A Fretful Flock has a life verse, if you will. It’s Luke 12:32, and it goes like this:
“Don’t be afraid, little flock, for it is the Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.”
Jesus said those words to his disciples, either the twelve or maybe the larger group that kept close to him. And lately, for some reason, Luke 12 seems to be everywhere I turn.
Two weeks in a row, sections of Luke 12 were fodder for sermons at my church (and we’ll get to that in a minute, because their words are fodder for this post). Then I went to BibleGateway.com to do some research, and there was a verse from Luke 12 as the verse of the day. And then a blogger I follow also quoted it.
For the anxious soul, parts of Luke 12 might be familiar. I just posted on it a few days ago, the most familiar part where Jesus tells people not to be afraid, that God cares for birds and makes flowers beautiful, and He loves us more than flowers or birds. God knows our needs, so we can focus on Him and put our needs in His hands and not fear.
The end of that section is Luke 12:32, which I just quoted, where Jesus lovingly calls us his little flock. I love that. I want to be part of a little flock that Jesus reassures. He knows fear is big, that this world is full of nastiness, and he knows we are small. And then he assures us that, small or not, God has big, loving plans for us.
The next section of the chapter was what my church sermon was about last week. Given by a man just finishing seminary, one about to enter full-time ministry, it was about servants and waiting. So this man, about to devote his life to servanthood, had something to say about Jesus’ words about us as waiting, watching servants. Seems apropos, right? Like last week, the sermon wasn’t about fear or anxiety alone, but wow, did it hit home.
The main premise? Be watchful. Watch expectantly. After Jesus says don’t be greedy (vv 13-21 ), he says greed stems from fear, fear that God won’t fill our needs. That’s where the birds and the flowers come in, Jesus assuring us God is intimate with our needs, and if we focus on God, he’ll meet those needs. Fear is not required to get what we need. (vv22-31)
Then we get to this next section, and I’ve been thinking about it for days. Jesus goes on to talk about servants watching for their master, dressed and ready. They are watching expectantly at the door so they can welcome him home.
I’ve been considering how I spend my time, where I focus, what my life really looks like. Because of this blog and my writing—mostly Christian—I spend a whole lot of time in a strictly Christian mindset. I open my Bible many times a day. I turn on my computer, and it pretty much says, “Hey, Jill, you probably want me to head to Biblegateway.com, right?”
And I am thankful for that. It’s easier to watch expectantly when I’m surrounding myself with God thoughts all day long.
But… What does a servant do?
What does it really mean to be ready to serve? And what does a servant do, practically and physically, while he’s waiting for the master? Finally, what does this have to do with anxiety or fear?
Maybe the servant analogy is a scope issue. Imagine living on a large estate owned by wealthy, important nobles. The estate is busy—ambassadors and other nobles come and go. The direction of the larger world is determined in rooms throughout. Feasts are prepared, nations are discussed, and too much is going on to keep track of.
Does this sound like the world around you? The internet tells me I can know everything. Worse, it tells me I SHOULD know everything, that I need to keep up and be in the know. The rooms in this estate are filled with life and death decisions, economic debates, political posturing, opinions on everything that one can have opinions on, and my anxious, fearful brain… Yeah, this is my brain taking on the world:
Back to my imaginary estate. Imagine a servant on that estate. Let’s pull from my over-reading of regency romances and make her a little maid whose job is to keep the room of the noble’s oldest daughter. Her duties are to keep the fireplace running in that room, to clean the dust, make the bed, and keep the closet tidy. She brings snacks when the noble daughter is hungry, comes when the noble daughter calls, and sleeps nearby in case the daughter needs something in the middle of the night.
What doesn’t a servant do?
You know what the little maid doesn’t do? She doesn’t know much about other visitors to the estate. She doesn’t know politics or economics. And she hears nothing about nations and wars and chaos in the world around her.
Her focus is, quite frankly, narrow and simple. She is here to watch out for the physical needs of one noble daughter. And she does it without fear, expecting the master of the estate to keep her safe, fed, and clothed.
In Luke 12, Jesus says we are servants who are to watch for the master’s arrival. That’s it. We read in other parables about keeping lamps lit. We can imagine preparing for the master’s arrival would mean clean bedding, a stocked pantry, and rooms fit for noble entertaining. The servants are busy—the master is an important, busy man, and he needs to spend his time making the world work, not tending his surroundings, so in a way, the world depends on the competency of the watching servants.
