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In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
I know how it works: Jesus says, “Do not be anxious” or “Do not be worried,” and immediately we start thinking about all the things we have to be anxious about, all the things we have to be worried about. Maybe it’s not what we will eat or what we will wear, but there’s enough anxiety and worry to go around. Anxiety about our lives, anxiety about our families, anxiety about our congregation. And why are we anxious, when we know the promises and words of God? When Jesus Himself says, “Do not be anxious,” should we not believe the Son of God in flesh?
Why are we anxious? Maybe we because we don’t know what’s going to happen. We can’t see into the future. We don’t know what’s going to happen later this afternoon, let alone what’s going to happen in a month or a year. Because we don’t know, we get anxious. But do we think our anxiety level would go down if we did know? Depending on what it is, it might actually go up! Think about the man in the parable from last week, who was rich and had a great crop. He had more than enough so he tore down his barns and built bigger ones. He said, I’ve got enough to last my whole life. I’m going to sit back, relax, eat, drink, and be merry. I’ve got it made. And God said, “You fool! This very night your life is demanded of you. And all this stuff you’ve acquired for yourself, whose will it be?”
He should have been more anxious, not knowing what would happen, because he found his security in his wealth and in what he had acquired for himself. He had a lot of treasure, but was not rich toward God. In light of that, Jesus tells His disciples not to be anxious about what they have and what they need. You might think you have everything you need and more, but for what? Maybe your life will end tonight. Your security must not be in the things of the world and in what you’ve acquired. The man in the parable thought he had everything under control. He thought he had it figured out. And as far as he could see, he did. But he couldn’t see everything.
Maybe we’re anxious because even if we could see the future, we don’t have control over it. We think that if we could just have a little bit of control, we wouldn’t be as anxious. But I’m not at all sure that things we would be better if we did have things under control. The man in the parable seems to have things in hand, but where did that get him? He finds out that nothing is really in his control. Who gave him all his wealth? And who gave him his life? Things are not in our hands at all. Everything is in the hands of God, our Father. Everything has been given into the hands of Jesus.
So why are we anxious? Abraham was anxious as well. He had a promise from God, that God would give him an heir, and make his offspring as numerous as the sand on the sea shore. But he was having trouble believing it, and now he’s getting anxious. God, you said you’d give me an heir, but you haven’t. Now the one who’s going to inherit everything isn’t even of my flesh and blood. Abraham was anxious because he hadn’t seen the future, and now it looked like what God had promised was impossible. With his age and Sarah’s, how could he have even one heir, let alone many? He didn’t have any offspring, let alone as many as sand on the sea shore. And when he tried to get things under control with Sarah’s servant, Hagar, that didn’t exactly turn out well. Ishmael was not the heir God had promised.
What does God say to Abraham when he is anxious and worried? What does God say when Abraham thinks that it’s impossible for God’s promises to happen? All God does is repeat the promise. I told you I would give you an heir. Look at the stars in the sky and count them, if you can. I will make your offspring as numerous as the stars. And Abraham believed God and God counted it to him as righteousness.
You can’t add a single bit of time to your life by worrying or being anxious. It doesn’t solve a single thing. And we probably know that, but it’s almost like we can’t control it. Jesus says, if you can’t do even the least thing about your life, why are you anxious about the rest? Do not be anxious! All things are in the hands of your God, who has given you the Kingdom of God. You can’t add anything to your life by worrying. But if you have the Kingdom of God, then He will add everything along with it, everything you need for as many days as He gives you in this world and life. His promises are not like other promises. His words are not like other words. The more that people—especially people who have proven unreliable—start saying, “I promise, I promise,” the less inclined we are to believe them. But God is not a man that He should lie. God’s word does what He says, every time. If He makes a promise, He will do it, no matter how impossible it seems to us.
So do not be anxious. Do not fear, little flock, for it is the Father’s good will and pleasure to give you the Kingdom. He already has given it to you, because He’s already given the King, who draws near to you. He knows all your worry and anxiety. He is the one who gives Himself into death, and rises from the dead. And that means that He is in control of all things. The future is secure in His hands. You are secure in His hands. The one who forgives your little and misplaced faith is the one who says, “Don’t be anxious. Don’t worry.”
And when you do become anxious, when you do worry, here He is. He repeats His promises and seals that promise with His last will and testament, giving to you His living flesh and blood. He gives Himself as the assurance, seal, and guarantee of His promises. He who made, cares for, feeds, and clothes the birds and flowers cares all the more for you. He did not become a flower or a bird, but a man. And through that death and resurrection, He will restore everything that is lost. When your life is demanded of you, you will find that exactly there you gain your life. Because your life is Christ. And He is alive forever.
So do not fear, little flock. Believe God. He will never forsake His word or promise to you. He is the only one in whom your hope and trust is secure. Your life is secure with Him because no moth can destroy it. No thief can break into heaven and steal it. He is everything you need for this world and forever. When you do not know what the future holds, you know that Christ holds the future. When you have no control, you know that Christ controls all things, turning them to the good of you and all His creation. And when it seems like what He has promised is impossible, that it’s impossible for what He’s said to happen—what He’s promised, not what we think or want Him to do—then remember Abraham and see if God will do what He’s said in His own good time. Abraham’s promise became Isaac, and then through him was produced Jesus, the true Son of the Promise. He will give you the Kingdom in Christ, and all the rest He will add.
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen. “And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:7, ESV). Amen.
— Pr. Timothy Winterstein, 8/9/19