HOW TO LIVE WITHOUT ANXIETY
TEXT: MARK 4:26-29
In 1978, my family and I were called to a church in Texas as Associate Pastor. We excitedly began our ministry assured by the pastor that his was to be a long pastorate. In less than a year, this pastor was called to another church. That certainly created anxiety for us! As you well know, most Associate pastors come to work under a pastor they know and respect. Usually when the Senior Pastor leaves, the Associate Pastor will soon follow. Jo and I were extremely anxious. What would the new pastor be like? Could I work with him? Would I be allowed to stay? Needless to say, within a few short weeks God revealed to both of us exactly where He wanted us to go and the door was opened for us to leave and continue our ministry. We have all experienced anxiety at one time or another.
All of us have tried various things to rid ourselves of worry and anxiety. One man was always worrying. He worried about his children, his job, his wife, his health. One day a friend of this man noted that he was extremely calm and peaceful. "Why are you so calm?, he asked. "You always worry about every-thing. What happened?" The former worrier replied, "I just hired a man to do the worrying for me." "Well, how much are you paying him?" His friend inquired. "A thousand dollars a week," the man replied. "A thousand a week? You can’t afford a thousand dollars a week." The worrier responded, "That’s his problem!"
Anxiety is probably one of humanities most common maladies. All of us at one time or another have been stricken with anxiety. Anxiety is based on fear. I am remind of a Charlie Brown cartoon. Lucy had her psychiatric office open. Charlie Brown came for a consulta-tion. Lucy asked him what is your problem? Charlie’s reply, "I’m afraid". "What are you afraid of?" questioned Lucy. "Acrophobia?, Xeno-phobia? Hydrophobia? Claustrophobia?" "I’m afraid of all these things, spoke Charlie, "and others as well." Then you must have phobophobia", concluded Lucy. "What’s that?" he asked. "That’s fear of fear." That’s it! "That’s it, Lucy! I’m afraid of fear!"
Anxiety does not empty tomorrow of its trials - it simply empties today of its joys. Anxiety does not empty tomorrow of its sorrow -it empties today of its strength.
What exactly is anxiety? Anxiety is the result of doing our own thing, on our own timing and with our own resources. Freedom from anxiety comes when we desire to do what God wants, when He wants it, with whom He wants it and by His power. God’s work done without God’s power depletes God’s people.
We have read another parable of Christ that teaches us that what God guides, He provides. But between the planting and the harvest-ing is the waiting period when He is at work and we must wait. Peace is God’s gift for the in between time of the beginning of what He wills and the fulfillment of that will. Peace is the product of a confidence that while we wait, God is busy working with people, potentials, and possibilities we never dreamed of or even knew existed.
The parable of the growth of the seed is the basis of future hope not future shock. This parable demonstrates to us the reliability, resources, and responsiveness of God.
How do we become free from anxiety? First,
I. FREEDOM FROM ANXIETY COMES FROM ACKNOWLEDGING A PERSON.
A. In the parable of the soils, the sower was Jesus. In the parable of the growing seed, Jesus is still the sower. Our heavenly sower neither sleeps or slumbers (Ps. 121:4) for his there is no night or day. What Jesus does in this parable is compare Himself to a man who scatters his seed and trusts that seed to grow of its own power. This trust is exhibited in the man’s actions: he sleeps night after night and rises day after day and never worried about the seed.
B. This parable emphasizes the confidence that Jesus has in His Word. The Word properly sown, is all that is needed, it takes care of itself, it is full of life and power.
C. This is an optimistic parable. There are three truths about Jesus that are delineated in this parable:
1. Jesus has established his kingdom on earth.
2. He has confident hope for success.
3. This hope is certain to be completed.
D. This parable engenders a confidence in our Lord. What He begins in us, He will complete. The future is in His hand. To a certain extent, there are two sides of the song Rise up O men of God.
Rise up, O men of God!
Have done with lesser things;
Give heart and mind and should and strength
To serve the King of kings.
There is also:
Sit down, O men of God
His kingdom He will bring,
Whenever it may please His will
You cannot do a thing.
There should be a proper balance between the two. We are to rise up and serve the King, yet we must acknowledge that in being faithful to Him, He will bring it to pass.
