What’s America’s favorite pastime? If I ask you that question, we might argue. I’d tell you it most certainly is baseball; you might say it’s football, or more specifically, Pittsburgh Steelers football. I’d tell you that’s incorrect; the Steelers might be Pennsylvania’s favorite pastime, but not America’s – but you wouldn’t have to believe me.
You didn’t come here today to hear a discourse on baseball and football. But you did come to hear a sermon dealing with mankind’s favorite pastime. It isn’t sports – it’s not baseball or football. It isn’t politics – though the election commercials are starting up again. It isn’t food or travel or camping or whatever you might suggest. Mankind’s favorite pastime is none of these. I’m convinced it is worry.
Today we hear part of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. This sermon is all about sanctification. It’s about how to live the Christian life. It’s about how we should live, yes, how we want to live, as God’s dear children. He talks about things like murder and marriage, about hearing His Word, prayer, and preparing for the life to come. He wants us to see that the Christian life reflects what we believe. If you trust in Jesus, you will want to show that trust by how you live your life.
Last week we talked about thanksgiving. Christ Jesus has done absolutely everything you need to get you into heaven. He’s lifted you up out of death and hell to take you up to heaven. So we want to give thanks for that. We want to show that faith in our life. We show it through how we act towards others. God might give us opportunities to reflect the mercy He has shown us in how we help others. We show it in how we live each day: we make time to spend with Him in His Word and in prayer so we may hear from Him and hand over to Him all our wants and needs. We show it in how we use what He has given us: we give our time, our talents, our treasures, for the work of His kingdom, for taking care of this place or for the spread of the Gospel, whether in Pittsburgh or Lebanon County or Philadelphia or the Dominican Republic or Sri Lanka or anywhere in this world. Our lives ought to be a whole doxology to God on high for what He has done for us.
That brings us to worry. What’s the problem with worry? It’s so close to concern. They’re cousins really. You are concerned about things because you care about them. You are concerned about your parents or your children, about your home or your country. God has given all these things to you to care for. He wants you to take interest in them, to care for them, to work to improve all things. This is good and pleasing in His sight.
What’s the difference between concern and worry? We practically use those two words as synonyms. Worry takes control of us. It becomes something that consumes us and takes over our thoughts. The worst part of it is this: it shows a lack of trust in God. It says, “I don’t trust God to take care of this.”
That’s worry. Everybody does it. Nobody has never had a worrying thought. From the youngest to the oldest among us, we all have worries. The children worry about their classmates liking them. The grown-ups worry about having enough money or other stuff. Those in between worry about getting somebody to love them. Everybody worries. And no matter how old or young you are, it’s a sin. It’s saying “I don’t trust God like I should.”
Why is that? It’s so normal and natural. How can it be a lack of trust in God? It’s forgetting He’s in control, He works all things out for our good. We can illustrate that in a simple way. The pastor who confirmed me would have a kid come up front of the classroom and tell him to fall back into his arms. He was going to catch him, but the kid wouldn’t want to fall back. He was afraid. He didn’t trust his head wasn’t gonna hit the floor.
Worrying is a lot like that. It’s not trusting God is in control. It’s not believing He’s gonna catch us. It’s being afraid He isn’t going to be there for us when we need Him most. That’s what the devil wants from us. He doesn’t want us to trust God with all our strength. He wants us to be afraid God’s gonna let us down, is gonna rip the carpet out from under us, isn’t gonna pay attention to what’s happening in our lives, isn’t gonna keep His promises. And then we worry and don’t trust God. He got Adam and Eve to think God was holding out on them when He told them not to eat the fruit. They worried God was out to get them. They ate the forbidden fruit and died. They worried and they fell.
We’ve been worrying ever since, worrying ourselves straight into hell. So God decided to put a stop to that worrying. He decided to show us we can trust Him 100%. That’s what He did when Jesus died and rose. He’d been promising this ever since Adam sinned. Jesus showed God cares for us 100%, He loves us, He keeps all His promises. What does He promise? He promises because Jesus died and rose, all our sins of worry are forgiven. He wants to take hold of us with those crucified hands when we worry, not to harm us, but to comfort us, to tell us He loves us, He’s in control, He’s taking care of us, He’s got it covered. Since He died and rose for us, there’s nothing He can’t do for us. He really is in control. Evil is defeated.
So you can trust Him. He’s never going to break a promise to you. No, He’s going to always bend down His ear to you to hear you, because He knows you are poor and needy and that makes Him want to help you. He is going to save you and have mercy on you. He wants you to call to Him every day for His mercy and salvation, because He wants to give it to you. He wants to cleanse and defend you, preserve you and help you and be good to you. Men, princes, may fail and let us down. He will never. It is better to trust in Him than anything else because He is completely trustworthy. No sinner is. We are unable to keep all our promises, no matter how hard we try. He has never broken one, and He’s not going to start now. He does not promise to give you whatever you want whenever you want it. He promises something far better for you even when we have a hard time believing it’s better: He promises you eternal salvation for Jesus’ sake, and He will deliver it.
How should you respond? Trust Him. Ask Him for His aid so you won’t worry. Ask Him for His forgiveness when you recognize you are worrying. Go to the places where He provides comfort: His holy Word and Sacrament. There His Holy Spirit, the Comforter, will comfort you and give you His aid so you will trust Him. And don’t get frustrated or afraid of Him if you find yourself worrying again. Continue to go to Him for His aid and His forgiveness. He loves you too much not to give it again. So “For His aid and counsel ask.” He will always provide all you need both for your spiritual life and your physical life. He has never let us down, and He never will. Our sanctification is always a work in progress. It is never perfect. Our trust is never perfect. But His salvation, His Death and Resurrection, are perfect, and they are what save. That’s how we can serve Him all our days, knowing He will hear us and defend us.