September 13, 2015
Pastor Jeff Struecker
The giant picture of the world on the screen is becoming bigger and bigger because as we study through the book of Ecclesiastes our worldview is getting bigger. Ecclesiastes is actually a book about worldview. We started more than four months ago a Wednesday night study that goes along with this sermon series. Pastor Alan Smith has been teaching about worldview. You can find every one of those teaching sessions online at the church’s YouTube page. There is a playlist for our worldview study. We also created a separate website worldview.calvaryministries.com where every one of these studies that Pastor Alan Smith has been teaching is available. We would like everybody in this church to go through that study.
We’re systematically studying through the book of Ecclesiastes. Today we’re in Ecclesiastes chapter 11. I’m going to start off with a case study. I got this information from one of the medical doctors in our church. I’m not a medical doctor. I really don’t even know what I’m talking about but Dr. Gary Tocci, who is an ER doctor, gave me this example. I want you try to do some medical diagnosis with me. Some of you healthcare professionals, doctors and nurses in this room are already going to know the answer but don’t spoil it by saying the answer out loud. I want everybody in the church to see if you can figure out what’s wrong with this guy. A 54-year-old male walks into the emergency room and complains of this on and off chest pain that he has. He tells Dr. Gary Tocci that just recently he’s lost his job and had a pretty animated conversation with his former boss. Now he’s got this pain that’s substernal and it’s radiating up and down his neck and arm. Dr. Tocci tries to rule out a few things. The first thing that he wants to rule out is ACS (Acute Coronary Syndrome). It could also be Myocardial Infarction. So Dr. Tocci sends this guy to go get an EKG he sends them to do a stress test to see if it’s one of these very serious medical conditions.
Several weeks later the same guy comes back into the ER and he’s got a whole different set of problems. Dr. Tocci asked what his family practice doctor said about his earlier test results. The guy says his doctor referred him to a gastroenterologist who said he had some pretty severe ulcers. Now the guy is showing up with a totally and completely different set of problems. Dr. Tocci says he’s suffering from worry. This guy is literally killing himself with worry. Dr. Tocci says worry can show up in a myriad of ways. The stress of life can show up in many ways physically. He said it can become headaches, ulcers, and incontinence. In the most severe cases it shows up as chest pain. You may think that you’re having a heart attack that’s how severe worry can affect your life.
Today we’re going to be honest with each other. I want you to be honest with Jesus for just a few moments about worry. Chapter 11 of Ecclesiastes is a study in worry. It asks you who is in control and who’s calling the shots in your life. Is it you or is it Jesus? The first thing that I want you to see is don’t worry about the future.
I. Don’t worry about your future
I’m not a betting man but if I were a betting man I would bet that all of us in this room from time to time struggle with this issue. All of us deal with worry. If I were a betting man, I would also say for a few of you in this room it’s not an issue it’s a crisis. This is every day, all day long, where you live and you are destroying yourself on the inside because of the stress of worrying. I want you to hear from Ecclesiastes today how you can finally put worry back where it belongs.
1 Send your grain across the seas, and in time, profits will flow back to you. 2 But divide your investments among many places, for you do not know what risks might lie ahead. 3 When clouds are heavy, the rains come down. Whether a tree falls north or south, it stays where it falls. 4 Farmers who wait for perfect weather never plant. If they watch every cloud, they never harvest.
This is where some of us in this room are from time to time. For a few of us in this room, this is where you live every day all day long. We’re building up towards the climax of the book of Ecclesiastes. Last week chapter 10 described what it looked like to live a wise life. Today Chapter 11 tells us what living a wise life looks like in an uncertain world. We live among a bunch of uncertainty. Solomon is essentially reminding us that our lot in life comes from Jesus. We can fight and struggle to control our circumstances all we want but ultimately it’s Jesus that’s in control not us. The more that you struggle to control it the more painful or the more difficult your life is going to be.
