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8-9/10-08

Bandwidth:  Simplify

Bandwidth is creating capacity to truly live.  Why is it we live such fast, stressed-out lives?  I want you to consider Jesus’ teaching that there really is another way to live.  We can start fresh every day living from a much freer, less burdensome perspective on life.  I want to begin by giving you a chance to self-diagnose.  Where is your current stress and worry level?  So just assume you’re starting with zero points and I want you to answer these questions.

--If you often worry that you’re not not going to get it all done that day--if you find yourself thinking that often add 10 points to your score.

--If you wake up in the morning usually feeling refreshed, you get to subtract 15 points.

--If you often say to yourself, “I can’t believe what time it is,” add 20 points.

--If you’ve ever tried to bill your doctor for the time you spend in the waiting room, add 20 points.

--If you have to clear out the space in the passenger seat of your car for someone to sit down, add 15.

--If you have a hobby you enjoy, subtract 15 points.

--If your hobby is taping pictures of your boss to a watermelon and throwing it from high places, subtract 50.  That’s a great stress relief.

--If you’ve ever stared at a family member or your roommate threw the tines of a fork and pretended he was in prison, add 25 points.

---When in traffic if you mentally mark cars to see whose lanes wins, or if you often find yourself honking and waving and directing people to warmer climates, and yet you still believe you live a relatively stress-free life, you’re in denial.  So for those of you who actually know your score and are stressed and bothered that there weren’t any points on the last one, relax.  It was a joke, ok? 

Our world screams at us:  work harder, stay busier, buy more, do more.  So many of us do live stressed out worried up, moving fast but often we wonder, are we even headed in the right direction?  We have lots of acquaintances in life, but how many truly life-giving relationships do we have?  Maybe, the answer to the life we long for deep within is not faster, higher, more.  Maybe God intended life to be much simpler and easier than we tend to make it.

That’s what I’m discovering the longer I study the teachings of Jesus.  I want you to consider this:  What if God intended your life to be much simpler, much easier than you tend to make it?  What if the answer to alleviating the stress and worry and frustratsions of life is not to try harder or schedule better or move faster, but to simplify--to prioritize from a completely new perspective?  What if all the rules that govern all your ‘have to’s’ in life could change?  What if God’s desire was actually for you to live a worry free, stress-free life with the capacity to actually live fulfilled each day in that day?  That’d be amazing, wouldn’t it?  That would truly be an amazing way to live.  You know what I find, is that things haven’t changed that much in 2000 years.  Yeah, technologically speaking they have, but humanly speaking, they haven’t changed that much.  So we’re going to take a look at a message that Jesus gave on a hillside one day, called the sermon on the Mount.  And, He’s speaking to a thousand people who’ve gathered on this hillside by the sea of Galillee, and they’re stressed and worried just like we are about all the things of life.  And Jesus makes it real simple for them.

 “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?" [Matthew 6:25-27, TNIV]

That’s pretty simple, right?  Jesus says, “Don’t worry.”  Be happy.  Remember that song?  “Don’t worry.  Be happy.  Here’s a little song I wrote.  You might want to sing it note for note.”  Is that what Jesus is trying to say here?  Just stop it.  Stop worrying.  Relax.  Don’t worry.  Be happy.  I don’t think so.  Because, if it were that simple, we would just stop it, wouldn’t we?  What Jesus is trying to get us to see is life from a completely knew perspective --a whole new paradigm, a God-centered view of life rather than just our limited human-centered view of life.  That’s the key.  See, until we have a shift in our thinking about what life really is, we can’t just stop worrying or stop stressing.

So, what is life?  And that’s really the rhetorical question that Jesus poses here, because He knows we stress and we worry about life based on certain assumptions of what life is and what’s going to bring life to me. And Jesus is challenging our most basic assumptions about it--that life primarily comes from the outside in rather than the inside out.  He’s challenging this assumption that life has to start with the physical and then work in.  And, then maybe if we have time we’ll add a little dash of God--a little sprinkle of sprituality to spice things up a bit.  He is challenging our whole assumption that’s how life works.  He’s challenging our whole view of life and God’s place in it. 

