Let’s talk about how to stop worrying about the future and enjoy life. What exactly is worry, anyway? Worry is when we lose sight of the present and focus on things in the future that we can’t control. We become obsessed with what is going to happen and forget much of what has already happened, or what is happening now. We lose sight of the good parts of our present lives and become overly concerned about what might happen, when we actually have no idea what the future holds. We start to:
- Become more self-absorbed than usual
- Become less sensitive to others
- Become less effective at our work
- Have a hard time concentrating or making good decisions
- Develop physical problems like headaches or backaches
- Develop difficulty getting a good night’s sleep
How to Stop Worrying About Everything
So should we really be worried? Well, some of us actually should be worried, but since we don’t know the future, we aren’t. And some of us are worried because we think we know the future, but we don’t. So – since none of us knows the future, we can’t accomplish anything by worrying. We all want to know how to stop worrying and start living, so first let’s look at what worrying can do to us:
- Causes us to miss the good stuff that’s happening now
- Crowds out memories of the good stuff that has already happened
- Blinds us to the good stuff that is likely to happen in the future
Therefore it follows that we should not worry. And it’s easy to say, “just don’t be worried,” but can be much more difficult to put into practice. One real-life approach to worry is this:
Do what you can today, and let tomorrow worry about itself.
How to Stop Worrying
That might sound like a cop-out, but it’s truly a brilliant plan, as long as we take care of that first half. Doing what we can do today is really the only thing we can do, so once that’s done, that’s it. It is helpful to identify some real, physical process that might be effective in warding off your perceived future problem, and sometimes being able to do something that actually makes a difference is enough to pull us back from the precipice of chronic worry. It makes us feel like we’re making gains, and at the same time takes our mind off of the future (which we can’t control anyway), which will be the first step toward learning how to overcome the worries in your life.
Worrying essentially takes our minds somewhere we have no business going, so let’s not go there! Please watch this talk from world-renowned communicator Andy Stanley and find out more about how we can stem that life-stealing practice of worry, and learn how to stop worrying about the future and enjoy life to its fullest, like it was meant to be experienced.
OUTLINE – Why Worry – PART 3
Now and Then | Andy Stanley
The following is an outline that accompanies the above video. For a complete verbatim transcription of the video, please scroll down to “Now and Then,” after this outline.
1 Kings 19
1. One thing we all have in common is the inability to control the future. That’s why we worry.
2. We become obsessed with what is going to happen and forget much of what has happened.
3. We lose site of the only one who has any control over what will happen.
4. So Jesus says, “Don’t obsess over tomorrow. I’ll handle tomorrow. You do all you can in the now and trust me for tomorrow.
5. BUT . . . that’s not enough! That’s too passive! I need to worry, because when I worry. I worry. And then I’m worried.
- And when I worry, I become self-absorbed.
- I’m not as sensitive to others.
- I don’t do as well at work as I should.
- I can’t concentrate or make good decisions.
- And I get a headache and a backache and I can’t sleep.
So, you see, it’s better if I worry rather than trust God. Today, I want to tell you a story from the Old Testament about a guy who had a lot to worry about . . . drove his behavior. God asks him an incredibly insightful question.
I. Context: Israel had three kings—Saul, David, and Solomon—and then it split.
A. Our story takes place around 860 BC in the northern kingdom about 70 years after
B. The king was Ahab. He was the eighth king of the northern kingdom.
1. He was wicked: Baal, Jezebel, Jericho.
2. “He did more to provoke the Lord than all the kings before.”
God loved the northern kingdom, so he did for them what he does for us. He sent a voice.
II. God sends Elijah to warn Ahab.
A. Elijah announces, “No rain for years,” and then hides.
1. God feeds him through ravens.
2. God brought people to care for him.
B. Meanwhile, Ahab is searching . . .
III. Three years later, God sends Elijah to Ahab a second time to announce rain.
A. By this time, Ahab is angry and desperate.
B. Elijah challenges the prophets of Baal and Asherah to a duel—850 prophets of Baal. Elijah says some very politically incorrect things . . .
C. Elijah drenches the altar, prays, and God zaps the altar. Everybody says, “The
Lord, He is God . . .”Then the story takes an interesting twist.
Turn to I Kings 19.
1 Now Ahab told Jezebel everything Elijah had done and how he had killed all the prophets with the sword. 2 So Jezebel sent a messenger to Elijah to say, “May the gods deal with me, be it ever so severely, if by this time tomorrow I do not make your life like that of one of them. At which point we would think, he has nothing to worry about. Look at all the things God has done for him.
3 Elijah was afraid and ran for his life.
The future was unsure and so he acted on his fears. He panicked. He was fine in the now. But what about tomorrow? When he came to Beersheba in Judah . . . He leaves the country: he goes 100 miles away and stays for two weeks. . . . he left his servant there, 4 while he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness. He came to a broom bush, sat down under it and prayed that he might die.
“I have had enough, LORD,” he said. “Take my life; I am no better than my ancestors.” 5 Then he lay down under the tree and fell asleep. All at once an angel touched him and said, “Get up and eat.” 6 He looked around, and there by his head was some bread baked over hot coals, and a jar of water. He ate and drank and then lay down again.
Perhaps his servant . . . who knows?
7 The angel of the LORD came back a second time and touched him and said, “Get up and eat, for the journey is too much for you.” 8 So he got up and ate and drank. Strengthened by that food, he traveled forty days and forty nights until he reached Horeb, the mountain of God.
