God’s Cure for Worry: How to be Anxious for Nothing!
“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God which surpasses all understanding will guard your heart with all diligence.” ( Phil. 4: 6, 7) Familiar verses which contain a great promise- which also seems to be a slippery promise to hold onto sometimes. Also there is a difference between concern and anxiety. We all encounter situations which cause us to be concerned. Concern is not the same as anxiety. Concern is rooted in caring. We are to be concerned about our family, our loved ones, our health, our job performance. Concern is productive. It takes steps of action and is positive. One of the first steps of action which concern should cause a believer to do is – PRAY. Anxiety is the opposite- it is counterproductive and paralyzes one with fear. Concern motivates us to take action. Concern leads to wise decisions; anxiety to unwise. Anxiety divides one’s mind. Lowers productivity. Creates physical problems. Drains your energy while depleting your joy. Concern-YES. Anxiety-NO!
We are also told numerous times in the form of a command to ‘Fear Not!’ Yet fear and worry are those terrible twins which awaken us at 3:00 am in the morning. An hour I believe is the enemy’s favorite time to attack.
Here are the statistics on fear:
- 60% of our fears are unwarranted; they will never happen.
- 20% of our fears are focused on the past; which there is nothing we can do anything about.
- 10% of our fears are based on things so petty and trivial they won’t make any difference.
- Of the remaining 10% – only 4-5% are justifiable. Which tells us 95% of the time we are worried and fearful about things which will never occur or will not matter. And remember God did not give us a spirit of fear.
When we are worried, we are fearful. What I want us to develop by using God’s Word is to build in our lives a systematic, scriptural strategy for dealing with worry. We will do this by focusing on His promises and ultimately the person of our Heavenly Father and thus draw encouragement and courage for us by seeing the following:
- How much God cares for you and me; how much He loves us
- How to avoid anxiety through prayer.
- Casting our cares upon Him, Who cares for us
- Having peace in every circumstance.
- Doing all things without complaining.
- Learning to be content.
There are many promises we will review and claim. However, the antidote for a troubled heart is given by the Lord Jesus to a group who were afraid, bewildered, worried and anxious as life was taking a turn which they could not believe. Their hearts were troubled. Listen to what Jesus said to them:
“Let not your hearts be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me.” (John 14:1) Trust is the antidote for a troubled, worried, anxious, fearful heart. Trust is also a learned response. Have you learned to trust Jesus? Are you going through something which is in that 4-5% category which says this is a justifiable situation about which you can be concerned?
Because many of us, including your teacher, are going through this now, or will be in the future or have in the past- we need to know how to deal with this reality. For others are watching us to see how a Christian deals with life’s twists and turns. The Word of God tells us when our faith is tested, our endurance has a chance to grow. And this allows our faith to mature and grow stronger.
Anxiety, fear, worry, stress are familiar words in today’s high tech world of uncertainty and terrorism fueled by a 24 hour news cycle. Economic uncertainty, a disregard for the truth of God’s word, the decline of morals and a realization America is not what it used to be in so many ways and areas are cause for concern. No wonder we are worried and more and more of our population takes some type of medication to calm their fears. Yet we know in our heart of hearts- worry will not solve our problems and only increases our anxiety.
If we are told by Jesus not to worry- is worry, therefore, a sin? Yes, it is. If He commands me not to worry, will He not also empower me not to worry?
Let us first turn to a passage in Matthew 6 which is familiar to most all of us. Jesus wants us to observe certain things about us and think deeply about them. Not just read them, and forget them, but meditate upon them and therefore have your thinking transformed. *Thinking is a function of the mind. In the Bible references to the ‘heart’ are about the center of our being- our mind, will and emotions. It is with the heart one believes and is justified. Romans 10. Man has the ability to reason and God says – come let us reason together. This is what Jesus is asking us to do in this passage- come reason with Him regarding worry.
“Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink, or about your body what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? “If Almighty God, Creator of all things, gives us life, will He not be able to also sustain it? Of course He can. (Colossians 1)
Next Jesus tells us to make our first observation and invites us to reason by looking at the birds.
“Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your Heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not more valuable than they? And which of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life? And why do you worry about clothes? Consider (observe) 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! So do not worry saying, What shall we eat? Or What shall we drink? Or what shall we wear? For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things will be given to you. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. (Matthew 6: 25-34)
Pretty clear teaching isn’t it? Do not worry. Gives us the reasons why we are not to worry based upon the sovereign care of a loving and all powerful God.
When we worry as Christians, we are in effect saying to God: I am not sure you can take care of me and mine. I am not sure you can solve this problem- or more likely- that you are NOT going to solve this problem the way I want you to solve it. You realize you are saying to God – I do not trust you to do what is in my best interest. This not reasonable, is it, based on what we believe about God.
