Opportunities not Obstacles

Sermon Excerpt from March 5, 2023

In that same way a checkbook and calendar can point out priorities, I believe anxious thoughts can point out idols which are those things that take priority over our relationship with God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

When I say anxiousness a fixation of our thoughts on some future potentiality that prevents us from being fully present in the moment. It may be better defined as worry that distracts. What do you wake up worrying about? What gets you up at night and won’t let you go back to sleep? What is it that you constantly find yourself talking about? What captures your attention about the future that takes you away from the present and actually doing something about it? That may be an anxious issue.

Anxiety / fear / distracting worry can rob us of joy and repel us from peace by replacing God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit with something or someone else as the center of faith.

The psalm we are memorizing this Lenten season provides a pathway to get to the bottom of our worrying distraction.

Search me and know my heart, test me and know my anxious thoughts, point out anything in me that offends you and lead me in the path of eternal life.

Psalm 138:23-24

Before you give me a hard time about asking you to pray for a test from God, from my experience, the opportunities for growth abound in existing circumstances. Most of the time when I pray the prayer of examen I don’t receive a new test, but rather begin seeing an existing trial or difficulty with fresh eyes.

What are you facing now that may be a test? How may that be the very opportunity for you to examine where Christ is in relation to what you are facing?

Health related? Perhaps it is an opportunity to see whether you are trusting in your wellness or the Great Physician (Mark 2:17). Financial strain? Maybe you can see it as a chance to focus less on your bank account and more on the one who owns the cattle on a thousand hills (Ps 50). Relationship strife? Maybe it is here that you can take up the ministry of reconciliation given to us by the Lord instead of remaining on the sidelines worrying (2 Cor. 5:11-20). Denominational issues? Placing our trust in Christ who is the head of church who never fails rather than a group of people who often do fail (Phil 2:8-9).

Maybe instead of thinking of these as obstacles to get past, we see them as tests to get through. In other words, as opportunities for our faith to grow as we place God firmly in the middle of our lives. Remember Jesus’ encouragement to “Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added unto you.” It is not that any of these things that we worry about aren’t important. But the only one who can bring peace and rest is God. Attuning our hearts to him first allows life to be lived out of an abundance not fear or anxiety.

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