by Pastor Stephen Abraham
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Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life? (Matthew 6:27)
What do you find yourself focusing on at the moment?
Perhaps it’s concerns about your health. Maybe it’s about work stress or relationship issues. Parents worry about their kids, and then kids, when they are adults, worry about their ageing parents! And, of course, there is the pandemic. As a shut-in who keeps the news on the TV as company, I found I had to switch it off, as it was raising my levels of anxiety! Likewise, social media tends to only feed us topics we are interested in, and if our interest is one we are concerned about, well, that is what we will see ad nauseam.
If there is a common theme in today’s text, it is ‘where is your focus?’
Verses 19–21 ask, ‘Is your focus money or wealth?’, and verses 25–31 ask, ‘Is your focus those things you need to live your daily life?’
Since my seminary days, I have been a student of Christian meditation, which at its most basic is a relaxed focus on passages of Scripture that we repeat in our mind matched to slow deep breathing. (There was an article in The Lutheran about this in March of this year, and if you are interested, my resources are on YouTube – just search Stephen Abraham music). Meditation is a form of focus where we lose track of our surroundings, where our mind goes into automatic – like when we get a jingle stuck in our head for the day or when at the end of driving on a road, we always wake suddenly. One of my mentors in Christian meditation taught me that worry is a form of ‘negative meditation’, where both our conscious and subconscious self gets fixated and caught in a loop we can’t get out of!
A stress management expert once said that only two per cent of our ‘worrying time’ is spent on things that might actually be helpful. For the rest:
- 40% is on things that never happen
- 35% is on things that can’t be changed
- 15% is on things that turn out better than expected
- 8% is on useless, trivial worries.
But as obvious as that might be, it doesn’t actually help you stop if you are caught in that loop of worrying despair.
Jesus’ solution is far more profound: change your focus! Matthew 6:33 says, ‘But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well’.
You are doing that even now as you read this (assuming you haven’t drifted off or been distracted by a notification on your smartphone)! You are focusing on God’s word.
So, here’s a thought. Most of you probably know the song ‘Seek Ye First’ by Karen Lafferty, number 34 in the All Together Now book. If you don’t, just search it on YouTube. Spend the next few moments singing it, either aloud or in your head. Repeat it two or three times, and then join me in the prayer below.
Lord God, creator of my mind, soul and spirit, one by one, I now lay at your feet my worries and concerns. Holy Spirit, guard my heart and mind against them in Christ Jesus. Throughout this day, remind me of this song and to seek first your kingdom. In Jesus’ name. Amen.