Sunday, June 5, 2011

1 Peter 5:7

"Anxiety Toss"
MasterPiece Church

I've seen this commercial dozens of times and it always gets me laughing -- the whole cross-cultural miscommunication... Sinking is stresful enough. But I bet there were some distressed people stressing out even more after they heard the Coastie on the radio.

We’re all pretty stressed at times -- sometimes not even knowing why. I picked up a tight neck this week -- which for me is usually an indicator of stress. But I don’t feel particularly stressed. I can’t identify it.

Some things are pretty obvious, though. I know that I get stressed when:
  • I take a test in school. Even after I graduated from college I was having anxiety dreams about taking a Spanish test in High School. In the dream I'd apparently forgotten that I’d signed up for the class. But I still had to take the final exam.
  • I have to sit in an airplane center seat for more than 10 hours -- in the middle seat. Actually it's more like 1 hour -- but at 10 hours I’m ready to climb the walls
  • I’m in a room with loud music. When we were in Dallas I took a bunch of people to see my friend Glenn Kaiser and his Rez band giving a concert. We were standing -- wall to wall people. We were in the middle of the room when the music began. It quickly dawned on me that I should have brought ear plugs. I rushed out of the concert feeling sick from the noise and vibration.
  • I have to do a lot of detail work to do involving numbers.
  • I’m in a room with cigarette smoke. That really triggers a response.
What are the things which stress you out? Create anxiety?

Psychologists tell us that there are certain common triggers. And they actually assign number values to the experiences. The higher your cumulative number the more stressed out you could be.

Death of a Spouse 100
Divorce 73
Marital separation 65
Detention in jail or other institution 63
Death of a close family member 63
Major personal injury or illness 53
Marriage 50
Being fired at work 47
Marital reconciliation 45
Retirement from work 45
Change in health of a family member 44
Pregnancy 40
Sexual difficulties 39
Gaining a new family member 39
Major business readjustment 39
Adopting a child and having a son graduate from high school in the same week 1,000

Stress can be healthy in that it motivates us to action. But it can also be crippling. And that’s Peter’s concern when writing to the believers in Asia minor (Turkey). Except their stress was related to the push-back they were experiencing because of their faith. In the preceding chapters, Peter goes on and on about how Christ suffered and therefore we should expect to suffer, too.

For example 4:12 --
Dear friends, don’t be surprised about the fiery trials that have come among you to test you. These are not strange happenings. 13 Instead, rejoice as you share Christ’s suffering. You share his suffering now so that you may also have overwhelming joy when his glory is revealed.
Rejoice? I’m happy to cope -- to survive. But Peter suggests that there may actually be some benefit to all this stress.

How is that? He talks about obedience and submission. But really his best word -- his summary is in 5:7 -- and if you master this you will become a mature convinced and convincing follower of Christ Jesus.

“Throw all your anxiety onto him, because he cares about you.” -- 1 Peter 5:7 (CEB)

This is a direct quote of Psalm 55:22 from the Greek translation of the OT called the LXX. The Hebrew is slightly different but this is from the Greek.

The concept is also reflected in Isaiah 53:4-5 --
Yet it was our weaknesses he carried; it was our sorrows that weighed him down. And we thought his troubles were a punishment from God, a punishment for his own sins!
5 But he was pierced for our rebellion, crushed for our sins. He was beaten so we could be whole. He was whipped so we could be healed.
As I was looking at 1 Peter 5:7 this week it brought to mind the role of a donkey again. Working donkeys or mules get the weight thrown on their backs so people don’t have to carry them. Throw all of your worries and cares onto the back of God and let him carry the load. He’s better built for that than you.

So, practical speaking what does this look like?

In my experience there are some steps.

1. Name it
It is helpful to identify the care -- the anxiety that is weighing you down -- perhaps it is your health, your job, or a relationship. Sometimes it's not easy to identify. For example, if my neck continued to bother me I'd go find someone to talk with and have them help me figure out why I'm so stressed -- to help identify the issue.

2. Off load it
We do that by:
A. Praying -- giving it to God.
B. I also find it helpful to picture it in my mind. I'm loading it onto God's shoulders.
C. Enlisting the help of others. We often need others to help us off load it.
D. Humbling ourselves. It’s humbling to admit that you can’t carry it yourself -- that you are dependent.

Vs. 5 --
In the same way, I urge you who are younger: accept the authority of the elders. And everyone, clothe yourselves with humility toward each other. God stands against the proud, but he gives favor to the humble.

Therefore, humble yourselves under God’s power so that he may raise you up in the last day.
The imperative of verse 7 -- “throw all of your anxieties onto him...” is not really a direct imperative in the Greek. It works best in English to translate it as a simple imperative but that’s not what it is in the original.

I’m certainly not a grammar expert but I do think it is worth noting that this is a verbal participle. And I’m sure you’ll want to discuss verbal participles over dinner this afternoon. That would be totally impressive -- ah, probably not. But the point is that the command here is "to humble yourself" (vs 6) -- and how you do so is by "throwing your anxieties onto him" (vs. 7).

3. Move it
Even if you still feel the pressure you start to act in a way consistent with your faith. Remember, biblically speaking faith is less a feeling and more of an action. Feeling isn't bad. It's just a matter of emphasis.

In WWII the Brits had sign that they plastered all over -- “Keep Calm. Carry On.” The German Luftwaffe is dropping bombs on London and the people are panicked so the government starts a PR campaign. "Keep calm. Carry on."

The signs are popular again, I suppose tapping into a certain anxiety about the economy. I saw one at Target last week.

That’s what we’re talking about. Give your care to God and then step forward and assume that he is taking care of it. Act in accordance with your prayers.

A subsistence farmer was worried about his crop because he knew that he didn’t have any margin. If the crop -- which was really more like a garden in our minds -- did not produce his family would starve.