But does the servant have time or need to worry about what the master is doing? How the meetings with world leaders go? How his work will affect the economy or politics? Nope. Not his business. The servant is to watch and wait and do his work and leave the rest alone.
A king weighs in
Yeah, I’ve probably stretched the analogy to the edge and beyond, so let’s get real. And really, where does anxiety fit? Well, let’s talk to David, because I love reading what King David has to say. One of my favorite psalms is Psalm 131. And it goes like this:
My heart is not proud, Lord, my eyes are not haughty; I do not concern myself with great matters or things too wonderful for me. But I have calmed and quieted myself, I am like a weaned child with its mother; like a weaned child I am content. Israel, put your hope in the Lord both now and forevermore.
I love this psalm for many reasons, but my focus here is verse one. “I do not concern myself with great matters” is what the NIV version says. In other translations David says he is not involved in ‘things that don’t pertain to him’, ‘things too high for him’, or ‘meddled where I have no business.’ In other words, David, a king, suggests it’s okay to do what’s in front of him and not take on the world. If that’s a good rule for David, it’s a fine rule for me.
The practicality of watching expectantly
So how do you be a servant? What does it mean to watch expectantly for the master? It has to do with taking care of what’s in front of you. What are the needs in your little corner? Maybe it means caring for your family or your friends. Maybe it has to do with your business. But likely it’s pretty small scale. It doesn’t mean taking on the world. If each of us who loves God takes care of our world, our people, our duties, then none of us has to overreach, and overreaching and overthinking and allowing overwhelm—we all know that’s the birthplace of anxiety.
In the Luke passage a few things are mentioned. Again, he’s speaking in parable language, but I don’t think it’s hard to make this practical. He speaks of feeding and caring for other servants. He speaks of being dressed and ready for service, keeping the lamp burning, and being ready to open the door. Also, knowing the master’s will and being ready to fulfill it. Finally, a few don’ts—no beating the other servants or eating and drinking and getting drunk.
Knowing God’s will has to do with our understanding of God’s Word. That means time in our Bibles and prayer, Bible study with others, worship. Our care for the other servants—that’s the people around us. And all that preparation talk? We walk around in a world that knows less and less about God every day, and everything we do will in some way reflect the character of God to those around us. But to do that, we have to know the character of God. That takes us back up to time with God in his Word and with His people.
Back to anxiety
How does this help with anxiety? First, it keeps us busy. Knowing God means spending time with Him, and that’s time we aren’t in our own heads overthinking and worrying. Knowing God well and preparing to do the works He has for us—that can fill a whole lot of hours. Serving, studying, fellowship with His people, caring for the little things in the smaller circle each of us orbit—if done well, these take so much time and effort that we don’t have time left over to get involved and worry over the bigger worlds that might not be any of our business.
Also, there is a reward. It says the master will eat with us if we are good servants. If I am close enough to God that I am aware of His presence, I won’t fear. Who fears when the master is right there, eating at the same table? For me, nearness to God drives out fear. When I read the Bible, worship with His people, pray—for those minutes I let go of the anxiety caused by spiraling, swirling, overthinking worries and thoughts. (There may be moments of social anxiety, but that’s different, and the joy of the Lord can smother out the physical part of other anxieties. Sometimes.)
It’s okay to be a child
You don’t have to know everything going on. Be a child wrapped around her mother’s leg, watching with wide eyes, content because Mom is here, solid and large and safe. Be content as a servant to take on your duties and nobody’s else’s. Worry about what pertains to you, knowing even a king isn’t supposed to tackle the whole world.
It’s a posture of dependence, both the child and the servant. A posture of connectedness, knowing God knows your needs and will care for them. When anxiety hits, look close to home. What does God need from you right now? Right here in front of you? Narrow your focus, surround yourself with God thoughts, and do what needs done. Then expect Him to come and eat with you and never let you face anything alone.
Watch. Watching expectantly can be a full-time job. It’s vital, and it’s challenging, and it’s enough. And done well, it’s worthy of great reward. Part of that reward is peace, comfort, and protection.
(This post was born during a sermon given by Dave Fischer at Wilmore Anglican church on August 7, 2022. Sermons can be found on Facebook.)