Why is God so concerned about our worrying? Here is the reason right here in these verses: when we are preoccupied with the things of this world, our minds are not preoccupied with God and things of God. This why we are told to ‘Set your minds on things above not on things that are on earth.” (Colossians 3:2) The thief comes to steal your peace with circumstances which cause us to worry.
Here the Lord Jesus is saying to us: Don’t worry about the basics, I will take care of those for you. The more you know about the Lord, the more you will trust Him.
This does NOT mean you should not have insurance, savings and investments. These are reasonable things to do and God commands us to care for our families. But they should be balanced. We should be laying up treasures in heaven also, for where our treasure is, our hearts will be also. Focusing on earthly treasures produces earthly affections. If we are not careful, they can draw us away from serving God. You cannot serve two masters.
Jesus said in Luke 12: “A man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.” Yet this has come to define the ‘abundant life.’ Life comes from God. Abundant life is the fullness of life which Jesus came to give us that.
The thief comes to steal and kill and destroy. But I have come that you might have life and have it more abundantly. (John 10) The enemy wants to steal your peace, kill your joy and destroy your faith.
The abundant life is a life of joy. It is a fruitful life. Our purpose is to bear much fruit. This glorifies the Father and makes our joy complete. “I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that you joy be made complete.” (John 15:11)
As Christians we have one single goal- treasure in heaven. We have one single vision-God’s will. And we have one single Master- God, not the things of this world. It is single mindedness!
Now from these verses let us observe why worry is not only a sin, but unnecessary:
- It is unnecessary to worry about finances, the basics of life, what we eat or drink or wear because of who our Heavenly Father is. Let me ask you this: as a child growing up, did you ever go to bed at night worried if your father would be able to provide food for you in the morning? No. If our earthly fathers being evil can be trusted to provide our needs, how much more can we trust our Heavenly Father? Do you realize your Heavenly Father owns it all, controls it all and can be trusted to supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus? Jesus then gave us three observations: God feeds his creatures. If He takes care of birds, will not also take care of you? Of course He will! Second observation- Jesus tells us worry is non-productive. Worry is actually taking on responsibility we are not supposed to take on. Third observation, God clothes the fields with splendor, will He not also see to it you are clothed. He knows you need these things.
Jesus then adds our worries about these things reveals your level of faith. You have believed God for forgiveness of your sins; your eternal salvation; the breaking of the shackles of the enemy; and deliverance from hell to heaven. How can we believe God for these greater gifts and then not believe He can provide our daily needs?
Worry blinds us to the promises. Paul prayed the eyes of our heart would be enlightened that we might see the hope to which we are called, to know the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, and the surpassing greatness of His power toward us who believe.( Ephesians 1: 18,19)
When you catch yourself worrying – go back to the Word of God to have your spiritual eyes opened again!
Now Jesus also tells us not to worry about tomorrow. Providing for tomorrow is good. Planning for tomorrow is good- but worrying about tomorrow is a sin. God is the same today as He will be tomorrow. His compassions are new and fresh each morning. He provides enough for us each day, just as he did for the Israelites in the wilderness with the daily manna.
God’s grace is sufficient for today. And when tomorrow becomes today- it will be sufficient also because God is faithful. Great is His faithfulness. All I have needed, His hand has provided.
“This is the day the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it” (Psalm 118: 24) Do you get that? This is the day the Lord has made for you- it is a day in which you can glorify Him by serving Him, by trusting Him, by taking Him at His word. You can enjoy God and you can enjoy the gift of life, and walk in the light as He is in the light and have fellowship with one another as you use the resources He has given you.
Tomorrow always belongs to God. Today is what He has given you and me. If tomorrow belongs to God, it is God’s exclusive property; I must not try and take what is His. It will cause me also to miss today and all that He has given me. Count your blessings each morning and all through the day. Take time to enjoy the moments.
God will give you the strength you need today. When tomorrow comes He will provide you what you need when tomorrow becomes today.
Now we come to the main thing and we must remember to keep the main thing- the main thing or else we will worry.
Here is what Jesus says for you to do today:
“Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things shall be added to you.” (Matthew 6:33)
Again, Colossians 3: 2 tells us as clear as can be: “Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth.”
When Jesus says seek first, this means first in a line of priorities which compete for our attention. Jesus is saying of all your priorities in life, seeking God’s kingdom is number one. It is doing what you can do to promote God’s rule over creation. This includes seeking Christ’s rule and reign in and over your life.
As I was preparing this lesson, I was having trouble with several issues, but one main one was competing for all my attention. It seems I was going over stuff we all know and say we believe. I believe every one of these scriptures I have written down.