It worried him so much that he’d wake up in the middle of the night in a sweat. And at first light he’d go out to the garden and dig up some of his seeds to see if they were growing. And of course, the more he dug it up the less his garden produced.

Betsy, our youngest was born without fear. As soon as she had learned to walk she figured out how to run and jump into the pool.

I remember once having to make a mad dash across the pool to pull her up from under the waater because she had slipped free and jumped into the water and no one else was close. As I pulled her up out of the water she was giggling. She knew all along that I’d get there. Not a care. Not a worry.

Moving forward is not easy because, Peter says, there’s an accuser trying to sidetrack you. 5:8-9 --
Be clearheaded. Keep alert. Your accuser, the devil, is on the prowl like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith.  
Even when you think you've got him caged he can still get you.

We were at the San Diego Zoo last Monday, with the rest of California, and I saw sign in front of the lion display. "Warning: These big cats can spray 15-20 feet." Humility dictates caution. Your cares and anxieties can still get you if you get too close to them.

4. Enjoy it -- that is, rejoice.

4:13 -- “Instead, rejoice as you share Christ’s suffering.”

If you suffer -- rejoice -- for you are participating in the life of Christ. Suffering is normal for the Christian. Attack is common. Anxieties are normal. Don’t worry about your ability to stand up to it. Remember, you’ve already off-loaded the worry.

But even if your anxiety isn’t of the type that produces persecution, you can rejoice in the fact that God “cares for you...”

British Methodist theologian Adam Clarke wrote that we should cast all of our “distracting cares” on God because “he meddles, or concerns himself with the things that interest” us. I like that idea -- God is a meddler.

The fact is, once we have thrown our cares onto God we have no more reason for worry. (Key Point)

Jesus says it in Matthew 6:25-34 --
Therefore, I say to you, don’t worry about your life, what you’ll eat or what you’ll drink, or about your body, what you’ll wear. Isn’t life more than food and the body more than clothes? 26 Look at the birds in the sky. They don’t sow seed or harvest grain or gather crops into barns. Yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Aren’t you worth much more than they are? 27 Who among you by worrying can add a single moment to your life?28 And why do you worry about clothes? Notice how the lilies in the field grow. They don’t wear themselves out with work, and they don’t spin cloth. 29 But I say to you that even Solomon in all of his splendor wasn’t dressed like one of these. 30 If God dresses grass in the field so beautifully, even though it’s alive today and tomorrow it’s thrown into the furnace, won’t God do much more for you, you people of weak faith? 31Therefore, don’t worry and say, ‘What are we going to eat?’ or ‘What are we going to drink?’ or ‘What are we going to wear?’ 32 Gentiles long for all these things. Your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33 Instead, desire first and foremost God’s kingdom and God’s righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34 Therefore, stop worrying about tomorrow, because tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.
He's not saying you should passively sit back and do nothing with your life but that one way or the other God will provide. So don’t sweat it.

You follow Jesus and as John Ortberg, pastor of Meno Park Presbyterian Church in California, and also a PhD in clinical psychology, puts it,
Jesus was a non-anxious presence. He carried peace with him. He did not say, ‘If you follow me, you will never have problems,’ for Jesus himself faced big problems. He was always getting into trouble and eventually got killed. Peace doesn’t come from finding a lake with no storms. It comes from having Jesus in the boat.
And you may find that the ability to relax in God’s care does not come overnight. It is a trust that is cultivated over time -- that we grow into. Some of us grow into it more quickly than others.

Some of us are actually born worriers. Research suggests that 15-20% of us are born with a propensity toward timidity -- and anxiety. And you know who you are because you’re listening to me talk this morning and your're thinking -- “I’m worried that I worry so much...”

And then, some of us have been using anxiety and worry to validate our own sense of importance. “If I have something to worry over I must be significant in the flow of the universe.” So even when things are going relatively well we actually look for and create troubles over which to worry. In an awkward sense we feel better about ourselves when we’re occupied worrying over something. Sigh.

Philippians 4:4-6 (one of my favorites) says --
Be glad in the Lord always! Again I say, be glad! 5 Let your gentleness show in your treatment of all people. The Lord is near. 6 Don’t be anxious about anything; rather bring up all of your requests to God in your prayers and petitions, along with giving thanks. 7 Then the peace of God that exceeds all understanding will keep your hearts and minds safe in Christ Jesus.
Once we have thrown our cares onto God we have no more reason for worry.

Okay, all of this sounds good in theory. But how do we apply it?

I’m going to give you two brief case studies and I want to hear what you think. Let's talk through these together.

Evan is a pastor in his late 50’s -- a pretty good preacher, an excellent pastor. But he has always served small rural churches. Because they don’t pay much their pension contributions have been small. He just received a print out of his projected pension. If he retires in 15 years, even with social security he will be living way below the poverty level. There is not much chance that a large church with a larger salary would be interested in him because he is too old and he has always served smaller churches. He has woken up twice in the past week feeling anxious over retirement.

What advice would you give to him?

Jeanie has been agonizing over the choices that her 16 year old daughter is making -- clothes, friends, study habits (or lack thereof). She has tried having heart-to-heart talks several times. She has tried laying down the law. But now matter what she does, Ashley figures out a way around it all. It’s an attitude thing. And that’s hard to regulate. So all Jeanie can do is worry -- or so it seems. She woke up at 2 AM this morning with a gut anxiety that Ashley wasn’t home and that she had snuck out in the middle of the night. She stuck her head into the bedroom to check. Ashley was there -- sound asleep. But Jeanie was so worried that she wasn’t doing enough of the right things that she couldn’t go back to sleep.

How would you help her apply 1 Peter 5:7?

No comments: