Weed the worry

Read: Numbers 5-6, Mark 4:1-20

Most of us have heard or read the parable of the sower more times than we can count. From Sunday school through to Sunday sermons, if you grew up in church, you’ve been aware of this story of Jesus’ for most of you life. If we had to place ourselves in a portion of the story, the majority of us would be tempted to claim the good ground. But if we’re telling the truth, we’ve probably all had more experience in the other kinds of soil than we’d like to publicly admit. Today, let’s talk about the thorns.

Mark 4-18-19.jpg

First, what is worry?

WORRY: To tease; to trouble; to harass with importunity (pressing solicitation; urgent request, application for a claim or favor, which is urged with troublesome frequency or pertinacity), or with care and anxiety.

Whom of us can claim that we have never worried and will never worry again? None. Zip. Zilch. Nada. If we’re alive, we’re bound to worry about something. Parents worry about their children. Some worry about how to pay the bills or where to find the next meal. Some worry about succeeding, others failure. Some worry about grades. Others still, worry about being alone while some worry about staying together.

We may not be able to stop the worry altogether, but we do have the ability to control it when it comes.

Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life? Since you cannot do this very little thing, why do you worry about the rest?

Luke 12:25-26 (NIV)

Jesus compared worry to thorns. Weeds. Unwanted growth.

Say you plant a garden. You pick a spot with plenty of sun. It is close to a water source, yet it drains well. You’ve added soil and done all that you can to ensure a fruitful garden. You pick your seeds and plan your plots. Once the seeds are in the ground, you are careful to water, but not too much. You shoo away birds that would snatch the seeds or cats that would disturb your neat rows. Before too long, your little seeds start to sprout. Row by row little bright green leaves peek through the dark soil. But wait! That one isn’t in line! It doesn’t look like a cucumber or carrot. It’s a weed. What are you going to do about it?

Most of us accept worry as a part of life. It just is. It can’t be helped. But if it can’t be helped, why would Jesus tell us not to do it?

Like your carefully planned garden, worry, like a weed, can be uprooted. It can be removed and tossed away to die. No one wanting the largest harvest possible will stand for weeds sucking up all the nutrients from the soil and choking out the productive plants. Those weeds need to go. So does worry.

Even the best-prepared soil can sprout weeds. But the diligent gardener will remove them before any damage is done.

Don’t entertain worry. There is no benefit in it. Worry takes our focus away from those things which have already been promised to us. And not only that, but it implies that our trust in God is not implicit.

Worry generally stems from a fear of lack, not having enough or not being enough. So when that little thorny sprout shows up, you remind it who’s the boss. Pull it up and cast it away with this promise:

And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus.

Philippians 4:19 (NIV)

Eat your fill

Read: Leviticus 24-25, Mark 1:23-45

Who doesn’t want to have their cake and eat it too? In a culture where consumption of nearly every kind is at an all-time high, we want what we want, and we want it now! When we live our lives like that every day, it’s hard not to let that same attitude seep into our relationship with God. We use Him like a genie in a bottle, only rubbing away when we want something and then getting upset when we don’t get it right away. We forget that there were some stipulations or precursors placed on our getting.

Leviticus 25:18-19

If Israel wanted the prosperous land God had promised to them back in Egypt, a few things were required of them. Okay, maybe it was more than a few since the entire book of Leviticus is an instruction manual, but you get the picture. If Israel wanted the land to prosper like they’d been promised, they had to abide by the laws God had laid out for them.

Now, before you get all but-that-was-the-Old-Testament-under-the-law on me, Jesus said something rather similar in nature.

And do not set your heart on what you will eat or drink; do not worry about it. For the pagan world runs after such things and your Father knows that you need them. But seek his kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well.

Luke 12:29-31 (NIV)

When Israel entered the Promised Land, God had promised them so much that they would only harvest six of every seven years. That seventh year, they’d reap only what grew in the unplanted fields, and that would be enough to sustain them through the year. In the 49th year, they wouldn’t reap at all, but the previous year’s harvest would be three year’s worth! All of this, if they followed God’s decrees and kept His laws.

God knows we need stuff. We need food. We need clothing. We need shelter. We need. We need. We need. We know that. He knows that. Us telling Him we need that stuff probably won’t make that big of a difference. But what I believe will make a difference is how (and how often) we approach God. Do we go to Him because we need something or do we go to Him because we need Him? Do we go to Him because we want something or do we go to Him because we want Him?

Jesus said that if we sought after the kingdom of God first, everything else would fall into place. This wasn’t a new principle he was announcing to the world. He was only reiterating what his Father had said centuries ago. Obey. Seek God. You’ll be fine.

