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Friday, June 5, 2009

Photo of cloud over lake with Scripture
Raystown Lake in Central Pennsylvania
Photo by Nancy Martin  (Click on photo to enlarge)

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"The Worries Of This Life"

"Still others, like seed sown among thorns, hear the word; but the worries of this life, the deceitfulness of wealth and the desires for other things come in and choke the word, making it unfruitful" (Mark 4:18,19).

Early in my Christian life I read a book by Jay Adams titled, "What To Do About Worry" which was so helpful that I read it several times. He opens with the following illustration:

Joe used to worry all the time about everything, in fact, his friends knew him as a worrier. One day Bill was walking down the street when he saw his worrying friend bouncing along as happy as any man could be. Joe was actually whistling, humming and wearing a huge smile; he looked as if he did not have a care in the world.

Bill could hardly believe his eyes — it was obvious that a radical transformation had taken place. He stopped Joe and asked, "Joe, what’s happened to you? You don’t seem worried anymore; I never saw a happier man."

Joe replied, "It’s wonderful, Bill. I haven’t worried for several weeks now."

Bill continued, "That’s great — how did you manage it? What brought about the change?"

Joe explained, "You see, I hired a man to do all my worrying for me."

"Well," Bill mused, "I must say that is a new wrinkle; tell me, how much does he charge you?"

"A thousand dollars a week."

"A thousand dollars a week! How could you possibly raise a thousand dollars a week to pay him?"

Joe calmly responded, "That’s his worry."

Well, I'm afraid the above illustration is more intended for a light chuckle and colorful introductory to a very serious matter that affects everyone of us to some measure. Let's dig a little deeper and look into the Scripture about worry based on a phrase from the Parable of the Sower.

The Parable of the Sower is included in three of the four gospels. To interpret its larger meaning requires a bit of knowledge about agriculture but, unlike some of the parables recorded by Christ, this parable gives the explanation.

In yesterday's message we began with the concept of the farmer sowing seed and the immediate threat of weeds popping up that choke or compete with the desirable plants. This requires the farmer to act quickly to eradicate them, since weeds will drop their own seed and rapidly spread. Of course this is also true on a smaller scale for home gardeners or for any of us who try to keep a tidy landscape.

We also have to deal with weeds in regard to our spiritual growth and fruitfulness.  In the explanation of the parable Christ lists three choking agents of the seed that was thrown among thorns (weeds) and over the next couple of messages I want to consider them one by one. This seed heard the word, suggesting that it had a start or germinated. However the germinating, growing seed was stalled due to the choking of the word which made it unfruitful.

The first choking agent listed by our Lord is the "worries of this life". Elsewhere in the Gospels Christ had a lot to teach about worry, as do the other Scriptures. Worry is a translation of the word merimna which is also translated cares, concern, anxiety, distractions.  It has the sense of turning over and over again in the mind which is exactly what we tend to do when we're worried about a matter. 

Worry can be both acute; responding to a specific situation of stress. Or worry can be chronic; an ongoing sense of uncertainty. It's interesting to me that the non-specific wording of the text simply states "the worries of this life."  In this context Christ does not attempt to list the any of the sources that may cause worry.

Many of us can testify how worries have a choking impact upon us. But I find it an ongoing challenge.  I sure wish I could declare that this is an issue in which I have completely overcome and reached full maturity but those pesky weeds of worry shoot up when I'm least expecting it or at times I find myself unconsciously looking for it. I must willfully pluck this overpowering weed from my mind's view so that it doesn't choke out the fruit of faith that reminds me to trust in God and believe on His Word.

As I do so, reassuring verses begin to fill my mind and calm my anxious heart such as, "God is my Refuge and Strength, an ever present help in trouble.  Therefore I will not fear…." (Psalm 46).  It occurs to me that when we cross to the other side this will be a very natural way of life – no more worries, for the old order of things will have passed away. Praise God!  But until then…

Be encouraged today,

Stephen & Brooksyne Weber

Daily prayer: Father, all my anxieties and all my cares I bring to the mercy seat and leave them there. You demonstrate mercy and compassion as You become strength in place of my weakness, wisdom in place of my lack of understanding and patience in my impatient heart. I look to You, not myself or to others, for the answers to my troubles and for Spirit-directed perspective in knowing how to deal with them.  I choose to trust in You, Father, as I pray these things in the name of Jesus.  Amen.

I believe it was D.L. Moody that said we can choose to travel this earthly journey first or second class based on Psalm 56:3:

Second Class is "When I am afraid, I will trust in You."
First Class is "I will trust in You."

In other words don't choose to trust in God only when you're afraid, but trust Him at all times, then you're less likely to be afraid!  "When I am afraid I will trust in You in God whose Word I praise" (Psalm 56:3).

Today's Suggested Music and Supplemental Resources
Click on the link to open and play.
(In some cases you may also need to click again to start the song.)

"Overcoming Anxiety" The Integrity Scripture Memory series has an entire album with Scripture songs dealing with this topic. Open this page to see the list of songs. If you care to listen to one open that song and then click "play". These songs are also available for download.

"All Your Anxiety"  Video   Brooksyne suggested this hymn today and I found this home studio version.

"He Is Able"  Video

"I Cast All My Cares Upon You"  Video

"When I Survey The Wondrous Cross"  Video

"Comfort In Times Of Anxiety" For further study on today's topic I suggest a message taught by my friend Rick Masciantonio available here as an mp3. In this message Rick shares a very descriptive illustration of acute anxiety.

"What, Me Worry?" The excellent online Bible study on this topic is available as a pdf.  This article begins with the illustration by Jay Adams I shared in the beginning of today's message.  

Although I was unable to locate Jay Adams booklet online I also recall this book by Jerry Bridges being a helpful component in my understanding in this area.

Trusting GodTrusting God  By Jerry Bridges / NAV Press
Does trusting God come easily to you---until adversity strikes? Amid troubles and tribulation, do you sometimes doubt whether he really cares? Exploring three essential truths about God---his complete sovereignty, his infinite wisdom, and his perfect love---Bridges shows you how to rely on God implicitly in every circumstance. 240 pages, softcover from NavPress.

Photo of stillwater cove on Raystown Lake
A quiet cove at Raystown Lake (photo by Nancy Martin)
Raystown Lake is in the mountains of central Pennsylvania. In several weeks I will be going to the lake for a men's retreat.  

Here's a photo of friend Curt and Fred looking out over the lake.
Fred and Curt relaxing at Raystown Lake

Many readers enjoy our friend Doris High's photo posts. She shares photos from a 2 mile walk around her country block in this post.

Send a message to Stephen & Brooksyne.

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Scripture references are from The Holy Bible: New International Version. © 1984 by International Bible Society; NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1995 by The Lockman Foundation, New King James Version (NKJV) Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. and the King James Version.

Personal Mission Statement: "I am created by God to bring Him glory. Through God's Son Jesus Christ I have been redeemed and I make it my life's goal to please the Lord. My mission in life is to honor God through my faith and obedience and to prepare myself and all whom I may influence for eternity."

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