Anxious for Nothing
by Joseph Franks
In my own life, I am very interested in certain organisms, organizations, or institutions.
First and foremost, there is the Franks family. I long to be faithful in loving and discipling my wife. In addition, I am somewhat passionate about passing the baton of Christ from my grandparents and parents to my children and grandchildren. It is my desire that Christ would proclaim me faithful in serving this local body of believers.
Then there is Palmetto Hills Presbyterian Church. For more than eleven years, this institution has been very close to my heart. PHPC does not represent a job to me. It is much more than a place for me to hang my hat and an opportunity to earn a solid paycheck. No, for more than a decade, this church family has become a primary reason for my calling and existence. I love Christ’s church as a whole. I love Palmetto Hills!
Southside Christian School is also important to me. Three children, one wife, and thousands of dollars have left my household and made it through the doors of this academic institution. As a result, much glee, and some sorrow — mostly because of soccer and a few disciplinary issues here and there — has been experienced. However, after seven years of partnering with this organization in the discipleship of my family, I find my heart knitted with this place.
Now, there is a new organization of great value in my life — Covenant College. At the present time, my oldest son is in the second year of his studies there — at least I think he is studying. But on a serious note, how thankful I am to have evangelical and reformed Christian friends assisting me in finishing the discipleship of my son. I regularly pray for Covenant College. I did not go there for school, but I wish I had.
Then there are other organisms, organizations, and institutions that could be added to my list. Throughout my life, I have taken courses in seven different colleges and seminaries. Some of those are very dear to me. My children have also played in two very successful soccer clubs. Presently, I a part of the Presbyterian Church of America; more locally I am a member of Calvary Presbytery. Then there is the United States of America. All of these organisms have some of my money, some of my thoughts, some of prayers, some of my labor, and huge chunks of my heart.
At times, in seeking to build these beloved organism, organizations, or institutions, I find myself staying up late into the night. Long hours are spent investing into the growth of these causes. Occasionally, I find myself struggling to sleep during the night; I just can’t seem to get people-problems and program-problems out of my head. Sometimes, I get out of bed way too early in the morning and start my day; it becomes clear that trying to sleep is going to be an exercise in futility. Yes, because I love my God, my family, my church, and my cherished institutions, I often find my mind whirling. I find my chest disturbed. Too often, I find myself overly-anxious about what God is doing in, around, through, and to me and my cherished assemblies. Too often, I am a spiritual basket-case. Too often I lack the peace that a solid Christian leader ought to possess.
How about you?
- Are you having a hard time sleeping because of disunity, dysfunction, or schism in your family?
- Have you a church, that has issues, and these issues weigh heavily on your mind?
- Are you building a Christian school or parachurch ministry and your stomach is consistently tied up in knots?
- Is your denomination or presbytery causing consternation in your soul?
- Business got you down?
- Does considering the current state of your nation rob you of your joy and peace?
Friends, like me, do you find yourself too often burning the candles at both end? Do you have a hard time sleeping through the night? Did you arise from your bed far too early this morning? Are you perplexed by programatic problems? Do people have you frustrated, perplexed, and angry? Is your mind whirling? Is your chest unsettled? Is your soul disturbed? Are you anxious?
Perhaps the first two verses of Psalm 127 will be used of Christ’s Spirit to begin the process of setting us straight today:
Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain. Unless the Lord watches over the city, the watchman stays awake in vain. It is in vain that you rise up early and go late to rest, eating the bread of anxious toil; for he gives to his beloved sleep. (Psalm 127:1-2)
Friends, the Heavenly King is watching. He is aware of everything happening to his house, his city, his business, his church, his ministries, his nations, his organisms, organizations, and institutions. Nothing we are going through is escaping his omnipresent and omniscient attention. Before a word of prayer is on our tongue, he already knows what we know. As a matter of fact, not only does he know what we know, but he knows what we do not know. Whatever is causing us consternation and anxiety, whatever is messing with our sleep, God saw it coming; he sees it in progress; and he knows the end of the matter. Therefore, never let us conclude the sources leading to our anxiety are going unnoticed by a disinterested deity. God watches us. He watches his institutions, and he cares!
Friends, the Heavenly King is sovereign. He is the Almighty One who builds. He is also the Omnipotent One who protects. Consequently, when God decides to proceed in a certain direction, no power on earth or heaven can stay his hand. When he wants his house built, it is done. When he wants his city to shine, renewal is experienced. When he wants his businesses to thrive, profitability goes through the roof. When he wants his church to grow, revival is poured out. Whatever institution is on our minds this morning, God is watching and interested, and when he, the sovereign builder and protector, determines to increase, improve, or sustain our precious institutions or assemblies, it is always accomplished according to his will. Then, when it comes to permanence and sustainability, he is Lord of this as well. The gates of Hell shall not prevail over the institutions preferred by God. He is the one who builds. He is the one who watches. Contrarily, he is also the one who terminates. When he decides to lessen the scope, influence or success of a family, church, school, ministry, business, or nation, there is nothing that can stay his almighty hand. God is the one, who does what he wills, with his organisms, organizations, and institutions.
Friends, we need to rethink, repent, recommit, and retire. God is the Sovereign One who plans what he desires and performs all that he plans. In addition, he is the Sovereign One who has unchangeably foreordains whatsoever will ever come to pass. He does not often tell us what will be; quite often his hidden purposes are not revealed to men. However, we do know that according to his secret plan, he is the one deciding to make some rich and others poor. God is the one who builds up; he is also the one who tears down. He is the King of kings who both installs and dethrones monarchs according to his divine prerogative. That which God establishes, it will be established for how ever long he intends it to be. That which God determines to have fulfilled its purpose, it too will find itself succumbing to God’s most-wise plan.
Sadly, God sees that we, when success is enjoyed, give ourselves far too much credit. He also sees that when success is missed, we give ourselves far too much blame. Yes, God sees that we, in our arrogant self-assessment of our own importance and the vital necessity of our cherished institutions, suffer much unnecessary, foolish, and sinful anxiety. Therefore, because of our poor theology and wicked self-estimation, we are found to be basket cases, and this ought not be. Brothers and sisters, God would have us meditate more upon him and his attributes, then he would have us repent of our sin. We are not to be anxious over anything; this is a sin for which Jesus Christ died on Calvary’s cross.
But then what? God would next have us spend quality and quantity time speaking with him about our role in his plan. He would have us recommit to his purposes and not ours. He would then have us pray for guidance in making our next decision. Then he would be very pleased when we got up off our knees and zealously went to work. For when God determines to grow and guard a house, city, family, church, ministry, business, or nation, he normally uses hard working, focused and intentional people.
Then, at the end of our day, when our work is through, God would have us cease from our labors and rest in peace. He would not have us “eat the bread of anxious toil.” Instead, he would have us, his beloved children, sleep in peace like babies who trust in the planning, provision, and protection of their diligent fathers. As believers, this is where we ought to be at the end of our day. All of our institutional successes, they are part of God’s sovereign, eternal, unchanging, and brilliant plan to glorify himself and improve his people. The same is true of our institutional disasters as well.