If you want to eat your fill, you have to first do His will.

Terms and conditions

Read: Leviticus 1-3, Matthew 24:23-51

If you’re reading along in your Bible, you will have started Leviticus today. It’s a slog. Unless you’re really into the macabre, there isn’t much exciting about the first three chapters of the book. There’s a lot of killing of animals and gore. And some baking at the end. Don’t forget the salt.

We, having been redeemed by the blood of Jesus Christ, have no need to make animal sacrifices in order to atone for our transgressions. So what is there for us in a book like Leviticus?

Let me explain.

Say you have an item of great value for sale. You’ve done your research and have had it appraised. You set a fair price and the item goes on the market. Someone approaches you and offers you an insulting price. They want to pay you half of what it’s worth. You immediately decline. But this person argues. They really, really need the item you have. You’re not convinced. The person making the offer becomes upset. Who are you to tell them what they can and cannot pay for an item they require? It’s not fair! It’s unjust! You shake your head. It’s your item, after all, and you have every right to decide it’s price based on fair market value. Heck, you can even decide to charge double fair market value if you want. It’s yours! The buyer continues to argue and you try to walk away. They chase after you trying one argument after another. The more they argue, the firmer you are in your decision not to sell to this person even if they ever decided to pay the price you set.

It all sounds a little ridiculous, doesn’t it? When you’ve set the price on something you own, you are under no obligation whatsoever to accept anything but that price.

So why would we ever think that God should be required to accept anything less than what He’s required for the payment of our sin?

The book of Leviticus is God’s terms and conditions. They apply. Since He is the one who offers forgiveness, He is the one who gets to set the price. For those under the old covenant, some very specific sacrifices had to be offered in very specific ways. For those of us under the new covenant, it’s Jesus and Jesus alone who can (and already has) made the sacrifice for us.

John 14:6

There is only one term: Jesus. One condition: our acceptance of him. Anything else would be like the buyer offering half value. Since God is the one in possession of what we need, He is completely within His right to set the price and, if we truly want what He has to offer, we must accept His terms and conditions.

Return

In Canada, today is Boxing Day. Not unlike Black Friday in the United States, today is the day of sales and deals and everyone goes out to get what they wanted for Christmas, but no one saw fit to give them. It’s also a day where many may try to return the gifts they got, but never wanted or needed, and exchange them for something they really want.

Life is full of exchanges. We want something and we go after it. Sometimes, once we get it, we may decide that we never really wanted it in the first place. But we keep it since it took so much effort to get it, or we may decide to give it up after all and go after something else.

All through the the Old Testament, Israel is chasing after something. Sometimes it’s God. Most of the time, it’s not. But, unlike Canadian stores on Boxing Day, God will take returns at any time from any vendor. You don’t have to bring something back to the place you got it from. You can take it to place you want to get something from.

I, the Lord, was very angry with your ancestors. Therefore, say to the people, ‘This is what the Lord Almighty says: Return to me, and I will return to you, says the Lord Almighty.’

Zechariah 1:2-3 (NLT)

Israel was always out searching for the next best thing. Going out like Black Friday shoppers and making purchases for no other reason than it was a really good deal. Then they got home and realised they had absolutely no need for their acquisition. Instead of immediately returning it, they decided to make use of it. They borrowed gods and idols from other nations and, when they realised that those gods could do nothing for them, instead of tossing them in the hearth for firewood, they kept them. The effort to make the exchange was too great.

And then God comes along and makes a better offer than anyone or anything else could give them. Return to me, and I will return to you. Give me your useless things and I’ll give you what you really need.

It doesn’t matter what you’ve managed to bring into your life, God’s exchange policy will cover it. You can bring it to Him, lay it at His feet and He will give you what you truly desire and need. We don’t have to live our lives full of all the junk we’ve managed to pick up along the way because it seemed like a good idea at the time. God will take it all.

So if you’re holding on to some things that you don’t need, jump to the front of the line and go straight to God. He’ll take it all without any proof of purchase. Return it to Him and He’ll replace it with something worthwhile.

Daily Bible reading: Zechariah 1-3, Revelation 17

It’s tough

In 1992, four and a half year old Jordy became the youngest person ever to make it on to Billboard’s Hot 100 with his dance hit, Dur dur d’être bébé. Loosely translated, It’s tough to be a baby, the song described the trials of being a toddler. Don’t touch this. Don’t touch that. Get your finger out of your nose. Sit still.

We all know that being a baby isn’t as rough as Jordy described. All a baby has to do is cry a bit and Mommy or Daddy come running to change their clothes, feed them, bathe them, cuddle them. While there are a lot of rules to learn as a child grows up, never again in their life will they have so much done for them.