As the marsh-hen secretly builds on the watery sod,
Behold I will build me a nest on the greatness of God:
I will fly in the greatness of God as the marsh-hen flies
In the freedom that fills all the space t’wixt the
marsh and the skies:
By so many roots as the marsh-grass sends in the sod
I will heartily lay me a-hold on the greatness of God:
II. FREEDOM FROM ANXIETY COME FROM RECOGNIZING THE PROCESS.
A. The process by which the seed is planted, grows and is harvested tells us that God knows what He is doing. There is order in the created world. Our lives are not determined by an impersonal fate.
B. We acknowledge Him in control. Since this is the case, what are we required to do in the process of allowing the seed to grow?
1. We must evaluate the seed. Is what we want an extension of God’s kingdom? Does what we want best fit into God’s purposes? Will it bring us closer to Him? If we are confident that our seed is within God’s purpose, then we can be assured that God will bring it to completion. Your ministry, your vocation, your desire for the family, a spiritual husband or wife, a Godly son or daughter, dedicated and committed parents, all these can be accomplished as we know that God is secretly at work. I have claimed this promise for our church. The seed has been planted here, God is responsible to make it grow. I am patient and trust Him that in the future there will be a harvest.
2. The seed must be planted. Commit it unreservedly to God. Do all we can to leave the results to God. We can’t hold onto the seed feverishly in our hands and expect it to grow. We must put the seed in the resourceful soil of God’s power. I am so thankful that God gave us this promise. When we share Jesus, our responsibility is not to bring the growth, that is salvation. This comes from God through the Holy Spirit. Our responsibility is simply to throw out the seed and leave the results to God. I am confident that nothing will return unto God empty.
3. The seed must be allowed to die as part of the process of germination. Truly, Truly, I say to you unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains by itself alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. We are to hate that grasping self determination to run our lives. The process begins in death but ends in resurrection. It must die first. Many times we try to accomplish the will of God in our own power. God allows it to die in order that He might resurrect it. When we say to the Lord, I can’t do it, it’s too great for me, then He will be able to act and bring it to completion.
4. The seed must be left in the ground. We must not be tempted to pull up the roots to check the progress. God will bring the thing to completion without our help. We have to leave our concern for that wayward son or daughter in God’s hands. The concern for the job must be left with Him. God is teaching us to trust.
5. Cultivate the ground. When you see evidences of God bringing the thing to pass, let it grow and reach maturity. When we begin to see God at work we need to remove what barriers we might have to that growth.
6. Realize that God brings a harvest. We can begin to share what God has done for and in us. Now we can truly praise God because He has fulfilled it.
III. FREEDOM FROM ANXIETY COMES FROM CLAIMING THE PROMISE.
A. The promise is simply, what God has begun in us, He is responsible to complete. Phil. 1:6, "And I am sure that He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion."
B. One of my favorite expressions is found in the following letters PBPGINFWMY (Please be patient, God is not finished with me yet). That is a declaration all of us can claim. When we are frustrated over our personalities, we can be confident that depending on God, He will change it. When frustrated over habits, we can be patient knowing that God will remove them. When circumstances are unbearable, we can trust Him who is the ruler over all the circumstances of life. When we feel that what we are doing for God is insignificant and meaningless, we can be confident that what has been place in His hand will grow to maturity.
C. Are you frustrated? Anxious over your life? Then cheer up God is at work even now, in small insignificant ways to bring about a harvest in your life.
I cannot see the way I go;
I go not knowing why;
But this I know, each step is set
By Him who is most High!
And so I gladly tread His path
Nor fear whatever betide,
Assured that when I win His smile,
I shall be satisfied.
The seed growing secretly can be best communicated by the following true story. A little girl loved the Lord and longed to share the message of Christ to those on the mission field. She contributed a penny to a missionary to help in the work of evangelizing the people of Burma. The missionary was so touched by the little girl’s response that he decided to do the most he could with that little penny. After careful thought, he bought a gospel tract and personally gave it to a young chieftain. The chieftain would not admit that he could not read, yet he burned with a desire to know the contents of the leaflet. He traveled 250 miles to find someone who would read it top him. After hearing the gospel message, it was not long after that this young chief made a profession of faith in Christ. Returning to his people, he told them what the Lord had done for him. Later he invited missionaries to come and share Jesus with the village. Many tribesmen accepted the good news and were converted. All this and probably more resulted from one dedicated penny given in Christ’s name by a little girl who gave from her heart.