Tim Keller (or more likely, someone who manages social media for Tim Keller) posted a prayer on Twitter this week that brought to mind a pretty basic truth about the issues and challenges we face in life.
Here’s the prayer:
Lord, I worry because I forget your wisdom.
I resent because I forget your mercy.
I covet because I forget your beauty.
I sin because I forget your holiness.
I fear because I forget your sovereignty.
You always remember me.
Help me to remember you.
Let me chew on that prayer with you for a minute.
The first line – the one about worry. Jesus said something about how worry comes when we forget that God is not only wise, but that He is actively involved in caring for our needs.
“Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.
“Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble. (Matthew 6:25–34)
Then there is the next line – the one about resentment and bitterness. Jesus had something to say about that too.
“And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive them, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins” (Mark 11:25).
And the Apostle Paul applied that principle in his own life. He wrote to Timothy and told him “Alexander the metalworker did me a great deal of harm. The Lord will repay him for what he has done” (2 Timothy 4:14).
Paul handed any bitterness and resentment he had over to the Lord. And in the process, he remembered that he was once an object of God’s wrath. It’s hard to hang onto resentment when we meditate on the reality of God’s mercy toward us.
The third line in the prayer addresses the subtle poison of covetousness. What seems like such a private, harmless sin can turn toxic quickly if we don’t address it. Keep in mind, covetousness is one of the Ten Commandments. Wanting what others have that we don’t have is no small thing. “Covetousness,” John Piper says, “is desiring something so much that you lose your contentment in God.”
Once again, Jesus addressed this issue head on. In Luke 12, we read about a man who interrupted a sermon Jesus was preaching because he wanted Jesus to settle an inheritance dispute he was having with his brother.
“Someone in the crowd said to him, ‘Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.’ But he said to him, ‘Man, who made me a judge or arbitrator over you?’ And he said to them, ‘Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one's life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions’” (Luke 12:13-15).
The antidote to covetousness is to remember that you already possess the Pearl of Great Price. To meditate on the beauty and value of Jesus.
The fourth line of the prayer is about the general issue of sin. We sin because we forget that our God is a holy God and a jealous God. We sin because, like our first parents, we believe that someone or something will bring us greater joy than Jesus will. And we excuse or minimize our sin, thinking we’re better than most people and, after all, we’re only human. What we’ve done isn’t as bad as things other people have done.
Jesus told the woman who was caught in adultery that He did not condemn her. The men with the stones who had been so anxious to be her judge had scattered when Jesus called them out for their own sins, which disqualified them from serving as judge and jury. So when He turned and said that He did not condemn her, He was making the remarkable statement that He did in fact have the right of judgment because of His perfect righteousness and holiness.
And then He told the woman to go and sin no more.
That command to actively abandon what had apparently been a regular part of her life up until this point is not a command only for her. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said to all people “Be perfect.” And he grounded that command in the holiness of God: “Even as your father in heaven is perfect” (Matthew 5:48).
The last confession in the prayer from Tim Keller addresses the issue of fear. We fear, Keller says, because we lose sight of God’s sovereignty.
Jesus told His disciples that their fear of men was misplaced.
“I tell you, my friends, do not fear those who kill the body, and after that have nothing more that they can do. But I will warn you whom to fear: fear him who, after he has killed, has authority to cast into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him!” (Luke 12:4–5)
But just as soon as Jesus tells his followers to fear God, He quickly reminds them of God’s sovereignty and providential care for them. “Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? And not one of them is forgotten before God. Why, even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not; you are of more value than many sparrows.” (Luke 12:6–7)
The prayer ends with the reminder that we are never outside of God’s loving kindness. He never forgets His children. Even when we are faithless, He remains faithful.
What worries are causing you distress today? Remember that your loving Father knows what is best.
Are you battling resentment or bitterness in a relationship? Remember God’s great mercy toward you, and you’ll find grace for others.
What has caused you to lose your contentment and joy? Meditate on the Pearl of Great Price and find your joy in Him today.
Is there a besetting sin in your life? Something you’ve rationalized as a “minor issue?” Pause and consider the holiness and perfect righteousness of the God we serve.
And what is stirring up fear in your heart today? Don’t be anxious. Remember that God is working all things according to the counsel of His own will, and what He brings to pass is for your good, even if you can’t see it right now.
He will never leave you or forsake you. That’s a promise. A great promise. One worth meditating on today.
I’ve been in touch with the NCAA today. They contacted me to apologize for scheduling the big national championship football game this coming Monday night. And they did it before checking their calendars. When they realized they had scheduled the game the same night as the first of our three men’s get togethers to talk about pornography, they called me right away and offered to move the game to another night.
I told them it would probably be easier for us to move our first night of the three part series for men.
So instead of meeting next Monday night at 7:00 to watch the first of the three videos in the Brain, Heart, World series, we’re going to meet this Sunday night, January 6. And because it’s on a Sunday, we’ll move the start time to 6:00 so dads can get home in time to help put the older kids to bed.
The other two nights in the series will happen as planned, on Monday night, January 21 and January 28.
Questions about the series? Check out the trailer, or shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
And I hope you’re making plans now to bring a dish and join us on Friday night, January 18, at Covenant Presbyterian Church for combined church supper and an evening of great music featuring Matthew Smith from Indelible Grace Music.
Check this out.
And if you didn’t watch it last week, check out this video from Matthew’s new QuietHymns project:
One more quick January note. Our small groups are about to start up again for the spring semester. We think being part of a small group is a big deal. A really important part of your spiritual health and growth.
Are you in a small group? Would you like to find out more? As Matt said on Sunday, that’s kind of his thing to oversee. So shoot him an email if you have questions or would like to know more about how to check out some of our groups and how to find one that is right for you. You can reach Matt at email@example.com
This Sunday, we’ll begin a two-month long series looking at some of the stories Jesus told that were rich with powerful spiritual truth. We’ll talk about the persistent widow and the judge who neither feared God nor man.
See you in church.
Soli Deo Gloria!