Is Jesus Your Therapist?

Imagine with me that you are on an airplane. After you take off, the passenger sitting next to you begins conversation with you. It begins with the normal chit chat of where you’ve been, what you do, and how your day has been and continues a bit more in depth. When the passenger learns that you belong to a Christian church, he turns to you in all seriousness and asks, “Who is Jesus anyway?” Startled you search for an answer. As you begin telling your fellow traveler about Jesus, he listens with seemingly great interest.

Your curiosity is stirred, so you ask, “Who is Jesus for you?” After a long pause, the response is, “Well, um, I think Jesus is kind of like a good therapist. He listens to me, asks me how I am feeling, gives me suggestions about trying different behaviors, affirms me, assures me that I am okay and invites me to share anything I want with him. About the only difference I see is that the therapist gives me a bill every month.”

What would you say next to your traveling partner? In the Gospel from Mark 8 Jesus asks, “Who do people say that I am?” His disciples respond that some think he is the incarnation of John the Baptist or maybe one of the prophets come back from the dead. Then Jesus puts it to them, asking, “But who do you say that I am?” And bold Peter responds instantaneously, “You are our long awaited Messiah.” You are the one who will run the Romans out of Palestine and set us up in power. You are the one who has come to meet our needs and fix what is wrong. Peter’s response sounds a bit like our airplane passenger friend. Jesus is a good guy who has come to take care of me and meet my needs. He listens to my gripes, okays my whining, feeds my pabulum and burps me when I’ve taken in too much air.

In our therapeutic culture of today, we have tamed Jesus, rendered him to be a comforting, healing friend who always affirms, always accepts and reassures, never demands, never condemns. But this is not the Jesus we meet in Mark 8.

In this text the disciples (and we) are being asked to rearrange their idea of the Messiah. Jesus issues a challenge, a promise, a question, and a warning. First, the challenge: In verse 34 we read, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself, take up his cross and follow me.” Jesus calls us to discipleship. It is a call to serve and not be served, to be obedient to God’s direction and control. It is a call to take off our pabulum stained bib and put on an apron of servanthood. To deny self has less to do with the things we accumulate and more to do with what we give away. It is to deny self and live in a more selfless manner, less concerned with our own needs and wants and more open to God’s direction and guidance. It is to rise each morning, see ourselves in the mirror of God’s Word and then commitment ourselves to be used by God for His purposes that day. To deny one’s self and take up the cross is to say no to myself and my petty whining and yes to the voice in the command of Jesus. It is to say with Paul in Galatians 2:20, “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live but Christ lives in me.”

Imagine with me for just one moment, if every one of us today would offer ourselves up to God to be used by Him for His purposes, what would that mean in your relationship with your enemy who has wronged you, for your checkbook or bank account, and your relationship with those in your family? What would it mean for the use of time in your daily life?

In 1997 the world looked on as thousands of people said goodbye to Mother Theresa. When she opened her mission in 1952, the neighbors complained. But Mother Theresa persisted in feeding, clothing, providing shelter and medical attention to countless thousands, because she said she saw Jesus in the faces of the half-dead people whose cheeks had been nibbled away by rats and maggots. Jesus challenges us to discipleship, to be obedient to God’s direction and control.

In verse 35 Jesus issues a promise. “For whoever wants to save his life will lose it. But whoever loses his life for me and for the Gospel will save it.” This promise is like a two-edged sword. The one side cuts saying that if you want to save your life in this world, you will lose it in eternity. The other says that if you lose your life in this world, you will save it for eternity. The promise is that Jesus will fill our lives with His riches when we empty ourselves. This is a great mystery of the Kingdom of God. Let me illustrate.

A muscle that is not exercised consistently will eventually become useless. A brain that is not stimulated continuously will become less than fully functional. A voice that is not trained and disciplined will become hoarse and sore. A talent that is not used will soon become lost. As you surrender your life to be used, exercised, disciplined and directed by Jesus, it will become fruitful and multiply with blessings. Why? Because God has free reign to use your life as He created it to be. He who made you, sustains you, and knows how best for you to live. He can empower, motivate, lead, guide, and energize you for His true and honest servanthood.

