November 30, 2019

Love Letter from God: Cast Your Cares John 3:16 and I Peter 5:5b-7

John 3:16

For God so loved the world that he gave his only son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have everlasting life

 

I Peter 5:5b – 7

all of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, for God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble.

Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time, casting all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you.

 

Let us pray:

Hide me behind your cross, Lord Jesus. Articulate the Father’s heart through my voice and let the Holy Spirit breathe new life to us, opening our ears to hear the message of God. Amen

When I was a non-believer, my favorite Bible verse, the one I put in all the sympathy cards, the one I always quoted to people when they were upset was I Peter 5:7. By itself, I always quoted it as “Cast your cares on him for he cares for you” It’s a nice sentiment. It is a lovely thought. But the whole of it encompasses more than just giving up our burdens to a caring God – it has to do with our posture in the laying them aside and it has to do with the fact that God has asked us to not just surrender our anxieties, but our very selves. In fact, God says to not only be humble before God, but to be humble to one another – to lay aside our need to be right, our need to be first, our need to prove our point, and instead trust that God will be faithful in demonstrating just exactly who is right and vindicating our position.

We have to surrender ourselves or we risk losing who we are called to be to our sinful nature. God has called us to be different, to live differently, but sometimes we just don’t get it. Sometimes we have to learn the same lessons over and over. And I will tell you that every message I preach is intended not only for you, but for me and sometimes I wish you listened better, but then I remember that I need to listen better, too. So here we are again: God has called us to be humble. And God doesn’t call us to that without also having lived it: Jesus had every reason to be exalted his whole life, but as we prepare to go through advent, we will remember that even though Jesus was born a king, he allowed himself to live as one of us, to be tempted like one of us, to be a human being with wants and needs and desires – he emptied himself and showed us what humility looks like (you only have to read Paul’s hymn in Philippians 2 to know that this humility was beautifully expressed in who Jesus is) Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.

In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:

Who, being in very nature God,
    did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
rather, he made himself nothing
    by taking the very nature of a servant,
    being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man,
    he humbled himself
    by becoming obedient to death—
        even death on a cross!

Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
    and gave him the name that is above every name,
10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
    in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
11 and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord,
    to the glory of God the Father.

This is what God is calling us to. This is what Peter is talking about in his letter to suffering Christians: give up your very selves and trust God because God cares what is happening. God will lift you up because it is God’s reputation on the line.

And here’s the thing: you can’t truly surrender your cares to God unless you actually trust God to handle them, which means letting them go 100%, which means that you cannot be proud about the resolution. You cannot think you can solve the problem – that’s pride, too. You can’t think “oh I’ll just tell God about it to hedge my bets” as though God is one of many options in the resolution to the concerns you have.

When you pray and ask God to handle your situation, your illness, your decision, your future, your work – you no longer have to worry about it. You no longer have to keep tossing around ideas to fix it. You no longer have to turn it over in your mind wondering what is going to happen next.

Instead, when it comes back to mind, you say “I have given that to God. I cannot do better than that”

This doesn’t mean you forgo doctor appointments or medicines or family counseling or going on the job interview – what it does mean is that you surrender the OUTCOME to the God who cares about what you are going through and wants you to turn it over to him.

I do also want to say that sometimes anxiety is a mental disorder. Sometimes only medication can resolve it. That is not what I am talking about, because that is not something you have control over (think of it like diabetes = you can’t control your blood sugar without medication with that, so with an anxiety disorder, the same is true of your anxious thoughts) If that is true for you, that is completely different.

Because casting your anxiety on God is about the anxiety you control, the worries you bring on yourself, the things you refuse to let go of, not the things you can’t let go of because your brain won’t let you.

Humility means being willing to let God own your issues. It means resolving to continually give them back to him, not trying to wrest them away. It means knowing that when that worry or fear starts to pop up again, I am going to remind myself that it does not belong to me anymore. I do the things I need to do, and I let God own what happens next.

I go to the doctor and hear the diagnosis.

I participate in counseling sessions.

I go to the job interview.

But all the while, I remember that God has been given the outcome controls. So if the diagnosis is bad, I do the treatment and trust that God will be with me.

If the divorce still happens, if the children still go into foster care, if I don’t get the job, if everything falls apart – I still trust God with the outcome. I do not worry that God will fail. Life is hard. Life has obstacles to overcome and challenges to face, but if I cast my cares on God, I am trusting that God will provide.

Jesus said that in this world we would have trouble, but that he would be with us and that he would send a Comforter.

