(For the PowerPoint file for this sermon, Click Here)
Pastor Scott L. Harris
Grace Bible Church, NY
September 21, 2014
The Remedy for Worry
Anxiety, worry, fret, distress, agitation, tension, irritability. Words that describe a feeling of an inner turmoil that result in a feeling of outward uneasiness. The words describe a common feeling among humans as we consider what the future may bring to us personally and to the ones we love.
Marketers to use this emotion to motivate you to make all sorts of purchases. Think of the Jeep commercials that show a bad winter storm, but your child is sick and must get to the doctor. Don’t you want to have a vehicle that is “safe and reliable?” Politicians often use this in their campaigns to manipulate you. The basic formula is “you have reason to worry if the other guy is elected, but elect me, and I will solve all the problems so you don’t have to worry.” Too many of our civic leaders are elected based on knee jerk reactions to fear and anxiety rather than on a careful weighing of the issues with sound reason and judgment. To be blunt, the “hope and change” campaigns are slogans without substance, but they are successful because they present themselves as the solution to fear generated against the other candidate. We and the world suffer due to the election to the seats of power of egomaniacs who are either ignorant, incompetent, or evil.
Anxiety, worry, fret, distress, agitation, tension, irritability. Common feelings and emotions that affect your perspective, your decision making, and ultimately the direction of your life. Jesus addresses this issue in Matthew 6:19-34. Jesus does not want you to be anxious and full of worry. He wants you to live life in a different manner. He does not want you making decisions based on a fear of the future. He wants the direction of your life established on eternal truths rather than temporal things of earth and the hollow promises of man.
The Cause of Worry – Matthew 6:19-24
In the first section of this passage, verses 19-21 which we examined in detail two weeks ago, Jesus focused on the issue of what you value the most. If you treasure the things of earth, then your heart will be set on them, and the direction of your life will be to gain the things of earth. Those things can be destroyed or stolen and will ultimately burn up so you will be sorely disappointed in the end. If you treasure the things of heaven, then your heart will be set on heavenly things, and your life will be spent in gaining eternal rewards that cannot be destroyed or stolen. (See: Where is Your Treasure?)
Jesus uses this truth to lead into the discussion of the next section of this passage that you cannot serve two masters, or more accurately, you cannot be a slave to two masters. You will either be a slave to God and serve Him, or you will be a slave to the things of earth and serve them. If God is your master, then He is the one who will take care of you. If the things of earth are your master, then you must rely on them for your future. (See: Who is Your Master) It is precisely at this point that we find the cause of anxiety.
Consider again Jesus’ command in verse 19 in light of this. “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal.” What feelings and emotions accompany trying to store up for yourself treasures on earth? Worry that something will eat up what has been laid up. Anxiety that what has been stored will corrode, devalue and become worthless. Fear that what you have worked so hard to accumulate will be stolen. The reason for worry is fear that what you treasure will be lost. If mammon is your master and therefore your source of security, then there is cause for anxiety because both are lost if it is destroyed or stolen. That is why a threat against it can produce strong reactions.
There is no cause for anxiety if you obey Jesus’ directive in verse 20 and “lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal.” The treasure you accumulate in heaven is protected by the Master and therefore is safe. You can be at peace. That is a principle that you can build upon. To summarize, if you treasure the things of this world, then your master is mammon, so there cannot be any lasting security. This results in worry and anxiety. If on the other hand you treasure the things of heaven, then your master is God and you can be secure in His provision and protection. This results in peace instead of worry.
The Command – Matthew 6:25
Notice Jesus introduces verses 25-34 saying, “For this reason,” or in the KJV, “Therefore.” What is the “therefore” there for? It points out that the command that is going to be given is predicated upon the principles given in the verses prior to make sure that you are storing up your treasure in heaven and being a slave to God instead of mammon. The promises following the command are predicated on these principles and obedience to the command.