Solomon starts off this discussion about worry today with a financial term. Your translation may say send your bread across the waters. Back in Solomon’s day if you were a baker and you wanted to take a huge financial risk you could make your bread, put it on a boat, and ship it across the waters. You had a better return on your investment to make more money by sending it across the waters but you were also taking a risk by doing it. What happens when the bread gets wet and nobody wants to eat it? He starts with bakers and ends with farmers. Any farmer on the planet, if he could, would control the weather but you can’t. If you let it, just worrying about the weather can drive you crazy. It can actually paralyze you to the point that you never plant and because you never plant you have nothing to harvest.
Essentially what Solomon is saying to us is nothing ventured nothing gained. Take the risk! Don’t foolishly take risks but take the risk. Nothing ventured nothing gained. Don’t let worry drive you to the point that it kills you. Here’s how this disturbing, destructive trend begins. You start thinking about all the ‘what ifs’. When people start asking me 50 million ‘what if’s’ I usually ask, “What if that doesn’t happen?” I can play the game too. It starts with the what-ifs which is a kind of insecurity. It moves from insecurity to worry. Then typically it doesn’t end with worry. It usually goes from worry to anxiety which will bring a guy into the emergency room of a hospital. Anxiety, if you’re not careful, will lead to depression. Listen to me. Worry is the first step or one of the steps towards self inflicted depression. Why would you do this to yourself is what Solomon is saying. If you’re one of those, there is this awesome little book written more than 100 years by E.L. House called The Psychology of Orthodoxy. Listen to how he describes worry, “Worry is like a hamster on a wheel running after food. It goes round and round but the hamster never gets the food. It wears your life out in the process.” If you let it that’s what worry is like. It goes around and around and around and nothing good comes out of it.
If your wondering what the difference between concerned about something and actually crossing over into worry, let me give you this illustration. June Hunt in her book Worry the Joy Stealer said it’s like taking your son to the lake but your son can’t swim. If you’re a worrier what you’re going to think I’m never going to let my son get near the water because he can’t swim. I’m afraid that if he falls in he’ll drown. That’s what a worrier does. June Hunt says the same can also be said of the lady who’s just simply concerned about her son. She thinks since her son can’t swim that before she takes him to the lake she’ll have him do swim lessons. Now, which of the two would you rather be when you’re a mom at the lake with a son who can’t swim? The mom who was simply concerned and she took him to get swim lessons? Or, would you rather be the mom who is consumed with worry? Which would you rather be? Which would be more peaceful? There is a huge difference between worry and concern. When you cross over to worry you’re hurting yourself. Worry only incapacitates you. Worry is a soul level problem and soul level problems can only be fixed with soul level solutions. If the soul level battle that can only be won with soul level weapons. It ultimately is an issue of disbelief, you don’t really believe that God can control your circumstances. Or it’s an issue of disobedience, you’re going to take control away from God and try to control things yourself.
Also in his book E.L. House says. “Worry can be cured. You can’t do it with the will. It has to be replaced with something.” That’s something else is faith. You cure a soul level issue with soul level solutions. Faith is the antidote to the fear that goes along with worry and this soul level struggle for control. Control is an external thing. Even if you were able to get control it wouldn’t fix the anxiety in the soul. Peace fixes the anxiety in the soul and Jesus alone offers you peace but you have to be willing to give up control to get it. How bad do you want peace instead of worry? Do you want it bad enough to give up some control to get it? Would you be willing to give up some control to King Jesus, who is really supposed to be calling the shots? Or, do you want to hang on to the control, knowing that by hanging onto it you also hold onto the worry?
II. Let Jesus shape your future
The first thing that Solomon said to us today is don’t worry about your future. The second thing that he is saying to us is let Jesus be the one who worries about your future. Let Jesus shape your future. Just Do Something is a book written by James De Young. He says, “Worry about the future is not simply a characteristic tic, it is the sin of unbelief, an indication that our hearts are not resting in the promises of God.”
