BIBLE READINGS: Isaiah 49: 8-16a 1 Corinthians 4:1-5 Matthew 6: 24-34
I was worried.
I cannot pretend I didn’t feel anxious. The fact is, I was worried. I had never been in this place before, never faced this kind of thing, and my imagination had gone into overdrive thinking about the what ifs.
I mean, had travelled overseas before, but not to a place like this, and so when the guard on the train we were attempting to board shouted in Spanish at us and started pushing us off the train I got a little nervous. Then he pointed his semi-automatic rifle at us, and I got a whole lot more nervous. Ask Margaret, and she’ll tell you it’s true - I was worried.
So we didn’t catch that train – but that was just the beginning of my worries. We were stuck out in the middle of the desert 40kms from the nearest town, and no transport to go back to the place we had come from. The thought crossed my mind, “I have no control over what is happening to me.”
Maybe that’s what I was worried about.
Those of you who have travelled to a foreign country can understand what I’m talking about. Being unable to communicate with people or understand the customs of a place, in that moment, you have no control over what is happening to you.
We like control, don’t we?
Ask almost any man here (and most women, too!) and if they are honest, they’ll admit they like the power that comes with holding the television remote control.
Cars these days have a lot of controls. Forget power windows, door locks, and cruise control. You can buy a car today that controls everything from the passenger’s seat temperature to a GPS device to your MP3 player and mobile phone.
Sometimes it’s not so trivial as that. It turns out we like to control as much of our world as possible: our money, our health care, our jobs, our security. We tend to feel much better when we’re in control. “If you want something done right, you’ve got to do it yourself”
We like control!
But the fact is, sooner or later, we all are going to be faced with a situation that we have no control over: our job, our health or the health of a loved one, the economy, crime, some crazy driver on the highway. In those moments, I am becoming convinced, sometimes it’s that loss of control that makes us worry. And trying to board that train, I was worried.
Now, the Scripture says, “Don’t worry.” And sometimes I want to say, “that’s easy for you to say!” Then the passage gives us a clue to the “don’t worry” command in 6:33. “But strive first for the kingdom of God” (NRSV).
Jesus is pointing out the birds of the air, that neither sow nor reap, and the lilies of the field, that neither toil nor spin. What Jesus says about them is that God provides for them. A wildflower really doesn’t have any control over what happens to it. Everything good that happens to it - all its beauty, water, soil, sunshine - is a gift from God. The wildflower is not in control. God is. And Jesus says to us, “live like that.” Could it be, that all our worrying, and fretting, and efforts to gain more and more control over our lives are not really what the kingdom of God is all about?
At least one of the things Jesus means by “seek first God’s kingdom” is that we are to give up control of our own lives. Truly, the Christian life is a life that is out of control, or at least, out of our control.
This is actually Good News for us. When God helps us give Him control, we realise in a brand new way that He really does provide for us, and has been providing for us all along! God teaches us that, just like that wildflower, everything good really is a gift from God. For those gifts, we are truly, and deeply, thankful.
When God brings us to the place where we can let go of our toil, our worry, and our need to control everything; we realise how much we really do have to be thankful for. Thankfulness comes when we let go and trust Him for everything we need.
Well, thankfully, God’s people were praying for me while I was overseas. And when we finally caught that train the next day, and as we travelled were awed by the wonders of God’s majestic creation, we gave God thanks and praise for yet another gift. Through the things we worry about, God is teaching us to simply let go, trust Him, accept all of the gifts He brings, and be thankful.