I suspect that if we were all honest, most of us would admit that worry is a constant companion in life.
- We worry about our children – the kind of lives they will lead; the kinds of friends they will choose; the kind of world they will inherit; oh, and their daily safety.
- We worry about money – will we have enough? Can we get out of debt? Things are so tight – what happens if we have an emergency?
- We worry about our marriage; our health; our aging parents; our changing appearance; our unstable economy. And we haven’t even mentioned all of the national problems that will dominate the airwaves this election year.
The truth is, our lives are filled with uncertainty, and it almost seems like we have every right to be anxious. That’s why many of you, and you know who you are, cling to worry with both arms. It has become your constant companion; a familiar intruder; your not-so-welcome friend.
In Matthew 6, as part of the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus instructs us not to worry. He affirmed something that other writers in Scripture reiterate – worry is a sin! (see Romans 14:23 and Philippians 4:6). Those statements by Jesus, taken in isolation, could have the ironic effect of causing anxiety in His listeners. Fortunately, however, Jesus did not stop there. Over the next few verses, He gives two not-so-easy steps to overcome worry in your daily life.
Here they are:
#1 – Seek God – Matthew 6:31-33 – The first instruction Jesus gives is to replace worry with “Seeking God’s Kingdom and His righteousness? You have probably heard these verses before, but practically, what do they mean? What is Jesus telling us to do?
Put simply, Jesus instructs us to focus intently on the priorities of God. In other words, we must learn to identify the things that matter most to Him and to remember the things that are ETERNALLY TRUE. Does that seem confusing? Understand – in life, some things are true and some things are REALLY true. Some things are true on this earth, and some things are ETERNALLY TRUE – they supersede what you see with your eyes.
For instance, death is a fact of life. It is true that everyone dies. But here’s what’s really True – those who die in Christ still live. That Truth trumps the first one. Here’s another example –it’s true that we need money to buy things we need on this earth. But here’s what’s REALLY True – the most valuable treasures in life can’t be bought with money. The second Truth changes how we interpret the first one.
Here’s the point – when worry creeps in, we need to stop and ask God to help us see the greater Truths in life. We need to ask Him to help us see beyond the temporary details to life and see Him instead. We should ask Him to remind us that He is on the throne; to give us the strength to trust Him even during difficult times; to help us see what really matters.
Make worry a trigger to stop and pray and reconnect with God’s strength and His purposes.
#2 – Take One Day at a Time – Matthew 6:34 – I LOVE this verse. Jesus just lays it all on the table. He doesn’t say, “Hey Christians, don’t worry, God won’t let anything bad happen in your life. Just be sure you have enough faith.” On the contrary, He says, “Look, you’re going to have troubles every day. Each day is full of conflict and disappointment and danger and hard work. That’s the reality of life on this fallen planet. But here’s the thing – you’ve got enough to deal with today, so why on earth would you borrow trouble from tomorrow? Aren’t today’s challenges enough?”
So what should we do today? I really like Craig Groeschel’s advice in his excellent book The Christian Atheist. He reminds us that every day, God calls us to do what is wise. He writes, “Wisdom means doing the simple, obvious things that help you get where you want to go.” In every area of life, identify where you want to be, and then take obvious steps that it takes to move in that direction. That is your job, one day at a time.
Now get this – after you do those two things – after you seek God in prayer and focus your eyes on Him, and then take the wise steps that are available to you each day, you must trust God with the rest. Do what is wise each day, fix your eyes on God, and then Him with what you can’t control.
Here’s the thing about worry – it is the exact opposite of faith. Hebrews 11 says that faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance of what we do not see. In other words, faith means that I am willing to trust beyond what I can see in front of me. Worry is the exact opposite of that. Worry means fixating on what is seen; obsessing with what is right in front of my eyes.
Jesus instructed us to exercise eyes of faith. That means seeking God’s activity and priorities each day, acting in wisdom on the opportunities in front of us, and then trusting that God is still on His throne. Sounds easy, huh? Obviously, it’s not, but it is a worthwhile battle that we all should fight one day at a time.