You and I live in an age of anxiety. We’ve survived 10 years of terror since the Twin Towers fell. Now the fear is a collapse of our economy. Will the President and Congress agree on a plan to address our nation’s debt so we don’t default on our loans and suffer a long-term depression? Or maybe your worries are more personal in nature – a medical diagnosis, a family crisis, or a business failure. My anxiety this year has been the loss of a job I loved and the uncertainty of what I’d do to provide for my family. But, then, these worries are needless.
I have now lived long enough to be able to say with David, “I have been young, and now I am old, yet I have never seen the righteous forsaken, or their children begging bread.” (Psalm 37:25) Nor is it only the righteous God cares for. That was Paul’s argument when preaching to the idolaters of Lystra, “In the past…the living God who made heaven and earth and sea and everything in them…let all nations go their own way. Yet he has not left himself without testimony: He has shown kindness by giving you rain from heaven and crops in their seasons; he provides you with plenty of food and fills your hearts with joy.” (Acts 14:16-17) One reason God provides for us is to give the world visible proof that He not only exists, but that He is kind to everyone, both believers and unbelievers.
This is the first reason the Lord Jesus told us to be at peace in a time of anxiety. 1) Worry is needless. God is good. “Look at the birds of the air,” He said, “they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?” (Matthew 6:26) The truth is God has given us far more ways to provide for ourselves than His other creatures, because we’re far more valuable to Him – so valuable He sent His Son to die for our sins. So why fret when trials come? I read an article about a doctor who was using dogs in his ulcer research program, but he had to abandon his use of them, because the dogs refused to get tense and worry. He said, “If you inflict an ulcer on a dog by artificial methods, he will lie down and quietly cure himself by refusing to be bothered about anything.” So should we!
Jesus gives us a second reason not to worry: 2) Worry is useless. It does no good. “Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life? And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these.” (Matthew 6:27-29) Parents, think about the peer pressure your children face when it comes to the clothing they wear and how you can model contentment for them when you can’t “keep up with the Joneses.” For instead of enhancing and extending our lives, undue stress can damage our bodies. I recall a trip to the dentist that revealed several cavities that had to be filled. He asked me,, “Have you been going through a lot of stress?” My answer was “yes,” and his bill for filling them didn’t help to relieve it. Leonard Fosdick of Northwestern University says that worry restricts the flow of saliva in the mouth preventing natural mouth acids from being neutralized and causing tooth decay. If it does that to our teeth, what’s it doing to the rest of our bodies? So learn to relax.
The third reason not to worry is because: 3) Worry is irreligious. It stems from unbelief. “If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them.” (Matthew 6:30-32) Worry is not the result of our circumstances, for in the same situation one person can be at perfect peace, while another person is literally scared to death. Jesus says peace and worry are the result of our faith or lack of it.
The final reason for trusting God is because: 4) Worry is exhausting. It overburdens today. Jesus said, “But seek first his kingdom and his righteous-ness, and all these things will be given to you as well. “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” (Matthew 6:33) Each day has enough difficulties, enough demands, and enough dilemmas of its own. So to bring tomorrow’s schedule and stresses into today is to double the trouble for today, when Jesus said, “Each day has enough trouble of its own.” All that we’ve been given is today. We haven’t been given tomorrow. In fact, we don’t even know if there will be a tomorrow or what we’ll do tomorrow. We may have an idea, but we don’t know for sure. Only today is certain. Does that mean we should not plan? No. Planning is Christlike. Worrying is manlike. Planning involves looking into the future and saying, “If the Lord wills, I will do this or that.” Worrying is our attempt to control the future through our mental efforts, which is impossible to do.
Next time I’ll continue this topic with 3 steps for stopping worry recommended by the Apostle Paul in Philippians 4:5-9. But if you’d like help in the meantime, consider some of the words of advice in the video above.