Summary: Jesus’ followers overcome worry by focusing on God’s faithfulness and cultivating a life of contentment.
In his book, Jesus’ Spiritual Journey and Ours, Thomas Kepler records the account of a lady who realized that her worrying was running and ruining her life. So she made for herself a "worry table" in which she tabulated all her anxieties. After a period of time, she discovered that her worries could be characterized as follows:
• 40% - things that would never happen
• 30% - things that had already occurred and could not be changed
• 12% - others’ criticisms of her, most of them untrue
• 10% - needless fears about her health, which actually made her even more unhealthy
• 8% - actual problems she could do something about
Those results are very consistent with other more recent studies. But as one health care professional pointed out in a recent newsletter, the exact numbers aren’t really the issue:
Whether 15 percent or 1 percent, worrying never affects the final outcome. Think about it. Have you ever worried a problem away?
[“A Prescription for Worry Warts” by Susanne Gaddis, PhD]
She closed that same newsletter with this thought-provoking illustration:
As I write I'm reminded of a piece of advice that was passed along to me by my now 91-year-old grandmother Bopp who once shared the following: "Honey, there’s no sense in making mountains out of mole hills, as all it does is exhaust the mole."
Though it should never be the case for followers of Jesus, the sad fact is that our lives are far too often characterized by the same kind of worry that is evident among the unbelieving world around us. So it’s not surprising that Jesus spent time addressing that issue in the Sermon on the Mount.
This morning is the third of five messages that address our stewardship in the kingdom of heaven. We began two weeks ago by establishing some foundational principles and we built upon that foundation last week by focusing on how we can be good stewards by investing in the lives of people to help equip them for eternity. We’ll build on our foundation some more this morning as we continue examining the words of Jesus in Matthew 6:
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.
Matthew 6:25-34 (ESV)
It’s not too difficult to pick out the main theme in this passage since three times Jesus says, “Do not be anxious…” and he uses that verb a total of six times in the passage. The underlying Greek word means “to be troubled with cares”, which is exactly what worry is. So why is Jesus so concerned that His followers deal with worry?
WHY WE NEED TO ADDRESS WORRY IN OUR LIVES
• Worry is a sin for a Christ-follower
When Jesus exhorts His followers not to be anxious, He is not giving us a suggestion, but rather a command. And although we can’t really pick it up in English, there are actually two aspects of that command. In verse 25, the command “do not be anxious” could literally be translated “stop being anxious”. The implication there is that His followers were already engaged in worrying and they needed to stop doing that.
But in verses 31 and 34, a different tense and mood is used in the Greek and there the command “do not be anxious” literally means “don’t start being anxious.” The implication there is that if someone is not worrying right now, they need to guard against doing that in the future. So, as you can see, that’s a very comprehensive command – we are not to worry, period.