So He starts with what’s most important physically--food for life and clothing for the body.  No doubt these are the most important physically speaking.  Right?  So what Jesus is doing is like He’s pushing us up to the edge of the cliff and He’s making us look down so that when we back up we can see from a new perspective.  It’s not as bad as we thought, and so He pushes us to the kind of extreme of the things that matter most physically.  Because the truth is most of us will never be at the edge of the cliff where we’re asking, “What will I eat today?  What will I wear?”  We may ask ‘what will I wear?’ But it’s not as in, ‘or I’ll- not- have anything-and-I’ll-be-streaking-around’ sense of what will I wear.  It’s more like ‘I’ve got 10 things and I don’t like any of them what will I wear?”  That’s totally different than what He’s talking about.  Jesus is trying to get us to see that God gave us life-- physical life--so why can’t we trust that He will also give us all the things we need not only to physically survive, but to spiritually thrive as well.  But that’s just Jesus’ point here.  The whole problem that He’s pointing out is that we don’t really see life from God’s perspective.  We don’t really trust that God really is good and really wants to give us life to the full.  And so, as a result we don’t tend to trust Him, and we don’t tend to see from His perspective, and we live our lives stressed and worried because we try to play God and control things, but we can’t.  And so we stress and worry about all these lesser things. 

Jesus knows we struggle with that just like those people back then did, and so I imagine what happened is some birds fly over.  And He says, “Let’s just make this real simple.  Look at these birds, would you?  They don’t live stressed out and worried and they don’t even have mortgage insurance.  They don’t even have a good 401k or IRA plan.  And yet, though they aren’t valuable at all to you, they matter to God.  He cares for them.  Every single one of them as long as God wants them to live, they will live and have all they need.”  And then Jesus delivers the punch.  “And you know what?  You’re much more valuable than they are”.  So you don’t need to worry and stress out about all these lesser physical things like when people don’t do what you want them to do.  Or, when you can’t get everything on your To Do list done.  And, besides Jesus says, “it does no good anyway.  Who by worrying can add a single hour to life?” He says.

Just stop and think about it for a second.  What was that thing that stressed or worried you the most last week?  Can you even remember it still?  Or last year?  Think about last year.  What was that thing that felt so overwhelming?  Do you even recall what it was?  Five years ago?  That thing that was so burdensome and you stressed about so much--did it even happen the way you were concerned it would happen?  Probably not. And, even if it did, I’ll bet  now you see it from a bigger perspective and you’ve adjusted and adapted.  This is what Jesus is trying to help us see.

Now, imagine your life looking from God’s perspective--from 100 years looking back, or 250 years looking back, or an eternity looking back.  What really was worth worrying about?  What if we could live from that perspective.  That’s what Jesus wants us to see--life from God’s eternal perspective.  And then we start to see that worry is really worthless.  That’s true in multiple ways.  Do you know that 90% of things that you and I worry about are worthless.  Studies have shown that if you’re the average person the typical thing you worry about 9 times out of 10 will never happen. It won’t happen.  You completely wasted valuable life energies for no reason whatsoever.  It never happened and wasn’t going to happen.  It’s interesting. 

So why do we worry?  Well, in part it’s because we live in a life where we feel vulnerable.  Have you ever awakened in the middle of the night to a crash or banging sound somewhere in the house?  When that happens, I immediately get fearful.  I imagine Jason roaming around with a butcher knife coming after everyone in the house.  And I start to worry and make up these scenarios in my head.  I’m worrying about all these things that are never going to happen and I can’t get to sleep. 

Why do we worry?  Sometimes, because there are troubles.  There are things that happen in life that are bad and don’t go the way we want.  And there are times when we feel financially vulnerable or physically vulnerable and it causes us to worry.  I mean, doesn’t it feel a little bit like Jesus is just being naive here?  If you’re honest, doesn’t it?  You know, like He’s not really living in real life, because there are vulnerabilities.  You know, He perceives that and we find later in His message where He says, “You know there are troubles in life.  In fact there are enough troubles to worry about just today.  So don’t borrow worry from the futre and worry about the future you can’t even see.  Today has enough worries of its own.  Just live one day at a time with God, and let these things take care of themselves.”  What Jesus is trying to help us see is how freeing it is when we trust the God who created and sustains our very lives.  And, to see that He cares for us deeply.  Life following God’s will and way is much simpler and much more freeing than we make it.

There’s a deeper reason, too, that we worry and stress about life and Jesus kind of digs that up next.

“And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith?" [Matthew 6:28-30, TNIV]

