Our Western culture seems to live and thrive and desire bad news. It’s what we respond to, more often than not. So with every new bit of information on the latest catastrophe, we get fearful and stressed out. That was the message Sunday night as delivered to the youth group at my church. Our senior high youth pastor had clips of movie trailer parodies which pointed out our obsession with disaster. He then launched into a discussion of how we are fixated on bad news. We shouldn’t be. God is in control. He always has been. He is right now. And He always will be.
When they had been brought safely through, then we found out that the island was called Malta. The natives showed us extraordinary kindness; for because of the rain that had set in and because of the cold, they kindled a fire and received us all. But when Paul had gathered a bundle of sticks and laid them on the fire, a viper came out because of the heat and fastened itself on his hand. When the natives saw the creature hanging from his hand, they began saying to one another, “Undoubtedly this man is a murderer, and though he has been saved from the sea, justice has not allowed him to live.” However he shook the creature off into the fire and suffered no harm. But they were expecting that he was about to swell up or suddenly fall down dead. But after they had waited a long time and had seen nothing unusual happen to him, they changed their minds and began to say that he was a god. – Acts 28:1-6, NASB
Paul and crew had shipwrecked on the island of Malta. Now Paul was a prisoner. So you’ve got being a prisoner, being shipwrecked, and then, all of a sudden, a viper comes out and bites Paul. Talk about a string of bad occurrences. The Word tells us the snake was hanging from his hand. So surely the natives figured Paul was a dead man. They also interpreted the fact that though he had been saved from shipwreck, the fact that he had been bitten boded some kind of punishment on Paul. Imagine their surprise when not only did Paul live, but nothing happened to him! They took it to mean Paul was some sort of god. We know he wasn’t. He was a bondslave of Christ and a servant of the Most High God. This goes to show our understanding and our ability to control the world is extremely limited, at best. Yet God’s control is complete and perfect.
This is why Christ told His disciples not to worry. Matthew 5:1 makes it clear that the audience for the Sermon on the Mount were the followers of Christ. He had departed from the crowd onto the mountain and those who were His disciples followed Him. And to them He gave that sermon. In that sermon He says these words:
“But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. – Matthew 6:33-34, NASB
If we are truly His disciples, we have nothing to fear. Death holds no sting for us. Death ushers us into the presence of Christ. And that means we live because Christ still has use of us in this world, but we should be looking forward to the day we are with Him, whether that is through our death or through His return. That is why Paul can say:
For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. – Philippians 1:21, NASB
Therefore, as Christians we need to remember He is in control. We should not panic with each new blast of bad news. And we should be the pillar of calmness and order amidst the storm. We have a glorious promise to hold on, the promise of our salvation. There is nothing in this world that can take that away from us. Not the latest weather threat or the newest outbreak or even the most tragic accident has any impact on our eternal future. So I’ll close on the quote, “What, me worry?” For those familiar with Mad magazine, this was the common saying of the magazine’s mascot, Alfred E. Neuman. When he says it, it represents a naive, uneducated response. We as Christians can use it because we have a complete understanding of who really is in control. Our use of it is educated. It is understood. And we realize that in this world we have nothing at all to worry about. If we fear and worship the Lord our God, if His Son is our Master and Lord, then there is nothing other than God Himself to worry about.