of Jesus Christ - Day to Day Righteousness"
Anxiety in Perspective
What causes my anxiety? (verse
Why shouldn't I be anxious? (verses 25b-34)
- Reason #1: The Reality of Life (verse 25b)
- Reason #2: The Birds (verse 26)
- Reason #3: The Uselessness of Worry (verse 27)
- Reason #4: The Lilies (verses 28-30)
- Reason #5: The Father's Care (verses 31-32)
- Reason #6: The Troubles of Today (verse 34)
What will cure my anxiety? (verse 33)
1. Proper thinking ("for this reason...")
2. Faith ("O men of little faith...")
3. A kingdom focus (verse 33).
Many of you remember the crisis that faced us in America about three years ago. People all across our land (and the world) were very concerned and anxious and worried about what would happen when we crossed the milestone from the year 1999 to year 2000. Many were concerned about the effect that this would have on our computers and, as a result, upon our life, as we know it. This concern was so great that it came to be known simply as "Y2K."
I remember reading one article, published in the fall on 1998 that presented three possible scenarios as we entered the year 2000. The article was entitled, "Y2Chaos: What is Y2K and why should you care?" (Elijah Company, Fall 1998).
Scenario #1: Brown-out: Temporary interruptions in many services for up to several months. (Picture something like the aftermath of Hurricane Hugo.)
Scenario #2: Black-out: Prolonged interruptions in many services for a period of years. (Picture something like the Great Depression on a global scale or Germany at the end of World War II).
Scenario #3: Wipe-out: The collapse of civilization and the end of the world as we know it. (Picture a total breakdown and restructuring of society.)
One man wrote about the upcoming disaster, "Know that I am an optimist. There is no reason to believe that we won't see a complete collapse of civilization. Anyone who says that things will be fine hasn't got a good sense of history or current events" (Cory Hamasaki, "500 Days to God: Hamasaki Says the Game Is Over" in an article found on www.garynorth.com, which is no longer posted on the web site). Even Newsweek magazine referred to is as "The Day the World Shuts Down" (June 2, 1997). Before the year 2000, all was doom and gloom.
Churches and ministries were jumping on the bandwagon to proclaim to the world that disaster was coming and that we need to be ready. All types of programs and projects were developed to meet the coming crisis. All types of articles were being written of the upcoming disaster. I know of many people within the church who stored up lots of food and water for the coming crisis. I know of families who purchased weapons to protect their stock-pile of supplies. I remember a program which was developed in attempt to feed the nation when food shortages would erupt. It was called "The Joseph project." I heard of churches that organized programs to help the widows during this crisis time.
In all this time, I heard very few people actually present a case that things would be just fine. At that time I was a computer professional, who was overseeing the Y2K project at a hospital. In all of our testing, we were finding very few things that were actually a problem at all. Furthermore, I was in dialogue with many other companies, who were all convinced that they would not have a problem either. As this mounting crisis was erupting in the church, as elders at Kishwaukee Bible Church, we felt the need to address this issue. In February 1999, at Kishwaukee Bible Church we took a Sunday evening to attempt to put things in perspective. For the first half of my message, I laid out my research and sought to demonstrate why I didn't believe that the year 2000 would bring us face to face with disaster. For the second half of my message, I sought to give a spiritual perspective on the matters at hand, by teaching God's perspective on the matter. The passage that I chose to exposit that evening was the exact same passage that we will examine this morning. It is found in Matthew 6:25-34. Jesus said, ...
"For this reason I say to you, do not be anxious for your life, as to what you shall eat, or what you shall drink; nor for your body, as to what you shall put on. Is not life more than food, and the body than clothing? Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single cubit to his life's span? And why are you anxious about clothing? Observe how the lilies of the field grow; they do not toil nor do they spin, yet I say to you that even Solomon in all his glory did not clothe himself like one of these. But if God so arrays the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, will He not much more do so for you, O men of little faith? Do not be anxious then, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'With what shall we clothe ourselves?' For all these things the Gentiles eagerly seek; for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added to you. Therefore do not be anxious for tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own."
As the year 2000 approached, I chose to exposit these words of Jesus, because they addressed, what I believe, was the major spiritual problem confronting the church at that time: Anxiety concerning the future. Anxiety is the theme of these verses. Three times Jesus says, "Do not be anxious" (verse 25, 31, 34). Some translations (like the NKJV and NIV) say "do not worry." Worry and anxiety are the same things. They describe the experience one has when the assumed difficulties in the future occupy the thoughts in your mind today.
The year 2000 crisis was good for us, because it exposed much of our lack of faith in God to provide for us, His children. Here, for the first time in our lives, we were faced with the thought of having no food on our table. What would we do? Would we be anxious? Would we trust God to provide?
Quite frankly, I was surprised at some of the reaction to my message that evening in February 1999. I presented our findings thus far in testing all of our computer software in the hospital. I presented very factual data concerning the effects on computer systems across our planet and showed how the vast majority of these problems were not crucial to the operations of computers. I had personally spoken to representatives from our local electric company, our local gas company, our local phone company, one of the local banks, the water department in our city, and a representative from Walmart. (If you had electricity and could buy things at Walmart, what more would you need?). I explained what I had learned from these companies and presented why I was confident that we wouldn't face any catastrophe as we transitioned from 1999 to 2000. Yet, I was met with skepticism from several of my Christian friends, who visited from other churches. They simply weren't going to be persuaded.
Later that spring, I went on vacation in Arizona, where a friend had gathered about 20 people into a living room, and had asked me to present my same message to these friends of his. After my presentation, I was attacked as being out of touch, and without understanding of what was going to happen. Many of those present were convinced that there was going to be a major problem on their hands.
Those experiences taught me a lesson. I learned that there are people, who are prone to worry concerning the future. It doesn't matter what facts you tell them, they will still worry about the future. Furthermore, as I have observed, many of those same people who were anxious concerning the year 2000, are the same people who have great anxieties with regards to ...
- the governmental conspiracies,
- our basic freedoms,
- agricultural toxicity, caused by fertilizers and pesticides,
- global warming,
- genetic engineering,
- (you name it. There is no end to the things you may worry about).
If this at all describes you this morning, Jesus gives us a tremendous word of encouragement, relating to your tendency to experience great anxiety. Last week, I warned those of you who struggle with debt problems that our passage last week (Matt. 6:19-24) would be of particular importance to you. A fundamental problem with who experience debt is the difficulty of viewing our material possessions. Rather than waiting a few months to purchase something when they have the money, they will purchase now to enjoy their purchase. Jesus warned us to have an eternal perspective of our possessions. This is difficult for those who cannot even wait a few months to purchase something they really want. In a similar fashion, if you tend to worry about such global issues as listed above, Jesus' words ought to be of great importance to you.
Perhaps you have heard this introduction and thought, "Steve, that is all well and good, but these global concerns have never bothered me much." Perhaps you are worried today concerning other things, like ...
- your income
- the physical safety of your children
- the health of your parents
- your own health
- your retirement
The words of Jesus will encourage you this morning, as well. In this section of the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus gives us 6 reasons why we should not be anxious concerning the future. I know that anxiety is debilitating. Physically, it can cause many problems. It can make you lose sleep. It can even affect your health. It can cause your heart to pound, skip or race. It can cause sweating, dizziness, and fainting. It can cause you to experience a dry mouth, heartburn, indigestion, diarrhea, or constipation. It can cause your skin to itch or break out in sores or acne. The worry concerning the future can absolutely cripple you today. It can prevent you from facing today's problems, because you are so busy facing tomorrow's problems. As one Swedish proverb said, "Worry gives small things a big shadow"
You may well ask, ...
What causes my anxiety? (verse 25a)
At the root of anxiety and worry is a focus upon yourself. Look at the first half of verse 25. Jesus says, "For this reason I say to you, do not be anxious for your life, as to what you shall eat, or what you shall drink; nor for your body, as to what you shall put on." Verse 31 says the same thing, "Do not be anxious then, saying 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'With what shall we clothe ourselves?'" Jesus says that the cause of worry is a pre-occupation with what will go in your mouth and what will go on your body. We worry over our food and clothing.
You worry when you think that you won't have enough. Food shortages were a greater possibility in the days of Jesus. They couldn't preserve food like we can today. We are able to can food and put it on the shelf for years. We are able to freeze food and keep it fresh. They couldn't transport food like we can today. For those who lived in the desert, a shortage of water was a real possibility.
Practically, few of us really have this exact worry. We don't worry whether or not we will have food or drink. We don't worry whether or not we will be clothed. Rather, our worries are smaller than that. We worry whether we will be able to eat the kind of food we want to eat. Will our diet allow us to enjoy our steak and shrimp? Will my budget allow us to purchase the expensive, organic food that we prefer. We worry whether our clothes are in style or not. We worry whether or not we will have an abundance in our retirement. We worry whether or not we will be able to meet our house payment.
But in any case, most of our worries focus upon ourselves. Will my needs be met? That's what causes your anxiety.
Your next question might be ...
Why shouldn't I be anxious? (verses 25b-34)
Here we get to the heart of the matter, as Jesus gives us six reasons why you shouldn't be anxious.
Reason #1: The Reality of Life (verse 25b)
Look at the last half of verse 25, "Is not life more than food, and the body than clothing?" It is not food that sustains the life. It is not water that sustains the life. It is not clothing that sustains the life. The reality is that God is the one Who creates and sustains our life.
Psalm 139:15-16 says it beautifully, "My frame was not hidden from Thee, When I was made in secret, and skillfully wrought in the depths of the earth. Thine eyes have seen my unformed substance; And in Thy book they were all written, The days that were ordained for me, When as yet there was not one of them." God created us in our mother's womb and God will sustain us, until our days, which are ordained for us, expire.
Life consists of more than food and clothing. Life is far more complex than this. You need air to breathe. You need your lungs to take the oxygen out of the air. You need your heart to beat to bring blood to the lungs. You need your blood to carry your oxygen to your other body parts. You need your body to repair itself when injured. You need your body to fight off infection. You need your nerves to be able to move your body parts. You need your eye to see. You need your brain to interpret what the eye sees. We could go on and on to point out that life is far more complex that what you put in your moth and put on your body. It is "in Him that we live and move and have our being." (Acts 17:28).
Notice Jesus' reasoning here. He argues from the greater to the lesser. If God so sustains the greater, more difficult aspect of our living (i.e. our biological functions), so also will he sustain the lesser, and easier aspect of our living (i.e. supplying our needs, like food and clothing). "Life is more than food and the body is more than clothing." In every way we are dependent upon God for living our next moment. I love the passage in Job, "If He should determine to do so; If He should gather to Himself His spirit and His breath, All flesh would perish together, and man would return to dust" (Job 34:14-15).
Look at yourself, is God sustaining your body? Is your heart still beating? Are your breathing functions still working properly? Will He not also give you what your body needs? You need not worry.
Here is a second reason why you
Reason #2: The Birds (verse 26)
Remember, when Jesus preached this message, He preached it outside at the bottom of a hill, rather than inside on top of a podium. There were probably some birds flying around that Jesus pointed to as He said, "Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they?" (verse 26).
I'm not sure that you have noticed or not, but birds don't have tractors. They don't have planters, with which to sow the seed. They don't have combines, with which to harvest the crop. They don't have barns, with which to store the crop away. Do you realize that when birds begin their chirping early in the morning, they look to their cupboards and find them completely empty. This happens every day! They don't have anything in their pantries. They have absolutely nothing to put on the table to eat. They have no money in their pocket to purchase their food. When each morning dawns, they begin with nothing. They arise and go find the food that God has provided for them. God does indeed provide for them. Have you ever seen a skinny, sickly bird, who looks like he hasn't eaten in days?
It's not just the birds either. Psalm 104 speaks of how animals "both great and small" wait for God to provide. "(The animals) all wait for You, To give them their food in due season. You give to them, they gather it up; You open Your hand, they are satisfied with good" (Psalm 104:27-28). On that day near the sea of Galilee, Jesus looked to the birds, who were flying overhead or were pecking along the ground and asks, "Are you not worth much more than they?" If God supplies for the birds, will He not provide for you?
Notice Jesus' argument here. Rather than arguing from the greater to the lesser (like verse 25), He argues from the lesser to the greater. God cares for the birds of the air. God provides for the birds, who neither sow, reap, or gather. Tou are created in God's image. The beasts of the field and the birds of the air were created for us. On the day in which Adam and Eve were created, God said, "Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth" (Gen. 1:26). If God provides for the animals, not made in His image, certainly He will provide for your needs, who are made in His image!
In Matthew 10:29-31, Jesus makes a similar point. He said, "Are not two sparrows sold for a cent? And yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Therefore do not fear; you are of more value than many sparrows."
Look around, is God providing for the animals? Will He not also provide for you? You need not worry.
Jesus gives us a third reason you
shouldn't worry ...
Reason #3: The Uselessness of Worry (verse 27)
Jesus said, "And which of you by being anxious can add a single cubit to his life's span?" (verse 27).
The NAS gives us a nice, literal rendering. A cubit is a length measurement. It is the length of a forearm, from elbow to finger -- 18 inches. A life's span is the length of your life. The years you live. Many have questioned, "How can you add a foot of length to the length of your life?" When you are asked how much you weigh, you don't say, "70 inches." It doesn't make much sense. As a result, some have sought to smooth out Jesus' words.
So the King James versions say something like this, "Which of you by worrying can add one cubit to his stature?" Rather than talking about length of life, they change it to speak about a foot of height. The NIV does the opposite. Rather than speak about a cubit -- 18 inches, they change it so speak about a length of time (i.e. an hour of time). The NIV says, "Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?" It is best to keep the NAS, "which of you by being anxious can add 18 inches of length to his life on earth?" I believe that Jesus intentionally mixed the metaphors here to demonstrate the impossibility of the task.
His point is clear enough. God has established our height. God has established the length of our lives. David writes, "Your eyes have seen my unformed substance; and in Your book they were all written, the days that were ordained for me, when as yet there was not one of them" (Psalm 139:16). Our "unformed substance" is our stature. The "days" are the length we will live. Being anxious over our height or length of life cannot change anything. Our substance and our days are totally in God's hands, not our own.
Worry can do lots of things, it can cause sleeplessness and ulcers and trouble. But Jesus mentions one thing that worry cannot do. Worry cannot add length to your life or height to your stature. There are other things worry cannot do. Nobody ever built a building by worrying about it. Nobody every passed an exam by worrying about it. Nobody ever paid a bill by worrying about it.
I remember growing up at home, we used to have a trinket that always sat in our kitchen, as a conversation piece. It was this block of wood, with some grooves cut in it to form a cross. In each of these grooves, there were small wooden pieces, which could slide in these groves. These wooden pieces were attached to a handle which you could turn, as these sliding wooden pieces would go back and forth, back and forth. So, you could hold it in your hand and turn this thing. It did absolutely nothing. In fact, there was a sticker on the bottom of this thing explaining what it was and what it did. It was called a "do nothing." This sticker explained how this gizmo didn't do anything and was good for nothing. Anxiety is exactly the same.
There is nothing good that worry and anxiety accomplish, because anxiety is sin.
We often can excuse our anxious behavior, thinking that there are legitimate reasons for us to worry. Do you ever excuse your worldliness? "Oh, yes, I love God, but I'm extremely worldly." Do you ever excuse your other sinful behaviors? "Oh, yes, I love God, but I'm also into beating my wife." Why do we excuse our anxious behavior? "I'm so worried about this and that." Anxiety is sin. Yet, for some reason, we think that it is permissible for us to worry about things in the future.
But Jesus says that there is nothing for which we ought to worry. Even when facing our death, we shouldn't be worried. Jesus warned His disciples whom He was sending out into the world. He said, "Beware of men; for they will deliver you up to the courts, and scourge you in their synagogues; and you shall even be brought before governors and kings for My sake, as a testimony to them and to the Gentiles. But when they deliver you up [i.e. to be killed], do not become anxious about how or what you will speak; for it shall be given you in that hour what you are to speak" (Matt. 10:17-19). If Jesus instructed His disciples not to worry, even when they were being delivered up to be killed, the implication is clear that there is no trial that comes upon you which ought to elicit your worry and your anxiety.
Anxiety doesn't accomplish anything. You need not worry.
Reason #4: The Lilies (verses 28-30)
Jesus goes on for three verses about this reason: verses 28, 29, and 30. Let's begin with verse 28, "And why are you anxious about clothing? Observe how the lilies of the field grow; they do not toil nor do they spin"
Again, remember that Jesus is preaching outside, not inside. The lilies to which Jesus refer were probably of the wild variety that were plainly visible to the crowd that day. Jesus told us to "observe" them (verse 28). The word translated "observe" is the Greek word, katamaqete (katamathete) which means "consider with great intensity" or "study" or "examine closely." Earlier Jesus exhorted us to be zoologists, who would study the birds of the air. Now, we are exhorted to become botanists, who study the flowers.
Jesus says that flowers neither toil, nor spin. That is, they neither labor to cloth themselves, nor do they spin and weave their own garments. God just clothes them. The flowers don't labor to get their food, nor do they have to seek it from afar. The unique thing about plants is that they just sit there. They must wait for nourishment to come to them. God provides for the birds. They simply need to go get it. God provides for the plants. They simply need to wait and nourishment will come to them.