Now, it’s not obvious at first, but Jesus is pointing out actually a deeper root cause of worry and stress.  And that cause comes from where we are looking to get our sense of value and worth.  He’s pointing out this thing that happens when we try to get our main sense of value and worth from others.  That’s why we worry about how we look, isn’t it?  And that’s what He’s talking about here.  He’s talking about the same phenomena that every January increases gym membership.  We all say, “This year’s going to be better.  I’m going to get what I want out of life, so I’m going to buff up.”  Or, “I’m going to look better and I’m finally going to get the love I want or need.”  Or, “I’m going to get a better ride, or a better house.  I’m going to put the things around me that will make people see what I’m worth.”  It’s not that any of that stuff is bad, it’s just that when we mis-prioritize, when we seek to get people to validate us primarily by how we look or what we can wrap around our bodies materially, when we live for the approval of others before the approval of God, we miss out on getting what we deep down desire.  Because, it’s a spiritual problem.  We don’t feel secure enough, or loved or valued enough.  We don’t feel eternally safe and secure, and so we stress and worry and try harder to get those people out there to give us a little sense of worth or value or love. Usually we try to get it from our greatest critics, right?  You see, Jesus is trying to free us to see ourselves from God’s perspective.  So, He points out king Solomon who in their day historically would have been the wealthiest, most attractive, famous, ripped, buffed up, decked out person ever in history.  And Jesus says, “Hey, look.  Not even Solomon with all he put around his body could make himself more attractive than God made nature.”  Because, it doesn’t come from the outside.  It comes from the inside.  That’s what He’s trying to get us to see, and God wants to clothe you with what is truly of value and worth and lovable and attractive.  It doesn’t come from ‘out there.’  It comes from in here.  If outside beauty--if just getting buffed up--could do it, could really create lasting attraction, lasting love and relationship, then Hollywood marriages would stick like super glue.  Wouldn’t they?  But it doesn’t.  What truly creates lasting love and life-giving relatiionship is spiritual, not physical.  It’s something that comes from God whether we acknowledge that or not. 

There are 2 different ways to view our lives.  One is a human centered perspective.  It’s a perspective of life that says, “This life, what you can see here in this short 70 to 100 years is all you get, so you’d better grab hold of all the little security or value or getting people’s approval you can, cause that’s it.”  And you know, if that’s true, if that’s all there is, then I guess that’s it.  We are destined to a life of stress and worrying, because we’re finite and we’re not in control and we are vulnerable.  And so, that’s it-- stress and worry.  But Jesus is saying, “That’s not it.  There is another perspective that you can now live from and enter into.  It’s called life in God’s kingdom.  It’s life from a God-centered perspective--God’s will and God’s ways governing.”  When we live first from that perspective, it changes the way we deal with all the little and big troubles that come our way.  It doesn’t mean we won’t have troubles.  It means we’ll have a new capacity to make something of them and deal with them.  It doesn’t mean we’ll be less productive or less effective.  It actually increases our capacity to truly live, because it alleviates all the time wasting stresses and worries and it gives us confidence.  Even in the trials and tribulations, even in the detours and the diversions, it gives us confidence that we are living by what matters most--God’s perspective.  Which is really the only perspective that counts and lasts. 

If we could only believe this enough to live this way.  Right?  But we struggle, and Jesus knows this.  And, He knows they struggled, too.  And so He says, “O you of little faith.  If you could only see.  If you could only live this way.”  It’s interesting what gets translated “you of little faith” is actually one word. Jesus actually makes up a word.  He makes up a nickname for His closest apprentices.  It’s kind of a chiding nickname-- “little faiths.”  That’s literally what it is-- ‘little faiths.’  Because, the truth is we tend to go away from this.  Many of us have heard this before.  This is nothing new, and yet when we look at the way we typically live life, how quickly we go back and we lose perspective.  Right?  And our actions betray the reality of what we believe and reveal how deeply we believe it.  In reality often we’re little faiths, aren’t we?  That’s why I find I have got to soak my mind in God’s perspective.  I’ve got to be in the Scriptures regularly so I keep God’s perspective of who I am and where my value comes from and what’s most important in life.  I keep it in mind, because I’ll tell you, the honest truth is I quickly divert to a self-centered perspective of life, rather than a God-centered perspective.  How about you?

What God wants us to do is to enter into a faith-filled life.  Faith is just another word for trust.  He wants us to learn to trust Him like a child trusts a loving, good parent.  That’s why the next thing Jesus says is this.

"If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them." [Matthew 6:30-32, TNIV]

