Sweetwater Presbyterian

Small in size, Big in Faith and Love

Don't Worry


How many of you remember Alfred E. Neuman? He was the iconic face on the cover of MAD magazine who’s famous quote was, “Who me, worry?” There is no great story behind the fact that Alfred E. Neuman was known for that phrase, the producers of MAD magazine just wanted Alfred E. Neuman to come across as laid back and easy going and so that phrase just seemed to fit. But Jesus would tell us that “Who me, worry?” should be our motto as well - Jesus would say that as his followers we have no business worrying about anything.
Easier said than done I realize and we wonder how it is even possible to live a life worry free. Jesus seems to think it is possible - as many times as he says to us “Don’t worry” it seems like it is pretty important to him. The great philosopher Van Wilder once said, “Worrying is like a rocking chair. It gives you something to do, but it doesn’t get you anywhere!” You know this - worry doesn’t change anything. Worry doesn’t make things happen. In reality, worry doesn’t do anything except cause the worrier to lose sleep and raise their blood pressure and often waste time and energy.
Worry can do nothing but yet we are great worriers. Could Jesus really mean that we shouldn’t worry about
anything? And yes that is exactly what he means. Worry is symptomatic of another problem in our lives as followers of Jesus - worry is symptomatic of a lack of faith; a lack of trust in the God who is constantly trying to get us to understand how very much he loves us and how very much he wants to take care of us.
But what happens is this - we have these expectations of how we want our lives to be. We have these expectations of what we want to happen. And when something happens in our life and it is not what we want; or not how we would have had it happen - then we assume that God doesn’t love us or that God doesn’t care.
That is what happened to Elijah in our Old Testament reading. We talked about this story last week but a quick review - Elijah is a prophet from God. His job is to try and keep the leadership of Israel in line with God and this is proving to be quite a challenge with King Ahab and Queen Jezebel. Elijah holds a contest to show Ahab and Jezebel that the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob is the one true God; through Elijah’s prayer God reigns down fire from heaven! Yet when Jezebel threatens Elijah’s life for killing the priests of the pagan god Baal, Elijah becomes afraid and runs away. He is worried that he is not going to come out of this alive. He runs as far as he can and when night falls he stops and goes to sleep under a broom tree. As he sleeps, an angel woke him and said, “Get up and eat.” Elijah looked and there beside him was some baked bread and a jar of water. So he ate and went back to sleep. Later, the angel woke him once again and said, “Get up and eat some more so that you can continue on your journey.” So Elijah got up and ate and drank and the food gave him enough strength that he was able to continue on his way - refreshed and strengthen and more able to cope with what he was so worried about. God comes to him and assures Elijah of his presence and his care and Elijah is able to go back to his work as a prophet. God didn’t criticize Elijah for his worry - God just shows Elijah what God can do. God provides what Elijah needs and Elijah realizes that he doesn’t need to worry. Elijah has some time to remember all the times before that God has come through for him; Elijah remembers that regardless of what situation he is in, God has provided. And that is important for us. The next time you begin to fret and wring your hands and pace the floor, stop for a minute and look back and think about those times that God has come through for you; those times when things have resolved; when life has continued on through whatever was going on…
The first time Elijah went to King Ahab and confronted Ahab about his sin; confronted Ahab about trying to worship God and worship Baal. Elijah told Ahab that he couldn’t do both - he had to choose. Worship God or worship Baal and until Ahab made up his mind there would be no rain - and there wasn’t.
Now remember Elijah had to live through this drought just like everyone else in the land of Canaan. But Elijah never had to worry about his being able to survive the drought because God continually cared for him. One day God said to Elijah - ‘Go to the village of Zarephath and I will lead you to a widow who will care for you.’ So Elijah trusted God and obeyed him and traveled to the village of Zarephath. There he found the widow and asked her “Would you please brig me a little water to drink?” As she was going to get it he called after her, “How about bringing me some bread too?” This time she came back to him and said, “There is a drought. I do not have a single piece of bread in my house. I have one handful of flour left and a touch of oil. I was getting ready to gather some sticks to cook this last meal for me and my son, and then we will die because we have no more food.” Elijah said to her “Don’t worry. Use what bread and oil you have left and bring me some bread - and then what is left you use for you and your son. If you are obedient to God in doing this, then God says there will always be flour and oil in your containers until the time God sends rain and the crops grow again.’ (Which we remember from last week is 3 years!) So the widow did as Elijah asked and for the remainder of the drought there was always oil and flour in her house.