The command in verse 25 is “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.” In the KJV, the phrase, “Take no thought” is an old English expression which means to not worry or be anxious. The phrase is descriptive of the Greek word here, (merimnavw / merimna ), which is derived from a root, (mevrimna / merimna), which means, “to be thoughtful,” in the sense of caring, considering, striving after. The words “worry” and “anxiety” express this thought today. Be careful here that you do not get from this the idea that Jesus does not want you to think at all about what you should eat and drink and cloth yourself. We shall see as we go through each of these items that you are to both think about them and work to gain them. The idea here is to not have your thoughts bound up by them with a brooding, fearful concern. These are not the things that should preoccupy your mind. You don’t need to be apprehensive about having what you need.
Jesus gives a clear command that we are not to have a fearful concern over the basic needs of life such as food, drink and clothing. Jesus could have simply given the command and left it there with full expectation that we should obey Him, but graciously He also explains the basis of the command. He gives us the reasons why we should obey it. The primary argument is from the lesser to the higher. Jesus says, “Is not life more than food, and the body than clothing.” The obvious answer is, of course life is more than food and the body more than clothing. The argument is that since God is already master over your life, don’t you think He will take care of the needs of that life which are so much more insignificant. Jesus uses two analogies to demonstrate this.
Fretting About Food – Matthew 6:26
Jesus first talks about fretting about food. Remember that they are sitting on the side of a mountain overlooking the sea of Galilee. Jesus is the expert of pointing out something common around Him to explain a spiritual truth, and here Jesus points out the birds that are flying around and uses them to bring home this spiritual truth. “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?”
Again the answer is obvious. Of course you are worth much more than the birds of the field. Jesus did not set aside His glory and become a man for the sake of birds. Jesus did that for the sake of the salvation of man. The argument is simple. If God will take care of insignificant birds, He will also take care of you.
But let me throw a caution in here. There are some that have taken this passage and concluded that they do have to think about sowing, reaping and gathering into barns because have the twisted idea that they do not need to work for a living. They won’t work, but they still expect God to provide for them. There is no question that God is capable of providing, even miraculously, for He provided manna for the children of Israel for forty years in the wilderness (Exodus 16:35). God provided for Elijah by having the ravens bring him food (1 Kings 17). However, those were exceptional situations in which God graciously provided. Jesus is not removing the general curse that was placed upon man in Genesis 3:17-19 in which we are told that “by the sweat of your face you shall eat bread.” Man still has to sow, reap and store because man still needs to eat.
The Apostle Paul had to rebuke some people in the church at Thessalonica who refused to work. Paul made it clear in 2 Thessalonians 3:10-12 the consequences that were to come from such an attitude, “if anyone will not work, neither let him eat. For we hear that some among you are leading an undisciplined life, doing no work at all, but acting like busybodies. Now such persons we command and exhort in the Lord Jesus Christ to work in quiet fashion and eat their own bread.” Paul had said in the previous verses that with “labor and hardship” they worked “night and day” so that they could pay their own way so that they could set an example and not be a burden.
Jesus is not saying that we can quit working because God will provide. He is saying that we do not need to fret about food because God will provide. The birds of the field do not sow, reap or gather into barns, but they do work constantly at finding food and eating. They are not anxious about their work for God provides. This is what Jesus is saying to us. Work, but do not be anxious about what the outcome will be. God values you much more than the birds and He will provide for your needs. Work and plan ahead, but do not worry.
Concerns about Clothing – Matthew 6:28-30
Jesus next brings up the matter of concerns about clothing. Food is a basic need and so is clothing, but we are not to become preoccupied with either. When it comes to clothes, Jesus says in 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, 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.”
Again, Jesus is not saying that we should expect to be clothed like Solomon without working or that we will be clothed as lovely as the flowers, but He is saying that if God takes such good care of such insignificant things, then He will take care of us. The lilies of the field were the common flowers that those hearing the sermon could see all around them. They were also aware that later in the year those same plants would dry out and then be used for tender in starting fires for the ovens used to bake bread. If God cares for something so insignificant, then He will take care of us.
