The following is excerpted and edited from a sermon entitled “Don’t Worry, Yeah Right” from the sermon series, “Living Right In a World Gone Wrong.” The sermon was delivered by Pastor Mark Holmen, President of the Minnesota-based Faith at Home ministry (www.FaithAtHome.com). Pastor Holmen delivered this sermon on March 6, 2016 at Pathway Community Church in Fort Wayne, Indiana. To see or hear Pastor Holmen’s full sermon, click here and for more information visit http://www.faithathome.com/staff.html.
Can a Christian worry? In Matthew 26, Jesus sounds very concerned.
"Then Jesus went with them to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to his disciples, “Sit here, while I go over there and pray.” And taking with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, he began to be sorrowful and troubled. Then he said to them, “My soul is very sorrowful, even to death; remain here, and watch[d] with me.” And going a little farther he fell on his face and prayed, saying, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.” – Jesus Christ, recorded in Mathew 26:36-39
Are worriers sinners?
A pastoral friend of mine in Indiana, Ron, and his wife, Laura, are navigating the dark valley of her stage four cancer. They don't know what the future holds for themselves, their children, or their church and, surprise, surprise: this concerns them. In fact, they spend quite a bit of time concerned about it.
Now, Ron has preached on Matthew 26 probably just as many times as I have over the past 20 years and knows the issue well. What’s both painful and intriguing about seeing Ron in this season of life is how Ron pivots away from his struggle into questions about me and others.
Ron says, “There’s more happening in the world than Laura and me. How are you guys doing? What's going on with your Faith at Home ministry? How's fund raising going for Faith at Home? (Ron knows that I hate fundraising). How is Maria doing? Is your daughter recovering from her illness?”
In this moment, Ron is expressing concern. First, he’s talking to me about the authenticate concerns about his wife’s cancer battles and the implications for their family and beyond. Then he pivots and begins to express concern for me, my ministry and my family. If Ron was “sinning” when he was expressing his concerns (his worries) about his own condition, was he subsequently sinning by expressing concerns (aka “worrying”) about my condition? Quite the opposite, actually.
In my opinion, Ron is handling this God-given emotion called concern, or worry, pretty admirably. Ron’s ministry in Fort Wayne is renowned for creating safe space where people can acknowledge and face their struggles and fears. In Matthew 26, Jesus is prescribing for us how to handle worry appropriately.
To be clear, Jesus says it straight up: Don’t worry. But that’s not the whole story. What does he mean? He's not saying that worry is a sin, but the way you handle the worry is the issue, because it's not going to add a single hour to your life. It's not going to add even a mustard seed to your faith. And it's not going to inform God about anything.
No, he knows what we're worried about. He knows about your addiction, your income, and your rocky marriage. He knows. Jesus is challenging us to express our concern to him because worrying is, at the end of the day, a choice over which we have 100% control. We might be experiencing anger, sadness, happiness, or a variety of emotions, but when we turn on the gas burner on the stove, we sober up quickly, making very intentional decisions because we recognize in the moment that regardless of our current emotional condition, the consequences of mismanaging that emotional disposition could be massive, even fatal.
By English: Cpl Erik Villagran [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons