by Kevin Budd
My junior high gym teacher was a piece of work. We were not quite into the age of sensitivity speech and concern for the self-esteem of the seventh grader that is expected of educators today. That was a good thing, because I don’t think Mr. Ludwig had the psychological make up to work well in such an environment. He would have needed a lawyer half way through the first day of school. I remember on many occasions one or another of my class mates deciding he would help the instructor manage the class. He would raise his hand and complain about a fellow student’s failure to stay on his assigned spot or some other minor infraction of the rules. Invariably, Mr. Ludwig would yell at the complainer, always addressing students by their last names and say,
”Peterson! You dunderhead! Why don’t you stop worrying about Ackerlund and pay attention to what you are supposed to be doing! That will be a full time job!”
I always got a kick out of it, because I was reasonably good at following instructions, and I had not the slightest interest in drawing attention to myself by telling on someone else. And, of course, harshness aside, keeping myself on track was a full time job.
Some people are preoccupied with the failures of others and are distracted, or worse find excuses for their own failures, in the failures of others. But what I want to think about with you for a few minutes today is another distraction that can fill up bandwidth better dedicated to what Jesus has called us to do and to become. In the middle of the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus tells us not to squander our peace and joy worrying about things that are beyond our control—worrying about what is going to happen to us. He reminds us of the birds and the flowers, and the hair on our heads, and all the provision that God has made for us. And then he says, “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well (Matthew 6:32).”
Paraphrased, I want to suggest that he is saying, “Don’t waste time and energy concerned about things you can’t control that might go wrong. Trust God, who can control those things, to take care of you. Instead, spend your time and energy becoming what God has called you to become, and doing what he has given you to do.”
Three simple suggested steps to respond to this very practical invitation from Jesus, if this speaks to you right now:
- Identify the distracting concern that is bigger than you can solve and open your hands in a simple prayer, calling on God to fix what you cannot.
- Identify a task or responsibility that God has given you to do right now. Identify something that is a step in the right direction to fulfill that responsibility, and do it.
- Identify a practice that at this point in your life serves as an invitation into the presence of God. It could be time in your Bible, a prayer walk on the beach, a conversation with a brother or sister who helps to restore your hope, some time in silence, writing in your journal, writing a letter to Jesus (mail it if you want :0), an act of service for another that helps you connect with God, reading a book that somehow opens you to insight from God, etc. After you identify a practice that has potential to be an invitation, Do it.
I don’t believe that the Lord is calling us dunderheads. But I do think that he could be saying, “Why are you worrying about the part of things that is in my control, and ignoring the part of things that I have given to you?” He promises to us that when we focus on following him, he will take care of the rest.