These truths apply regardless of whether you are rich or poor. You should not be occupied by a concern about food or clothing. For the poor, the temptation to worry will revolve around having sufficient food to survive and enough clothing to keep warm. Jesus states that you are worth far more than the birds of the sky or the lilies of the field and God takes care of them, so He will take care of you.
For the rich, the temptation to worry is not over the amount but over the kind of food and the fashion of the clothing. Concern over what you will have to eat leads to being unthankful for what God provides, and that is sin plain and simple. You want steak or lobster and you get macaroni and cheese resulting in a failure to rejoice for what God has provided. That is the sin of ungratefulness. This was one of the sins by the children of Israel in the Wilderness as expressed by their constant murmuring and complaining (Numbers 11:4,31f; 1 Corinthians 10:10). It is one of the many sins that will characterize the last days according to 2 Timothy 3:2.
This is an area in which you are to train your children and that must start with your own heart for children learn by your example. If you want them to be thankful for what is provided, then you must train them that way by your own reactions to what you get, and it is not enough to just refrain from whining and complaining. You must be thankful and express that even when you get what you need, but not what you want. Praise God for the vegetables as well as the desert, and what is true about food is also to be true about clothing.
Fashion is big business and it causes people to worry about what they are going to wear because they want to be thought of as well dressed. Women are more susceptible to it, but there are plenty of men that get caught in this too. How many of you worried about what you were going to wear to church this morning? Let me ask it in another way, did you wear what you wore today to impress people or God? If the former, then your interest was not the worship of God. If the later, then take notice, He looks at your heart, not your clothes, and your manner of dress should reflect your heart. 1 Peter 3:3 puts it this way, “And let not your adornment be merely external – braiding the hair, and wearing gold jewelry, or putting on dresses, but let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the imperishable quality of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is precious in the sight of God.” Notice that Peter is not against looking nice, and certainly your manner of dress should show respect for God whom you worship, but more important is the heart attitude with which you come to worship Him! Neither silk suits or name brand blue jeans impress God. He is impressed with the person who desires to give their best to Him in all things.
The Foolishness of Worry – Matthew 6:27, 30-32
In this passage Jesus also makes it known that the worry and concern of anxiety is foolishness. In verse 27 Jesus points out that worry brings no benefit. “And which of you by being anxious can add a single cubit to his life’s span.” The cubit mentioned here is just a metaphor for the length of life. Being anxious does not result in living longer, if anything, it shortens it. Dr. Charles Mayo of the famous Mayo Clinic, wrote, “Worry affects the circulation, the heart, the glands and the whole nervous system. I have never met a man or known a man to die of overwork, but I have known a lot who died of worry.” Worry is foolish because it brings no benefit.
A second reason anxiety is foolish is that those who worry demonstrate that they are “men of little faith” just as Jesus states at the end of verse 30. That leads into verses 31 & 32 in which Jesus says, “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.”
Your anxiety level is a good indicator of how much you really trust the Lord. It seems incredible, but we seem to have an easier time trusting that God will save our souls from Hell because of what Jesus has done for us on the cross than to trust that He will provide for our daily needs. Part of that is because dealing with what will happen to our souls after death is far removed from our daily lives. That is an intangible item far in the future, or at least we live as if it is far in the future. The truth is that death could come at anytime. When it comes to what we eat and what we wear, those are tangible items we deal with daily on a personal level. They are the real indicators of your trust in the Lord.
We know that God knows our needs. We saw that some weeks ago in our study about the proper purpose and practice of prayer in Matthew 6:5-15. Jesus stated it plainly in Matthew 6:8 that God knows your needs even before you ask in prayer. That is why you can pray with confidence, and that same confidence applies to believing and trusting that God will provide for you.
