Today I wanted to do something a little special, out of the ordinary. If you’re following Raintree’s Bible reading plan, then you read Jesus’s sermon on the mount earlier this week. Particularly on Tuesday morning, I just felt extra burdened by how many of us are likely in a place where worry can take over our lives. What’s going on in my life with having a new baby any day now, and knowing that an unusually high number of you are in the midst of un-ordinary circumstances, I just thought it’d be good to take a week to look at what Jesus had to say about worry in Matthew chapter 6.
Worrying is something that many of us struggle with, likely all of us. We worry about the state of our economy or foreign affairs as a country, we worry about our kids or grandkids and whether or not they’re going to make the right decisions, or if we have young children, we worry about whether or not they’re going to survive before they get into school because they like jumping off high things with nothing below them and like fireworks way too much (and yes, I’m speaking indirectly here of my son Jacob). We worry about job stability, relationships, our marriages, our friendships. We worry about being able to afford the next car or house repair needed. Or we worry about our retirement plans or health problems that could eat through our retirement.
We worry about the way we look, what people think about us. And maybe even this morning, at the very beginning of hearing a message on anxiety and worrying, you are already worrying about whether or not you worry too much. Jesus has some of the most straightforward, and profound things to say to us about worrying, and I want us to jump right in. Matthew 6:25-34.
25 “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?
31 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.
34 “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.
Straight from this text: seven reasons not to worry. Reason #1:
- Because God says so (vv. 25, 31, 34).
Because God says so. This may seem like a given, but I still think it’s really important to point out. Three times in this passage, Jesus specifically commands, “Do not be anxious.” Verse 25, verse 31, and then again in verse 34. That’s why I think it’s worth putting this reason first: Why not worry? Because God tells us not to worry!
Things that we’re anxious about, or the things that we worry about, are the things that take up too much of our thought life. It’s uneasiness about what’s going on, or the things we need to accomplish. It’s the exact opposite of being content, or being at peace. So, three times in this text, Jesus says, “don’t worry,” in verse 25 he says, “don’t worry about your life.” That includes to anything and everything about your life!
Now I know when we hear, “because God says so,” maybe we have flashbacks to our parents using this as the reason for everything. Or if you are a parent, you’ve probably said this yourself, like maybe this week, or even this morning! “Go brush your teeth.” Why? “Because I said so!” Or maybe for teenagers, your parents want you to do your homework on Saturday even though Sunday night is clearly the only reasonable time to do homework for Monday, and because of that you ask, “Why?” “Because I said so.” We don’t like that expression because it’s a statement of authority. “You need no reason except that I said so! That’s all there is to it!”
Now God has practical reasons for us to obey Him, especially when it comes to worrying; in fact, we’ll see several of those reasons shortly. But, it is so important for us to first realize that we’re to obey God not because it makes sense to us and seems reasonable for us to do so, but simply because He is God.
You see it’s different for God to say something so simply, like “Don’t be anxious,” it’s different for God to say that rather than a mere human telling us to do that. Just to use what may be a common example: Let’s say you laying out your heart to your husband or your boyfriend, saying, “I’m so worried about so-and-so doing this-and-that, and I know I’m not supposed to worry about it, but I just can’t help it!” Then your husband responds, “Well, you know, just don’t do it. Stop worrying. You know, chillax” (for those of you who don’t know, that’s “chill out” and “relax” put together, “chillax”). That’s probably not the best response, husbands, boyfriends, anyone, because that doesn’t mean too much. In fact, it can be offensive, because you’re assuming like you’re in control of the situation, or like you wouldn’t be worried in their shoes.
Even if it’s from a very well-meaning friend, “Oh, don’t worry about that. Don’t let that make you anxious.” They mean well, but that’s a really easy thing to say, right? Much easier to say than to do. Saying, “Don’t worry” may not mean all that much coming from a fellow human being.
But coming from God, it means a lot. When God says, “Do not be anxious,” He says it as the only One in the universe who is all-sovereign, all-knowing, all-good, absolutely unchanging, and infinitely powerful! If God tells us not to worry, then I promise you, we have no reason to worry. So, the first reason not to worry is because God says so, and why is that fitting? Because He’s God. The 2nd reason not to worry:
- Our lives are too important (vs. 25).
Verse 25: “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?” Jesus brings up three things, specifically, not to worry about, and those things are what we eat, what we drink, and the clothing we wear. He uses these as representatives of all the things we worry about. It’s not just about those few things. It’s about everything.
Now think for a moment about what worries you the most. Just think for a moment. We would never say that these things we worry about matter more to us than life itself. We’d never say that, but sometimes we act as if that is exactly the case! Our minds are stuck on these things that are uncertain, so stuck in fact that we forget what really matters most! “Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothing?” He’s saying if God provided you with life itself and provided you your body, can he not be trusted to take care of your life and body and every other thing? It is precisely because God provides the far more important things, like life and the body, that he can be trusted to provide food, clothing, and every other need that we have. Don’t worry, because your life is too important to worry, and God is the one who has provided you that life. The third reason not to worry goes right along with this 2nd one, very similarly:
- Our lives are too valuable (vv. 26, 28-30).