This is where Moses saw the burning bush and received the Ten Commandments, where God had shown up in the past. But on both occasions, God sends Moses and Israel away to do his will. But he promised to go with them.
9 There he went into a cave and spent the night. And the word of the LORD came to him: “What are you doing here, Elijah?”
I wonder if this is a question all of us should ponder when we begin to wander down that path of worry. “Wait a minute . . . Why am I here in the land of worry? There’s no good reason for this. I’ve allowed my fear of something I can’t control to drive me to a place emotionally, physically, relationally, and spiritually that I should never be.”
10 He replied, “I have been very zealous for the LORD God Almighty. The Israelites have rejected your covenant, torn down your altars, and put your prophets to death with the sword. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me too.”
God, I don’t know if you’ve been paying attention . . . let me refresh your memory.
11 The LORD said, “Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the LORD, for the LORD is about to pass by.”
What does that have to do with anything? I’ll go over it one more time . . . the Israelites have rejected your covenant . . . and you want to do what? Pass by? Well, that’ll just fix everything, won’t it? And Elijah just sits there.
Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the LORD, but the LORD was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the LORD was not in the earthquake. 12 After the earthquake came a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper. 13 When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave. Then a voice said to him, in a whisper “What are you doing here, Elijah?”
If there wasn’t ME, I can understand what you are doing here. But there’s ME. So, what are you doing here curled up wanting to die?
14 He replied, “I have been very zealous for the LORD God Almighty. The Israelites have rejected your covenant, torn down your altars, and put your prophets to death with the sword. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me too.”
But I guess that’s not really a good excuse for being here, is it?
15 The LORD said to him, “Go back the way you came . . . I need you to be fully engaged in spite of how the future looks. I want you to engage as if I’m really God and I’m large and in-charge. And by the way, you are far away from where you need to be and where I’m at work. . . . and go to the Desert of Damascus. When you get there, anoint Hazael king over Aram. Neighboring country . . . strange.
16 Also, anoint Jehu son of Nimshi king over Israel . . . Israel already has a king, too—Ahab. “I know . . .” . . . and anoint Elisha son of Shaphat from Abel Meholah to succeed you as prophet.
That’s close to home. You already have a prophet—me. So, you’ve been busy? You’re up to something? What am I doing here?
17 Jehu will put to death any who escape the sword of Hazael, and Elisha will put to death any who escape the sword of Jehu. 18 Yet I reserve seven thousand in Israel—all whose knees have not bowed down to Baal and whose mouths have not kissed him.” But I thought I was the only one! You thought wrong. So, Elisha sets out on the long journey back to where he should have been all along . . . Elisha was worried because he thought he knew what the future held. He didn’t. You worry for the same reason.
Some of us should be worried, but aren’t, because we don’t know the future. Some of us are worried because we think we know the future, but don’t.
1. Today’s worries can crowd out memories of God’s past faithfulness.
• When people tell me God-moment stories, I always tell them to write them down… they’ll forget.
2. Today’s worries can blind us to God’s presence in the future.
• When we allow that to happen, we go places we have no business going: relationally, financially, morally, emotionally.
• We lean on things that numb us.
3. God whispers: What are you doing here?
• And there’s always a reason.
• And if there is no God, you have reason to.
• But if there is, there’s no reason to disengage.
4. God can be trusted with your tomorrow.
• So, you don’t have to worry today.
• Do what you can do today and leave tomorrow in God’s hands.
- Then you can have peace today in spite of the uncertainty of tomorrow.
And when your mind goes there, you whisper, “That’s your responsibility. See you tomorrow.”
And if that isn’t enough for you . . . then go ahead and worry. But it’s not going to help. It will simply lead you somewhere you have no business going. What if God is as concerned as you are? Then you don’t need to worry.
“It is well with my soul . . .”
© 2008 North Point Ministries, Inc.
Now and Then
Here’s a “don’t do as I did” lesson. When Andrew, our oldest, was learning to ride a bike—your oldest kid, you know you feel like he has to do everything ahead of everybody else, so I got him out there a little bit earlier than anyone should actually ride a bicycle. And he had his bike, and we don’t do training wheels, because we’re just going to learn. Which is fine, except that I decided the only flat place in our neighborhood was—these people had built a tennis court, like a double tennis court, and it wasn’t really ours, but they said we could use it.
So a tennis court is great, because it’s flat. The problem with the tennis court is it has a net that goes across the middle. And the other problem was because this wasn’t like a professional grade tennis court. If like the end of the net is right there where the table is, you know the net goes that way, there was only about this much space between the pole that held the net and the chain link fence. So when he went around the tennis court, he had to get between the pole and the chain link fence. Well, you know a little tiny bicycle—I’m thinking, “Come on.” So his first time around, when I finally got him going, when I wasn’t holding him, and I was so proud . . . he’s headed toward that gap that looked really wide at first. I’m thinking, “He’s either going to hit the pole or he’s going to hit the chain link fence.”
So I’m running up behind him, and sure enough his handlebar went into one of the holes in the chain link fence, which immediately threw the front of bike into the chain link fence—and him as well. And he fell over and got all scratched up and was all upset. He got up and he looked at me and he kicked his bike. And that’s the first time I thought, “Wow, there’s that in you.” Anyway, that was the end of . . . I thought, “We’ve got to find a different place to learn to ride a bike.” Anyway, so take a lesson; there are better places than a tennis court to teach your kids to ride a bike.