5 Just as you cannot understand the path of the wind or the mystery of a tiny baby growing in its mother’s womb, so you cannot understand the activity of God, who does all things. 6 Plant your seed in the morning and keep busy all afternoon, for you don’t know if profit will come from one activity or another—or maybe both.
There’s just a lot of stuff that we don’t know. We can’t understand how to change the weather. We can do our best to try to predict the weather but we can’t understand how to change it. We can’t even understand when human life begins in the womb. We have some tools that can measure when life has already started but God alone knows when he plants the eternal soul into a baby as he knits that baby together in its mother’s womb. Only God knows when that happens. Since we don’t know much about the future, why would we hang on to control? Why would we try to struggle to control our own circumstances? Why would we try to struggle to control the future? Solomon is saying don’t let what you don’t know hold you back in life. Be bold! Enjoy life! Solomon is saying what Lecrae, a Christian rap artist, said go hard or go home. Enjoy life and be bold about it. Don’t let what you don’t know hold you back. One of the greatest things that can hold you back if you let it is the ‘what ifs’. What if this happens to me? What if that happens to my family? Jesus has something to say about this in Luke chapter 12. Jesus says worry is an issue of perspective. Who do you have your focus on right now? You or is your focus on him?
22 Then, turning to his disciples, Jesus said, “That is why I tell you not to worry about everyday life—whether you have enough food to eat or enough clothes to wear. 23 For life is more than food, and your body more than clothing. 24 Look at the ravens. They don’t plant or harvest or store food in barns, for God feeds them. And you are far more valuable to him than any birds! 25 Can all your worries add a single moment to your life? 26 And if worry can’t accomplish a little thing like that, what’s the use of worrying over bigger things? 27 Look at the lilies and how they grow. They don’t work or make their clothing, yet Solomon in all his glory was not dressed as beautifully as they are. 28 And if God cares so wonderfully for flowers that are here today and thrown into the fire tomorrow, he will certainly care for you. Why do you have so little faith?”
Worry according to Jesus is an issue of perspective and of faith. Are you trusting in you? Or, are you trusting in him? In the New Testament the word worry is a compound word. Half of the word means divided and the other half of the word means mind. Literally the word worry that Jesus used is to have a divided mind, to no longer have a focused perspective, to have a mind that is being pulled in two different directions. John Edmund Haggai, in his book How To Win Over Worry, says “To worry is to divide your mind between that which is useful and healthy and that which is uncontrollable and destructive.” On the other hand, why would you allow worry to hurt you on the inside? Worry only hurts. It never ever helps the situation. Worry hurts the worrier.
This past Monday a brand new study was released by Harvard and Stanford University. They learned one of the most destructive things in the workplace in America, even more physically damaging to you than secondhand smoke, is worry. These researchers from Stanford and Harvard said that 120,000 people a year in the United States alone die because of the physical effects of worry. They said that worry has more health consequences to you at work then somebody who’s a smoker in the cubicle next to you. The number one thing this research said that people worry about at work is losing their job. They said you are 50% more likely to die of a health-related problem if you worry about that, then the guy or the gal at work who doesn’t worry about it and is able to trust their circumstances to Jesus. Solomon is saying take the risk but don’t take foolish risks, do your homework, then live life and trust control in Jesus’ hands. Which brings us to number three, live life to the fullest.
III. Live to the fullest
If you’re that chronic worrier and you’re wondering how to live life to the fullest when you struggle with this every minute of every day, let me give you the answer to that. James McDonald wrote an Internet article in 2010 called I Choose To Trust. McDonald said, “Trust is the antidote to anxiety; it’s the resolution of worry and the destruction of fear.” James McDonald says, “I choose to trust instead of worrying and being anxious all the time.” Solomon comes back to worry in Chapter 11.
7 Light is sweet; how pleasant to see a new day dawning. 8 When people live to be very old, let them rejoice in every day of life. But let them also remember there will be many dark days. Everything still to come is meaningless. 9 Young people, it’s wonderful to be young! Enjoy every minute of it. Do everything you want to do; take it all in. But remember that you must give an account to God for everything you do. 10 So refuse to worry, and keep your body healthy. But remember that youth, with a whole life before you, is meaningless.
