Core scripture: “Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need. So don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today” (Matthew 6: 33-34).
Message: With the theme of the 2016-2017 school year being Serving With Humility, it is time to get back to that through a story. This story transpired through the walls of my school and culminated at our FCA meeting a week and a half ago. For anonymity sake, we will call the hero of our story Joe. After all, many would probably consider this kid just your average Joe type of kid. Sweet. Quiet. Polite. Content in flying under the radar in class. He would never bring glory to himself, and humble would be an understatement to describe his personality. Joe is simply one of those kids that you can’t help but love.
I will never forget the day I met him. He was a gangly 6th grade boy a couple years back, timid and consumed by anxiety. He didn’t even want to come in to the orientation assembly on that first day. And truly, from his perspective, who could blame him? Loud music blasted from the gymnasium. Kids were walking around everywhere, mostly little 6th graders looking for their friends, not to mention the quietest spot in the bleachers where they could go unnoticed. 8th grade WEB leaders, all dressed in the same brightly colored shirt, were guiding them as needed, funneling them to the nametag tables. Your typical 6th grader might think this was fun, but not Joe. Joe was overwhelmed, tears streaming down his face, unwilling to even set foot in the gym.
I was asked to go out and meet him. It looked like he thought he was being sent to the electric chair! He wanted NO part of the chaos that was the gym. I suddenly became a negotiator, calming him down and talking sense into him. I was pressed for time. The assembly would be starting any moment, and the last thing I wanted was to have the poor kid walk in awkwardly, all eyes upon him, searching for a safe spot in the bleachers. Assuring him that he would soon be seeing friends from his elementary school, I coaxed him into the gym and led him to where he needed to go. Joe immediately found his cousin and sunk into the bleachers. Just another nameless face in the crowd.
A few weeks went by, and we had our first Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA) meeting in the school auditorium. I can’t remember if it was week one or two, but there were Joe and his cousin, sitting near the front row. I was floored! That kid NEEDED this group, and he became a regular at our Wednesday meetings. He met friends, came out of his shell amongst fellow believers, and truly began to blossom. By the time he hit 7th grade, Joe was in full bloom. He was surer of himself. A confidence and pep in his step could be seen. He even tried out to be the school mascot! All the way through, he rarely if ever missed an FCA meeting. By the time he hit 8th grade, I knew it was time to pull him aside to ask him the question that was percolating in my mind.
“Hey, Joe, how would you like to become a part of our FCA leadership team?” I asked.
Joe’s cousin, who by the way seemed to be attached to his hip at times, immediately began reassuring him, pumping him up with words of encouragement. Still, you could see the look of I’m not so sure about this plastered on his face. Though more confident, Joe still struggled with anxiety. It clung to him like a chain around his neck, weighing him down and holding him back. I continued throwing out my idea that Joe should face his fear, break out of his chains, and preach to these FCA kids about how he overcomes anxiety. We prayed about it. It took a week or two, but he approached me one morning and said he would be willing to do it. I patted him on the back and gave him a few weeks to get his lesson ready. His week came, and Satan attacked.
Joe wandered up to me Monday morning telling me that he wouldn’t be ready. I quickly reassured him that I still wanted to hear his lesson, and asked if he could use another week to get it ready. He nodded yes. We threw a last second lesson together for that week and waited for the following week. He no-showed the leadership meeting Monday morning. I was quickly reassured by his cousin that he was attending a funeral and that the lesson would be ready to go by Wednesday. Sure enough, Tuesday evening his PowerPoint presentation was e-mailed to me, polished and ready to go.
Seeing him take the stage was exhilarating for me. No, he wasn’t flashy or loud, but that wasn’t Joe. He spoke from the heart and talked directly about the anxiety and worry that plagued him throughout his life. He humbled himself but raised up the power of God, conquering his worry with scripture. Tears welled in my eyes as he explained the significance of Philippians 4: 13, which states, “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.” His life verse. My life verse. The power of God propelled him through the lesson, and in the end God got the glory. He broke every chain of worry, every doubt Satan tossed his way. Those kids were blessed by his message. And do you know what? So was I!
Our job is to teach, but if you open your eyes, you can learn lessons from your students. Daily. Joe’s message, God’s message, was a tap-in-putt. Worry does no good in our lives. Be assured that God is in control. “Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you” (1 Peter 5: 7). When we worry, we question who is in control. That being said, what is holding you back? Is it a boatload of grading? A problem kid you’re failing to connect with? Pressures of testing? Whatever it is, know this one core truth: “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4: 6-7).
Challenge: When was the last time you were worried? Not just frazzled a bit but wholeheartedly consumed by anxiety? Now that you have that moment in mind, journal about it. Don’t focus so much on the worry; focus on how God led you through. Close your thoughts off with the assurance that if God helped you through then, He can help you in any struggle you are going through now or in the future. Rest in the comfort of that thought!
Song to bring it home: Two songs come to mind today! David Gray’s “Sparrows” has been hitting my playlist a lot lately, not so much because I am currently struggling with worry, but more because it is simply an incredible song. Gray expounds on the entire section about worry in Matthew 6, explaining eloquently yet powerfully how God guides us through it all. The second? How about “Break Every Chain” by the Digital Age? Go check it out!
Prayer: Father, forgive me when I let worry get the best of me. Let those times in my life when You carried me through life’s struggles be my anthem to conquer any worry I am currently holding or any worry that may choke me in the future. Thank you, Lord, for being that constant force to propel me through it all. Amen.