Okay, we’re talking about worry, and obviously I should’ve probably thought that through and worried a little bit more. If you haven’t been part of this series, we’re in the third part, and I’d highly recommend you listen to the first two, because today kind of builds on that. You can go online and watch it for free. You can listen for free, you can get CDs that aren’t free, you can borrow CDs from people who already paid for the CDs, I don’t know. It would be great if you listen to these first two parts, because today we’re going to wrap up this thing on worry. Let me kind of catch you up really quickly. Here’s what we’ve said so far: that the reason we worry is because we can’t control the future. The one thing we all have in common is we can’t control the future. So consequently we’re usually fine right now. It’s the next series of “nows” that we worry about. We’re usually fine today. It’s tomorrow we worry about.
Focus on Today
And Jesus comes along and has the audacity to say something I would never say, because I would feel weird saying this. Jesus said, “Don’t worry about tomorrow. Tomorrow will take care of itself. You just focus on today.” In other words, you do what you can do today and then trust your heavenly Father to be with you tomorrow. He just comes right out and says it: “Stop worrying.” And you know when we hear that, or if you hear me say that you may take it this way, and we talked about this, when you hear somebody say stop worrying or don’t worry, what you hear is them saying, “Don’t care, don’t be concerned, don’t be responsible. Just kind of kick back and watch another episode of whatever and it’s all going to just kind of work out.”
What Did Jesus Say About Worrying
Jesus was not saying that. He was not saying don’t be responsible, and he wasn’t saying these things that you worry about are not important. He wasn’t saying they weren’t important. In fact, as we saw over those two weeks, he said that the things that you focus on are so important, your heavenly Father is focused on them as well. That’s why you don’t have to worry—because he’s worrying about it.
And then last week, as we wrapped up, we saw that Jesus said, “I want you to shift your devotion to something else,” because throughout his teaching, he taught that the things that our emotions get wrapped around are the things we’re most devoted to. See, I don’t worry about your kids’ grades, because I’m not devoted to your kids doing well in school. You don’t sit around worrying about my kids’ grades. You may appreciate me as a pastor, but you have never worried about my kids’ grades because you’re not devoted to my kids’ grades. They’re important, but you’re not devoted to them so you don’t worry about them. Jesus said that you worry about the things you’re most devoted to. Hey, what if we shifted your devotion to something else? It’s an amazing passage of Scripture that sets us up to where we’re going today with how to overcome anxious thoughts during distress.
Now, the temptation for those of you who are super-hyper worriers, or for those of you who don’t generally worry, but because of things going on at work or in your family or your school or your grades or the economy or you can’t sell your house, or whatever, you may find yourself becoming more and more of a worrier and you’re pushed back to this whole series and you’re pushed back to this message in general— Well Andy, maybe that’s just too simplistic.
Do I Need to Worry?
And I feel like it’s a little bit too passive. And I need to worry. Okay? Because when I worry I actually feel like I’m more responsible. I feel like it’s irresponsible not to worry, because . . . let me explain
this . . . because when I worry, then I worry. And when I worry I get really, really focused on things I can’t do anything about, and then I get really distracted from the things I should be focused on. And I’m at home, but my kids and my wife or my husband know that I’m not really there, because I’ve got to be responsible and worry about these things I can’t do anything about.
Then when I go to work I’m worried about what’s happening at home, because I’m not focused there. Then when I’m at home I’m worried about what’s happening at work. So pretty much I’m just consumed; my thoughts and brain are consumed by tomorrow, even though I can’t do anything about it. So it’s just better for me to worry. Because then I worry. And you hear that and you go, “That doesn’t make any sense at all.” And that’s why Jesus looks at us and says, “Stop. Stop it! Quit. Don’t worry.”
Is Not Worrying Irresponsible?
And we go, “But I’m a responsible adult; someone has to worry about these things.” Jesus says, ”No, you don’t have to worry. You do what you can do today, and then you trust your heavenly Father for tomorrow—not because you know what’s going to happen tomorrow, but when have you ever known what was going to happen tomorrow?” Not one single day of your life—nothing’s really changed. You’ve just become more aware of a reality that’s been a reality since the day you were born. That’s this: all you can do is be in the now. You’re going to have to trust somebody else for tomorrow. And if there is a me, Jesus would say, then you can trust your heavenly Father for tomorrow.
Bible Verses About How to Stop Worrying
Now, today I thought it would be fun to wrap up this series with a story from the Old Testament, and this is a very interesting story. It’s found in the book of 1 Kings. First Kings is about kings. Isn’t that neat? 1 Kings, if you want to follow along, 1 Kings, chapter 19. There’s a 1 and 2 Kings, because there were a lot of kings in the Old Testament. I’m going to give you some context. I’d love for you to follow along today if you brought your Bible, because I want you to go home and read the rest of the story. I’m not going to tell you this whole story. I’m going to kind of leave you hanging, and maybe you’ll go read the rest of the story and start reading the Bible. That’s always a good thing, because the Bible is so great.
But in 1 Kings we find the story about a guy who had lots to worry about, and toward the end of the story God asked this particular fellow a question that I think is a phenomenal question. In fact, if you are a worrier, or you’re just specifically worried now about things going on because things are different than they’ve been before, you might want to take this question and put it on a 3 x 5 card and put it in a drawer or on your mirror or somewhere. Because this is a question that re-centers us as it relates to what we’re focused on and what we’re worried about. This is a great story. Let me kind of give you a heads-up about what’s going on.