Solomon is basically saying go and enjoy life but don’t be stupid and make mistakes that you’re going to regret for the rest of your life. Life is awesome when you’re young. Then you’re going to get a job and a mortgage and you figure out that life is just a lot of hard work. Life often doesn’t seem fun at all. It just seems miserable. Anybody who’s been around the block for a while in this church will be able to tell you that. They’ll tell you there will be some good days and there can be some bad days. You take whatever you get from the Lord. It’s just part of the circumstances of life. There are some bright days and there are some dark days. Three thousand years ago this man, one of the wisest men whoever lived, said if you let it worry will kill you. Don’t let it kill you.
This is a heart level. It’s a soul level issue that can only be fought with soul level weapons. If you simply want to get to the point where you’re not worried but you don’t remember a day of your life where you haven’t been consumed by the fear of the unknown or by the stress of the uncertainty, I want to give you some practical steps. These are not original to me but they are some things that I want you to just work through with me. I want you to repeat these three words after me ‘worry is worthless’. Every time you feel yourself start to develop this sense of anxiety about the unknown, something that seems to be out of your control, I want you to remind yourself of these three words. Worry is worthless. There’s nothing good that could come out of the worry. Let me give you a few steps on how to try to conquer this thing we call worry.
- Ask the right question:Who’s in charge? Who is in control of this? Am I or is Jesus?
a. Others Who’s in control of others?
b. Circumstances Do you control your circumstances? No. Try as hard as you might you can’t control whether a tree falls to the north or the south, you don’t control the weather, and you don’t control your circumstances. Okay you don’t control others and you don’t control circumstances, so what do you have control over?
c. Yourself You have control over yourself and that’s all you have control over. When others are going crazy around you, you don’t have control over that but you have control over how you respond to it. When your circumstances are out of control you don’t have any influence over that but you do have influence over how you respond to it. So the only thing you can concern yourself with is what you actually control, it’s you and not others.
- Determine to only dwell on what you can control. You can’t control others and you can’t control circumstances but you can control you.
- Repent of playing God. Repent of the sin of playing God. Worry is simply saying, “God, I don’t trust you with my circumstances so I’m going to take those circumstances back myself. I’m going to handle it.” Then you destroy yourself on the inside. You give your peace up. You give your freedom up. You give your ability to enjoy life up because you’re too busy playing the role of God something that you’re not qualified to do. It’s a sin! You’re traking control from him. It’s ultimately the sin of disbelief or disobedience. Like every other sin, you owe it to God to say, “God, I’m wrong and I’m handing control over to you.”
- Trust the rest in Jesus’ hands Even for some of you in this room, you need him to control you and how you respond to your circumstances.
- For a few of you – Counseling/accountability Some of you need someone to hold you accountable in this area. They will hold you accountable for the sin of disbelief. Some of you in this room may need professional help in this area. That’s why we have a counseling center. We have very competent counselors that can help you with the sin of disbelief and with the struggle against worry. So why would you continue to live like this for the rest of your life?
When doubts filled my mind, your comfort gave me renewed hope and cheer.
The challenge for us today is to put control back in the hands of Jesus, to stop killing ourselves with worry, and to start to live the life of joy and peace that Jesus intends for us to live.
- Today, for the first time, I pray to Jesus to be the Lord of my life.
- I have allowed worry to crowd out my joy. Pray for me to live worry free today.
- Have you started to live wisely this week? If so, what are you doing differently?
- What’s the biggest risk you’re ever taken in your life? Why did you take it? How did it work out?
- What is the difference between a wise risk and a foolish risk?
- What do you miss about your youth? What do you not miss about your youth?
- Does it make sense to worry about the unknown? Explain your answer.
- What causes you the biggest concern right now? How can the group pray for you about this?