In verse 36 Jesus asks a question. “What good is it for a man to gain the whole world yet forfeit his soul. Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul?” Jesus asks us where we place our values in life. He inquires what life’s balance sheet looks like not in the eyes of humankind, but in the eyes of God. When God looks at the bottom line on the balance sheet with your name on it, what does He see? God is the final auditor who every man, woman and child must face in the final accounting. The real question of our time on earth is not, what will people think of what I did or didn’t do? but what will God think of it? There will be no verdict by public opinion. The test of eternity is to see things through the eyes of Jesus, not through our own eyes.

We have all heard the saying, Finders keeper, losers weepers. As children we probably said it when we found what we thought valuable. We felt we had the right to take what we had found and too bad for the poor loser who misplaced it. In this verse Jesus turns the saying upside down and in effect says, Finders weepers, losers keepers.

The person who selfishly protects him or herself at the expense of others and hangs on to their possessions will lose his life. Their soul will become empty even though their port folio expands. But the person who gives ownership of their life generously to God and to others will find true happiness and fulfillment. Through Jesus Christ this person will know what it means to truly live while they are here on earth. It does not matter whether you are young or old, rich or poor, weak or powerful, you will have a hard time letting go of what you have. Jesus has a message for you: when you give up those earthly attachments you will find that doing so is eternally worthwhile.

Friends, if you are looking for true fulfillment, stop trying to find it in your self, your friends, your possessions, or your status. Jesus invites you to follow Him. If you do, you will discover first hand that losers really are keepers. Jesus asks you the question, “What good is it to gain the whole world and lose your own soul?”

In verse 38 we hear Jesus’ fourth word, a warning. “If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of man will be ashamed of him when he comes in His Father’s glory with the holy angels.”

The simple truth is that when Jesus comes into His kingdom, He will receive those who relied on His power in this life. In a beginning logic course, the professor made an unusual offer to his students who were preparing for their final exam. He told them, “You can bring to class on the day of the exam as much information as you can fit into one piece of notebook paper.” So every student sharpened his or her pencils and spent all week trying to cram as many facts as possible onto an 8″ X 11″ piece of notebook paper. But one student walked into the class, put a piece of notebook paper on the floor and had an advanced logic student stand on the paper. This advanced logic student told him everything he needed to know. As a result he was the only student in the class to receive an A.

Jesus reminds us that the time will come when you will have to stand before God. On your own you cannot pass that exam. No matter how much you know, you do not have the right answer. But there is someone who will stand in for us. His name is Jesus. Jesus reminds us that He desires to stand with us in this life and in the life to come. It is a matter of our choice.

Jesus is not our personal therapist. He is the suffering Messiah, the One who stands beside us; the Alpha and the Omega; the ruler of kings of the earth; the beginning and the end. Jesus is our Savior, not our therapist. Jesus, the Savior, wants to meet you personally today. In that meeting you will be changed. In the quiet of your heart today you are invited to meet Jesus, the Savior. Will you invite Him in?

What a Good Word Can Accomplish

Let me tell you how I was introduced to these verses.

It was 1952. I was 28 years old and had been an ordained pastor for 4 years in Atlantic, Iowa. St. Paul’s Lutheran Church was a delightful congregation. The people were kind and understood this young pastor who was just getting started in the ministry. These were the years that there was a shortage of ministers and calls were plentiful. I had several opportunities to leave Atlantic, but was not tempted until a letter of call came from Nazareth Lutheran Church in Cedar Falls to become its pastor. I learned that the congregation had a lot of good leadership, but it was divided and they needed someone to bring unity to this group of believers. What a challenge.

We prayed and thought much about the move and finally came to the next step, which was to share our thoughts with some close friends.ÊTwo of these people were known in the congregation as UncleÊMartin and Aunt Mary. We often visited them and listened to theirÊstories telling what Christ had done for them as a family. When we shared with them that we were thinking about moving, they listened carefully and asked very few questions. After they had heard us out,ÊAunt Mary wanted to know if we had come for counsel and we assured them we were anxious to hear how they felt about the possible move. It was silent when Uncle Martin said, “This comes to us as a surprise. Things are going well in our congregation and you have only been with us four years. Let us think about it and we will get back to you.”

In a few days they came to our house and gave us their reasons why we should stay. They were well thought out and very logical. However,Êlike most people seeking counsel our minds were pretty well made up, and I began to argue a bit with Martin and Mary. I remember telling them how I felt this was a real chance for me to bring this congregation together.ÊI pointed out that I was young, strong, had something of a sense of humor and could provide the necessary leadership that was needed.Ê

After several cups of coffee Aunt Mary, who was very perceptive and an excellent student of the human personality, said, “Perhaps it would be better that we leave but before we do let me share with you twoÊScripture passages that have meant much to me. “As your day is so shall your strength be. The everlasting God is your resting placeÊand underneath are His everlasting arms.”

I am sure that I had read those verses before but they had neverÊimpressed me as much as they did that day. After they left our home, I wondered why Aunt Mary had left us with those words. Had she seen in me a cocky young man who thought he was going to beÊable to straighten out the difficulties in that congregation by myÊown reason and strength? Had she seen tough days ahead for me especially with an attitude that might have been a bit proud and arrogant? For some time I wondered how those verses applied to our conversation. I don’t know what Aunt Mary’s reason was for pointing me to these verses but she did not know who God used her that day. We moved. The going was a bit rough and I soon learned that I was not adequate for the task before me. At times I felt crushed wondering why we had ever made the move.ÊThen those words from God rang through my head and soul and there was strength and grace to march on.

It is now 47 years since Aunt Mary and Uncle Martin passed on these jewels from God’s Word to us. It was not a surprise to me that in the midst of her serious stroke Eunice told me that these were some of the words which had brought her great comfort in the darkest hours of not knowing what tomorrow held for her.

The background of this text is interesting. Israel had been roaming around in the wilderness for 40 years. They had often been a rebellious people turning their backs on God. Now it was time to enter the Promised Land of Canaan. It was the land that GodÊhad promised to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Israel was moving on but Moses was not going with them. It was not a surprise to Moses for God had made it clear that He would not lead Israel into Canaan. Several times in the book of Deuteronomy Moses says, “Because of Israel’s grumbling and complaining the Lord became angry with the whole generation and said that none ofÊthem, save Caleb, would walk into the Promised Land. ThisÊincluded Moses. I wonder if it did not hurt Moses to be left behind.Ê

As he tried to lead the Israelites there were many days when their leader was at the end of his ropes. Through these experiences he saw how weak he was but how God gave him the strength that was needed. In his hours of despair Moses felt those everlasting arms of God underneath him. Now the appointed day had come andÊMoses walked to the top of Mt. Nebo. There he had a clear view of Israel’s homeland. As the people prepared to march in to Canaan under the leadership of Joshua, Moses died on top of the mount.ÊHis parting words pointed the people to God who would beÊtheir security and strength.

How may people do you suppose have received great spiritual help from these words of Moses. Uncle Martin and Aunt Mary had and so they shared those words with my wife and me and today I share them with you.

This leads to the question, “What word do you share with your loved ones in times of adversity or temptation? What about your parents? There is going to be a high school party and your son or daughter will be going. It sounds innocent but the stories about these parties are true. At many of these gatherings there is a lot of drinking, drugs, sex, and other bad behavior. How you would love to shield your children of this by saying, “You can’t go.” But that isn’t the answer either. Did you say, “Don’t disgrace yourÊfamily’s name.” “Be strong, you have power within you to resistÊthe temptations that will come your way.” It’s not very goodÊadvice, at least it is superficial. Why not give them a goodÊword from the Lord. Point them back to Jesus Christ who isÊtheir strength under all conditions.

Your children are leaving for college. This will be a new world for them. How will they handle the temptations meeting them on the campus? Can you prepare them for the struggles that will be theirs.ÊWe read in the newspapers the shocking stories that come fromÊthe state universities and we wonder if our family might escape this horrible environment by sending our sons and daughters to a smaller college, perhaps one that is operated by the church. We are nowÊlearning that this is no escape. Even at some of our church colleges the temptations present themselves.

In a meeting with college staff a few days ago, I was impressed toÊsee how the faculty and staff wanted the best for the students andÊwere anxious that they would grow in their relationship with God,Êbut they had many disappointing moments when they saw theseÊyoung people show very little interest in the things of God. TheyÊelaborated on students coming from communities, many of themÊvery small, who had been living in a “beer culture.” From childhoodÊthey had been surrounded with alcohol of one kind or another.ÊWhen they got to college there was the same culture only thisÊtime it could get out of hand and lead to some very undesirable consequences. What do you say to these sons and daughtersÊwhom you love so much?

Learn from Moses. Give them a word from the Lord. KeepÊChrist ever before them as their only source of help facing aÊworld that is broken and away from God. Leave them withÊa word like our text. The eternal God is your resting place,ÊMary and Dick. When the going is rough and you have fallen into a type of behavior that disappointed even yourself, justÊremember that Christ is there to pick you up. He will not excuse what you have done but He will forgive you. Aunt Mary must have felt that her words were not adequate and soÊshe pointed me back to God.

Maybe this word from God will live in your sons’ and daughters’ souls as it has lived in my soul. We can only share to the degreeÊwe have experienced God’s presence in our lives. This all begins with our personal relationship with God. As we receive ChristÊinto our lives and grow with Him, He will give us words to shareÊwith others. It is surprising what a good word from the Lord, spoken at the right time, can accomplish in the lives of all people.

Tomorrow Is Uncertain. Eternity Is for Sure

Based on of God’s Word and personal observation, do you believe that tomorrow is uncertain and eternity is sure? If so, why do many people act as they do? Jesus spoke about the uncertainty of tomorrow. In His Sermon on the Mount He said, “Do not worry about tomorrow for tomorrow will worry about itself. Every day has enough to worry about. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” He is not recommending a reckless attitude toward life avoiding all planning, but having done our planning he is telling us to leave the future in God’s hands. Tomorrow does not belong to us yet.

Our Lord told a parable about a farmer who did not think tomorrow was uncertain: “The ground of a certain man produced a good crop. He thought to himself, ‘What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.’ Then he said, ‘This is what I’ll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and then I will store all my grain and my goods. And I will say to myself, “You have plenty of good things laid up for many years; take life easy; eat drink and be merry.”

Then God said to him, “You fool. This very night your life will be demanded of you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself? This is how it will be with anyone who stores up things for himself but is not rich toward God” Luke 12:16-21.

This story very much speaks for itself. Plan, but remember your plans are always tentative. Isn’t it a blessing that tomorrow is partially veiled? A picture we saw on television when our country was mourning the accidental death of John Kennedy and his wife and sister-in-law was John John crawling underneath his father’s desk in the Oval Office. The president was smiling from ear to ear. Without a doubt it had been another tough day for the president, but for a few minutes he could leave the troubles behind him and enjoy his children. Had President Kennedy known what was going to happen in the future, that day with his children in the Oval Office would not have been nearly as enjoyable. The future was veiled and he could have been thinking, one day either John or Caroline could be sitting at this desk as the president of the United States. His dreams did not include assassination or an airplane accident for him and his son.

I thank God the future is unknown when I see a woman who has been a very dear friend of our family since she was born. Now in her mid 40’s she has many emotional scars. She lost her father while in high school, her mother when she was in her 60’s, her husband when he was in his early 40’s, and her brother who had not yet turned 50. She was a happy teenager but those good years would have been less joyful had she known what life would be for her.

Not knowing about tomorrow permits us to enjoy today. Perhaps tomorrow seems less certain as we grow older. When we are young, it is natural and right that we should dream about tomorrow. Right now my wife and I are having fun watching one of our grandsons who has just begun his second year at the University of Wisconsin struggle with what life has in store for him. Another grandson who is completing high school is excited about what college or university he will be attending next year. They need to plan but even in their young age allowing for God’s will is necessary if they want his blessings. Where can I best serve you God? It needs to be a part of their planning.

It is also necessary for them to realize that, even in their youth their lives can be quickly taken from them. Both young men have had close encounters with death. One was severely injured in a boating accident that could have left him a quadriplegic or even dead. A truck hit the other while riding on his bicycle. I pray that these experiences might have taught them that there is no assurance they will live to be old people. Let them plan but with understanding that their plans are tentative.

As we grow older, we still plan but it is done in a different way. When I was the father of a young family I bought term insurance. The premiums were cheaper than regular insurance and I wanted my wife to have as much money as possible should she be left to raise the family alone. Today I am buying long term care insurance. I do hope that the last days of our lives will not be lived out as vegetables in a nursing home, but should that happen we will need much money to pay for our care. We are to plan not to be financial burdens of our children nor the state, but we must plan with the understanding that all of our plans can fail. Tomorrow does not belong to us.

We become more aware of the brevity of life as we grow older. When Billy Graham was asked what impressed him the most about life, he answered, brevity. Many of us, who have passed the three score year and ten age, would agree with Mr. Graham. I listen in on a conversation our grandchildren are having and they are talking about what is happening in school, the latest in the sporting world and teachers they like and don’t like. When I listen to our children, they are talking about their work, raising a family and where their next vacation might be. When I talk to my peers, they are talking about all of their ailments, and I am a contributor.

Not long ago I was playing golf with three men. One could not see the ball. The second could not walk because of breathing problems. The third could not hear what we were saying, and I could not stoop over to get the ball because of a lame back. Each of us elaborated at length on our physical problems. It is a part of growing older. We are painfully aware that many of our peers are dead. The obituary columns in the papers become very important to us. We find ourselves attending many more funerals than we do weddings.

Yes, life tells us that the grave is not far from us when we get to be seventy plus and that is not being weird but realistic. Occasionally, people will talk about their mother-in-law who is ninety, still driving her car and playing bridge. She is an exception, because most of the ninety-year-olds I know will tell you in private conversation that the fun has gone out of life and they are waiting for the Lord to come and take them home.

God’s Word gives us no guarantee for tomorrow but it tells us that eternity is sure. In contrast to telling us that we do not know about tomorrow, Jesus comments on the certainty of eternity, “In my Father’s house are many mansions. If it were not so would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you. If I go and prepare a place for you I will come again and receive you to myself that where I am there you may be also” (John 14:1-3). It is very certain. Our Lord had no doubts in his mind. He has suffered, died, and was raised to pay the price for our sins that we might be restored into fellowship with God and that restoration is for all eternity.

Like Martha of old, we hear this glorious message but comprehending what our Savior is saying is difficult for us. Martha’s brother, Lazarus, had died and she went to Jesus weeping. “Lazarus has died,” she said. Jesus replied, “Your brother will rise again.” Martha had heard this statement often in her life and replied, “I know he will rise again at the last day.” Then Jesus gives her a word that brought comfort not only to Martha but to millions of people as they have laid to rest the bodies of their loved ones: “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me, though he dies, yet shall he live” (John 11:35). Is there any uncertainty about that answer given to a grieving woman? Eternity is sure.

Paul understood this teaching. That is why he could write to the Philippians, “For me to live is Christ but to die is gain.” Notice: in these Bible passages, our life with God in heaven is conditioned upon our faith in Christ. He has redeemed us through his sacrificial death and resurrection, but by faith we must receive him if we want to spend eternity with him in that eternal home. This points out the need for being ready to leave this world whenever the Lord Jesus calls us. This is the first item of business on the agenda of any congregation that takes God’s Word seriously.

If we take these words seriously, “Tomorrow is uncertain. Eternity is sure,” a great difference will occur in how we live today. We are forced to think about what is important in life and how we treat people today. They challenge us to deal more kindly with others, especially those so close to us. They even give us a new understanding of how to use the material possessions we have. If our dollars can help to lift a burden why, not use some of them to help others.

These words give us a great security. Many unknowns exist between now and when we die, but after death has come we know what the future is. We are at home with God. So doesn’t it make sense that we not let plans for tomorrow rob us of the opportunities that are ours today?

Think about it.

How Does One Have a Relationship with God?

Success can sometimes be dangerous. It can inflate the ego or change a person’s values. That is what Jesus is talking about in our parable.

The part of this parable that I like is that this young man not only had great goals, but plans as to how these dreams could be fulfilled. He worked hard and soon was rewarded for his labor. When he had such a bumper crop that he did not know where to store the grain, he was confronted with a greater challenge. This was just what he liked. “I know what I will do. I will tear down the old barns and build new ones. Then I will have enough storage for my crops, and I will be in a position to retire.” Nothing wrong with that planning, is there?

Would Jesus have preferred this young man have lived one day at a time and never accomplished much? Of course not.

This parable reminds me of a family in our congregation. There were two brothers and a sister who never married. Forty years ago they had few possessions. They rented a farm and were thrifty in their spending. They did not buy the newest equipment. They worked very hard and saved every dollar they could. Soon they were able to make a down payment on a beautiful piece of land. Many people felt this land was too costly for them, but they fooled them all.

Not many years later, through good management and ambition, they owned their farm. It did not alter their lifestyle. They didn’t sit back and rent the farm to some other person so they could enjoy the leisure life. They enjoyed some traveling, a nice car, a comfortable home, and a lot of friends. One day the younger brother died of a heart attack. Now the older brother and his sister decided it was time to move into a condominium, and a bit later into an assisted living facility at a care center.

A few months ago, the last of the siblings died, leaving an estate that exceeded a million dollars. Their money was given to charitable groups. This family had a vision and a plan, which assured them their dream would become a reality. The plans made their life were thrilling, and eternity sure, for Christ had become their Lord, and He governed their thinking.

The man in our parable had a plan for his future, and for that he should be commended. However, he had given no thought to what would happen when he died. As organized as he was to be a financial success, he was also disorganized in spiritual matters. Eternity was not a part of his thinking. His material success made him oblivious to God’s plan for his life.

Think of it! This parable, which Jesus told two thousand years ago, is an apt description of millions of people today. Much energy is spent to become a financial and social success. What happens in this life is all-important. Some of these people would question if there is an eternity, and others would reason that, if there is a life after death, it will have to take care of itself. Jesus’ words, spoken so clearly, go unheeded: “You fool! This very night your soul will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself? This is how it will be when anyone stores up things for himself, but is not rich toward God.”

How would the man in Jesus’ parable have been different had he walked with the Lord? Would he have given away everything? Would there have been some left for his own personal enjoyment? On the basis of another Bible story, I believe there would have been plenty for him. Do you remember the story of Zacchaeus recorded in Luke 19? When Zacchaeus, who was a rich man, was converted, his life was changed, and he announced to the Lord, “Half of my goods I give to the poor, and if I have stolen from anyone, I will repay that person four times what I took from him.” Our Lord did not say, “No, Zacchaeus, half is not enough. Give it all.” Jesus is teaching there is more to life than material possessions.

There is a powerful word here for all of us. To the young, God’s Word reminds us that the question is not simply, What do I want to do with my life? Rather it is, What does God want me to do with my life? The big decision Ð who will I marry Ð is not limited to such considerations as, is he the most handsome person around with a winsome personality and a strong financial statement? The words of Scripture are given first consideration: “Do not marry an unbeliever.” If you do not share Christ as Savior and Lord, this marriage will be lacking, though there will be everything money can buy in your home. Raising a family is more than providing the child with the material possessions of life. It is introducing him or her to the Lord Jesus as the source of all comfort and the God of all consolation.

As we grow older, the question still must be asked, As a retiree, are my plans for life at seventy the same as God’s plans for me? What do you have in mind for me, Lord?

In this parable, God has not spoken against success. He just warns us of its dangers unless our plans fit into the plans He has for us. Success can inflate our ego to the point that we are obnoxious and no one will care to be around us. Or it can distort our sense of values so that we fail to hear Jesus saying to us that our salvation rests in knowing him personally as our Savior and Lord.

He Cares For You

“I envy John. He doesn’t have a care in the world.” How do you know? We all have our cares. They are a part of life. Looks can be deceiving.

A few weeks ago I taught at a Bible Camp. A woman sat in the front row with her husband looking like she didn’t have any problems. She was the picture of health. It appeared that she and her husband were devoted to each other and they had two lovely children.

Yes, they appeared to be a care-free family; that was not the case. After the session ended she visited with me, and in a few minutes she let me look into her troubled soul. This woman had a tumor. As soon as they returned home she would have surgery, and the doctor had not been encouraging about her prognosis. The future for her was frightening as she looked at her husband and children and said, “I so want to live and be a wife and mother to my family.”

We all have these cares to a greater or lesser degree. This is difficult for some of us to accept, especially if we have lived for years without any real problems while others have suffered in many different ways.

When these cares do come, there are those people who ask the naive question, “Are not Christians supposed to be exempt from the real hardships of life?” The Christian knows that this is not the case. Peter demonstrates that Christians are not exempt from the tough times in life. He had been a faithful servant of Jesus Christ. Now he sat in a jail facing death. Yet, this was not a surprise to Peter, for our Lord told him that he would die for the cause of Christ.

Nero was on the throne. This emperor was not going to let this Christian movement get out of hand so the persecution of Christ’s followers was heating up. Peter could accept this death, for he knew a place was waiting for him in the heavenly home, but he couldn’t help but wonder how he would die and what would happen in those last days. After all, the disciple was also a human being. He also could have wondered how the people who had become Christians through his ministry would fare. Would they fall away from Christ or would they grow and become giants in the faith?

It is in this setting that Peter writes, “Cast all of your anxieties on him because he cares for you.” I Peter 5:6.

What do we do with our cares?

Some internalize them. “These are my problems, and I will not bother others with them,” is a common answer, especially among men. It seems to be a sign of strength to handle your own problems. So we go around looking as if everything is in order when inside we are torn apart.

Others broadcast their cares. There are no secrets in their lives. If in passing you ask them how things are going, you will be in for a lengthy conversation. We all know people who are like this. If you are running short on time, you had better not ask how they are or you will be tied up for a long time.

There are those people who try to drown their problems. This is a temporary answer that only makes the problem worse. I refer to the people who turn to drugs and alcohol. “Get me a drink,” is the plea of the person who has been given some bad news and needs something to see him through his dilemma.

The alcoholic will tell you that not being able to face life is the reason for his or her drinking. One of my psychiatrist friends tells me it is a real problem for him to get some of his patients off the drugs he has prescribed for them. They have become so comfortable walking around about half awake with it and are content to live in that partially numbed state.

God’s Word does not deny that we will have problems, no matter how strong our faith is in Christ. However, as His children, we should know what to do with them. Therefore, Jesus extended an invitation: “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28). He didn’t say He would take the burden away, but that He would give us rest by walking through the experience with us. He would show us, in His Word, how to handle whatever is bothering us.

Peter was privileged to hear Jesus give that invitation. He had seen how effective Christ had been in his life. Later Peter gave his own version of the same thought, Cast your cares on Him for He cares for you. These words were spoken by Peter from his own experience. They were his comfort when people turned their backs on Christ and would have nothing to do with Him. They were his comfort when he was jailed for telling others about the way of salvation in Jesus Christ. They were his comfort when he looked into his own life and saw his many sins. Peter learned the peace which came from being able to deal with his burdens in a realistic way.