When the nation of Israel became a kingdom, their first king was named King Saul. You may have heard that before. After Saul came the most famous king, King . . . anybody? Anyone? David. Good. And after David, his son Solomon. Good. Those were the first three kings. And after Solomon the kingdom split, and it split into the north kingdom and the southern kingdom. They called the northern kingdom the northern kingdom because it was in the north and the southern kingdom . . . good. See? The Bible’s simple. And the southern kingdom was called the southern kingdom because it was in the south. Good.
Worry is Nothing New
Now, the northern kingdom, and this is helpful if you read the Bible, was also referred to as Israel. They sort of retained the name Israel. The southern kingdom was often referred to as Judah. So this particular story takes place about 860 BC, the kingdom is already split, and the king of the northern kingdom is a name you’ve heard before, but maybe not in reference to the Bible. His name was Ahab. Now, where else have you heard the name Ahab? He was also a what? He was also a captain of a ship in search of who? Moby Dick. Very good. And the first mate for Ahab was named what? Anybody know? Starbuck. That’s right. Starbuck was the first mate and Starbucks has had some financial difficulty and had to close some stores, so they have a lot to worry about. So that kind of brings us all the way back around to the story.
Now, sorry . . . just . . . fascinating. So anyway Captain Ahab’s mom named him Ahab; she had not read this story because Ahab was a wicked, wicked king. He had led Israel way away from the things of God and the law of God. So God does for Ahab what God has done for you and what God has done for me. As Ahab turned his back on God, and led the people astray, and led them into Baal worship and idol worship, and away from the law, God sent a voice, sent a person, sent his message to Ahab. Now see, God has done this for you as well. When you were a teenager it was your parents. Maybe recently a friend of yours has sat you down and said, “You know what, it’s really none of my business, but if you keep doing this you’re going to get upside down financially.” Or you know, “Do you always speak to your wife that way?” Or, “Do you always talk to your mom that way?” Every once in a while a voice will come into our lives, a voice of reason, and when we hear that voice of reason what do we generally do? “Oh thank you so much. I appreciate the insight. I’m going to change my life.” You know. No—we go, “Get out of here!”
So here’s what happened. God sent Elijah, the prophet, into Ahab’s life. And Elijah, the prophet, said, “Ahab, God is sick and tired of the way you’re leading the people, and so God is going to get your attention, and it’s not going to rain anymore. It’s not going to rain. We’re going to wreck the economy to get your attention.” And then Elijah left. And Ahab’s like, “Yeah, like I’m so sure you can turn off and on the rain.” Well a month, two months, three months go by, and it isn’t raining. Meanwhile, God says, “Elijah, you need to hide; you will not be a popular person for a while, because everybody thinks you turned it off, you can turn it on. So you hide.”
And then, you’ve got to read this for yourself, Elijah runs away from Ahab, runs away, and God takes care of Elijah. Now, he isn’t living high on the hog, he’s kind of camping out, but God provides for Elijah while the rest of the country is in turmoil because there’s no rain, there are no crops, the cattle die, things are bad. Three years go by, three years go by, and God says to Elijah, “Okay, you need to go talk to Ahab again.” Elijah is like, “Okay, he’s looking for me; it’s not going to be good.” And God says, “Go.”
Quotes About Worrying
So he finds Ahab, surprises Ahab, because Ahab has been looking all over for Elijah. Three years have gone by, the economy is a wreck, and Elijah says, “Ahab, God is ready to teach the nation a lesson if you’re ready to learn it. He’s going to let it rain again, but there’s a little caveat. We have to have a meeting.” And Ahab agrees, “Okay, what do we need to do to get the rain turned back on?” Elijah said, “I want you to meet me on Mt. Carmel.” Everybody knew where that was. “And I want you to bring the prophets of Baal—all these people that you think have a connection with a god that I don’t think exists. And that’s fine, you bring them to Mt. Carmel and we’re going to have a prayer meeting. You and your prophets are going to pray to Baal and I’m going to pray to Yahweh, the God of our fathers, and we’re going to see which one of these gods can make it rain.” Now, to us that’s like really weird, but that was working for them and they needed rain, and so Ahab said, “Fine.”
So the Bible tells the story. They met on top of Mount Carmel. And it’s a really cool story; you may have heard in Sunday school growing up if you grew up in church. They meet on this mountain, over 400 prophets of Baal, and thousands of people from the cities, surrounding cities hear about this contest. So the prophets of Baal get there and Elijah says, “Okay, you build yourself an altar. And I’m going to go over here to this broken down altar that used to be used to worship Yahweh, and I’m going to rebuild it. And while I’m rebuilding my altar, you guys go ahead and start the sacrifice to Baal and see if you can get Baal to make it rain. And then I’ll call on Yahweh and we’ll see whose God is really God. So the story goes on, they build this altar, and in the morning the prophets of Baal begin asking Baal to make it rain. They’re sacrificing animals, they’re dancing around, they’re calling out, shouting, this goes from breakfast through lunch.
How to Stop Worrying about Things You Can’t Control
Meanwhile, Elijah is building his altar, and then he makes some very, very politically incorrect statements. In fact, these are amazing. You just couldn’t get by with this in our culture. And I’m not suggesting that we do, but he begins to make fun of their god. Imagine doing that? I get offended when I see the Ichthys, the fish with the Darwin legs. I mean that’s like oh, because that represents Jesus, but I mean I’ve keyed a few cars, but other than that . . . No, I’m just kidding. I haven’t done that. I’ve never keyed a car, but it’s offensive. It’s offensive to me. And I think the people that put those on there think it’s funny, and they don’t understand that the Ichthys means Jesus Christ, Son of God, and that’s personal. And they put feet and eyes on it. Anyway. So this goes like way beyond that.