We have all heard lots of stories of how God has met the needs of this person or that person. Most of us here have seen this in our own lives as well. Diane and I certainly have. When I have needed a job, God has consistently supplied the work. One time we had a large medical bill come in marked, “paid in full” which neither we nor the hospital could explain, but they considered the bill paid. We have had anonymous people give us money just when a bill was due. When I was planning to go to Australia as part of a missions team, I did not have the money to go, so Diane and I prayed about it. I had people I had not heard from in years write and send a check saying God had put it on their heart to do something special for me. Many of you can recount similar stories. We know that God will meet the needs we have. Sometimes it will be through gifts by relatives or friends or even strangers, sometimes through an opportunity to earn some extra money, sometimes by His graciousness in allowing us to stretch our funds out to incredible lengths. One lesson that I have learned beyond a shadow of a doubt over the years is that the amount left over after first giving to the Lord goes a whole lot further than if I had kept the whole amount for myself.
But even with all of this as a background, my faith can weaken and in my humanness I can start doubting if the Lord will continue to provide. It is precisely at that time that I need to remind myself of the truths Jesus teaches here in the Sermon on the Mount and get my eyesight focused on the right object again. The term “Gentiles” in verse 32 is simply a reference to the heathen, those people that do not know God. They live in anxiety and seek after what they will eat and drink and what they will clothe themselves with. Jesus states that my heavenly Father already knows my need. I do not need to have my thoughts preoccupied with the stuff needed for daily life. God already knows my need and will provide.
The Remedy for Worry – Matthew 6:33-34
The cure for anxiety is simply, but logically stated in verse 33. “But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.”
Those that do not know God spend their time being preoccupied with seeking after food, drink and clothing. Those who know God are to be preoccupied with God’s Kingdom and God’s righteousness. If we will seek after those first, then Jesus states here that God will supply the other things of which we have need. The remedy for worry then is simply to seek first after what God wants and then let Him take care of you. You can then rest in His loving care knowing that He will provide for you, and if your mind is occupied with Him, then it cannot be occupied with the things of this world.
This is simple in theory, but it can be very difficult to do because of the pressure the world tries to place on us (Romans 12:2). You look around and see people with a higher standard of living which leads to feeling a pressure to try to achieve the same resulting in looking for ways to gain for yourself those things other people have. When you do not have a proper focus on the Lord, it is easy to succumb to this pressure to covet and pursue the things valued by this world. You work longer hours. You send the wife to work. You take on a higher pressure job to get the higher pay even though it is detrimental to your health. You lower your standard of business ethics. All this so that you can impress yourself and others with the things of this world that you have – the house you live in, the car you drive, the kind of dinner parties you can prepare, and the clothes you wear. As your mind becomes preoccupied with the things of this world, there will be an increasing anxiety. And once a standard of living is achieved, you do not want it to go down, so the same cycle can start again. Most people will do nearly anything to try to maintain a lifestyle once achieved. You become increasingly concerned about the future and worry grows. What will happen if . . . I must prepare for that by . . . You are now an easy target for an insurance salesman and other marketers to sell you things you don’t need.
What a difference if you obey God and then rest on His promises. If you keep your focus correct and you seek God’s kingdom and His righteousness first, then God’s promise is that He will take care of your actual needs for daily life. Fretting, worry and anxiety diminish and disappear while contentment grows because you have food and covering and that is enough according to 1 Timothy 6:8. There is peace because your treasure is in heaven and God is your security for the present and the future.
The future is what verse 34 is speaking about, “Therefore do not be anxious for tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself, Each day has enough trouble of its own.” Worry is the preoccupation in the present due to fear of what may take place in the future. There is nothing wrong with having contingency plans. You need to plan ahead, but you are not to become preoccupied and fearful of the future. Tomorrow is in the hands of God, and you may never make it past today anyway. You need to live for God in the present and not live for yourself fearing the future.
Seeking God’s Kingdom and Righteousness – Matthew 6:33
At this point I need to emphasize the fact that the promise made here is conditional. If you want God’s guarantee to provide “all these things” then you must seek first His kingdom and His righteousness. If you are not doing that, then there is no promise and you will have good reason to worry and be anxious about the future. So the question that still must be addressed is what does it mean to seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness?
