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Worship Message - Handling Danger"

Handling Danger

I came across an article recently about dangerous things in everyday life. That led me to look online for some more examples. Here is some of what I found in the article and online.

Did you know that shopping carts cause 27,600 injuries a year in the United States?

Did you know dishwashers harm over 7,000 Americans and 1,300 Brits each year?

Toothpicks are a serious choking hazard. They cause about 9,000 injuries per year.

Did you know some butterflies like to forgo nectar and instead like to suck blood?

Statistics for a recent year show that more fast food employees were murdered that year while working than police officers. Even now, four to five fast food employees are killed on the job every month.

Like to take the stairs to get some exercise? Each year, an average of 12,000 people are killed on stairs.

Elevators? While safer than stairs, elevators cause an average of 27 deaths each year.

It’s cold in Russia. Icicles kill 100 people every year.

Think it’s safer to stay home and watch TV? Watching TV every day for more than two hours shortens your life span by nearly 1.5 years.

Golf clubs have reportedly killed people after being tossed or breaking or springing back, sometimes stabbing golfers in the heart.

If you sneeze too hard, you can break a rib, but do not try to hold a sneeze in. Doing that can pop a blood vessel in your head.

Back to nature, because of this list, we now know to stay away from blood-sucking butterflies. So how about taking time to watch a swan? But remember, swans can get pretty violent when they feel threatened. Among other things, swans have capsized boats and killed dogs.

Life surely is not safe, is it? Including from the dangers just listed. So how are we going to handle the dangers? That is the important question in today’s message.

Let me be quick to point out my opinion that it is OK to be careful. I do not know that the Lord expects us to take foolish risks. However, neither does He expect us to avoid using shopping carts, dishwashers, toothpicks, stairs, and elevators. He does not expect us to avoid working at fast food restaurants or sneezing or playing golf. He does not want us to avoid butterflies, swans, or icicles. He just wants us to know that through all the dangers of life, we can rely on and trust in Him to see us through.

How do we know that? How can we accomplish that? Today, let’s consider four Bible passages, the first being a single verse in the Old Testament. Verse 25 of Proverbs 12. A verse that warns us about the danger of worry.

Proverbs 12:25 begins, “Anxiety in a man’s heart weighs him down.”

Let’s understand the word “anxiety.” Again, it is my opinion it is OK to be concerned about things in life. But anxiety is more than concern. The word means worry and nervousness and unease. Extreme levels of each. So much of those feelings they take over your thoughts and your emotions, sometimes to the point of having stomach issues and finding it difficult to sleep.

There is a translation that uses the word “heaviness” in the heart of a man. That indicates at least a feeling of being depressed by the things of life. The problems and fears of life causing a stooping, at least in spirit.

Does that explain it well? Being overly concerned about the things of life weigh down a person, which can cause unhappiness and finding it difficult to rely on God for the help He has available. That is a warning of the danger of worry.

However, verse 25 continues. Anxiety in a man’s heart weighs him down, but listen to the rest of the verse. “A good word makes him glad.” A good word from God, including some of the other verses we will consider in this message. Maybe a good word from a friend. A word of encouragement.

Worry is dangerous. Therefore, we should avoid it. But how, what with all the shopping carts and butterflies and fast food restaurants around? And don’t forget those dangerous swans. How can worry be avoided?

One answer is to be reminded of God’s care. A reminder found, for instance, in the 12th chapter of Luke, beginning with verse 22.

In this passage, Jesus is in a conversation with His disciples. In verse 22 Jesus said, “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life.” As mentioned, that same teaching is found in the Old Testament, too, so what Jesus said should not have been a surprise to the disciples. But He went beyond the things mentioned at the start of this message. The somewhat silly things. He said, “Do not be anxious, even about what you shall eat, nor about your body, what you shall put on.“

I am thankful we do not have to worry about what to eat or what to wear. At least most of us in this nation do not have to worry about either of those things. But do not worry about food and clothing.

