Dear Friends,

The excitement is building around the District Office. In eleven more days people will begin arriving for the 32nd Regular Convention of the Florida-Georgia District of the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod. For me, personally, this is like a family reunion of sorts. People who are connected by Jesus to connect people to Jesus will all come together in Orlando for a few days of celebration and work. There is certainly work that will be done, but we also hope to maintain an atmosphere of celebration throughout our time as we together engage in the Master’s business.

I can tell you from my experience that Conventions can build a little anxiety. There are so many details that need to be attended to. However, I find comfort in reminding myself that it’s all about seeking first the Kingdom of God. If your life is at all like mine, it can often be filled with a bit of anxiety. There are so many things to worry about in life. Whether its family issues, financial stability, home repairs, car repairs, work struggles, faith struggles, just to name a few. Many of us struggle with anxiety.

In Matthew 6 Jesus, in the Sermon on the Mount, says, “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble” Mt 6:25–34.

How are we to understand these words in a practical way? I believe that they remind us that God has made promises to us, beginning in the waters of Baptism. He chose us, and cleansed us, and claims us as His very own by grace. This means that by His unmerited grace the whole Kingdom of heaven belongs to us. We are His precious children and we can place our trust in Him, not just when things are going our way, but especially when they aren’t. The testimony of Scripture gives us great encouragement. Even when it seems as if God is absent, He is not. When the Israelites wandered in the wilderness, God was with them every step along the way, every battle, every success, upholding them, offering them hope. Even in King David’s darkest days he knew that he could praise God for His blessings. Following the Resurrection, after the disciples received the Spirit on Pentecost, we find they no longer cowered in fear. In fact, look at how Peter and John react after being imprisoned for healing the lame man at the temple. When they are released they don’t hide, or protest or create a scene for being thrown in prison unfairly. Instead, they go back among the rest of the Apostles and they all pray for boldness to continue to proclaim Jesus (Acts 4:23-31). Certainly the Apostle Paul could understand anxiety and worry. Yet, as he was imprisoned for his faith in Jesus, he didn’t waste time worrying about tomorrow. He began to witness to the guards, and actually converted some.

Life is filled with challenges. God has promised to care for our needs. He says that He won’t leave us, will never forsake us, will walk along side of each believer to strengthen us in our faith. He says, in Jeremiah 29:11, “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.” He has great purpose for each of us, and He will provide the way for us to carry it out as we remain in Him.

In John 15:4-5, Jesus says, “Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in Me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing.” As we abide in Jesus, even during the difficult times, He promises to abide in us. His purpose is so that we can bear much fruit! We can’t do that effectively apart from Jesus. When I lived in North Georgia we had four peach trees on our property and two apple trees. What I learned is the joy I received in growing and nurturing fruit isn’t simply to benefit me or the fruit itself. In other words, the fruit gains no benefit by simply hanging on the tree. The real joy of the fruit was seen as I was able to give it away to others. I saw how it fed critters at times, as well as bees who helped to pollinate other plants, not to mention the many people who received peaches and apples. Here’s the point—fruit is meant to benefit others. Jesus wants us to bear much fruit, not for our own benefit, but to bless others because He knows that as others are blessed we receive blessing as well, and Jesus is glorified in it all. This is what happens when we get our focus right, seeking first the Kingdom and His righteousness. He’ll take care of all the rest!

So face those fears and anxieties with confidence. If God is for us, who can be against us? We have a Savior who went all the way to the cross to show us the depth of His commitment to each of us. We can be certain that the One who called us also sends us to engage in the Master’s business—to bear much fruit for the sake of others. We do this as we fix our eyes on Jesus, looking to Him daily, despite our failings and frailties, realizing that only in Him and by abiding in Him can we bear fruit! In Him we have the assurance of forgiveness and new life, and trusting in Him we don’t need to allow anxiety and worry to get the upper hand in our lives. As they say, “Don’t worry, be happy,” and we can be filled with joy and boldness for today as we abide in Jesus and seek His Kingdom. Let tomorrow be anxious about itself!

With you in the Master’s business,