For this one, Jesus uses two specific examples that are so simple for us and easy to remember. Verse 26: “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?” Then verses 28-30, he uses yet another example: “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?”
The thrust of what Jesus is saying here is that our lives are far more valuable to God than birds and flowers, and yet God provides for the birds and the flowers. That’s the point that Jesus is making. Jesus is not saying that we aren’t to work, or even that we aren’t to store up food or things of that nature. We can definitely get out of hand with those things, and make those things into an idol, but Jesus is not saying we aren’t to work hard and even plan how to provide for our families. Even the example of the birds, if you think about it: Birds work hard for their food! They even spend weeks building nests to provide for them and their babies. He’s not forbidding working or planning; He’s saying there is no need to be anxious!
We’re more valuable than birds, and yet our heavenly Father feeds the birds. We’re more valuable than flowers, but even Solomon, with all his money and glamour and power, was not clothed as well as a simple flower in the field. These are just flowers and grass, you know? They don’t last long! Not just because of their natural lifespan, but because in the first century grass was very commonly used for fuel, which could be what he’s referring to when he talks about the grass being thrown into the oven. The point, though, is that we are of far more value than either of those things. We forget who we are, sometimes. We need to constantly be reminded of how depraved we are without Christ. But along with that, we also need to remember who we are. We are the pinnacle of God’s creation. We were made in His image, like no other creature on earth.
What a wonderful thing to do when you walk outside. I know, especially if you’re younger, that we’re always on our phones, but take a moment when you walk outside, even today as you leave, take a moment and look at what God has created. Maybe even learn a bit about what God has created. I was on the nursery and landscaping team in high school. Lauryn makes fun of me by calling it the flower team. It was not the flower team; that was a totally different team that did exist. But on the nursery and landscaping team I learned a lot about plants—their names, and colors, and how they look in different parts of the country. You don’t have to be a plant nerd like me, you can just look at the flowers in the field, the trees, honestly everything in creation, and realize, YOU are the pinnacle of all of that. YOU are the most important, most valuable part of His creation. If God takes care of all of that, then you can KNOW he’ll take care of you too. The fourth reason not to worry:
- Worrying achieves nothing (vs. 27).
Look at verse 27: “And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?” Ha! I love it. He’s not actually asking the question to get an answer, it’s a rhetorical question. He’s making a point, a really important one. And this might be the most practical help for getting rid of anxiety, asking this question: “How does worrying about anything make anything any better, really?” It doesn’t. Worrying, in and of itself, does nothing to help us.
Now Jesus isn’t telling us not to have concerns, like turn into real laid-back chillaxed people, “Hey, ya know, whatevs. No worries.” Jesus isn’t saying, as Christians, we should be careless or completely care-free, like nothing really matters. That’s actually a new trend especially among young generations like mine. More than ever, people are doing the opposite of worrying; they’re not caring really about anything at all. Jesus isn’t saying to do that. Because many of the things that you and I worry about are legitimate! They’re more than legitimate; they matter incredibly! To NOT be concerned would reveal a completely different issue!
But concern is very different from anxiety. Anxiety, not being able to get things off our mind, letting things keep us up at night, perhaps, it does no good. It will not help anything, really. In fact, I read a study once that revealed that even low levels of anxiety are tied to an increased risk of death, which is basically just a more pointed way of saying that worrying can shorten your life. Not only does it not add the slightest bit of time to your life, but it can shorten it! Worrying achieves nothing, at least nothing worth achieving. The fifth reason not to worry:
- Worrying is for those who don’t know Jesus (vs. 31-32).
Look at verses 31-32: “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.” Gentile, if you’ve never heard of that, is anyone who’s not an Israelite. So, most of us in this room are Gentiles. But in this context, Jesus is referring to those who don’t have God, have no faith in God. For those outside of the faith, it makes sense that they worry. Because they don’t know the heavenly Father that we know, it makes sense in our culture that they have a naturalistic and materialistic worldview: “There’s no guarantee that I’ll have what I need, and there’s no guarantee for the future, at all! So, guess what? I need to focus on gaining wealth, or somehow grabbing hold of my own destiny.” They have a lot to worry about.
Worrying, honestly, makes sense for someone who doesn’t know Jesus. But we know Jesus! Because of Jesus, we know this heavenly Father, that, as we mentioned earlier, knows all things, and is sovereign over all things. That Father knows of everything we need. Here’s the problem, though: Sometimes we talk like believers, but then we worry like pagans. We say we believe in this great God we call Father, but then we act as if our lives are in our hands, and not His. We act as if, “If I don’t have control, then who does?!”