Sometimes, we can be like a baby trying to convince the world how tough it is to be us. But you just don’t know what I’m going through. I feel like I’m the only one! While I don’t want to belittle anyone’s pain or suffering, you’re not the only one.

Take a firm stand against [the Devil], and be strong in your faith. Remember that your Christian brothers and sisters all over the world are going through the same kind of suffering you are.

1 Peter 5:9 (NLT)

There are times when we can get so caught up in our own pain and search for sympathy that we completely ignore the fact that we have family members that are going through the very same thing. They could use some of that comfort we’re trying so hard to find. And when we, like an infant, cry out for satisfaction, those same people look on and shake their heads. We are never alone in our pain and we are not the only ones deserving of compassion. Not only that, but God has already poured out on us all that we need.

In his kindness, God called you to his eternal glory by means of Jesus Christ. After you have suffered a little while, he will restore, support, and strengthen you, and he will place you on a firm foundation.

1 Peter 5:10 (NLT)

When we look at our suffering—no matter what it is—in the light of what Jesus already endured, it pales in comparison. None of us are ever alone in our suffering. All over the world there are Christians who also endure hurt, pain, suffering, and persecution. Instead of seeking out sympathy, perhaps we would be better off giving it and sharing in each other’s suffering, helping each other through our trials until such a time as God restores, supports, and strengthen us.

It doesn’t have to be tough.

Daily Bible reading: Ezekiel 40, 1 Peter 5

New strength

As many of us age, we may find ourselves longing for the strength of our youth. Our bodies no longer recover like they used to. Definition and tone has been lost to obscurity and perhaps a spare tire around the midsection. Once, hefting an entire load of groceries from the trunk and into the house seemed to take minimal effort. Now three trips are needed to make the haul. We want our old strength back. But until someone finally finds the legendary Fountain of Youth, that’s just not going to happen.

But what if, instead of regaining our old strength, we could gain an entirely new strength?

But those who wait on the Lord will find new strength. They will fly high on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint.

Isaiah 40:31 (NLT)

I don’t think that Isaiah is talking about heading back to the gym with newfound energy, but when we wait on God, He will give us not only more strength, but new strength—one we never had before.

For I can do everything with the help of Christ, who gives me the strength I need.

Philippians 4:13 (NLT)

God doesn’t just give us the strength we want, He gives us the strength we need—the strength we need to accomplish His work and His will. He gives us the strength to put our focus on Him.

Fix your thoughts on what is true and honorable and right. Think about things that are pure and lovely and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. Keep putting into practice all you learned from me and heard from me and saw me doing, and the God of peace will be with you.

Philippians 4:8b-9 (NLT)

This new strength that is found when we wait on the Lord gives us the ability to do the things that Paul talks about in these verses. Our new strength give us the ability to set our minds on the things of Christ and resist those things that are not of him.

Daily Bible reading: Isaiah 39-40, Philippians 4

For the honour

We know that God is both able and willing to provide for those who trust in Him. He is great in power and rich in mercy. He wants to see us prosper and succeed. He wants us to go to Him with our praise and our needs.

When we go to God with our requests, what’s our reason for asking? Is it simply because we have a need? David made many requests of God, but in his asking, he also made an offer of sorts.

You are my rock and my fortress,
For the honor of your name, lead me out of this peril.

Psalm 31:3 (NLT)

For the honour. David wasn’t aiming to merely be set free from peril, he wanted to be lead to freedom so that he could give honour to the name of the God who brought him out.

This verse brings to mind a song from Elevation Worship* that bears the same title as this post:

Verse 1

For the honor of the Father
Who reaches out to us
That we might live inside His love
He gave His only Son

Verse 2

For the honor of the Savior
Let the cross be lifted high
The great exchange of love and grace
Came down to give us life

Verse 3

For the honor of the Spirit
Whose power lives in us
That we might see much greater things
As we embrace Your love

Verse 4

For the honor of Your kingdom
Whose reign will never end
We’ll give our lives in sacrifice
Until You come again

Bridge

Forever forever
We’ll honor You forever

All that God does in and for us is not only for us, but for Him as well. It is for His glory and honour that He supplies our needs.

And this same God who takes care of me will supply all your needs from his glorious riches, which have been given to us in Christ Jesus.

Philippians 4:19 (NLT)

Go ahead and make your requests known to God, but don’t forget to give honour where honour is due. When your needs are met, be sure that God gets all the glory—He is far more deserving of the praise than we are of whatever it is we’ve asked of Him.

*For the Honor
Chris Brown | Mack Brock | Steven Furtick | Wade Joye

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Elevation Worship Publishing (Admin. by Essential Music Publishing LLC)