Recently, when my family went on vacation, Yvonne took great care to see that one of our neighbors came by to water our plants for us. If we didn't bring the water to them, they would die. Plants are helpless. They depend completely for their nourishment to come to them. Yet, Jesus says in verse 29 that "even Solomon in all his glory did not clothe himself like one of these."
We have been reading through 2 Chronicles in our family worship at home. We just finished reading about the glories of Solomon's palace and temple, which he built. We have been marveling at what it must have looked like. For instance, we read that when the temple was built, Solomon, "overlaid the main room with cypress wood and overlaid it with fine gold, and ornamented it with palm trees and chains. Further, he adorned the house with precious stones; and the gold was gold from Parvaim. He also overlaid the house with gold--the beams, the thresholds, and its walls, and its doors; and he carved cherubim on the walls" (2 Chron. 3:5-7). We read about how the holy of holies was overlaid with fine gold (2 Chron. 3:8). We read about the magnificent sculptured cherubim, which also was overlaid with gold (2 Chro. 3:10-14). It goes on and on...
We read of king Solomon's throne. Solomon "made a great throne of ivory and overlaid it with pure gold. And there were six steps to the throne and a footstool in gold attached to the throne, and arms on each side of the seat, and two ions standing beside the arms. And twelve lions were standing there on the six steps on the one side and on the other; nothing like it was made for any other kingdom. And all King Solomon's drinking vessels were of gold, and all the vessels of the house of the forest of Lebanon were of pure gold; silver was not considered valuable in the days of Solomon ... [for] the king made silver as common as stones in Jerusalem" (2 Chron. 9:17-20, 27). It's beauty must have been breathtaking.
My parents recently toured a Mormon Temple, before it began to be used and restricted from visitation by the general public. They came back and described the ornate decorations and careful workmanship on the wall. They were awed by its construction. And yet, the beauty of those buildings don't begin to compare with the beauty of the flowers of the field.
Why do we use flowers to decorate? Weddings are covered with flowers. Funerals are often prettied up with flowers. Our clothes are often decorated with flower patterns. Why do we use flowers to decorate? God has established the standard of beauty through His adorning or the flowers of the field.
And yet, as beautiful as flowers are, they are temporary. "But if God so arrays the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, will He not much more do so for you, O men of little faith?" (verse 30). Today, they adorn the field. Tomorrow, they are thrown into the furnace. Flowers are temporary. You are not. The implication here is that God will care for you, since you will exist eternally. You are of much more value to God than the flowers. You ought not to worry, because God provides for flowers. "Will He not much more do so for you?" (verse 30). Again, his argument is from the lesser to the greater. If God cares for the flowers, so will He care for you.
I love the fact here that Jesus points to the obvious. Here, He says, "Behold the lilies." In verse 26, He said, "look at the birds." Even the children in our midst can understand birds and flowers. Jesus didn't use intricate scientific theories of electricity and magnetism or to quantum theory or to rocket science. He pointed to the obvious, which we all are able to see.
Look around, is God providing for the flowers? Will He not also provide for you? You need not worry.
Reason #5: The Father's Care (verses 31-32)
Jesus said in verse 31, "Do not be anxious then, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'With what shall we clothe ourselves?'" This verse is essentially a restatement of verse 25 and brings us back to our main theme. You need not worry about food, drink or clothing. Then, in verse 32, we see Jesus' reason, "For all these things the Gentiles eagerly seek."
Jesus was referring to the non-Jews, who were living only for this world. You know people who live only for this world. They eagerly seek after the things of the world. They love the things of the world. They seek after the things of the world. They attempt to find contentment in the things of the world. It makes total sense for them to pursue the things of the world. It is their only hope. They do not have a caring, loving heavenly Father, who will meet their every need.
But Jesus is instructing us here to live differently than those who have no hope. We are not to pursue the things of the world like those who do not know God. The Gentiles may seek those things, but not a child of God. Rather, we are to be examples before the world as a testimony of how our heavenly Father cares for us. When we are anxious about something, we demonstrate our lack of faith in our Father to provide for us.
Verse 32 ends, "for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things." God knows your need. We saw earlier in the Sermon on the Mount how Jesus exhorts us to pray in light of the fact that "your Father knows what you need, before you ask Him" (Matt. 6:8). Thus, your prayers should be different than that of the Gentiles, "Do not pray ... as the Gentiles do" (Matt. 6:7).