If you are asking how to cast your cares on the Lord, let me help you. First, you must have a relationship with Him. As with most people, before we share the intimacies of our lives we want to know something about the person who is listening. As this relationship with Christ becomes more personal, our conversations become less superficial and more honest. We are no longer talking on a superficial level.

We begin to sense that we are alone with our best friend who has the power to help us. We talk to him in our own language, and our emotions can become involved. It is not unusual for the mature Christian to share his anger with God. “Why did you permit it to happen, Father. I am angry at You. I am left with three children and a lot of debt. My husband is enjoying a leisurely life with another woman. Damn it God, I am angry!”

Do you think God would hear this prayer? Do you think He would understand you? You bet He would hear and understand you!

Yes, many wonderful prayers are recorded in our prayer books, but a time comes when we put aside these prayers and speak from our hearts, in our own words and let all of our emotions hang out. That is part of what Peter meant when he said, “Cast all of your cares on the Lord.” God knows what is going on in our lives, but He wants to hear it from you and me, and we need to tell Him.

After we have made our requests known, sit back and listen to Him as He speaks to us through His Word. Read those familiar passages: Psalms 23, 121, 46, 32, 51, 73, John 10, 14, and the list goes on and on. Read your Bible daily. It is where God carries on the conversation with us. Then find a good friend and share this Word together. Be sure this person has some understanding of the Bible less it become an activity in the blind leading the blind. I found my wife to be that friend for me. This is the joy of having a spouse who is committed to Christ. If you do not have this luxury, find that person who you can help and who can help you.

We can share some of our cares with the whole person of God. I began by telling you of the lady at the Bible camp who was scheduled for an operation that was frightening to her. By the end of the week, at a campfire, she shared her experience with the group. It was heart warming to see how those brothers and sisters in Christ surrounded her with their love and listening ear. She knew that, when they wheel her off to the operating room, several people will be praying for her, the doctors, and all others who minister to her body and soul.

May I say to you who have experienced how God can help us in times of need, play the role of a Peter. Point your anxious friends to the Lord Jesus. Tell them what He has done for you.

I must share with you an recent experience of my own. I was watching our grandson play baseball one evening when suddenly I began to see double. The next morning I went to the eye doctor, and after a thorough examination he told me that my eyes were fine and the problem was neurological. This sent me to the hospital and a battery of tests, which gave me and my family some concern. Finally, the diagnosis was made that the nerve that focuses our eyes had been attacked. The doctors believe it will heal in a few weeks or months and all should be normal for which we are thankful.

While all of the testing was taking place one of the technicians said, “You appear relaxed. Are you?” I told the young man that I had different feelings going on inside me. It was my prayer that nothing serious had happened. While I am 75 years old and assured of a heavenly home, I have a wife who is handicapped and needs someone to care for her.

This was a glorious time to put this sermon into practice. I told my new friend that I had prayed much since entering the hospital, and I had left the whole thing with my Heavenly Father. God has given me a wonderful answer through the Prophet Isaiah: “You will keep him in perfect peace whose mind is steadfast because he trusts in you. Trust in the Lord forever, for the Lord, the Lord, is the Rock eternal” (Isaiah 26:3-4).

The technician trying to determine what was wrong with me looked and said, “You are a Christian.”

“By the grace of God, I am,” was my reply. We had a wonderful visit and when he wheeled me into my room the nurses were wondering what had taken so long. We didn’t share what had gone on, but what a joy to leave it all with the Lord and receive comfort from a person who knew the Lord too.

“I envy John. He doesn’t have a care in the world.” John might appear as though he has no cares, but he does. Perhaps he just knows what to do with them Ð he leaves them with the Lord.

Do you know the Lord Jesus in a personal way? It you don’t, why not ask Him to be a part of your life. Then begin to live with Him in His Word. I believe your experience will be like that of many others.

Our cares draw us closer to Him. It is when we are weak that we become strong through trusting in Christ. Life can be hard and frightening. We need that friend whose name is Jesus.