It means that at every point in your life you are to view things in light of what it will do to expand the kingdom of God and reflect His perfect righteousness and live accordingly. Your mind and your goals in life are set on glorifying and serving God instead of your own kingdom or pleasure.
Let me give you a few areas to consider. First, what is your standard of living and why is it at that level? Remember, Scripture is not against having material possessions for there many examples of righteous people such as Job, Abraham and David that were very rich. The problem is not wealth but rather loving possessions more than God. But let’s expand on this issue. What are you doing to keep your standard of living at its present level? How do your actions to do this fit in with the kingdom of God? Are your activities helping expand the kingdom? Are they reflective of God’s righteousness?
Let me be more direct. Americans are increasingly working longer hours or two jobs or dependent on double incomes. Why? It is not to provide basic food, clothing and shelter. It is primarily the quest to keep or raise the standard of living. What sacrifices are made to do this and what are their effects on the kingdom of God? Is the spiritual welfare of the family compromised – not just the children, but the husband-wife relationship as well? Is there time left to use your spiritual gifts? Some can handle the pressure better than others, but all of us need to think through the issue of seeking first the kingdom of God and His righteousness verses our standard of living.
Another area is your business ethics. This involves both your business and personal practices. Do you cheat on your income taxes? Do you return overpayments? Do you keep your word even to your own hurt so that you are trustworthy? Petty theft is expensive for businesses. Do you take things home from work without permission? True righteousness is above petty theft including pens and pencils.
Another area is charity. Do you give sacrificially to meet the needs that God places in front of you? The apostle John tells us in 1 John 3:17 that “whoever has the world’s goods, and beholds his brother in need and closes his heart against him, how does the love of God abide in him?” It doesn’t. Are you willing to give wisely or do you refrain simply because you are keeping it for yourself?
Here are some questions to consider regarding entertainment. Do the things you do for entertainment promote righteousness? Does it cause you to think about what God has created, what He has done or see His hand at work? Does it motivate you toward holiness or drag your mind into the sewer? Is it beneficial to the kingdom of God?
A related issue is personal morality which involves not only your own personal practices but also speaking up for what is God honoring? You should be concerned about the moral condition of your community and nation and not be afraid to speak up about it and vote accordingly. Abortion and euthanasia are wrong because they violate God’s commands about murder (Genesis 9:6; Exodus 20:13; Isaiah 26:21). Homosexuality is not an acceptable alternative lifestyle. It is an abomination before God (Leviticus 20:13; Romans 1:26-28). Lying may be an art form to many of our politicians, but it is a grave sin before God that results in His severe judgment and Hell (Rev. 21:8).
Seeking first the kingdom of God and His righteousness means that the most important issue in every decision you makes and every action you take is to be determined by knowing and following God’s perspective. You need to ask yourself, what is most pleasing to God? What will best further His kingdom? What will best reflect His righteousness? The answer to those questions will then determine your actions.
Jesus tells us in this wonderful passage that God does want your mind preoccupied by the things of this world. He wants your mind centered on His kingdom and His righteousness. He make a wonderful promise here that if you will seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, then He will provide for your needs. You have no reason to be anxious. You have no reason to fear the future. You can live in peace, contentment and security, and that is a wonderful way to live.
Parents, you are responsible to apply God’s Word to your children’s lives. Here is some help. Young Children – draw a picture about something you hear during the sermon. Explain your picture(s) to your parents at lunch. Older Children – Do one or more of the following: 1) Count the references to worry / anxiety in the sermon. 2) Talk with your parents about how trusting God can reduce and remove worry
THINK ABOUT IT!