We can press this point home further when we realize that Jesus speaks of God as our heavenly Father. On numerous occasions, I have pointed this fact out to you. We have gone through the Sermon on the Mount and have seen how often Jesus refers to God as our "heavenly Father." In fact I have even devoted an entire sermon on what it means to have God as our heavenly Father (on June 16, 2002). We need to embrace what this means in connection with our anxiety.
For believers in Jesus Christ (those who have repented from their sin and embraced His free forgiveness), we know that we have become a child of God, a fellow heir of Jesus Christ. The apostle John described it well, "See how great a love the Father has bestowed upon us, that we should be called children of God" (1 John 3:1). If we are children of God, we are loved. If we are loved, God will certainly care for us.
Later on in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus will continue to press this point home. "Or what man is there among you, when his son shall ask him for a loaf, will give him a stone? Or if he shall ask for a fish, he will not give him a snake, will he? If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more shall your Father who is in heaven give what is good to those who ask Him!" (Matthew 7:9-11). If we, who are evil, give good things to our children, will not God, who is infinite good, give good things to His children? Which of you like to see your children deprived? We are loved by God! We are precious in His sight! We ought to live in light of such a reality.
This past Wednesday, the Brandon family had a great illustration of this. Wednesday night was interesting. Yvonne went off to enjoy an evening of fellowship with many of you ladies. She left by about 6:30pm. Then, at 7:30pm, our power went out and our children had a very difficult time with it. They were scared that the lights didn't work. They were scared that lightening was going to strike our house. They were scared that our house might burn down. My daughter Hanna was especially terrified. In fact, I had to go around the house trying to light some candles I had set out with one hand, because the other was holding my terrorized daughter. On several occasions, I tried to put her down, but she wouldn't have it. She needed to be in her daddy's arms.
By 9:00pm, after the thunder and lightning stopped and after playing a few games with her by candlelight, she was in bed and was sleeping just fine. But the lightening and thunder woke her up around 2:00am. She came into our room shaking from fear. We had never seen her so scared before. We aren't big into this, but she spent the whole night in our bed. She slept fine (We had a terrible night's sleep and have done some things to limit this sort of activity in the future). Why did she sleep fine? She was in the arms of her mommy and her daddy! Though paralyzed with great fear, she was completely at ease with mom and dad. So it ought to be with us.
Whatever fears or anxieties or worries come our way, we need to realize that our heavenly Father is completely aware of the circumstance and that we walk about in His loving arms.
As many of you know, my parents have been in Nigeria these past four weeks on a medical missions trip. They have made Psalm 91 their trust. It perfectly addresses this issue. I want to pull out a few verses indicative of the entire Psalm The Psalmist begins, "He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High Will abide in the shadow of the Almighty" (Ps. 91:1). The picture here is of one dwelling in the shade of a shelter, which will protect us from everything that comes upon us. The Psalmist continues, "For it is He who delivers you from the snare of the trapper, And from the deadly pestilence. He will cover you with His pinions, And under His wings you may seek refuge; His faithfulness is a shield and bulwark" (Ps. 91:3-4). God protects us and delivers us, as we seek refuge under his protective wings. "A thousand may fall at your side, And ten thousand at your right hand; But it shall not approach you" (verse 7). The picture here is that of a crowd of people being struck. Since God is your dwelling place, you watch as thousands and ten thousands fall around you. But you are completely safe, "You will only look on with your eyes, And see the recompense of the wicked. ... No evil will befall you, Nor will any plague come near your tent" (Ps. 91:8, 10). This takes place because "you have made the LORD, my refuge, even the Most High, your dwelling place" (Ps. 91:9). Those who take refuge in Him are safe in His arms, as any child who sleeps in the arms of his daddy.
We shouldn't worry, because a heavenly Father who knows what we need. This week I read several pastors who quoted this poem in preaching upon this passage. It really illustrates the point perfectly.
Said the wild
flower to the sparrow:
"I should really like to know
Why these anxious human beings
Rush about and worry so."
Said the sparrow to
"Friend, I think that it must be
That they have no heavenly father
Such as cares for you and me."
Do you have a caring, heavenly Father? Does He not know your troubles? Will He not also provide for you? You need not worry.
Reason #6: The Troubles of Today (verse 34)
"Therefore do not be anxious for tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own" (verse 34).