I believe God is in control and God is good. But I also know in my heart- I am wondering why God has not answered prayers I have prayed for my son Ben for 15 years. He has answered other prayers we have prayed- but not these. Why God? What is keeping us from seeing these prayers answered? If you have answered them, we seemed not to have heard. Otherwise why do we keep asking? Are we not accepting the situation as is? Or do we not want what you want? I am confused. I know you are not the author of confusion – but I am having one of those mornings.
How am I going to teach this if I have not learned it? Why have you given me this topic? I don’t usually even teach on a subject.
Okay. Let me write this down. Let me confirm what I believe about You, God. I know that you are always at work. (John 5:17) So this means you are at work in this situation. The delay is not a delay of idleness it is the working out of Your will. (We have plenty of examples of this method in your Word.) I know you are working all things together for good for those who love you who are the called according to your purpose.
I know what this verse does not say- it does not say all things are good. It says you work them together for good. And you have given us the greatest example of this in the crucifixion of your own son. I know also the good referred to here is my being conformed to the image of your Son, My Savior, and the Lord Jesus. (Romans 8:28, 29)
I know I am feeling low this morning. I know you want me not to live by my feelings, but by faith.
Where does my faith come from? Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God. (Romans 10:17)
I know your Word will never pass away- your word stands forever.
Bet Noah must have had some mornings like this- trying to have faith, when his feelings said- I have been doing this for over a hundred years, Lord, how can I do it another day? I am tired. I do not feel like doing this. Give me a break. Give me a little encouragement. Noah would probably review what he knew God had told him to do.
Here is what you have said to me this morning as I share my heart and bare my soul to those you have given me to teach;
- I believe God’s Word and His promises more than my feelings.
- I believe God’s Word is true, regardless of what I am experiencing.
- I believe we will get through this. I am passing through the waters now, I am passing through the fire. *Key words- we are passing through- not stuck. We will get through this(.Isaiah 43:2)
I like to walk in the sunshine of answered prayer, getting what I prayed for, having blessings upon blessings – no worries or concerns, real or imagined.
I want to live in peace and contentment not in a war zone of cancer, depression, and uncertainty.
Then I realize-if I can see what God is doing, I do not require faith. We pray for faith, but what we really want it sight. Sight- the ability to see what you are doing, God. We pray for faith, forgetting faith always exist, only exist in the area of the unseen, the unknown and the uncertain. Jesus said – if you believe you will see.
Walking by faith is difficult, because we are asked to believe what we cannot see or understand.
I have said all of this to let each of you know and share with you- I experience the same feelings you do when there are real problems in our lives. When we are waiting to see what is going to happen and are in the dark area of uncertainty.
What I am experiencing this Monday morning as I write these words is what occurs when we let feelings rule our lives. When we live by our feelings – we will have anxiety. Because we will only be happy when everything is good, no problems and everything is going our way. We are living by sight.
The solution is to live by faith. Trusting God when we cannot see the way. The result will be peace- for God guards our heart with all diligence.
Here is what we want – peace. The Lord said, my peace I give to you. The enemy is trying to steal what God has given you.
Here is your first essential belief for a peaceful heart.
- God is absolutely sovereign. He has never been out of control over His creation for one fraction of a second since the beginning of time. Never has, never will.
Here is what Jesus wants you to know- it is the same thing He told Peter on the night of the Last Supper. It is the answer to your –why Lord? “Jesus answered and said unto him, “What I am doing you do not understand now, but you will know after this.” (John 13)
Whatever is going on in your life-you will get through it. You will pass through the waters and through the fire. These are the trials. But there is an ‘AFTER THIS.’ There is the promise during this He will always be with you. There is the promise during this – He will not place more on you than you can bear. There is a promise you will get through this and there will be a time-AFTER THIS.
Until we get through, until you and I get through- we must walk by faith and not by our feelings.
His word is a light upon my path and a lamp unto my feet …. That is how we walk through dark. Hold on to His hand tightly, and allow Him to direct the light of His Word on your path like a flashlight in a dark place.
Here is what Max Lucado writes:
“You’ll get through this. It won’t be painless. It won’t be quick. But God will use this mess for good. Don’t be foolish or naïve. But don’t despair either. With God’s help you’ll get through this!!”
And Jesus says – you will know after this. In fact you will know Him in a way you have never known Him before. Stay tuned as we continue this study of how to handle anxiety. Next week we will look at three activities Paul says we must do in order to experience peace, the peace of God.
Philippians 4:6-9; Matthew 6:25-34; John 14:1; Colossians 3:2; John 10:10; Romans 8:28, 29: Romans 10:9, 10, 17; Isaiah 43:2; John 5:17: John 13:7; John 15: 11