is worry.

We are usually worried that we don’t have enough money. Our worries are often connected to money because we use our money for so many of the necessities of life.

Jesus mentions some of the basics that people must have every day: food, drink, and clothing. We must have money to purchase them. Our tendency is to worry about where we are going to get the money in order to eat, drink, and clothe ourselves, make the house payment, buy insurance, pay for childcare, save for retirement, and the list goes on and on.

However, when money becomes the most important driving force in our lives, we become enslaved to it. We are at the mercy of those who pay us in exchange for our work.  We forget the power of God who led us to our jobs and can lead us to another one. We should remember that we serve God as our master and not our job. Therefore, we should not worry as long as we are doing the best and all we can do.

Jesus tells us that we must establish God as the Master of all that we have. We must place our finances under the Lordship of God. What does that mean?

It means that we see our ability of earn a living as a gift from God. It means that we give up our claim to ownership to what we have and begin to think of what we have as belonging to God. We become the managers of what we have.

Instead of seeing ourselves as being entitled to all that we have, we should look at what we have as belonging to God. Not only do our possessions belong to God, but we belong to God. “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do” (Ephesians 2:10)

We should see God as the Great Provider. He gifts us with what we need.  If we trust God to be the provider, then we shouldn’t worry.

So does not worry mean we just sit back and watch God provide everything we need?  You can try that but you will likely go hungry.    Acknowledging God as the provider does not mean we are passive.

Jesus talked about God providing for the birds of the air and the flowers of the field.  God provides for these, but they are not passive.  They are busy gathering, building nests, and making families. There’s great activity taking place by the birds in order for them to have what they need, even though it’s all being provided by God.

This spring I put out a few gourds that my father-in-law grew. I had a family of bluebirds take up residence in one and a family of wrens take up residence in another. I provided the homes but they had to gather all the items for their nests.   Birds laid their eggs and fed their babies before they took wing and flew away. I was their provider but they did the work. They were not passive or those babies would have never grown to maturity.

Even though the flowers are clothed by God, they are not totally passive either. They must work in concert with the sun, the rain, and the nutrients in the soil and send all that through the plant for it to be healthy and beautiful. There’s a lot of activity in the plant in order for it to grow, even though it’s all being provided by God.

When we worry, we are saying, “God, I know you are the Great Provider, but I just don’t believe you are capable of taking care of my needs.” That’s what worry communicates to God.

When we choose God as our master, we do all that we can with what we have and then we leave the results up to God, whatever that may be, but we don’t worry.

In the late 1700’s, Massena, one of Napoleon’s generals, suddenly appeared with 18,000 soldiers before an Austrian town which had no means of defending itself. The town council met, certain that surrender was the only answer.

However, there was still something they could do.  The old dean of the church reminded the council that it was Easter, and begged them to hold services as usual and to leave the trouble in God’s hands. They followed his advice. The dean went to the church and rang the bells to announce the service. The French soldiers heard the church bells ring and concluded that the Austrian army had come to rescue the town. They broke camp, and before the bells had ceased ringing, were on their way out of town.

Jesus asked, “Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?”

Jesus intends that we do all that we can do.  We are not passive. His instructions are not that we sit idle thinking we can do nothing. God is our provider but God wants us to participate with Him, doing all we can. However, worrying is not part of that plan.

Worry is wasted energy. Plus, it demonstrates a lack of trust in God.

Jesus would embrace Proverbs 6:6 which says, “Take a lesson from the ants, you lazybones. Learn from their ways and become wise!”

Jesus would not have a problem with the rule that Paul made while he was at the church of Thessalonica, “For even when we were with you, we gave you this rule: ‘The one who is unwilling to work shall not eat.’” (2 Thessalonians 3:10).

When we are in partnership with God, there is a role for us to play and there is a role for God to play. We have to trust that God is going to play His role. We have to do our part and play ours. When we fall short and don’t play our role, God shows up anyway, and we call that grace.

I read recently that the average person’s anxiety is focused on 40% of things that will never happen, 30% of things about the past that can’t be changed, 12% of things about criticism by others, mostly untrue, 10% is about health which gets worse with stress, 8% — about real problems that will be faced.

Look at Jesus’ life and you will see that he dealt with the 8% of the real problems that he faced through solitude and prayer.

We see this most intently in his prayer in the garden of Gethsemane because we are given a rare glimpse at the intensity of his prayer as he struggled with the imminent threat of the cross.Unknown-3

It was a time of high anxiety.  We all become anxious because anxiety is a real and normal part of living.  However,  Jesus was drawing his strength from the power of prayer.  He wasn’t relying on his own strength to make the next move.   He was cast his burdens on God.  1 Peter 5:7 says, 7 “Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you.”

By the time the soldiers came, Jesus was calm. He had peace. He was in control of his emotions, which allowed him the presence of mind to heal the soldier’s ear that Peter cut off with his sword. He had this peace because he had released his troubles and his future into the hands of God.

Sure, he had a cross to face. Sometimes we have to face a cross, and crosses are usually not of our own choosing. What we do have is a choice of whether we will be consumed by worry or will we choose to place our lives and future into the hands of the Almighty God? We do that by partnering with God. We do all that we can do and depend on God to do all that God will do.

Being mellow doesn’t come from a soft drink or anything external, but rather from a promised a peace that passes all understanding.  It comes from the Holy Spirit.

Just as God provides the birds of the air with their food and the lilies of the field with their clothing, he will provide for us because he cares for us more than he cares for these.

Prayer: We confess that we rely too much on ourselves which leads us to worry because we know that we are not enough.  We confess that we don’t trust you enough or we would depend on you more and worry less.  We confess there are times when we don’t do all we can do to help ourselves.  We can be our own worst enemies.  Help us develop a partnership with you that gives us peace and confidence.  While life will still produce its share of anxious moments, because of our relationship with you, we can find more peace and less worry through prayer, your Word, and the guidance of your Spirit.  Amen.