Why? Jesus said, “For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing.”

Jesus of course was referring to the importance of spiritual things. And yes, food and clothing are important. They are critical. So are things like proper housing. But the point is not to have anxiety about such things. Instead, rely on God to help you with each one.

An example? Jesus added, “Consider the ravens. They neither sow nor reap. They have neither storehouses nor barns. Yet God feeds them. Of how much more value are you than the birds?” In other words, if God takes care of birds, should He not be trusted to help the human part of His creation?

And, Jesus asked, “Which of you by being anxious can add a cubit to his span of life?” Remember the point earlier that worry is dangerous. Here Jesus reminds us worry is also pointless because it cannot add anything to life. In fact, worry can actually reduce the span of life. It can at least reduce the enjoyment of life.

Jesus continued, “If then you are not able to do as small a thing as adding to your life by worrying, why are you anxious about the rest?”

Jesus added, “Consider the lilies, how they grow. They neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. If God so clothes the grass which is alive in the field today and tomorrow is thrown into the oven…”

Back in Jesus’ day, grass and some flowers of the fields were used for fuel in ovens. Grass and flowers that one day were alive and rich in beauty, died and were good for nothing but fuel. If God is so ready to help the grass look good, knowing it will soon be gone, “how much more will He clothe you and me?”

That is what Jesus asked right before He said to His disciples, “O men of little faith.”

Ouch. Which I say because I might also fall into that category, at least at times. I am preaching to myself here. If you get some benefit from it, great.

And yes, I am certainly confident in God’s care now. I do not want for anything. But what if? What if? What if this happens or that happens in the future? Will I be taken care of in the future? I will admit to having that flash through my mind sometimes.

Lord, please help me - help us - to rely on You for the things we need. Only then can we obey the last part of today’s second passage, which is this. Jesus said, “Do not seek what you are to eat and what you are to drink, nor be of anxious mind, for all the nations of the world seek these things.” We do not want to be like those who do not believe, do we? Jesus hopes not. He added, “Your Father knows that you need food and clothing.” So instead of seeking those things, seek God’s kingdom. Make spiritual things your top priority. “Do that, and these things [the things needed in life] shall be yours as well.”

Worry is dangerous to our health. Worry is pointless. How do we avoid worry? We seek the things of God. We rely on Him for what we need. Yes, even when facing dangerous toothpicks, stairs, elevators, and sneezes.

But how do we develop a habit of seeking God and relying on Him? One way is described in Philippians 4, verses 4 and 6.

Verse 4. “Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice.”

Philippians, as we know, was written by the apostle Paul. What he wrote in this passage is truly amazing because of all he endured at this time and throughout his ministry. He was threatened. He was shouted down. He was arrested and beaten.

Of course, Paul also had some very wonderful successes in his ministry, and he was confident he was doing God’s work. Those things kept him encouraged.

But the downsides of his ministry were frequent and severe, which certainly could have led to anxiety. But no. As he wrote in verse 6, “Have no anxiety about anything.” He himself accomplished that.

How? By rejoicing and, as the passage continues, by praying “about everything.”

Before we consider what Paul wrote about praying, consider two very important words. “Always.” Rejoice in the Lord always. “Anything.” Have no anxiety about anything.

“Always” means always. “Anything” means anything. As in, no matter the circumstances.

As just mentioned, Paul had some great successes. It must have been easy for him to rejoice at those times. But he also rejoiced during the difficult times of arrests and beatings and threats and being shouted down. He rejoiced even at those times because he knew he was doing the will of God in telling others about Jesus.

Do we have problems? Yes. But as long as we are in tune with God, we, too, can rejoice always. That is what we need to work at doing so we can avoid worry or anxiety about anything.

Again, I am preaching to myself here. I need to work at not being anxious about anything. I need to work - maybe you do, too, but I need to work - at another important word. “Everything.” Pray about everything. Good things and unpleasant things. Things that happen on good days and things that happen on bad days. “In everything, by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God.”

