It was winter- many years ago. Our furnace suddenly didn’t work. It was nasty cold OUTSIDE. We had a little kid INSIDE who needed the heat to work. So, I called a repairman. But we also didn’t have a tone of expendable income to pay for costly repairs- certainly not to pay for a new furnace. So, as he fixed it, I watched. If I could learn what he did, I could handle this situation myself next time, saving us some money. So, I held the light, I watched, I questioned and I learned!
The next winter, the same thing happened. But I remembered! So, I took the cover off the furnace and I fixed it. Before I completely re-assembled it, I fired it up…just to make sure. Sure enough, it WORKED! But then, it went out! It wouldn’t stay lit, no matter what I did! So, I called the guy. He came out, took one look and said, “You tried to fix this, didn’t you?” “Yes.” “You did ONE thing wrong- you needed to completely re-assemble it before it would stay lit. All you needed to do was put that plate back on, protecting the flame from the fan, and you would have had it!” He re-attached the plate, fired it up…and charged me for the lesson! I focused SO hard on “tomorrow” that I missed the obvious answer of “today”!
Have your plans not worked out liked you thought they would? Does anxiousness keep you up at night? Are worry and fear your constant companions? Could you use some calm in your life? Today, we wrap up our current sermon series as we complete our journey through Anxious For Nothing. Based on the book by New York Times bestselling author, Max Lucado, we have been trying to provide a roadmap for finding peace in the midst of chaos. Every week, we’ve focused on what God has to tell us through one of the Old Testament Psalms. Today, we consider arguably the best-know passage in the whole of the Bible- Psalm 23-
Psalm 23 The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: He leadeth me beside the still waters. He restoreth my soul: He leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for Thou art with me; Thy rod and Thy staff they comfort me. Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: Thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.
We don’t know the exact setting in which the 23rd Psalm was written. David might have written it as a young shepherd, watching over his dad’s flocks in the very same field where, 1,000 years later, a heavenly choir would announce the birth of a Savior. But whatever the setting, Psalm 23 shows great confidence in God’s goodness. Notice where it starts-
“The Lord…” The Hebrew word is Yahweh- PERSONAL name for God. It refers to His caring, loving, personal. The Lord is…what?
is My Shepherd. Not just a title for God- it also points to the relation between God and us. A good shepherd deeply cares about the safety of his sheep. Psalm 23 then quickly jumps to
“I shall not want“. God will give us what we need- physically and spiritually. And if He’s watching over us, then we need…nothing. From there, it moves to
“He maketh me to lie down in green pastures”. He gives me rest. Where? in the middle of fresh, thriving life- green pastures. What else?
“He leadeth me beside the still waters.” So along with the peace and rest of the green pastures, God offers us the calmness of still waters. Not STAGNANT waters, but tranquil waters. And then, we get-
“He restoreth my soul”. That’s good stuff! He restores my spiritual appetite and desire, my passion…my life. What then?
“He leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake”. Righteousness- “moral conviction”, focusing on what’s right and moral in our own lives- not trying to condemn others. And where does that path lead us? Peace-
“Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for Thou art with me.” We have ALL walked through the valley of the shadow- that’s a SCARY place to be. But we’re spiritual beings on an earthly journey and so we have nothing to fear because He’s with us.
Then we get to God’s protection- the shepherd’s tools.
“Thy rod and Thy staff they comfort me.” The rod is for protection. It’s a defensive weapon. The staff serves a different purpose. It’s used for correction and direction. Then, we learn that a life in God isn’t just meager subsistence. Instead,
“Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies.” God doesn’t simply give us just enough to scrape by- He offers us LIFE, and life abundantly. And because of this bounty,
“Thou anointest my head with oil. My cup runneth over.” The bounty that God provides is so great that it spills out of us and onto those in whom we come in contact. But David saves the best for last.
“Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.” It’s not wealth and fame, power and glory, money and position that are going to follow me. It’s something FAR better. Goodness and mercy are going to follow me. How long? ALL the days of my life. And then what? I will be with God…forever.
Are anxiousness and fear coming at you from all sides? Don’t give up. You’ve been heard in heaven. God’s armies have been dispatched. Reinforcements have been called in. Those who wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength. They shall mount up with wings like eagles. They shall run and not be weary. Don’t allow yourself to be weighed down by worry. Instead, be lifted up by faith.
Guard your thoughts and trust God.
Maybe your 22- right out of college, trying to find a job. Maybe you’re 32- a mortgage to pay and 2.3 kids to feed and clothe. Maybe you’re 42- facing potential layoffs and downsizing. Maybe you’re 52- not the ideal age to have to change careers. Maybe you’re 62- worried about the security of your “so-called” retirement plan. No matter the age, anxiousness peppers you like hailstones. What a mess.
What does all this anxiety mean? Simply this: you’re human. It doesn’t mean you’re emotionally underdeveloped. Or stupid. Or a failure. It doesn’t mean your parents failed you. Or that you failed them. And it doesn’t mean you’re not a Christian. Christians have our share of troubles, just like anybody else. But we are called to be anxious for nothing, but in everything. through prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving in our hearts, let our requests be made known to God. And if we do, the peace of God, which passes all understanding, will guard our hearts and minds.
Celebrate God’s goodness. Turn your attention away from your problems and instead celebrate God. It does you no good to just constantly obsess over your troubles. The more you focus on them, the bigger they grow. But the more you look to God, the quicker your problems are reduced to their proper size.
The Bible’s most common word for worry is the Greek word merimnaó. It literally means to have a divided mind. It means that anxiousness takes a meat cleaver to your thoughts, your energy and your focus. It chops up your attention. It causes us to stress about the past- what we said or did. It causes us to worry about the future-
Things that haven’t yet happened and might not EVER happen. Don’t let anxiousness take over your life. You can’t control your circumstances, but you CAN control how you react to them. Life is STILL going to give you lemons. Life gives lemons to good people, bad people, old people, ALL people. Life comes with a full complement of lemons. You can’t avoid them. BUT…you don’t have to suck on them. Yesterday is history. Tomorrow’s a mystery. Today is a gift- that’s why they call it “present”. When we refuse to live in the past or dwell on the future, we are left with today. So, I will live for today.
Relive yesterday? Nope. Learn from it. Ask forgiveness for it. Take joy in it. But don’t live in it. Worry about the future? What does that gain? Live for today.
Face today’s challenges with today’s strength. Dance today’s dance with today’s music. Celebrate today’s opportunities with today’s hope. A new day is waiting for you- a new season where you worry less and trust more. A time of reduced fear and enhanced faith. Can you imagine a life where you’re anxious for nothing? God can. And, with His help, you can find it.