While they’re dancing around, and they begin to slash themselves, trying to get Baal’s attention, here’s what Elijah said. I’ll just read this to you. It’s kind of funny. He’s up there building his altar and they’re over there having this big concert, trying to get Baal to make fire come out of heaven or something and he says, “Shout louder.” Isn’t that great? Then he says, “Surely he is a god, isn’t he?” Then he says, “Perhaps he’s in deep thought,” just making fun of Baal, “or busy.” And then he says, “Hey, maybe Baal is traveling. Maybe he’s out of town and that’s why he isn’t sending, he isn’t starting this fire. Maybe he’s sleeping. Maybe he must be awakened.” So he just basically makes fun of Baal.
So this goes on into the evening, and just before evening they’re all tired and kind of laid out. And half of them are bleeding to death and Baal hasn’t done anything. And Elijah says, “Okay, my turn.” He said, “Now, before I ask God to light my altar here, I would like for you to drench it with water.” Now remember, it had not rained in three years, so they don’t have much water. So he insists they take what water they have and drench the altar. And if you’ve read this story, there’s so much water on his altar the wood is soaked, the animal there is soaked, everything is drenched with water. And he says, “Now, I did this so you would not think it was some kind of magic trick.” Then he prayed and God lit up that altar. And all those people said, “We’re thinking Yahweh is probably God and Baal is probably not.” And they turn on these prophets and they slaughter and they kill these prophets for misleading the people.
Then Elijah goes to Ahab and he says, “Ahab, you need to run as fast as you can back to the city, because it’s going to rain.” And Ahab’s thinking, “I believe you; you turned it off, maybe God is going to let you turn it on.” So he takes off for the city. And then in the meantime Elijah goes up on the hill with his partner, because there’s not a cloud in the sky, and he says, ”Hey, do you see any clouds?” So there’s this interesting story about them waiting for the clouds. Eventually, eventually it begins to rain.
Definition of Worrying
Now, at that point Elijah is like a rock star. Elijah is like the hero. Elijah is like, “Oh my gosh.” God speaks to this guy and he turned off the rain and he has turned it back on. So you know, you would think like he’s afraid of nothing. Meanwhile, Ahab goes back home and has a conversation with his wife. Does anyone know who Ahab’s wife was? Jezebel. Yes. There’s a name you don’t see very much. You don’t name your daughter Jezebel. However, I have met a little girl named Jezebel, and when her parents said, “This is our daughter, Jezebel,” I’m thinking, “You haven’t read 1 Kings lately, have you?” Okay. “And this is our other son, Judas.” No, just kidding.
So anyway even if you’re not like a Bible person, Jezebel kind of has a negative connotation. Anyway, so Ahab is married to Jezebel, and she is like wicked, wicked, wicked to the tenth power. So he goes back, and that’s where our story begins. All that I just said is just the introduction. So are you with me? First Kings 19, and this is where we jump into the text.
Bible Verses about Not Worrying
1 Kings 19:1 (NIV) 1 Now Ahab told Jezebel everything Elijah had done and how he had killed all the prophets with the sword.
All her prophets because she was like the queen of Baal worship.
1 Kings 19:2 (NIV) 2 So Jezebel sent a messenger to Elijah to say . . .
So she sends a messenger, because Elijah has gotten in out of the rain. Here’s what her message was.
1 Kings 19:2 (NIV) 2 “May the gods deal with me, be it ever so severely, if by this time tomorrow I do not make your life like that of one of them.”
In other words, Elijah, here’s the deal: by this time tomorrow, you’re going to be as dead as all my prophets. By this time tomorrow, your life is over. Now, from our perspective, looking at this story, you’re thinking and I’m thinking, “Elijah’s like, ‘Well, just come on over, honey. Okay, I can turn the rain on and off. Did you not hear about the fireworks show on the mountain? I mean come on, whatever. Hey Jezebel, I’ve got a great idea, let’s meet up on Mount Carmel.’” I mean what does he have to be worried about? She’s a powerful woman and she is the most powerful person in the kingdom, really. She is behind all of Ahab’s decisions; she has lions, tigers and bears (oh my!) and troops and soldiers. I mean she’s got all this stuff, but God has just done this amazing thing. So from our perspective, what does he have to worry about? Nothing.”
Running for His Life
1 Kings 19:3 (NIV)3 Elijah was afraid and ran for his life.
Like, wait a minute; do you not remember what just happened to you? He was afraid and he ran for his life. And here’s what was going on. See, Elijah was okay in the now, but Jezebel said, “Come tomorrow, your life is over.” And Elijah said, “Oh no, I’m afraid of, not now; I’m afraid of tomorrow.” And he ran for his life. Now, here’s what I’d suspect from any of us—not all of us, perhaps, but many of us. If I were to drop into your life and look at God’s past faithfulness to you and look at the things you are worried about now, I may be tempted to say to you what we would be tempted to say to Elijah. “What are you worried about? What are you worried about?” Because tomorrow, tomorrow, tomorrow . . . And I would say, “Wait, wait do you not remember two days ago, three days ago, last week, four years ago?” He would go, “Yeah, yeah, yeah, but tomorrow, tomorrow, tomorrow.” And I’d be like, “Yeah, but . . .” And so here’s Elijah totally, totally blanked out on God’s past faithfulness because of this threat about tomorrow. The story continues. And so he takes off.
