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“What, Me Worry?”

I’m a kid of the MAD Magazine era, where their mascot, Alfred E. Newman, was famous for saying this line… “What, me worry?” Of course, in many cases, it was the punchline of the joke and it conveyed the he ought to have been worrying about the state of affairs around him. That, of course, was the sarcastic humor of the magazine that appealed to me during my pre-teen and early teenage years.

Sarcastic humor aside, the statement about not worrying has stuck with me over the years and is frankly quite Biblical for the Christian. Jesus says that we are not to be anxious because our Father in Heaven knows our needs and will provide them…instead of expending energy worrying about this, that, or the other thing, we should pursue building Christ’s kingdom with all our strength. God will make provision for us (Luke 12:22-24).

The implication here is that the only ones who really have a license to worry are unbelievers. These pagans bow down to gods that cannot answer prayers and cannot provide for their needs…they are deaf and dumb and motionless, the creation of the hands of men (Psalm 115:4-8). 

The question that the Christian really needs to ask is, just how extensive God’s design is for his people. Is God in control of the big things that happen but leaves the small things in our own hands or does God sovereignly ordain all things that come to pass, both great and small. To this, Jesus takes one of the most insignificant things that can be mentioned and instructs his disciples that God cares for us so greatly that he even has numbered the hairs on our head (Matthew 10:30; Luke 12:7) and he goes as far as to assure the disciples that during times of persecution, not a hair on their head will perish apart from God’s design (Luke 21:18) — a promise that the Apostle Paul even extends to those on the ship with him prior to their shipwreck on Malta (Acts 27:34).

One of my professors in seminary used to say that not one hair fell from his head “without the parachute of providence,” and indeed, this is the idea that the Bible communicates to us. The Heidelberg Catechism words it this way: “He also preserves me in such a way that not a hair can fall from my head without the will of my Father in heaven…” In other words, if we take our Bible’s seriously, recognizing that we are in our Father’s divine hand, then ought we not say, with Alfred E. Newman, “What, me worry?” Our God not only ordains the end, but the means by which he brings about the end…and in that wonderful truth there is great hope because I, in my fallenness, will not confound the plans that God has for me…instead, God ordains and uses even my own sin and foibles to bring about his will and to conform me into the image of his Son. In a world where assurances are often fleeting, this is one iron-clad promise in which we can truly rest and hope.

To God be the Glory!

“And my God will fill your every need according to his abundance in glory in Christ Jesus. And to our God and Father be glory from the ages to the ages, amen!”

(Philippians 4:19-20)

Amen. May God get the glory for all things, may he reveal his glory in all things, and may he be glorified for all things as they honor his name, now and forevermore, amen. Loved ones, this is what it is all about; here is the meaning in life. God is to be glorified and the glory of the things of this world pale in comparison to the glory of the risen Christ. What more can you desire? What more can you need? Nothing.

Paul also assures the church that God will provide for their every need. Not necessarily for their every want, but God will provide for their every need. So, too, he does the same with us. Why do we worry and fret about the things of this life? Our heavenly Father knows our needs and will provide them out of his grace. Instead of worrying, pursue God’s calling on your life and his Kingdom, trust the details to him. The pagans have the right to worry but the Christian (though we often worry) does not have that right for we have a God who knows our needs and who is capable of filling them.

Paul is wrapping up his letter to the church and what better way could there be to end? To God be the glory, great things he has done!

Anxiety is not Good for the Believer

“Do not be anxious, but in everything, with prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God.”

(Philippians 4:6)

Are we to suggest that God does not know our needs before we “make them known”? Certainly not! Jesus says that our Father in heaven knows our needs even before we ask him (Matthew 6:8). No, the emphasis on the making our needs known to God is not on informing the omniscient one, the emphasis is on how we present ourselves before the King of the Universe.

Paul writes that we first must not be anxious in our manner. Why not anxious? Why shouldn’t we be worriers over every little thing? The answer is that we are adopted by the God of the universe who knows our needs and has the power to see those needs met. It is the pagan who has the right to worry, for their gods cannot act or move or hear their prayers.

Thus, we take our prayers to God in a way that is not anxious, but trusting in his divine hand, his divine character, and his divine goodness and we lift them before the Lord of heaven. Paul uses the phrase, “prayer and supplication,” which is a common phrase for the Apostle (see Ephesians 6:18;1 Timothy 5:5). Supplication speaks of specific entreaties or pleas for help before God and prayers speaks in a more broad and general way. The key is, that with this humble reliance upon our God, we are to lift our cares before him.

The thing, of course, that many struggle with is the anxiety part. How we often ask God for things in such a way that we would not want our children asking us for a need or a concern that they might have. How often we come across (if we look at our prayers objectively) as if we are doubting God’s goodness or power or both. How often we try and make demands rather than being still and having confidence that God is, well, that he is who he says he is (Psalm 46:10). Beloved, do not worry or be anxious and do not allow that anxiety to become part of your prayer life…instead, let your prayer life be such that it takes away your anxiety because you are assured of the one to whom you speak.

