Text: Matthew 6:25-30 Theme: The secret of worry-free living is proper perspective and trust in God.
In many respects we have it better today than any era in history. We have freedom. We have ample food + clothing. We have many appliances that reduce life’s drudgery. We have handy transportation. We have advanced medical care.
In many ways we have it so much better than ever before. And yet we worry!
I once asked my Bible study group this question: How many of you are worriers? Of the ten people there, seven of them confessed they were worriers. A few even qualified as world-class worriers.
Worry. We worry about the quality of our schools. We worry about our finances. We worry about the influence of television- its violence, trashy language, sexual scenes; We worry about global warming and the seeming increase in devestating tornadoes. We worry about a dysfunctional US government. We worry about terrorism. Some have labeled ours as the age of anxiety- or the age of prozac.
I don’t view myself as a worrier. But I have to admit that all kinds of anxieties creep in. Worry about my boys doing well in school once; now about their work + relationships. Worry about developing a fresh, Christ-centered sermon that will nourish the soul. Worry about someone in the church family who is really hurting or struggling . Worry about if my Green Bay Packers will bounce back to their former greatness. Each of you could probably add your own personal list of worries.
Worry is a cousin of fear. Fear is a stronger emotion that arises from an actual threat. Worry is a low-grade fear that something bad might happen.
None of our worries may be that big in themselves. But they nag at you. They cloud over your peace of mind. They take some shine off your happiness. They have a way of keeping you on edge. Does this sound familiar?
Jesus knows all about that. In Matthew 6:25 he speaks to our situation. Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life.
Now, perhaps that sounds a bit unrealistic. We’ve all heard people say: I've always been a worrier; my Mom was and so am I. Or: That's just how I am. I can't help it. It’s as if worry is a gene some are born with. The implication is: You can't really expect me to stop worrying. But may we dismiss Jesus' words that way? Notice that verse 25 isn't just a wish. It isn’t just a suggestion. It’s not just for those born without a worry gene. It’s an exhortation- really a command. Jesus commands all his followers not to worry.
And notice that it’s not a low-key command! Jesus issues this command three times: vs 25- do not worry; vs 31- do not worry; and vs 34- do not worry. It’s as if Jesus knows what a problem worry is. He knows it keeps popping up like unwanted weeds. So he repeats himself to show he means business: do not worry.
I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Jesus knows worry is a besetting problem. So Jesus fortifies his command with reasons.
Reason #1: there are more important things than ordinary, physical needs. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? In other words, don't sweat the little stuff. Don’t sweat the daily stuff- like food + clothes.
When I grew up in Sheboygan nearly every wife was a full-time homemaker. Many in my church believed that cleanliness was next to godliness. I think they spent half their lives making sure their house was swept and spotless.
But how insignificant compared to really important things- being there for your kids; growing in Christ; serving in your church; helping the hungry or the homeless; or sharing the gospel with a neighbor. So I officially declare that worrying about keeping things pin neat is unspiritual.
Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? In other words, Jesus wants his people to have a sense of priorities. Set your sights on what matters in life- things of eternal value. Don't sweat the little stuff. I'll let you fill in the blank about what is little stuff in your life.
I tell you, do not worry. Here is Jesus’ second reason: God will provide for you. Vs 26: Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them.
One day in Michigan I was driving back from the hospital on a frigid winter day. By the bridge over the Grand River I saw an enormous flock of birds. In fact, there were more birds than I think I’ve ever seen at one time. They half covered the sky. It reminded me of Alfred Hitchcock’s thriller, The Birds.
Now, those birds had no tools for farming. They had no furnace-heated homes. They had no capacity to think, communicate, or love God like we do. And yet those birds were thriving- on a bitterly cold day. Jesus' logic moves from the lesser to the greater: Are you not much more valuable than they? I In vs 28-30 Jesus basically restates this same point, only he uses another example. See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?" Hard to argue with that logic.
Let's zero in on those last few words: O you of little faith. Here Jesus cuts thru all our excuses. Worrying is not just a matter of how you were born. It is not just a matter of whether things are going well or not. Ultimately it’s a matter of trust. Do you trust God to take care of you? Do you have faith?
Here we find a wonderful dimension of the gospel. The Bible talks about all the benefits we receive through faith in Jesus. Well, one major benefit is worry-free living. Proper concern? Yes! But worry? No!
Think a moment how wonderful life would be without any worries- none at all. No worries about how well-liked you are; no worries about your kids’ future; no worries about a difficult relationship at work; or making ends meet financially; no worries about health. More faith means less worry. That's what Jesus wants for us!
The prophet Habakkuk provides a powerful example: "Though the fig-tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will be joyful in God my Savior."
I think of a lady from my congregation who had trouble with a lingering cough- on top of a dropping blood count. The doctors weren’t quite sure what was going on. When I visited June she simply said: I’m not going to worry about it; I’m in God’s hands. And that’s right. If God provides for the birds of the air and the lilies of the field, he will provide for you and me.
You know, it’s easy to talk about our faith in God- or to sing about it. But here’s a practical test: how much does your trust in God cut down on your worry? I tell you, do not worry. Reason #3: worrying won't do you a bit of good. Vs 27: "Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?"
Worrying won't do you a bit of good. Just the opposite: it takes the fun out of life. Worry is worse than a pesky mosquito in your tent at bedtime.
Worry won't add a single hour to your life. But it will raise your blood pressure; it will create headaches; it will cause ulcers; it will shorten your life.
When someone turns 100, they’re often asked about their secret to long life. I’ve heard many interesting answers: I rolled with the punches. I never smoked or drank. Or I drank a beer every night. But I’ve never yet heard: Because I worried a lot.
I tell you, do not worry. Here I want to suggest a take-home assignment. As yourself: what two or three things do you worry about the most? Once you've identified them, give it the three-part analysis. Will worry gain you anything? Is it really that important? And do you or don't you trust that your heavenly Father will provide for you?
Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them.