How to Stop Worrying about the Future
1 Kings 19:3 (NIV) 3 When he came to Beersheba in Judah . . .
Now, Judah is the southern kingdom, so he has left the country. This is like 100 miles away. In fact, the story could basically say two weeks later . . . he has been running for two weeks.
1 Kings 19:4 (NIV) 4 while he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness. He came to a broom bush
A broom bush, which is a big bush with kind of white flowers that people use for shade, kind of a small tree.
1 Kings 19:4 (NIV)4 while he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness. He came to a broom bush, sat down under it and prayed that he might die.
Wait, wait Elijah. He says, “No, it’s over for me.” Listen to his prayer.
1 Kings 19:4 (NIV)4 “I have had enough, LORD,” he said.
Now granted, he’s been running for three years from Ahab and hiding, and his life hasn’t been great, but God’s been taking care of him.
1 Kings 19:4 (NIV) 4 “I have had enough, LORD,” he said. “Take my life; I am no better than my ancestors.”
Better Off Dead
In other words, I’m better off dead; I’m better off dead.
1 Kings 19:5–6 (NIV) 5 Then he lay down under the tree and fell asleep. All at once an angel touched him and said, “Get up and eat.” 6 He looked around, and there by his head was some bread baked over hot coals, and a jar of water. He ate and drank and then lay down again.
And perhaps his servant finally caught up with him and found him and fixed him this meal.
1 Kings 19:7 (NIV) 7 The angel of the LORD came back a second time and touched him and said, “Get up and eat, for the journey is too much for you.”
In other words, you’re killing yourself. I mean you are so stressed out. You’re not even eating. Get up and eat; the journey is too much.
1 Kings 19:8 (NIV)8 So he got up and ate and drank. Strengthened by that food, he traveled forty days and forty nights until he reached Horeb, the mountain of God.
Now, this is really significant. Horeb was what we would refer to as Mount Sinai, the same mountain. Horeb is where Moses, all alone, saw a bush burning and went and checked it out, and the bush wasn’t burning, and God spoke to him. Horeb is when after the Israelites left Egypt, they went to this same mountain, and Moses went up on this mountain, and God gave Moses the law, the Ten Commandments. Horeb is where, in the minds of Jewish people in the ancient culture, is where God hung out. If you can’t be around the Ark of the Covenant, go to the mountain; go to the mountain—that’s where God hangs out. So he spends a month, over a month traveling to this deserted, lonely, uninhabited place to die, but to be as close to God as he could. Because none of this made sense; none of this was going anywhere, and the future feels uncertain.
What Does the Bible Say about Worrying
1 Kings 19:9 (NIV) 9 There he went into a cave and spent the night. And the word of the LORD came to him: “What are you doing here, Elijah?”
What are you doing here? What are you doing here? What are you doing here? What are you doing here? Wait, wait, wait, you’re miles and miles and miles away from where I had you. And you’re miles and miles and miles away from where I had you because suddenly tomorrow seems threatening, and you ran away? Elijah, what are you doing here? Now, I love this question. We’ll finish this story in just a second. Because I have a feeling, that for some of us who are so stressed out about the uncertainty of tomorrow, that we’ve done some running ourselves, haven’t we?
Some of us have run mentally; we’re so detached from our families because we’re so stressed out about tomorrow. Some of us have actually physically run; you’ve run away from your family, you’ve run away from a marriage, you’ve run away from your parents. Emotionally and physically you kind of backed away from the kids because you’re so stressed out over something that deals with them, or something that has to do with something entirely different. And maybe physically you’re there, but mentally and emotionally you’re not there.
You’ve run away because you have had two extra glasses of wine. You drink a little bit too much. You drink a little bit more than you used to. You are in a place that you have never ever been before emotionally, you’re in a place you have never ever been before relationally, you’re in a place you have never ever been before physically, and it’s all because of the stress and the anxiety and the fear of tomorrow. And you’re in a place you have no business being. You worry too much.
What Me Worry?
And what if God showed up in that place where you have no business being, whether it’s a physical location or emotional location or a mental location, and God says to you, “Wait a minute, what are you doing here? What are you doing here? Why did you run? Why have you allowed the uncertainty of tomorrow, and by the way tomorrow is always uncertain, why have you allowed the threat of tomorrow, and by the way tomorrow is always somewhat threatening, why have you allowed a future you can’t control, that you have never been able to control, why have you trusted in the threat of an employer, the threat of the economy, the threat of your finances, the threat of your children, husband or wife, why have you allowed the threats for tomorrow, located around tomorrow or might take place tomorrow, why have you allowed all of that to drive you to a place you have no business being? What are you doing here?” Because we could drop into your life and it wouldn’t make any sense to us. God looks into your life and he says, “It really doesn’t make any sense to me.”
1 Kings 19:10 (NIV) 10 He replied . . .
And I love this. Elijah does exactly what we do. He gave God some information, and this happens throughout the Scripture. This is so common. “You know, God . . .” and “Don’t you know . . .” and “God, my son and my daughter . . .” and “The economy . . .” And we know God knows it, but there’s just something about saying, “Okay, can I just tell you my sad story? I know you already know my sad story, but I’ve just got to get this out.”
1 Kings 19:10 (NIV) 10 He replied, “I have been very zealous for the LORD God Almighty. The Israelites have rejected your covenant, torn down your altars, and put your prophets to death with the sword. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me too.”
What Am I Doing Here?
