IF IT’S SIN, I’M GUILTY

Noting the title of this post, you are probably wondering what the “it” is to which I am referring: it is worry. Many readers will be able to identify with me as I confess I am a worrier.

Yesterday our four year old grandson had dental surgery. We had known for several weeks that it was scheduled for today, but as the date grew closer I realized I was worrying more and more.

For the past few days I’ve been thinking about my habit of worrying. My recollection is that I have been a worrier pretty much all my life. My worries have never been debilitating, but they have had an impact on me. Many times worry has added stress to my life and eroded my joy.

In retrospect I remember my mom was a worrier. I don’t know if worry is hereditary or can be learned from a parent, but I have always been grateful for her interest and concern. I just wish she had not worried so much. However, as a worrier myself I understand.

But I’m asking myself, “Is worrying a sin?” The New Testament suggests in at least two places that it is.

One is from the Sermon on the Mount. In Matthew 6:34 Jesus concludes a section of his teaching, “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” Respected author John R.W. Stott, and one of my favorite writers, concludes from Jesus’ teaching that “worry is incompatible with Christian faith.”

The second passage is from the Apostle Paul in Philippians 4:6, “Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done” (New Living Translation). Commentator Ralph P. Martin notes, “[worry] betrays a lack of confidence in God’s protection and care for his people.”

It seems obvious from Jesus, Paul, John Stott, and Ralph Martin that worry is indeed a sin.

Possibly as an excuse for my own worry, I’m not sure all worry is sin. My worry is not due to a lack of faith and trust in God. In connection with my worry I practice what Paul instructs in Philippians 4:6 – I pray taking the things I worry about to the Lord.

I find some comfort and encouragement from what a couple of other writers say about Jesus’ teaching in the Sermon on the Mount. Commenting on Jesus’ statement, “Each day has enough trouble of its own” (Matthew 6:34), D.A. Carson notes, “It is as if Jesus recognizes that there will be some unavoidable worry today after all.” Archibald Hunter concludes, “. . . the principle is surely this, that, taking reasonable care, we are to face life with [trust], accepting each day fresh from God, and leaving the unknown future in his hands.”

My sense is that most of us need this teaching from both Jesus and Paul. I know I do. As a matter of fact, I’m a little worried about what some may think about me in light of my admission that I worry.

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WHAT ARE YOU ASKING FOR?

As we come to Palm Sunday, Good Friday, and Easter these next two weeks I have been reading Mark’s account of Jesus’ final trip to Jerusalem. Even though I have read it many times before, as well as preached from it, I was struck by the account of Bartimaeus in Mark 10:46-52.

Verse 46 tells us as Jesus, His disciples, and a large crowd were leaving Jericho there was a blind man named Bartimaeus “sitting by the roadside begging.” Like today, it was not uncommon in Jesus’ day for people to be at high traffic areas begging. What was uncommon was what Bartimaeus shouted when he heard that Jesus was coming by: “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” The title he used for Jesus indicated his high regard for Him.

Verse 47 tells us many in the crowd scolded and quieted him, but that only caused him to shout even louder. Hearing the shouting, Jesus stopped and instructed those with him to “Call him.” Now those who were previously quieting him began telling him to cheer up and get on his feet because Jesus was calling him. And Bartimaeus did not need to be told twice as he threw his cloak aside, jumped up, and went to Jesus.

Jesus’ question in verse 51 is what struck me: “What do you want me to do for you?” In his initial calls to Jesus he asked for mercy, but in response to Jesus’ question he was specific: “Rabbi, I want to see.” Then Jesus granted his request telling him in verse 52, “Go, your faith has healed you.” The account concludes with “Immediately he received his sight and followed along the road.”

The fact that Bartimaeus is one of the very few named that Jesus helped suggests to me this is an important account. I note the boldness, persistence, responsiveness, openness, and faith of Bartimaeus. And once he received his sight, Bartimaeus followed Jesus.

Hopefully you and I know who Jesus was and is even more clearly than Bartimaeus did. We know Him as Jesus; we know what the title Son of David means; and we look to Him as our teacher (Rabbi). We also know Him as our Savior and Lord.

I’ve been looking to Bartimaeus as an example and encouragement for me in prayer. In addition to the elements of praise and thanksgiving, one of my general requests lately has been for mercy. The Bible is clear that God is a God of mercy and I know that I need His mercy even when I am not aware of my need.

I am most intrigued by Jesus’ question: “What do you want me to do for you?” In his book Jesus: A Pilgrimage James Martin makes three statements that challenge me to do some serious thinking. First he suggests “Jesus sees something liberating in identifying and naming our desires.” Two paragraphs later he says “Notice that Jesus does not say, ‘Bartimaeus, just accept the way things are’.” Then the takeaway for me, “when we stand before God in prayer we should feel comfortable expressing our longings.”

In addition to asking the Lord for mercy, I also have a few specifics; in your prayers today what are you asking for?

Feel free to share your comments below and share these thoughts on social media.

photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/16210667@N02/16404623337″>Saying a little prayer for you</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a&gt; <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd/2.0/”>(license)</a&gt;

 

SHAKE UP YOUR PRAYER SEQUENCE

While praying and trying to put into practice the call to “delight in the LORD” (see last week’s post) I stumbled into a sequence I found helpful and rewarding. It certainly isn’t in league with the model prayer Jesus gave us, and I don’t know that I will follow it often, but that morning it worked for me in a way that refreshed my time with the Lord in prayer. As I was praying four lines of thought came to me that formed my prayer.

LORD, I LOVE YOU . . .

In reflecting on the idea of delighting in the Lord I simply told Him I loved Him. In doing that it occurred to me that I probably don’t express my love to Him often enough. I don’t know why, but I proceeded to directly address each member of the Trinity telling the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit each separately of my love.

LORD, I THANK YOU . . .

As I reflected on my love for the Lord I was reminded of how thankful I should be and am. Once I began noting specifics for which I am thankful my prayer of thanksgiving began to flow. I listed things any of us would mention, but then continued by thanking God for a variety of things I tend to take for granted and do not often express gratitude for.

LORD, I PRAISE YOU . . .

Having spent time thanking the Lord I was reminded of a distinction I learned many years ago between gratitude and worship. It isn’t that the two don’t go together, but I remember hearing someone suggest we thank God for what He does for us, but we worship Him for who He is.  So I began to tell the Lord I praised Him and worshipped Him and honored Him for who He was. And I returned to directly addressing again each member of the Trinity noting specifically how I praised each.

LORD, I ASK YOU . . .

To be honest I surprised myself that I prayed as long as I did before I got to asking God for things. So often in my prayers I get to asking Him about things pretty quickly but on this morning it took a while. I still had a number of requests, but coming to the requests after the first three parts of my prayer made my asking seem different. Like pretty much everyone who will read this post, I have some troubling and heavy issues I took to the Lord. I’m not aware of any instantaneous resolutions that came about, but I did have a greater sense of comfort and calm about things.

I don’t know if what I have relayed to you is something you will want to try or not. What I do know is that thinking about and trying to put into practice the Psalmist’s call to “delight in the LORD” has made and will continue to make a difference in my prayer life.

Respond with any comments below and feel free to share this post.

photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/62698615@N08/6044747780″>Highchair Blue Praying</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a&gt; <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/”>(license)</a&gt;