“Don’t worry.” Elijah said, “Just Trust and Obey and you will have what you need.”
Would we have enough faith to use the last little bit of oil and flour to feed a stranger? Or would be be worried that if we use it, then it will be gone and we will die…..
What worry is essentially - according to Jesus - is a lack of faith; a lack of trust in God. And since our primary mission as followers of Jesus is to show the glory of God - to show the goodness of God - to teach others that they can put worry aside and trust in the God almighty - worry for us is problematic. It is essentially denying the power of God and denying our call to witness to others that God is trustworthy.
Frank Powell is a Christian writer who recently wrote about worry. He pondered why we as followers of Christ, as members of Christ’s church, still worry so much. He asked people he knew; he asked learned theologians - and what he heard was this “Our greatest concern is that we don’t want to need God. We’re Americans. We’re independent. As Americans we will do anything to maintain the illusion of control and responsibility, so not wonder worry plagues us. Worry is the by-product of bearing a weight only God can bear. The more independence you desire, the more worry you will experience.”
God did not make us to be independent - God made us to be dependent. Remember Jesus’ words, “Unless you become like little children, you won’t experience the Kingdom of God.” Think about your childhood. For most of us our childhoods were worry free. We didn’t worry about having a roof over our head or being hungry or having clothes. We were free from all that because we knew that our parents would take care of that. Now I know that there are some of you and some children today who do have to worry about those things - but don’t get distracted in the exceptions - the point Jesus is trying to make that we as his followers need not worry - God will provide.
Maybe that provision is comfort during a tragedy; maybe that provision is peace when things don’t go the way we want; maybe that provision is friends who sit with us when we are confused or depressed or despondent like Elijah in the wilderness. Maybe that provision is the hand of an angel when our world falls apart. Maybe that provision is guidance when our world changes.
Has our world changed anymore than it has right now? I was talking to someone who said, “Its not that I went that many places before this, but it is that now if I decide to go somewhere, I can’t.” Maybe the worst part of this COVID is the lack of choices. There is so much we can’t do and we worry about that. We worry about what affect going out may have on ourselves - but also what affect our going out might have on someone else. We worry about what risk we are willing to take? We worry about not doing thinks and we worry about doing things. And we worry about ‘how long this will last……”
“Do not worry” does not mean that all will be well in our lives - cause we know better than that. COVID has taught us that. “Do not worry” means that regardless of what life throws at us God will provide what we need when we need it. Whether it be physical needs or emotional needs or spiritual needs - God knows and God will be there.
“Do not worry” is all about faith and trust and acceptance. And if you think about it, is that not what we pray for each time we pray the Lord’s prayer - “Give us this day our daily bread” - cause every time we say that, essentially what we are saying is “God I won’t worry because I know that each day you will provide what I need.” And if God provides everything we need, then what do we have to worry about.
And I will repeat - worry is not having faith that God will provide what we need; worry is wanting things to turn out the way we want them to turn out; worry is thinking we can manipulate the world around us so that things go our way.
Elijah didn’t think God would protect him - and he did. The widow of Zarephath thought God had forgotten about her, and he hadn’t. We could tell more, and more, and more, and more stories from the Bible which show us that God knows exactly what we are going through, that God knows exactly what our issues are and while we might not think he provides things quickly enough or provides what we want him to provide - he will provide what we need. Isn’t that what we pray for “Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done.”? Either we are sincere in our prayer or we aren’t.
Things are going to happen in your life. That we can be assured of. We can either bog our lives down in worry - we can wring our hands and say “Woe is me” like Elijah did before God came and gave him food. Or we can live a life of peace and as situations happen that we don’t like or don’t understand we can be like Alfred E. Neuman and say, “Who me, worry?”