In other words, God, what do you mean what am I doing here? Do you expect me to stay in Jerusalem? You know, you expect me to stay in the vicinity of Ahab? You expect me to stay in the northern kingdom? You expect me to stay there under threat of death? Look, I don’t know if you’re not paying attention, do you know what’s going on around me? Then the Lord said something very irrelevant.
1 Kings 19:11 (NIV) 11 The LORD said, “Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the LORD.
He’s in this cave. “I want you to go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord.”
1 Kings 19:11 (NIV)11 The LORD said, “Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the LORD, for the LORD is about to pass by.”Now, we don’t know what went through Elijah’s head, but perhaps it was this:
“And that’s going to do what? That’s going to change what? That’s going to make a difference how? Let me go over this again; see, nobody believes you’re there but me. Nobody pays attention to you but me. You haven’t done anything. Things are bad. My life has been threatened. Jezebel is looking for me. Everybody is looking for me. It’s over for me. I’m better off dead. And you want me to go stand in the mouth of the cave?”
1 Kings 19:11 (NIV) 11 Then a great and powerful wind . . .
He didn’t obey; he just stayed there in the cave.
1 Kings 19:11 (NIV) 11 Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the LORD, but the LORD was not in the wind.
Which means this: God was just playing. God was just showing off. “The Lord wasn’t in the wind” meant that God was going to pass by, but he had not passed by yet. He was just showing off.
1 Kings 19:11 (NIV)11After the wind there was an earthquake, but the LORD was not in the earthquake.
He was just kind of showing off.
1 Kings 19:12-13 (NIV)12 After the earthquake came a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper.
his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave. Then a voice said to him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over
Elijah, if there’s not me, I understand what you’re doing here. But there’s me. Did you like the fireworks display on Mount Carmel? Did you like the mountain removal and rearrangement that you just experienced outside the mouth of the cave? How about the fire? There’s me. You forgot to factor in me. You’re looking through the lens of circumstance. And there is no purpose, and there is no hope. And if there was no me, there would be no purpose or hope. By the way, Elijah, there would have never been any purpose or hope, but there’s me. What in the world are you doing here in this place?
1 Kings 19:14 (NIV)14 He replied . . .
And not so arrogantly this time, I think.
1 Kings 19:14 (NIV)14 He replied, “I have been very zealous for the LORD God Almighty And he starts to give the same speech.
1 Kings 19:14 (NIV) 14 He replied, “I have been very zealous for the LORD God Almighty. The Israelites have rejected your covenant, torn down your altars, and put your prophets to death with the sword. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me too.”
Why Should I Worry?
And I think, I don’t know for sure, but based on what happens next I think this is true—I think as Elijah is rehearsing his story to God he’s thinking about the rocks, he’s thinking about the earthquake, he’s thinking about the fire, perhaps he’s even thinking about Mount Carmel. And he’s beginning to realize my story really doesn’t have a whole lot of leverage, because there’s God. Apart from God it doesn’t even make sense why I’m here hiding. But in light of what I’ve just experienced, in light of God’s past faithfulness to me, what am I doing here?
Bible Verses About Worry
1 Kings 19:14 (NIV) 14 The Israelites have rejected your covenant, torn down your altars, and put your prophets to death with the sword. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me too.”
But I guess that’s still not a really good excuse for being in this place, because you’re God, and apparently you’re still present.
1 Kings 19:15 (NIV) 15 The LORD said to him, “Go back the way you came,
What? Yeah, you’ve got to go back. You’ve run away, you’ve got to go right back from where you came, you’ve got to start all over.
1 Kings 19:15 (NIV)
15 The LORD said to him, “Go back the way you came, and go to the Desert of Damascus. When you get there, anoint Hazael king over Aram.
Now to us that’s meaningless, but let me tell you why that’s significant. Aram already had a king. And he says, “I want you to go to a different country, I want you to find this guy, and I want you to anoint him as king.” And Elijah is going, “Okay, they already have a king. So you’re like changing kings?” Uh-huh.
1 Kings 19:16 (NIV) 16 Also, anoint Jehu son of Nimshi king over Israel
Okay, time out. Israel already has a king too. His name is Ahab. His wife is Jezebel. They’re trying to kill me. God’s going, “I know. We’re going to replace the king.” Then this was really kind of odd for him.
1 Kings 19:16 (NIV)16 and anoint Elisha son of Shaphat from Abel Meholah to succeed you as prophet.
Does God Care About Me?
“Okay wait, wait, wait, okay you have a prophet: me. I know. We’re getting a new one. Okay, so you’ve like thought this through. So you like have a plan. So all that stuff I have been telling you about how bad things are—you knew that. Like, you have a solution. Like, there’s a future. There’s a purpose. You’re up to something. I didn’t know that.” “Exactly. That’s why you ran. That’s why I’m asking you what are you doing here? I haven’t changed. I haven’t abandoned you. I’m not giving up on you. I’m still God. So, what are you doing here?”
1 Kings 19:17–18 (NIV)17 Jehu will put to death any who escape the sword of Hazael, and Elisha will put Israel—all whose knees have not bowed down to Baal and whose mouths have not kissed him.”
“In other words, Elijah, you think you’re the only one left, but you’re not. You think you know all there is to know, so you ran. But you didn’t know all there was to know. What in the world are you doing here?” Now here’s my point. If you have allowed your worry to drive you into behaviors, habits, and emotional frenzy, to drive a wedge through relationships, to cause you to do stupid financial things, to consider things you have never done before, I think this is God’s question for you and for me today. What are you doing there?