With this verse, we get to the core of worry, which is an improper concern for the future. Jay Adams said, "Jesus made it clear that what is wrong with worry is that it is wrong to let tomorrow's possible problem tear you apart today" (found in his booklet, "What do you do when you worry all the time?"). Reflecting on her long life, an old woman once said, "I've had a lot of trouble in my life -- most of which never happened!" Anxiety demands interest on trouble before it comes due. Anxiety zaps the energy we need today to face the problems of today. We need to realize that tomorrow will have its own worries, but you cannot do anything about tomorrow's worries today. Tomorrow, you will be able to do something about tomorrow's worries, so wait until tomorrow to worry about it.
That isn't to say that you shouldn't plan for tomorrow. Jesus called the man foolish who didn't calculate the cost of the tower he set out to build (Luke 14:28). The Proverbs speak about how "the worker's appetite works for him, For his hunger urges him on" (Prov. 11:26). This speaks more than his hunger today. It also speaks about his plan for his hunger tomorrow. So, it is appropriate for our future thoughts and plans. But when our future thoughts turn to anxiety, they are wrong -- they are sin, which must be confessed. When we face difficulty, we need to turn to the Lord and depend upon Him.
I read a great story this week that illustrates this point perfectly. I read the story of Oliver de Vinck, who was severely disabled from birth. For all of his 32 years, he lay helplessly on his bed unable to care for himself. Day after day and year after year his parents put every spoonful of food into his mouth, changed his diapers, and still maintained a happy home. One day Oliver's brother Christopher asked his father how they managed. His father explained that they didn't worry about the long succession of tomorrows that might lie before them. They lived a day at a time, asking, "Can I feed Oliver today?" And the answer always was, "Yes, today I can do it." (VCG, Our Daily Bread, Sept.-Nov. 1997, page for September 11, as quoted on www.bible.org).
Do you have troubles today? Focus upon them, not upon the future. You need not worry.
So you ask, ...
What will cure my anxiety? (verse 33)
Perhaps you noticed -- I hope that you noticed -- that we skipped a few phrases in our exposition. I wanted to save them for the end. For the phrases that I skipped will help us see what will cure our anxiety.
1. Proper thinking ("for this reason...")
The first phrase that I skipped came in verse 25, "For this reason...." What reason? The reason that earthly things are temporary, but eternal things last forever. "For this reason I say to you, do not be anxious for your life" (verse 25). The here and now isn't what will last. It is what we store up for eternity that will last. We need to see this. We need to understand this.
Sometimes people are lead to believe that worry is the result of too much thinking. This does have a measure of truth. Sometimes you can't go to sleep because you are thinking all about tomorrow and the next day and the next week and all of the problems and difficulties that are facing you. But actually, the problem with worry is that we think too much about the wrong things and too little about the right things.
D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones observes, "Faith, according to our Lord's teaching in this paragraph is primarily thinking. ... We must spend more time in studying our Lord's lessons in observation and dedication. The Bible is full of logic, and we must never think of faith as something purely mystical. We do not just sit down in an armchair and expect marvelous things to happen to us. That is not Christian faith. Christian faith is essentially thinking. Look at the birds, think about them, and draw your deductions. Look at the grass, look at the lilies of the filed, consider them. ... Faith, if you like, can be defined like this: It is a man insisting upon thinking when everything seems determined to bludgeon and knock him down in an intellectual sense. The trouble with the person of little faith is that, instead of controlling his own thought, his thought is being controlled by something else, and, as we put it, he goes round and round in circles. That is the essence of worry. ... That is not thought; that is the absence of thought, a failure to think" (Sermon on Mount, Vol. 2, pp. 129-30).
In these verses, Jesus has been telling us to think rationally about the situation.
Reason #1 - Think about the realities of your life.
Reason #2 - Think about the birds and how God provides for them.
Reason #3 - Think about the utter uselessness of worry.
Reason #4 - Think about the lilies and how God clothes them
Reason #5 - Think about the love and care of your heavenly Father.
Reason #6 - Think about how you need to focus on today's problems, not tomorrow's problems.
When we think correctly about God and His provision, we will think correctly about our response. The hypocrites (in Matt. 6:1-18) fail to act wisely because of their improper view of God. They didn't think correctly. We store up treasures upon earth, because of our improper view of God. We are anxious toward the future, because of our improper view of God. We need to think!
Don't focus on your problems. Focus on your Provider. Don't focus on your pain. Focus on your Provider. Don't focus on your poverty. Focus on your Provider.
What else will cure my anxiety?