The greatest thing I can encourage you to do to rid yourself of anxiety is to get to know the Father. Slowly, but surely, the more we get to know the Father as He really is, as we see in His Word, the more we will see Him not as a man in whom we place our hope and cross our fingers that He pulls through for us, but as a heavenly Father whose character is so perfectly consistent that He literally cannot break a promise He has made. Leave worrying to those who don’t know this Father. The sixth reason not to worry.
- Worrying is just a distraction (vs. 33).
Verse 33 is the climax of this passage. It’s the point. All up to now, and even right after verse 33, Jesus has been giving us the negative command NOT to worry. But now, he gives us the positive command that is the flip side of the negative. Verse 33: “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” A great one to memorize, and hide in your heart. Really, this whole passage, honestly, is a great one to just dwell on. Worrying, ultimately, is just a distraction from THE focus we’re to have as Christians. We seek FIRST the kingdom of God and his righteousness. What is Jesus getting at by saying that?
He’s saying our minds and hearts are to be so set on submitting to God’s kingly sovereignty, to obeying and worshipping Him as King, that we don’t have time nor the energy to do anything else, especially worry! We have ONE purpose in this life, and God is saying that when we focus on that one purpose, which is His kingdom and HIS glory in and through our lives, He will take care of the rest!
This doesn’t mean that we won’t ever have to think about these concerns that we have; it simply means that if we focus on Christ and focus on following Him, we have no need to worry, or be consumed, with these other things. The reason that we worry is because we’re seeking the things of the world. If we, instead, seek 100% God’s kingdom and God’s glory, then the result will be genuine contentment. We’ll be content with that! [Steak, potatoes…].
We see also in verse 25, back at the beginning of our text. It says, “Therefore, do not be anxious about your life.” It’s referring to the verses right before it. “Therefore,” in other words “because of what I just said.” So what did Jesus just say? Right before this section of the sermon on the mount, Jesus is speaking of having only one treasure, one vision, and ultimately one master. That’s what he’s talking about. So, centering your life and goals and purpose around your one King, One Master, One Kingdom for which you live—when you do that, you have no reason to worry.
In a very real sense, if you’re not following Christ right now, you do have things to worry about. You probably are more worried than most of us. But I would also say that the best thing to do right now is not to continue worrying, but instead to repent: ask God to remind you that your trust is not in you, but in Christ. Trust and follow Him, and you have no reason to worry whatsoever, because you are in God’s hands, and you’re in the path he wants you to be in. You’re seeking first his kingdom and his righteousness, and entrusting the rest to him. Don’t let worry distract you from what matters most. The seventh reason not to worry. I love this one:
- Today is enough (vs. 34).
Verse 34: “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.” The biggest thing that Jesus is getting at here is that our heavenly Father who is our heavenly Father today, will also be our heavenly Father tomorrow. He’s God, not just today, but tomorrow as well. There’s nothing wrong with making plans for tomorrow, but to be anxious about tomorrow and what tomorrow holds, that’s not trusting the God of today and tomorrow and of all time.
Jesus isn’t saying that we should have an attitude of “only living for today! Like today is all that matters. He’s saying today has enough trouble of its own; why worry about things that have not even yet come!? And may not come, for that matter! I know many of you are worried about the state of our country—the economy, hatred for law enforcement, race relations, abortion, our schools, there’s lots of things to be concerned with, and we should speak up and deal with these things, and work hard to let the Gospel shine its light into all of these areas, in fact some of us should be MORE concerned with these issues—BUT, we have no need to worry, or lose sleep, or be consistently uneasy about everything going on. Because our great God is the God of today and He’s the God of tomorrow. For you and I, we don’t know what tomorrow holds. For you and I, we must trust God for today as we live in the midst of it, and when tomorrow comes, we can trust Him then through those problems as well.
Tomorrow belongs to God. God has a plan, a plan that is far greater than anything we could ever come up with ourselves, or anything that we could try and force. Be encouraged, REST in knowing he’s not only the God of the present, he’s the God of the future as well.
I don’t know what worries you today. Your kids, grandkids, a family member’s health, your future with career or family or housing. Maybe it’s the uncertainty of dating, maybe it’s physical ailments that you don’t know whether they’ll go away. Whatever it is that is worrying you, you can know that God is aware. In fact, he’s more than aware. He’s actively caring for you in the midst of these worries, only as a heavenly Father can do.
John Stott was a notable Christian thinker and leader, worked in the Anglican church for many years, and died only a few years ago. Before I get to your question, I want to quote from him on anxiety:
“A Christian’s freedom from anxiety is not due to some guaranteed freedom from trouble, but to the folly of worry and especially to the confidence that God is our Father, and that even permitted suffering is within the orbit of His care.”
Let me close us with one summarizing thought: If God can raise Jesus from the dead, break the chains enslaving us to sin and depravity, create and sustain the entire universe for all time, and establish a new heavens and a new earth one day redeeming and making all things right—he can take care of you and me today and tomorrow, and for the duration of our lives…