Allen Raynor Weblog: “Casting All Your Worries on the Lord” (Pt. 1)
(Nov. 1, 2018)
Several years ago I had a strong desire to attend seminary but there did not seem an obvious path for me to fulfill that desire. I had prayed for a few years that God would open that door and provide the way. I thought my prayer was being answered when, in the early 2000s Southern Seminary in Louisville, KY began offering online courses. I signed up and began taking classes but after 3 semesters I had exhausted the number of hours (1/3 of the degree requirements) that they would allow to be taken online. I finally resolved that I had to do what I knew I could have done all along but did not have enough faith to do; that was to simply resign my pastorate, rent a moving truck, and move to Louisville, KY, enroll in classes and allow God to take care of the details. So, after a few weeks of dedicated prayer I announced my resignation in December and in January we loaded our belongings on a truck and with our 4 young children moved to Sellersburg, Indiana just across the Ohio river from Louisville, KY home of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. There were many unanswered questions and many fears and anxieties crept in, but my faith in God was strong. In my heart and mind, this was what God was leading us to do. The short version of what happened is that God did indeed provide in ways I could never have imagined. He provided for us financially through a handful of people, he gave us a great church, great friends, a great place to live, and the on-campus experience at the seminary was so much more than I could ever have imagined. In 2004 I earned my long-desired Master of Divinity degree.
There is an old saying which goes “Never be afraid to trust a known God, to handle an unknown future.” Jesus knew people’s natures and he knew they would always be prone to worry so He gave us many assurances in His Word. One thing I learned through my seminary experience and through many twists and turns that life brings is that God often takes a step back from us in order that we might grow toward Him.
Jesus said in His Sermon on the Mount “Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing? (Mat. 6:25) The conjunctive word “therefore” in vs. 25 links together what has been said with what is now being said. Clearly this passage has a connection with money/wealth/riches just like the last passage discussed by Jesus in vs. 24 where He said “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.” (Mat. 6:24)
The English word “worry” comes from an old German word meaning to “strangle” or “choke.” Worry is essentially a failure to trust God. Worry comes and attempts to “strangle” or “choke” out God’s promises in our lives. And it often causes disciples to be “of little faith.” Commentator Robert Mounce goes so far as to say “Worry is practical atheism and an affront to God.” I believe Oswald Chambers brings it home the best when he writes “Most of us are pagans in a crisis; we think and act like pagans. Only one out of a hundred is daring enough to bank his or her faith in the character of God.” (Oswald Chambers; Studies in the Sermon on the Mount; 65)
In Matthew 6:25 Jesus tells people specifically to not worry about “your life,” “what you will eat,” “what you will drink,” “your body,” and “what you will wear.” Isn’t there more to life than these things? Absolutely there is! If a person is worrying about small, trivial things, then it stands to reason they are going to be worrying about everything!
We live in a “self-indulgent” culture, and with that “self-indulgence” there seems to crop up a lot of anxiety/worry. A man named Thomas Kepler wrote a book many years ago that tells about how a group of 104 psychologists came together with the cases they were dealing with in order to determine the things that were bringing people (their patients) the most anxiety. They determined that at around age 18 people worry most about ideals. At age 20, people worry most about appearance. By age 26 the biggest worry is about making a good impression. By age 30 the salary they are drawing and the cost of living top the list. By age 32 about overall success in their career field. By age 34 it is about job security. By age 41 anxiety over politics tops the list. By age 43 it is anxiety over marital problems. By age 45 there is anxiety over the loss of ambition they once had. By the time a person is over 45 their greatest anxiety is concerning their health. When looking at this list, it becomes quite clear that worry is useless. Worry is unfaithfulness to the God that we call our Savior. If He is our Savior He has “saved” us from the need to worry so much! The only people in this world who should legitimately worry are non-believers; only they have something very real to worry about!
I have done my fair share of worrying. Some things I worried about never came to pass. Some things I worried about did come to pass but I could not have stopped them. Worry will crowd out trust if we let it. God wants us to give all the things we cannot control over to Him, which is most things. There are many benefits to doing so. It takes the burden off of us, but it also deepens our trust in, and overall relationship with Christ. My experience of taking the step of faith to move as we did near the seminary campus was a life-changing event for me in more ways than I can count. God grew me spiritually through it all and the person I am today was heavily shaped through that experience which seemed scary at the time. I have a feeling God may be waiting to shape you as well if you will take a step of faith with Him.
Dr. Allen Raynor