How can I - how can you and we - avoid anxiety about anything. We can take everything to God. I read this, which we may have heard before. “There is nothing too great for God’s power and nothing too small for His fatherly care.”

We can take - we are to take - everything to God. By prayer. As we talk with God, which we are to do regularly, we can make our requests, at least in passing. At least in general terms. And by supplication. That refers to specific prayers about our needs.

Isn’t that a nice thought? God is God. He is all-powerful, all-knowing, present everywhere. Yet He still wants us to talk with Him and share our needs with Him. What a wonderful thought. What a privilege He gives us.

And did we hear the word thanksgiving.” In everything, by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God, with thanksgiving.

Do we do that? Do we remember to thank God for His answers to our prayers and supplications? When He provides food and clothing, do we thank Him? When He protects us from golf clubs and dishwashers and swans in attack mode, do we thank Him?

Being thankful is so important as it reminds us of God’s past and present help, which should add to our confidence in His future help so we can avoid worrying about the things of life.

And then, I Peter 5, verses 7 through 9, which brings us back around to the article alluded to at the beginning of the message. The article about some of the silly things to think about as dangers. A point in the article is about a culture of fear being opposite what God wants for us as Christians.

I Peter 5, starting with verse 7. “Cast all your anxieties on God.” There is that instruction again. The word “all” means anything and everything you might worry about anytime. “Cast all your anxieties on God.”

Why? “For He cares about you.” And remember a point we talked about earlier. If God shows His care for ravens and lilies and grass by taking care of them, surely He can be relied upon to take care of us.

Cast all your anxieties on God. Then, be “sober,” which means to seriously rely on God. Keep learning about Him to build that reliance. Use past and current help to build confidence in His future help. Be sober.

And be “watchful” because “your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.”

I remember reading that a lion never roars when it is attacking. It roars ahead of time, trying to scare its prey, slow its prey, freeze its prey, making it easier to attack. The point is that if you hear a lion roar, it is not necessary at that time to be afraid, as long as you do what you can to resist the lion.

That fits today’s point very well. If we allow fear of sneezing and icicles and tooth picks or anything else, including the serious needs of life, to overwhelm us, the work of the devil is at least half done. Anxiety will make it easier for the devil to go in for the kill.

The devil, with worry, is like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. We are all at risk. So - verse 9 - “resist him.” Do that by staying “firm in your faith.”  By staying firm in your resolve to rely on Him for everything.

Verse 9 ends with this thought. “Know that the same experience of suffering you face is also being faced by other Christians around the world.” That should bring the comfort that at least we are not alone in what we face. But again, the call is to stay firm in our faith.

T0 review, worrying is not good for us. It is not a healthy thing for us to do. Worrying does not add anything to life and is therefore of no good to us. So we are to seek God first, the promise being that when we do that, everything we need, God will provide.

We seek God by rejoicing, praying, supplicating, and giving thanks. As we do all that to cast our anxieties on God, we are resisting the devil. What a call to stay firm in our faith, even with all the dangers - silly dangers and serious dangers - we have around us.

Today’s closing song is the chorus Seek Ye First.

Seek ye first the kingdom of God

And His righteousness,

And all these things shall be added unto you.

Allelu, alleluia.

Man shall not live by bread alone,

But by every word

That proceeds from the mouth of God.

Allelu, alleluia.

Ask, and it shall be given unto you.

Seek, and ye shall find.

Knock, and the door shall be opened unto you.

Allelu, alleluia.

Seek ye first the kingdom of God

And His righteousness,

And all these things shall be added unto you.

Allelu, alleluia.

Lord, thank You for the warning that worrying is dangerous. Thank You for the reminder that anxiety is pointless. Thank You for Your teachings about how to avoid worry and anxiety. Help us to rejoice, to pray, to be thankful. Help us to stay true to our faith as we grow in relying on You. Thank You. Amen.

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