If there is no God, I understand what you’re doing there, but you, your whole life believed there was a God. And many of you, for most of your lives, have believed that Jesus is a significant part of that. And many of us believe that he is the Savior of the world God sent to die for our sins and pay for our sins. And many of us have enough history with God and have seen God’s faithfulness over and over and over, not always the way we thought it should be, but in some amazing way. Many of us have seen bad things happen that we’re glad happened, because they led to good things. And we’ve told the stories and written the emails and shared testimonies and cried and teared up and gotten baptized.
God Can Handle Our Future
I mean most of us have enough history with God that the truth is there’s really no excuse for us to be where we have allowed worry to cause us and to drive us to be. And God’s still in control. And God still has a plan and a purpose for your life. And you need to take God’s advice to Elijah, and you need to get back to where you were and face tomorrow with confidence that God is there in your tomorrow. Some of you have made things worse than they were. Not only has your worry not added an hour to your life, as Jesus says, but it has removed good things from your life. Because you feared what you couldn’t control, that you’ve never, and I’ve never, ever been able to control. Isn’t it amazing how today’s worries can erase God’s past faithfulness? Isn’t it amazing?
Worrying vs. Faithfulness
Today’s worries just totally blank out God’s past faithfulness. In fact, whenever I talk to someone, it happened this week, whenever I talk to someone or get a message or letter from someone who tells me a God story about how God did this—and this week I got this incredible story from a couple trying to adopt. All of a sudden things are bad financially.
They got these bills related to the adoption, this long, wonderful letter about how God provided $100.00 and $250.00 and somebody called and a sister from out of town and on and on and on, just this incredible story. And I wrote them back and I said, “Please, please, please, you need to take a copy of the story you sent me, put it in an envelope, and you need to save it. Because God has been faithful to you in a tangible way, and one day you’re going to need to read this story.” Because, in the moment of worry, we forget God’s past faithfulness and we go places we have no business going.
Trust God to Be Faithful Tomorrow
It’s amazing how today’s worries, not only does it freak us out about tomorrow, it’s like it erases everything God has done in the past. But the worries of today make us doubt whether God will be there in our tomorrow. And he will be. That’s why the point of this whole series is simply this: as Jesus taught, as Elijah learned the hard way, we’re simply to do what we know to do today and we’re trust God with tomorrow. We’re simply to do what we know to do today, and after we’ve done all we can do today, because this isn’t about being careless, it’s not about being irresponsible, it’s not about going, “Well, oh well.” It’s not that.
Be Faithful with What You Have Today
If you do all you can do today and you say, “God, I have been faithful today, I’m trusting you to be faithful tomorrow.” And when those whispering voices come, and when all of a sudden your mind begins to go down the trail of worry, and you begin to make a decision that’s going to take you off center, that’s when you need to say, “No, no, no. God, I’ve done all I can do today. I’ll see you in my tomorrow. God, I’ve done all I can do today. I’ll see you in my tomorrow. God, I’ve done all I can do today. I’m trusting you with my tomorrow. Tomorrow is uncertain; tomorrow has always been uncertain. I am not going to allow my stress and my anxiety and my worry to drive me to places I have no business being. I’m going to walk into tomorrow confident that my God is with me.”
Do Not Worry
Your other option, of course, is to worry. Your other option, of course, is to spend lots of time and energy on things you can’t do anything about. And Jesus would say to you, “You don’t really need to do that, because God, who has invited you to call him Father, will be in your tomorrow if you will simply do what you can do today—trust him with your tomorrow. You have no reason to worry. You have been invited to say to your heavenly Father, “I’ve done all I can do today. I’ll see you tomorrow.” And when you do that, you have no reason to worry.
Now, let me ask you, and we’re done. Have you gone some places you shouldn’t go because of the stress and the chaos and the uncertainty of tomorrow? If so, you’ve got to go back. You’ve got to go back to where you came from. Some of you need to sit down with your whole family and say, “You know what, Dad, I’ve just been a jerk. I haven’t been here emotionally; my temper has been short; I’m coming back. I have allowed my fear of tomorrow to cause me to become somebody I know I haven’t been in the past.”
Some of you need to call your parents and apologize. You’ve been short, you’ve been snappy, you’ve been insensitive. And if somebody asked, “Why do you treat them that way?” You would have a good story: “But God, Israel has abandoned your . . .” I mean you’ve got a great story. And if there’s no God, you’re justified. But if there is a God that has invited you to call him Father, if he can be trusted with tomorrow, then you’ve got to come back to where you were. Maybe you’ve developed a habit through this time of economic uncertainty. You’ve got to break that habit. You’ve got to get help. Maybe you’ve severed a relationship; maybe it’s just an emotional severance; you’ve got to go back.
Don’t Worry About It
Wherever it is that worry and stress has driven you, that you know you have no place being, God’s invitation to you today, God’s invitation to us every day is: I want you to go back, I want you to go back. Because you have no business being here, because I’m the God that has invited you to call me Father. You do what you can do today, and then you trust me with your tomorrow. And if God—as Jesus said—listen, if God is as concerned about you as you are, then there’s no reason to worry. Why worry? My prayer for you and for us is that during this time of incredible uncertainty nationally, that we, as Christians, that we, as a church, would respond in a way that is so different than the people around us. That our light would shine so bright—not because our circumstances are better, but because we refuse to allow the stress of our circumstances drive us to places we have no business being. Because we’re simply going to do all we can do today and trust God for our tomorrow. And when we do, there’s really no reason to worry.