Paul reminds us that God is working all things for good and he tells us to pray continuously.

And here, Peter says, give it to God because God cares.

There are people who suggest that we should limit our prayers to the big things: cancer, disasters, car accidents, job loss.

But I believe God caring doesn’t stop at the giant things – God cares about the little things too: the sick pet, the lost keys, the crazy day. As long as you are not praying out of selfish ambition or pride (yeah, let’s not pray for Rockstar parking at the Target on Christmas Eve, ok?) but truly out of a place of ‘here God, I can’t, you can’ God will listen and God will answer.

Sometimes the need feels too big. That’s ok, too, because when you are humble enough to know that God can handle it, the Holy Spirit intercedes on your behalf, sometimes groaning right along with you. You see, when Jesus said he was going to be with us, he didn’t just mean that he was everywhere in the world and therefore available to us.

He meant that like a best friend, like someone who loves us, he would be there – next to us, suffering with us, knowing our need and caring about it.

God has given us a beautiful promise – God is mighty, God is powerful, God is able, and God cares about you. God promises to take your burden if you cast it on him.

I love that word “cast” – it isn’t just a laying it down, but if you have ever seen fishermen at work, which remember, Peter was a fisherman by trade, when they cast a line or a net, they throw it out as far as they can. They don’t try to keep it close and successful fishermen keep the line out in the water, they don’t reel it back in every 5 minutes. They wait.

Peter isn’t using this word casually. He suggests that we throw our burdens as far as we can away from ourselves: all the way to God’s throne, where they can actually be addressed and managed by the God of all mercy and grace. The God who cares about our needs and about us.

So what things do you need to surrender to God today? How can you, right now, cast your cares on God? How can you say “here God, I can’t, you can” about the things in your life that you cannot control?

I ask everyone to take a sticky note and write your one thing down. I have this jar up here on the table and I am going to ask everyone to come and put their one thing in it. We are going to leave this jar here, on the altar. And every time you start to want to take your burden back, picture it here – all of it, sitting in this place where God sees it and no one else knows it. And as each of us think of the burdens in this jar during the week, pray that God will move on behalf of the person who laid it down. It doesn’t have to be a long involved prayer – just “God, you know what is there and who put it in. Show them your care by working on their behalf. In Jesus name, amen”

In this way, we are not only surrendering to God, but sharing the load with our fellow Christians, which is also an admonition that we have been given about the burdens we carry.

I suggest to you, that when you can surrender this one thing to God today, if you can remember that God cares enough to stand with you in the midst of your trial, if you can allow the rest of us to pray for your need not even knowing what it is, if you can trust that God can where you can’t, you will be freer than you have been for a long time – trusting the God of miracles to care about your mess.

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As we have been doing every week in this series, I will remind you of what it looks like to say that the love of God is found in every page of Scripture. Follow along on your sheets and whenever I point at you say whatever is bolded on your page:

What does it mean to say God loves?

God loved us enough to create us, to form us from the dust.

God loved us enough to let us fail, to let us choose our own way over God’s – to let us chain ourselves to sin and defeat and heartbreak and sorrow and death.

God loved us enough to provide a rescue, a way back: through wanderers, murderers, adulterers, defaulters, promise-breakers, foreigners, strangers, and lovers.

God loved us enough to show us mothers, judges, kings, and prophets who loved and spoke for God and kept reminding us of the promise of redemption

God loved us enough to show us how evil and wrong continually mess things up and how obedience to God fosters holiness and bestows blessing

God loved us enough to send us Jesus, the only begotten Son of God, to preach and live peace, grace, hope, joy, and love.

God loved us enough to see Jesus rejected, to see him die, to see him buried.

God loved us enough to raise Jesus from the dead and send the Holy Spirit to remind us of all we have in him and empower us to live like Jesus.

God loves us enough to want us to live like Jesus – an abundant life infused with all the fruit of the Spirit, redeemed, free, loved.

God loves us enough to still let us choose our own destiny.

God loves us enough to promise the hope of forever, of resurrection from the dead, and final judgement.

God loved us enough, God loves us enough, God will always love us enough.

For God so loved the world…

God loves you.

God wants you to know it. God wants you to live in it.

God wants you to be able to love others because you know you are loved.

God’s love is expressed to us every week, most tangibly, as we gather at this table: The Son who died and yet lives, gave everything so we could know the depth of God’s love.

So, Come. Drink the wine. Eat the bread. Know you ARE loved.

God loves you. Go, love the world with him.

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