The Seed and the God of the Millennia

“And they blessed Rebekah, and said to her, ‘Our sister, you shall become like countless thousands and may your seed inhabit the gates of those who hate him.’”

(Genesis 24:60)

 

“I will surely bless you and your seed will surely be great as the stars of the heavens and as the sand which is on the lip of the sea. And your seed will take possession of the gates of his enemies.”

(Genesis 22:17)

 

“Now the promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed — it does not say, ‘To the seeds…’ as if to many, but as if to one. ‘And to your seed,’ which is Christ.”

(Galatians 3:16)

 

It is hard not to make a connection between this blessing and to the Messianic promises that are to come. It could be legitimately pointed out that the term oår‰z (zera), or “seed,” is a collective singular (a singular term that refers to a group or a set of like things or persons) and thus nothing of great significance should be made of the language here. At the same time, given the covenantal significance of this event, a second look should be taken at what is being pronounced for even Nahor’s line understands that Abraham and his line has been singled out by God for a special purpose and, just as God did through the lips of Balaam, God sometimes speaks great truths through the lips even of non-believers.

It will be through Rebekah that the promised seed of Abraham will continue to descend that will ultimately culminate in the Great and true Seed: Jesus Christ. Note too, the similarity of this language to the language that God speaks to Abraham in Genesis 22. In part, of course, this will be fulfilled as the nation of Israel grows and then conquers Canaan. In full, this promise will find its completion in Jesus Christ — for it is in the church that True Israel will find its fullness, that the children of Abraham will be numbered like the sands of the sea, and that the gates of hell will find their demise (Matthew 16:18). Surely this promise, whether the family of Rebekah recognized it in full or not, is a promise that speaks of the coming of the Messiah through the line of Rebekah and Isaac.

How wonderful is the scope and plan of God. How puny our plans quickly become when placed alongside of God’s design. Isn’t if fascinating that we get so caught up in the moment — our successes and failures — our plans — our particular church’s rises and falls in attendance or fiscal numbers when God’s sovereign plan covers the scope of millennia. And why do we worry and fret? Why do we lose sleep over things that are meaningless in the scope of eternity? Friends, God is sovereign and he is the ruler of all of his creation. And he has a plan and a design for his church and kingdom of which he has graciously made us a part. Rejoice! Revel in that truth! And when faced with difficulties and opposition, trust in the wisdom and grace of God. Though men are not; God is good … and he is good all of the time — even in the midst of our trials and difficulties. What is it that God would lead you into doing and what is holding you back?

 

Trembling at the Fulfillment of Prayer

“When she had finished giving him water, she said, ‘I will also water your camels until they have finished drinking.’ And she hurried and emptied her pitcher into the watering channel and ran again to the well to draw more — she drew enough for all of his camels. And the man stared at her. And he was reduced to silence wondering if Yahweh had brought success to his path or not.”

(Genesis 24:19-21)

 

Notice how often the words “hurried” and “ran” (as well as their synonyms) show up to describe Rebekah’s activity. There is no question that she is an industrious young woman who is quick to serve others before she serves herself. As we mentioned above, she shows hospitality by offering to water his camels as well as to share water with him and thus fills up the watering trough for the camels to drink, something that would have taken repeated trips with her pitcher to complete.

And the man stares in amazement. The Hebrew word that is used here is quite unusual and its root, hDaDv (shaah) is only found 7 times in the Hebrew Old Testament; in four of those uses, it is translated as “laying desolate” or “destroying” a city or a region and twice it is used to refer to the roaring of waves or thunder. This is the only spot it is translated as “stare” or “gaze” or “watch.” Because Hebrew is a language that has been influenced by a number of sources, it is not that surprising to see a verb being rendered in a variety of ways, but I think that the choice of this particular word in this verse is intentional and designed to show us the stunned and perhaps overwhelmed response of Eliezer, the servant.

You know, as Christians we pray and we pray for God to move and act in our lives, but sometimes I don’t know that we really pray with the expectation that God will move in our lives in a profound way. Eliezer has been praying that God would reveal to him the woman for whom he was sent and he set down for God an identifying sign (that she would give him water and care for his camels). God brought her out, Eliezer thought it might be she by her character, and then when the “sign” was asked for she delivered. God profoundly answered Eliezer’s prayer and I believe that Eliezer is likely overwhelmed by God’s grace and providence here. It is not simply that Eliezer is sitting there in calm silence calculating whether this is the girl, but he is likely shaking like a leaf — like a city that is being leveled by an earthquake or like a man unnerved by the roar of thunder. Here he is witnessing firsthand the magnificence of God with respect to answering prayer and he needs to take a minute or two to collect himself as he watches this girl that God has sent.

