By Clay Hallmark
President, Tennessee Baptist Convention
The WMU decided to go out to the nursing home and visit some of their former WMU members. One particular lady was 95 years old. When one of the WMU ladies entered her room, she inquired as to how she was doing. “Oh,” said the lady, “I am just worried to death!”
Her visitor asked, “You look rather well and healthy today. Are they taking good care of you here? Are you in any pain?” The older lady said, “They are taking very good care of me here. I am in no pain.”
The visitor then asked, “Well if you are doing so well, then why are you worrying?” They 95-year-old lady leaned back in her rocking chair, sighed a heavy sigh, and said, “Well young lady, every close friend I have ever had has already died and gone on to heaven. I am worried to death because I am afraid that they are all wondering where I went!”
We are living in a very chaotic, complex world right now. Worries abound. People are hyper focused on the use of pronouns to describe one another. We see conflict, mass violence, conspiracies, economic hardships, lawlessness, war, destruction, anger, protests and abuse. Most of the news seems to be bad news.
For many, the future is thought to be uncertain. There is no doubt that Satan is on the prowl. Adrian Rogers once noted, “Be prepared! As soon as God opens the windows of heaven to bless us, the devil opens the doors of hell to blast us.”
How can we respond to such a chaotic and complex world filled with worries? I believe that as God’s people we have some choices. First, we can let life’s difficulties define us.
If we are not careful, we can start to look like and think like what others say of us individually, as a church or even a denomination. Yet, we are not defined by the world, but by God. I love the lyrics to the song “Who You Say I Am” by Hillsong when they sing, “I am chosen, not forsaken. I am who You say I am. You are for me, not against me. I am who You say I am.”
We need to be careful that we are not defined by the world! Likewise, we should strive to make sure we are also not defined by our own division, doubts, disagreements or disappointments.
We read the words of Jesus in Matthew 5:16, “… Let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven (CSB).”
Life’s worries and difficulties can define us. Additionally, if we are not careful, they can also destroy us. How many times has our witness and testimony been destroyed as a direct result of how we reacted to worry, anxiety and life’s hardships? Because anxiety and worry consume us from within, embedding itself in our brain and working against our faith, we often struggle.
However, Jesus asks an important question in Matthew 6:27, “Can any of you add one moment to his life span by worrying? (CSB)” No. In fact, worry will most likely subtract hours from your life instead.
Worry has no productive value. It destroys your life, your relationships and your joy. Worry is often a clear indicator of our level of faith and trust in God. Whenever we choose to worry about something, we are in effect saying, “I’m not sure God will do anything about my situation.”
Finally, we can allow life’s hardships and worries to develop us. This development takes place on many levels. For example, the COVID-19 pandemic gave many churches the opportunity to hit the reset button on many of their ministries and rethink their mission.
Also, we know that God’s Word teaches us that difficult times can develop our personal character and witness for Christ as a lost world watches to see how we act and react.
As a denomination, we can take the opportunities before us to allow the Lord to fix some things that are broken, heal lives that have been hurt and create a ministry of mercy to those who are struggling. We serve a God who can bring calm to the chaos!
Listen to Paul’s testimony of what the Lord taught him in II Corinthians 12:9-10, “But He (the Lord) said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is perfected in weakness.’ Therefore, I will most gladly boast all the more about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may reside in me. So I take pleasure in weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions and in difficulties, for the sake of Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” B&R — Hallmark is pastor of First Baptist Church, Lexington.