Questions to consider in discussing the sermon with others. How have you seen marketers / politicians use worry to manipulate people? What are the causes of worry according to Matthew 6:19-24? Explain. What is the basis for the command in Matthew 6:25? What is the specific command? Explain. Why does Jesus point out the birds of the field? Can God miraculously provide food? Give examples. Is Jesus removing the curse of sin in Genesis 3:17-19 by this teaching? Explain. What is a Christian’s responsibility and attitude toward work? Why does Jesus point to the lilies of the field as an illustration of God’s provision? What is the temptation of the poor to worry concerning food and clothing? What is the temptation of the wealthy to worry about food and clothing? Why is the sin of unthankfulness so serious? (Numbers 11:4,31f; 1 Corinthians 10:10; 2 Timothy 3:2). How important is fashion in deciding what you will wear? How important is godliness in deciding what you will wear? What is the effect of worry on the length of life? What is the relationship between worry and trusting God? What is the relationship between proper prayer and worry? What do you need to do when your faith is weak? What is the remedy for worry according to Matthew 6:33? Why is this remedy often so hard to put into practice? What is the point of Matthew 6:34 and how does it tie into verse 33? Do Christian’s need to fear the future? Why or why not? What does it mean in practical terms to seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness? Are God’s promises of provision conditional or unconditional? Explain. What is your standard of living and why is it at that level? Does your effort to raise or keep your standard of living compromise godliness? Do your business ethics reflect godliness or pragmatism? Do the things you do for entertainment reflect godliness or personal desire? Are you able to stand firm in your personal morality even when a public light is shined on it? In your current practice of decision making, what factors are most important to you? Do those factors reflect Matthew 6:33? If not, what needs to change? When will those changes be made?
Sermon Notes: The Remedy for Worry
Anxiety: Feelings of inner turmoil and outward uneasiness as the __________is considered
Marketers & politicians use worry to ______________ us
Matthew 6:19-34 – Jesus does not want you to be ________________ and full of worry
The Cause of Worry – Matthew 6:19-24
If your treasures are earthly, _____________is your master, and you must rely on them for the future
___________that your treasures can be destroyed or stolen results in anxiety
If your treasures are in heaven, God is your master and your future is in His loving hands. Security = ______
The Command – Matthew 6:25
“For this reason,” / “Therefore” = the next statement is predicated on the _______________statements
Verse 25 – do not be anxious (merimnavw / merimna ) = ________bound up with a brooding, fearful concern
Jesus’ command is to not to have a _______concern about the basic needs of life like food, drink & clothing
Fretting About Food – Matthew 6:26
Jesus points out the birds that are flying around and uses them to _______________the Father’s provision
If God will take care of ___________________________birds, He will also take care of you
2 Thessalonians 3:10-12 – those who are unwilling to work should ______________
Jesus is saying that God’s care and provision allows you to quit _____________, not quit working
Concerns about Clothing – Matthew 6:28-30
No promise to be clothed like Solomon or as lovely as a flower – but that God will ____________your needs
The poor are tempted to worry about having _____________food to live and enough clothing to keep warm
The rich are tempted to worry about the kind of food and the _______________of the clothing
Do you dress to be fashionable and impress _____________or to reflect godliness? 1 Peter 3:3
The Foolishness of Worry – Matthew 6:27, 30-32
Being anxious does not result in living longer, if anything, it ____________it
Anxiety level demonstrates level of ______________God – Much worry = “little faith” – verse 30
The proper practice of ___________is dependent on God knowing your needs before you ask – Matthew 6:8
When your faith weakens, you need to ____________these truths so that you do not live like the “Gentiles”
The Remedy for Worry – Matthew 6:33-34
Focus your life on God and ______________in His loving care to provide
Resist the pressures to ______________ you to the world (Romans 12:2)
A proper focus on God and ______________Him diminishes worry while increasing contentment and peace
Vs. 34 – living for God in the _____________removes worry (preoccupation today due to fear of tomorrow)
Seeking God’s Kingdom and Righteousness – Matthew 6:33
Jesus’ guarantee to provide “all these things” is __________on seeking first His kingdom and righteousness
Your ________& goals in life are set on glorifying & serving God instead of your own kingdom or pleasure
Standard of living ____________________________________
Business / Personal ethics ______________________________
Personal morality _____________________________________
Every decision you make, actions you take are to be determined knowing and following ______ perspective
You can be at peace if you first seek God’s kingdom and righteousness for He will provide for you – ______
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