What an awesome morning to worship God! As Jon said, if we haven’t met yet my name is Allen and I do a few things here at Whitewater but mostly I’m just another dude who loves his church family. Before I continue I want to address the elephant in the room…yes, it’s ANOTHER guy in skinny jeans. Look I can’t help it, I’m
on the worship team okay?! This is just the standard uniform for the worship team. Nic Gonzales told me himself, “If the jeans ain’t tight, the worship ain’t right!”
As I said, I’m incredibly honored, privileged, and excited to bring you the first part of our new teaching series called, “For Today.” If this is your first time watching or first time visiting here at Whitewater I want to say welcome. If you’ve been dealing with some things lately that are causing any sort of discomfort or pain in here or here (head and heart) then you’ve come at a perfect time.
For this series, we will be looking into Matthew 6: 25-34. But today I’m going to just focus on the first verse. And Jesus said, “That is why I tell you not to worry about everyday life - whether you have enough food and drink, or enough clothes to wear. Isn’t life more than food, and your body more than clothing?”
Real quick, because we’re still getting to know each other, full honesty and transparency - “I Allen, don’t have it all together.” If I can be so bold as to ask for your honesty, raise your hand if you also don’t have it all together. Now whether we admit it or not we’ve all had moments in our lives where we felt not just lonely - but isolated. Not just sad, but depressed. Not just underappreciated, but unloved. Oftentimes these sorts of emotions get amped up in our lives because of past trauma, which is my story.
See, I’m a first-generation Asian-American. My mom came here with a few family members when she was 19. She had no idea she had a lil’ Asian bun in the oven when she flew over to Chicago. When I was born, her dad decided it was best to send the baby (me) back across the ocean to live with her mom and younger siblings. I was six months old when I rode my first plane (which is why I believe I dream about flying all the time). I was three years old when I stopped drinking out of a bottle (which is why I have an under-bite) and I was five years old when I found out I didn’t have a dad, and my mom was in another country (which is why I am a grown adult, in therapy, recovering from Fear of Abandonment).
Now Fear of Abandonment branches off into - attachment issues, sensitivity to criticism, difficulty in trusting others, and taking extreme measures to avoid separation, etc., which is all super exhausting! But all of this was caused by one traumatic event - it was me finding out that my grandma wasn't my mom. My 5-year-old self was convinced that both my parents didn’t want to take care of me, so they pawned me off to my grandma. And it’s this VERY thought the devil would use to cripple me every day for close to 29 years of my life.
And I know what you’re thinking, you’re saying, “Whoaa Allen, you went from talking about trauma to the devil? That’s a gear shift bro...” Yeah, that’s right. David mentioned the devil and the temptations last week, and I want to add this idea that he doesn’t JUST tempt us - the devil wants to mentally break down our guard rails so tempting us is a much easier job. Like tilling the hardened soil of our brains and emotions so he can plant seeds of doubt. What if I told you psychology and spirituality not only co-exist, but are in a beautiful marriage? That in the midst of the everyday battle going on in your head there is actually a war going on all around you for your salvation, and the casualty is your inner peace of mind? Check this out, in Ephesians 6:12 it says, “For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places.”
Our mental and emotional pain is tied to a spiritual one. And we all share that in common! Christians, non-Christians...it doesn’t matter! Most of us have experienced trauma, which becomes a weapon used against us in our everyday battles. Based on the National Council of Behavioral Health, statistics show 70% of adults in the U.S. have experienced some type of traumatic event at least once in their lives. This is why we need to be more empathetic to each other. Look around you. At least seven people from your row have been through some mind-altering stuff. Now, look at your neighbor, repeat after me and say, “Neighbor. I’ve been through something. So be nice to me.”
But the devil isn’t so nice to us. You know all those terrible thoughts that randomly came to you this week saying, “I’m definitely not good enough for this…” “Why do I always mess up?” or “Doesn’t matter how hard I work, they won’t notice me.” What if it wasn’t random? Yes, some of those thoughts are us, and we have to take responsibility for it. God gave us free will of thought. But some of it is the enemy revving up that negativity - kicking you when you’re already down. The devil wants a world where we experience trouble. But Jesus says “In this life, you will have trouble, but take heart, don’t worry, I’ve overcome the world and all of that.” And the same spirit that got Jesus through all of that trouble is the same spirit that lives in you and me as followers of Christ.
What’s crazy is that in the battlefield of our minds, with each day we wake up the landscape changes. Most of us will experience what seems like peaceful times where all we hear are Beatles songs (like “Here Comes The Sun”), maybe your kids are not totally annoying, and someone buys your coffee at Starbucks. Or the battlefield is ripe. In the more difficult days, our simple worries will clash with that lingering trauma - and dang does it leave you and me vulnerable. Let’s read the first line of scripture again from Matthew 6:25. Jesus tells us, “That is why I tell you not to worry about everyday life - whether you have enough food and drink, or enough clothes to wear. Isn’t life more than food, and your body more than clothing?” Everyday life for people back then was pretty basic. Food and clothing. Some of us are saying right now, “Allen, I wish my life were that simple.” You’re absolutely right. Because if we were to apply what Jesus was saying for our real, raw, truthful everyday lives of 2021, it would probably read like…
“That’s why I tell you not to worry about everyday life - whether or not you’ll ever recover from that abuse. If you’ll ever love again after a separation or divorce. If you’re going to survive this cancer diagnosis. Whether or not you can use social media to find your future spouse. Or whether or not I’m killing it as a parent.” Jesus isn’t invalidating our feelings for wanting to eat, for wanting to be clothed. He’s not judging us for worrying about our trust issues, for feeling alone in a crowded room, or for some of us not wanting to be alive anymore. He’s NOT saying, “Don’t worry about it because your feelings aren’t important.” He’s saying, “Don’t worry about it because look who you’re talking to.” We have a counselor in Jesus who is not just someone who listens but gives comfort, encouragement, and healing. So regardless if you have a therapist or not, speaking your feelings out loud to God is not just an option, it's your lifeline.
Because when things pile up in our everyday lives, our minds become susceptible to attack from the enemy. I’m telling you this from extreme personal experience. When you speak out loud to God, not only are you connecting yourself to the Wonderful Counselor (Isaiah 9:6) who can help you process those emotions, but you are drowning out the lies of the devil.
The heroes of the Bible went through the SAME battles we do. One of my favorite characters in scripture is this guy named Elijah. Incredible prophet for God in the Old Testament, and his physical enemies were Ahab, the King of Israel at the time, and his evil wife, Jezebel. The devil used King Ahab and Jezebel to try and take down our boy, Elijah because he was calling them out for the evil they were allowing to happen to God’s people.
If you haven’t read it yet, I highly suggest and encourage you to read this incredible story of Elijah in its entirety. But I’m going to summarize it to you in three parts - through the lens of each lie the devil used to try to delay Elijah’s calling from God. I want to go over this with you because if we can understand how the enemy fought one of our heroes, we’re better equipped for our own battles. Okay look at this with me:
One: 1 Kings 18: Verse 1 says, “Later on, in the third year of the drought, the Lord said to Elijah, 'Go and present yourself to King Ahab. Tell him that I will soon send rain!' So Elijah went to appear before Ahab.” If we skip down to verse 17 we see, “When Ahab saw him, he exclaimed, “So, is it really you, you troublemaker of Israel?”
Ahab called him a “troublemaker.” Now I know some of you are thinking, “Pfft, Allen, I’ve been called way worse man…” But this isn’t like when someone asks you how your new puppy is and you say, “Oh, well you know, he’s a lil’ troublemaker!” It ain’t that cute. If we look into it further, the Hebrew word used for a troublemaker or troubler is “Okur'' meaning to disturb. Or confused; muddled; disturbed. Ahab basically called Elijah, “crazy.” Has anyone ever called you crazy before? Crazy for feeling hurt over something important to you? Crazy for caring so much about something? Crazy for calling something out that isn’t right?
My first point is the enemy will always try to compromise your calling. But remember this fact like it’s your own birthday: the devil is the father of lies. JT says it like this: “Don't let an arrow of criticism pierce your heart unless it has passed through the filter of scripture.” Because while the devil lies, scripture is truth.
Two: Now, a little later in Elijah’s story he brushes off the name-calling and challenges all 450 of Ahab and Jezebel’s evil prophets. He goes up on a mountain and in 1 Kings 18: Verse 22 Elijah yells out, “I am the only prophet of the Lord who is left, but Baal has 450 prophets.”
Point number two is the devil will lie about who is in battle with you. The enemy will always try to say that what you’re up against is bigger than the God who stands beside you. That the situation you’re in is bigger than the God who lives within us. I get it though...because when you’re going through something fierce, it feels at that moment like no one understands your pain. But the truth is from Joshua 1:9, “Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the Lord, your God is with you wherever you go.” I know the world is telling you that you can’t be strong UNLESS you fight alone. I’m telling you God provides strength, so not only is your heart and mind already strong but you’ve also got the God of the Universe on your side!
Three: Let’s get back to the story. If you read the rest of 1 Kings 18 it shows us that Ahab’s prophets tried to do all this fancy stuff by calling on their pretend god. And nothing worked for them! But when Elijah called on the Lord, our God sent down fire from the sky and everybody who was watching the fight was amazed! Then Elijah commanded them, “Seize all the prophets of Baal. Don’t let a single one of them escape!” So they did and all of Ahab’s prophets were killed.
You would think after this victory Elijah would be partying, celebrating, dancing to The Backstreet Boys...but no, check this out. Remember Ahab’s evil wife Jezebel? Well, when she heard what happened she sent this cringy message to Elijah in 1 Kings 19: Verse 2, “May the gods strike me and even kill me if by this time tomorrow I have not killed you just as you killed them (my prophets).”
And after Elijah heard this message the story goes on. Look at Verse 19, “Elijah was afraid and fled for his life. He sat down under a solitary broom tree and prayed that he might die. ‘I have had enough, Lord,’ he said. ‘Take my life, for I am no better than my ancestors who have already died.’” The enemy wants us to
believe our lives don’t matter. But watch this, in Verse 5, “(Elijah) lay down and slept under the broom tree. But as he was sleeping an angel touched him and told him, ‘Get up and Eat!’ He looked around and there beside his head was some bread baked on hot stones and a jar of water.”