Think about this.  Jesus is saying God wants you to live like a child under the care of a loving parent.  That’s a great way to live.  If you had a loving, caring parent in a secure home, think back to how great that was.  It didn’t mean you didn’t have to learn and grow and take responsibility for life.  But, you didn’t have to stress and worry all the time.  You could enjoy the day--the moments of life.  Right?  Children know how to do that.  God actually wants to make it simpler and easier than we tend to make it for ourselves.  But we don’t tend to trust.  So that we don’t live out of that perspective.  Imagine from God’s perspective for a moment.  What if you had a 5 year old kid who acted the way we typically act?  Just imagine this for a second.  You go and you wake him up in the morning and the little 5 year old wakes up and the first thing he says is, “Oh, man.  I’m not going to get it all done today.”  You think, “You just woke up kid.  Relax.”  And he’s thinking, “I’ve got so much to do and I just know I’m not going to be able to get it all done.”  And you say, “Look, you don’t have to do that much.  I just want you to pick up your room, ok?  But I also want you to enjoy life.  C’mon, wake up.”  You go get some clothes for him and you bring them out and he says, “I can’t wear that.  People will think I look stupid.  They’ll hate me.  I’ll never be loved my whole life.”  And you say, “What?? Can’t this kid just rest in how much I love him?  Why can’t he find security from that?”  Then he goes about his day, but unlike most kids who go out and enjoy the day and be in the moment, he keeps coming in and sitting there pondering, “What if I don’t make something of myself in life?  What if I don’t accomplish all my goals and fulfill my greater purpose?”  You’re sitting there thinking, “Look.  Please.  I am here to guide you.  I’ll help you develop your gifts.  I’ll help you learn to figure out what is your purpose.  But, you don’t need to stress out about the future with that.  Just be faithful with what you have today and let me help you.”  And then, you get to that night before you serve dinner, you can just see this horribly stressed out look and you go, “Son, what’s wrong?”  And he admits to you that he really believes that tonight is the night that you’re finally never going to give him food again.  He’s been worrying his whole life that one of these days you’re not going to feed him ever again.  And you think, “Have I ever not fed this kid?” 

Now, you would be really concerned about that child, wouldn’t you?  Because that’s not good, normal or healthy.  But, do you see it?  Jesus is trying to get us to back up and see our lives from God’s perspective--of a good, loving, heavenly Father who knows what you need.  He’s trying to show us a whole new way of doing life under the care of trusting a loving heavenly parent who will take us through the ups and downs and guide us even through the trials and tribulations.  And it doesn’t mean that bad or evil things won’t happen to us, in this life.  They do, but He sees even that from a bigger, eternal perspective.  He knows not only what we need to survive this life, but to survive and thrive eternally.  This is the God that Jesus claimed to reveal, and this is the perspective He wants us to live out of. 

But how? Because it’s not that natural, is it?  I find the default is more the frantic, hurried stress, worried life.  The key is simplify.  Simplify what gets top priority.  And that’s what Jesus ends with.

"But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own." [Matthew 6:33-34, TNIV]

Put God first, because He wants to help you sort out the rest of priorities so you don’t just live stressed and worried all the time. 

If you live stressed and worried about all the stuff going on around you and then you try to cram in the important things last, they don’t fit.  And they fall off the radar of our lives and we keep going around feeling stress and worried and wondering if we’re doing the important things.  Start first with your relationship with God.  Start each day learning about God and renewing your perspective about what God says about you and your life and His will for your life, because Jesus says God wants to help us discern how to prioritize the rest of it.  When we do this we start to realize that those things that truly give life and bring love, joy and peace and self-control--they come from within.  They come from God, not from the things outside that we try to control.  And then, He wants to help us with the bigger priorities of life.  What are those?  Jesus didn’t tell us in this passage, but we can infer from other passages.  When He was asked what is the greatest commandment and He said, “Love God first with all you’ve got.”  But the second is like it.  He couldn’t even disconnect the first from the second-- love people as much as you do yourself.  So clearly, as we put God first, He’s going to want to walk with us and teach us how to make room for the people we do life with that are most important.  How to make room for them right away so that they don’t get lost and there’s no more capacity for them.  And then, God is going to want to help us with our unique gifts and passions to better use them.  This is what He’s created us for as well.  You know what’s interesting is many times it’s our fears that keep us from living out of the energyzing passions God’s given us.  I’m going to talk some more about that in a couple of weeks.  God wants us to overcome these financial fears or fears of the future, or fears of what people think, so we can have capacity and better make room to live out of those uniquenesses.  And then, He also  wants us to have fun and enjoy life with them.  He wants us to do that and to stay in shape.  When you put the important things in first the rest of the stuff finds a way in and around the important things.  When we put God first He wants to help us with all the rest.  When we’re sitting in traffic, it’s not just a diversion or frustration.  God can actually make something eternal of it.

We have the capacity for the things that matter most and that’s what Jesus was trying to get across.  Prioritze the big things, the important things first.  Make God first priority because He really wants to help us prioritize the other things in life.  And then even the little distractions and annoyances--He can even make something of that.  As we learn to trust like this it is a much better way to live, because you can live at peace.  And even though things might get left out, the important things you can trust God to help you live out the important things--the lasting things.

Take some time to think through and pray through and write down what are those few important things that I’m not going to let just get left in last place and fall out of my life.  I’m going to make capacity for them.  Decide if you’re going to do what Jesus said.  If you’re going to make seeking God and understanding who He is and His desire and view of you and will for your life, if you’re going to start there.  I want to encourage you to do this so you can find order out of the chaos and make wise decisions from there.  Next week I’ll talk about how to make time as a rhythm of life to be restored and renewed.  

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