Common Sense for Extraordinary Times: Making the Most of Now

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Sermon Notes

September 30, 2018
Psalm 124 &James 4:13-17

We talked a few weeks ago about how much we love our kids, distractions and all, in our church. I love doing the children’s time because it gives me a chance not just to explain God’s love, but to connect and hear their perspective on life. It’s amazing to hear how a child views the world and how those views and perspectives change over the years.

But that’s simply a part of how a child changes and develops over time. Even simple things change over time. When I play hide and seek with my granddaughter at seven months, it’s as simple as picking her up so she can’t see my face, I drop it back down and she is startled and then begins to laugh. Owen is not quite two, and his game is much different. He hides by crouching down in a chair and then popping up to look at you. And he is startled when he pops up, looks for you and you have moved. I’ll often wait until he crouches down and moves around until I am behind him and then I speak, and he jumps, totally startled.

Now Sean is six, and it’s a very different game at six. They hide. Oh, they may hide in the exact same place every single time, but they hide. Now, he’ll laugh if I get to close to him. But then I begin to move away and again move behind him. I wait until he peeks out looking for me and then I say something or touch him. Completely startled.

And you’d think that would go away, but it doesn’t. I can’t begin to tell you the amount of times I’ve unintentionally scared my daughter because she will be wrapped up in a phone conversation and not see me or hear me come into the house. I’ve gotten good at ducking phone calls, by the way.

When you look in one direction or focus too much in one direction, one aspect of life, life will sneak up on you. In fact, life has a habit of sneaking up on you. Not paying attention to your surroundings can not only blind you to what is around you but can be dangerous, as well. My Dad told the story of being out hunting alone in the woods and hills of Kentucky looking on the horizon for whatever he was hunting, and stepping on and being bitten by a copperhead snake. And walking back some 12 to 15 miles to get help. You know, when your father has a story like that, it really dampers your ability to complain about anything.

At least, I thought my father told me that story to toughen me up. As I got older, I began to see how he was trying to teach me a lesson. You’ve got to look where you are going, you have to look at where you are stepping. You can’t be too focused on what’s coming up next, because life has a way of sneaking up on you and startling you or biting you just at the moment when you least expect it.

But, of course, that’s the problem, isn’t it? We as human beings can’t help but look beyond, can’t help but look to the horizon. We’re not all that much different than the child who plays hide and seek and has someone sneak up on them. We always want to know what’s coming, and we miss what is around us.

But that is the unique part of who we are as humans. It’s a part of the God nature berthed into us. We can think about and contemplate the future. No other animal does this. Animals can learn from experiences and react to them. But only humans have the ability to think about what might happen, think about all of their different options, about what might happen in all sorts of scenarios. We are planners by nature.

Now, that ability to plan can keep us out of a lot of problems. We can avoid a lot of situations by thinking about them and how we might handle them. If I do this now, it might cause problems for someone else, so I have to weigh that and figure out how I might deal with that situation.

And that’s great. But the dark side to that is that our ability to think about our future, to look ahead can also cause us a great deal of anxiety. Worry about what might happen, worry about all of the bad things that might happen in our lives. Those moments when you wake up at three in the morning and for no reason began to think about the day that’s coming, and you feel your mind whisper two of the most frightening words you’ll ever hear “What if.” Ever play that game, What If. What if this mole on the back of my neck isn’t a mole. What If mom falls and there is no one to help her. What if my child doesn’t get into a good college. What if they do, and we can’t find a way to pay for it. What if he leaves me. What if I never find someone to spend my life with. What if we never have children. What if I lose my job? What if I fail, What if I succeed.

My goodness, when you think about all the what-ifs that burrow into our brain, really think about awful scenarios that might happen, it’s a wonder all of us aren’t just walking mannequins of anxiety. And I’m not so sure we aren’t. Anxiety can paralyze us, steal our joy, lead us into some dark places, hurt our relationships, keep us from stepping out, keeps us from finding our full optimal. Anxiety may keep us from failing, which isn’t always a good thing, but it certainly keeps us from succeeding in life. Anxiety binds us, drags us down into the pit of despair.

And it’s into that place that James speaks a word of Good News and hope in our Scripture today. We’ve called this series Common Sense in Extraordinary Times. James speaks some life-giving words of sanity into our anxious times. So I hope if you’ve been dealing with worry and anxiety as you look at the horizon of your life, that you will read and re-read what James says here.

First, let me say this. If you are dealing with anxiety, that life-paralyzing fear and despair, please make sure you are talking to your medical professionals. God will and can heal you. But understand that one of the ways we find healing is through the hands and skills of those in the medical profession. There is no shame in admitting we need help and our anxiety is overwhelming.

One of the things that James says here is that anxiety can blind us to what is around us. Just like looking at the horizon, looking in a what might happen can allow life to sneak up on us, so it is with anxiety. Anxiety, spending so much time worrying about tomorrow, can blind us to the blessings of today. We can be so worried about our child’s future that we never enjoy them today. We can get so caught up in what might happen that we don’t see the good things we have in one another right now. We can be so worried about our spouses or what might happen that we become blind to the good things about one another God is blessing us with right now.

One of the best ways to counteract our anxiety, our what-ifs is to concentrate on the nows. When you get caught up worrying about the what ifs, take a few moments and look for what you are being blessed with right now. You’ll find as you begin to see the blessings around you that much of the worries about the what ifs will begin to dissipate. Try praying this prayer, “God, please keep me from being so caught up in what might happen tomorrow that I miss what you give me today”. One of the reasons we do something as simple as saying grace before a meal is not only to give God thanks but to settle ourselves and realize even in the anxious times of life, God still blesses us.

James says ‘remember your place’. Psalms and proverbs remind us, wisdom begins with realizing God is God, and we are not. James says it’s arrogance to believe that we can control what happens tomorrow. And that if we could control it, we would always make good decisions. James says isn’t it better to know that you don’t have to deal with the what ifs? That the goodness of life doesn’t dependent you? Isn’t it a blessing to be able to say God you are God and you have my horizon. You have the what ifs. And I trust even when things may not go the way I think they will, You have Your hand on my life.

God has His hand on your life. Give it to Him, turn the what-ifs over to Him. Open your eyes to the blessings of God, and let go of the things you can’t control. Experience His peace and be blessed.