Friends, God gives us accounts like this not just so we can know the history of his people, but so that we can be reminded that we serve the very same God who proved himself faithful generation after generation. And loved ones, if he has been faithful to our ancestors in the faith, he will be faithful to us as well. What a mighty God we serve, indeed. Why is it then that we so often pray without the expectation that those prayers will be acted upon. We worry and fret over things and try and work them out to the best of our human design. Loved ones, there is no need to worry for our God has held his people in his hand since the beginning and he is not about to stop now. In addition, while we are commended in scripture to work and to be about the task of laboring for the kingdom, why is it that we settle for what man can do and neglect the awesome reality of what God can and will do. May we pray in faith, but may we also remember that the Christian faith is not a blind faith, but it is a faith based on expectation and the anticipation of what a living God will do in and around our lives.

What, Me, Worry?

“‘Behold, I am positioned over the spring of water and the daughters of the men of the city are coming to draw water. May it be that to the girl to whom I say, ‘Please extend to me your pitcher that I might drink’ and she would say, ‘Drink and I will also water your camels.’ Let her be the one appointed to your servant, for Isaac, and through her may I know that you work covenant faithfulness for my lord.’”

(Genesis 24:13-14)

 

Notice the language of appointment being made here. There is a clear expectation on the part of Eliezer that God has orchestrated things from beginning to end and that one of these girls coming out to water will be the one that God has chosen to marry Isaac. He sets the standard as he prays, asking that the one whom God has chosen shall show courtesy toward him, offer him a drink, and water his camels for him. Certainly, the young girl that shows this kind of grace and hospitality will be the one that God has appointed in his covenant faithfulness. And thus, he waits and will soon meet Rebekah — again, an instance where God demonstrates his control, for he sees Rebekah coming out of the city.

How quick we can often be to doubt the faithfulness and grace of God. We doubt and worry and second-guess, but none of these things befits us as children of the living God who loves us. Jesus says that it is the role of the pagan to worry for these things that we need (Matthew 6:32); indeed, the pagans have gods that neither can speak nor hear nor move (Psalm 135:15-17) and thus neither can hear nor answer the prayers of those who serve them. Our God is living and active and not only hears but acts in the life of his loved ones — we need fear nothing.

Worry robs our hair of color, our nights of sleep, and our friendships of depth. We fear committing because we fear that the end might soon be near. Loved ones, fear the Lord and him alone. He is the God over the heavens and the earth and he has chosen to come into a relationship with you. He promises to provide for all of our necessities and he promises to never leave or forsake us…what more do we need? God is even the God who ordained the timing and the manner in which Rebekah comes out to the watering hole for her family — who knows, she might have come down with a cold and been sick that day — and that is the point; when God so appoints, this things will come to pass — and God has appointed (Ephesians 1:11), so why worry?

 

Hands Off!

“Let go and know that I am God;

I will be exalted amongst the peoples;

I will be exalted on the earth.”

(Psalm 46:11 {verse 10 in English})

 

This is one of those wonderful passages of scripture that is given to focus and comfort us at every turn in our lives. It is a passage that I have often quoted as I have counseled people struggling with hurt, loss, and anxiety and it is a passage that I have often quoted to myself as I have gone through struggles of my own. Much like a loving parent, God is saying to us, “Relax, don’t get so wound up in this or that, learn to trust my providence for my grace is sufficient for you.”

Typically, we see the first line rendered, “Be still and know that I am God.” Literally, the Hebrew word used here means to let go of something. It is a picture of God telling us to let go of all of those things that we are trying to control by our own efforts and he is saying, “Trust me, I will work things through.” Certainly that does not mean we are to sit back and never do anything because God uses us as tools to do his work in this world. But it does mean that we should not get so uptight about the process for God is in control. Jesus himself cautioned us not to feel anxious about tomorrow (Matthew 6:25-34). We have a God who has ordered all things according to the counsel of his own will (Ephesians 1:11) and that God loves us, so why waste our days fretting and worrying about what might happen or about what might have happened. We can only live in the present; God says, “Let go and know that I am God.”

I suppose that letting go is one of the hardest things for us to do. Our struggle with doing so goes back to the Fall of Adam and Eve, each wanting to do their own thing rather than trusting a loving God to order their days. How much we have yet to learn as we go through the process…

But do not miss the rest of this verse in the context of the psalm as a whole. Paul writes in Philippians that there will come a time when every tongue will confess and every knee will bow that Jesus Christ is Lord (Philippians 2:9-11). When will it be that God is properly lifted up amongst the nations and throughout the earth? It will take place when justice rolls down the mountains like rain upon the wicked and they are finally and eternally brought into submission to the glory of Jesus Christ our Lord. So why be still? Because the God we worship wins in the end…hands down and with no qualifications. And if we are trusting in him, then who can stand against us? Why should we fear the world when we serve the one who has overcome the world on our behalf? Beloved, this is the call and command of God, let go and know in the very depths of your being that our God reigns and he cannot be moved from the designs he has set forth.