2. Faith ("O men of little faith...")
In verse 30, I skipped a phrase, "O men of little faith." This actually is an indictment against those who worry. It is our lack of trust with these things which cause us to worry.
Reason #1 - Do you really believe that life is more than clothing?
Reason #2 - Do you really believe that God will provide for you in greater measure than He does for the birds?
Reason #3 - Do you really believe that your worry is worthless?
Reason #4 - Do you really believe that God will clothe you better than the lilies of the field?
Reason #5 - Do you really believe that your heavenly Father cares for you?
Reason #6 - Do you really believe that your problems today are sufficient for your concern?
If you did believe these things, your worry would be non existent. Sometimes I chuckle at the non-event that Y2K turned out to be. When you look back on things now, was Y2K something for anxiety? You say, "No, it wasn't." So also many problems in your life. You are all worked up about it, but you don't need to be, because the problem is not nearly as great as you conceive it to be in your mind. If we would only take God at his Word and believe the things that He says, would not other problems in life pale in insignificance.
We need a proper perspective of things, which comes through proper thinking. We need to believe in God's word, which comes through faith. What else will cure my anxiety?
3. A kingdom focus (verse 33).
This is the third phrase that I skipped. It is contained in verse 33, "Seek first His kingdom and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added to you." Simply put, when we seek God's kingdom and God's righteousness, all our physical resources will be provided for us.
When Jesus exhorts us to seek first His kingdom, the focus is upon the supernatural, rather than the material. We must think back to last week when Jesus instructed us to choose between heaven and earth. He said that we cannot lay up treasures on earth and in heaven at the same time. Therefore, I would exhort you to dispense with all your anxiety about the worldly riches and even about the necessities of life, for these will be provided for you by God. When we have anxieties about the necessities of life, we demonstrate the same worldlimindedness that characterizes the slaves of mammon.
I would press all of you daily to seek His face, in worship, in prayer, in Bible reading. These are the primary means through which God has given us to focus our attention upon His kingdom. Paul wrote, "Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made know to God" (Phil. 4:6).
I would exhort you to seek His righteousness. This is the point of the Jesus' sermon. Our righteousness needs to exceed that of the Scribes and Pharisees (Matt. 5:20). His righteousness can only be found in faith in the Lord Jesus. "For Christ died for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, in order that He might bring us to God."
This morning, we have a great
opportunity to respond in song to Jesus' words. I have included
the words of several appropriate songs below, with a few words
highlighted for emphasis.
Seek Ye First
Seek ye first the kingdom of God, And His righteousness.
And all these things shall be added unto you! Allelu, alleluia!
Ask, and it shall be given unto you. Seek, and ye shall find.
Knock, and the door shall be opened unto you. Allelu, alleluia!
(sung to the tune of Immortal, Invisible, God only wise)
Though troubles assail us and dangers affright,
though friends should all fail us and foes all unite,
yet one thing secures us, whatever betide,
the promise assures us, "The Lord will provide."
The birds, without garner or storehouse, are fed;
from them let us learn to trust God for our bread.
His saints what is fitting shall ne'er be denied
so long as 'tis written, "The Lord will provide."
When Satan assails us to stop up our path,
and courage all fails us, we triumph by faith.
He cannot take from us, though oft he has tried,
this heart-cheering promise, "The Lord will provide."
No strength of our own and no goodness we claim; yet,
since we have known of the Savior's great name,
in this our strong tower for safety we hide:
the Lord is our power, "The Lord will provide."
Day by Day
Day by day and with each passing moment, Strength I find to meet my trials here;
Trusting in my Father's wise bestowment, I've no cause for worry or for fear.
He whose heart is kind beyond all measure Gives unto each day what He deems best
Lovingly, its part of pain and pleasure, Mingling toil with peace and rest.
Every day the Lord Himself is near me With a special mercy for each hour;
All my cares He fain would bear, and cheer me, He whose name is Counsellor and Pow'r.
The protection of His child and treasure Is a charge that on Himself He laid;
"As your days, your strength shall be in measure," This the pledge to me He made.
Help me then in every tribulation So to trust Thy promises, O Lord,
That I lose not faith's sweet consolation Offered me within Thy holy Word.
Help me, Lord, when toil and trouble meeting, E'er to take, as from a father's hand.
One by one, the days the moments fleeting, Till I reach the promised land.
This sermon was
delivered to Rock Valley Bible Church on August 25, 2002 by Steve
For more information see www.rockvalleybiblechurch.org.