There is someone in this room right now who understands what Elijah is saying when he says, “take my life” because they’ve been there - or are there right now. Where you feel so low to the ground you can taste the dirt. Where your life has become too much to bear, so instead of living with the pain you just want it to all end entirely. I’ve asked God a few times in my life, “Why keep me around if all I’m going to do is suffer…” First, if no one has said this to you lately...You Matter. Your life matters and I’m glad you’re still here, and your life did not come to a period. Second, when life becomes overwhelming, we’ve got to fight the urge to put a period where God is asking us to put a comma. In these seasons where stress, anxiety, and depression are debilitating, God is not calling for things to come to an end -a period. He’s trying to insert a comma. A pause. He’s saying, “I need you to breathe. Sit with me. Rest in Me. Because there’s still more life to live, I promise...here’s some daily bread, the Bread of Life, and here’s some water, the Living Water of Jesus. I’ll fill you back up, let’s keep going together!” Don’t put a period where God is trying to insert a comma.
Elijah’s battle with Ahab and Jezebel is a great example of how we can combat the enemy on a daily basis. Nowadays we don’t have evil kings and queens threatening our lives, but we have an enemy in our heads trying to take our minds. So what does our everyday life battle in 2021 look like? It kinda looks like Tug O War! (Two volunteers from the audience come up.)
Explanation: Now, person #1 over here will represent You. Us. Going about our day in life, doing our best. Person #2 over there will represent the devil, the enemy, the lies, and the trauma. And this flag in the middle is our minds. There are days like this when it just feels we are fighting and pulling to take back our mental health, to have control over it again. But before we actually start our tugging, I want to show you what the real fight is like:
Person #1 - hold out their limbs. Most days our strength isn’t so great because we’re reminded of the person or event that hurt us, and made us feel like dirt.
Person #1 - close left fist. We just want to be alone because we keep messing up, and saying things we don’t mean to people we love and care about.
Person #1 - put left hand behind back. And then we turn to the things that only satisfy a void rather than fill it. Things we know aren’t healthy for us, but we do anyway because it numbs the pain.
Person #1 - lift up right leg.
Okay, on a count of three, Person #1, you’re going to try to take your mind back from the enemy. Enemy, Person #2, you’re going to steal this person’s joy today. Ready? Go!
(Person #1 loses Tug O' War.) That’s what it feels like when you’re fighting on your own. You’ll lose almost every time. And even if you win some days, you’re still broken, feeling like you’re missing parts of yourself.
Get Person #3. But what if you started reading the Word? You grabbed your Bible and set aside some time in the morning, you started getting nuggets of wisdom from God. Next thing you know, you’re praying and physically asking God out loud for HIS help and HIS strength. (Person #3 is next to Person #1 on the rope.)
Get Person #4. Then you started going to therapy and counseling. And they give you good, practical habits to start training your mind to be a little tougher when situations get hard. And you finally understand that true rest means refilling your cup with the passions God has put in you! (Person #4 is next to Person #3 on the rope.)
Get Person #5. Next, you start to get into a community with other people who go through similar situations, similar habits, and hang-ups. And you encourage each other, you pray for each other. (Person #5 next to Person #4 on the rope.)
Get Person #6. And finally, after doing all of this, you’ve found you’re planted in Christ. You’ve got a firm foundation in His Word, His promises, His thoughts about you, and your value in this world! (Person #6 at end of the rope.)
Say, to Person #2 - Alright devil, try to take this mind now. Go! (The enemy loses.)
Give them a round of applause! Praise God we don’t have to fight alone! That even if the battle is new each morning, God makes way for each victory from sunset to sundown!
I told you all earlier that I am recovering from Fear of Abandonment, and all the junk that comes with it. I can be confident in saying these days my wins against the devil are more than my losses, and I want that for you, too. If you need to see a therapist this season, do it. If you need to take medication this season to help with the process, do it. If you need to do something you’re passionate about once a day, do it. God provides healing and comfort in all shapes and in all forms!
Our Life Center is partnered with two great counseling ministries. First, LifeWay Counseling Centers offer hope for life. Second is Rock Solid Families, which is a faith-based life coaching organization that offers spiritual guidance and practical tools. If you are looking to become mentally healthier, please reach out to our Life Center for a referral. We’re here to HELP, I promise. This is for anyone who needs to hear it: “You are not a burden.”
If this message has been a blessing to you, come back to us. We want to keep equipping you for the battle. We want to pray with you, we want to fight with you. I am here as a testament to God’s healing power of the mind. As I close us out in prayer, remember every war is fought one battle at a time, so don’t worry about tomorrow’s battle. Today’s trouble is enough, For Today. Before we leave we’re going to sing this prayer to our Father! We’re going to fight on our knees with our hands lifted high because we are physically giving our mental battles over to God today! Amen?! Amen!