Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your body, what you will wear. 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 can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life? And why do you worry 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 clothed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear?’ For it is the Gentiles who strive for all these things; and indeed your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. So do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own. Today’s trouble is enough for today.
“Have no anxiety about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which passes all understanding, will keep your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
Did you hear about the amateur golfer who challenged the local club pro to a match? “Just give me a handicap of two ‘gotchas’ and we’ll be square,” said the amateur. Although the pro hadn’t the foggiest idea of what a “gotcha” was, he was confident of his ability and agreed to play. On the first hole, just as the pro was about to tee off, the amateur slipped up, grabbed him around the waist and shouted, “Gotcha!” The twosome completed the round without further incident, but the pro played poorly and was beaten. When asked why he’d lost, he murmured, “Have you ever played 18 holes waiting for a second ‘gotcha’?
There’s a bit of this story in us all, isn’t there? Our lives are made ineffectual by worry. We’re sure someone or something is slipping up behind us to get us! So we grow nervous. We cast a worried look about! And for our worries we can’t do our best.
The text helps us deal with our worries. It’s like a prescription from the great physician, Jesus Christ. And if taken it’ll give us health.
The first part of the text says, “Don’t worry!” Three times in Matthew 6:25-34 Jesus says “Do not be anxious.” And in Philippians 4:6-7 it says quite frankly, “Have no anxiety about anything.” Now that’s in the form of a command, isn’t it? “Have no anxiety about anything!”
Yet, my, my! How we fret and stew and worry over everything! We worry about money and bills. We toss and turn over our children. We are anxious about what others think of us. We dispair over our jobs and our possessions and health and drinking habits and relatives and . . . It makes us sick.
Worry, quite frankly, is like sitting in a rocking chair. You do a lot of work but you get nowhere! It’s what a friend of mine calls, “Shoveling smoke.” Our English term “worry” comes from a root word that means “to strangle.” And that’s exactly what anxiety does– it suffocates our faith and strangles our effectiveness. All that brooding, all that anxious staging and restaging of events before they happen really accomplishes but one thing. It makes you a prisoner of fear of what might happen.
Did you hear about the crowded elevator that wouldn’t rise because it was overloaded? A tiny woman got off and the elevator rose! The lady explained, “It’s not that I weigh all that much, it’s just that I have a lot on my mind today!” And isn’t it so with us? We spend our lives like a pastor shaking hands at the door of the church building. You know how it is, he’s trying to do too much at once. He’s shaking hands with the person in front of him but talking to the fellow two people past him! He’s not all there because he’s busy dealing with what’s ahead or what’s behind. And don’t we live like that? We can’t deal with today because we’re so busy dealing with tomorrow! And the Bible is saying, “Don’t worry! Have no anxiety about anything!” I like the way Jesus put it. He always says it so much better than I do! In Matthew 6 Christ said, “I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you shall eat or what you shall drink, nor about your body, what you shall put on. . . 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? Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow. Let the day’s own trouble be sufficient for the day.” So shake hands with today! And let tomorrow get here before you handle it!
Pray About It!
What have we seen so far? The first part of the text is a
command not to worry. Now the second part: It too is a command. “Pray about it,” the text is saying. “Have no anxiety about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” Jesus also said in Mt. 6:33, “But seek ye first the kingdom of God.” What’s the text saying? Two simple commands: Don’t worry about it. Instead, pray about it! Seek God.
There’s a hosiery mill in Virginia that uses steam in its manufacturing process. The unused portion is simply vented through a chimney in the plant roof. At the same time, the huge plant is heated by an oil fired furnace. Well, with energy prices like they are now, it didn’t take plant engineers long to realize that they could harness the wasted steam energy to heat the plant in winter and thus do away with their oil furnace. I think that’s called reclamation of wasted energy sources for productivity. And that’s what the text is saying. Worry is like wasted steam vented out the ceiling. Anxiety does not lessen tomorrow’s sorrows. It only wears out a day before it gets here. It saps today of vital energy. And what God is saying to us from the text is to stop wasting energy on worry and spend it on prayer.
Don’t you see, it takes the same amount of energy to worry as it does to pray. And which accomplishes more?
In 1685 the colony of Massachusetts was beginning to talk freedom. Resentment was building against the British crown because of taxation without representation. King Charles II became enraged and decided to send in the troops to nip freedom in the bud. The king determined to send Colonel Percy Kirk and five thousand troops to bring the colony to heel. When word of his decision reached New England there was immediate despair. Colonel Kirk was also known as “Bloody Kirk.” A notorious governor of Tangier, he’d earned his nickname “Bloody” because he stopped at nothing to crush the opposition. And now his fury was sure to savage the colonists! To say that folks were worried is to understate the facts. People were all but hysterical with worry.
Increase Mather, a prominent pastor, refused to worry. Instead, he prayed. His diary reveals the fact that as soon as he heard the news of the intended invasion, he shut himself in his study and spent the day fasting and praying for the colony. At length, the heaviness he felt in his heart left him and he found peace in an inner assurance that things would work out. Two months later, word arrived that King Charles had died of apoplexy on the very day the pastor had been praying. Now James was king of England and “Bloody” Kirk would not be coming at all!
Prayer changes things. Worry only makes matters worse. Prayer brings relief. Worry only leads to distress. Prayer brings freedom. Anxiety brings bondage. Prayer is constructive use of
energy. Worry is unconstructive waste. George Mueller said, “The beginning of anxiety is the end of faith, and the beginning of true faith is the end of anxiety.” And that, my friends, is exactly what the doctor orders in the text. Worry destroys faith or faith will destroy worry. So why not resign as General Manager of the Universe! Don’t through worry take on all those responsibilities! God never intended you to have. Stop fretting about things and pray about it! Let God take charge!
Peace is Promised
So, in the text we have two commands. One: Have no anxiety about anything. Two: Let your request be made known to God. Now a third part of the text. It’s a promise to all those who obey God’s orders. “And the peace of God, which passes all understanding, will keep your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Again in Matthew 6 Jesus invites us to watch birds, to peruse flowers. They are not adither with worry. They know God’s constant care. “Will He not so clothe you?” Jesus asks.
Do you see the healing therapy offered in this snatch of Scripture we call our text? Instead of focusing anxiously on our problems we turn our attention to God. We focus on Jesus, the Almighty Father, the Able, Wonderful Counselor, the Loving, Just, Healing Master, the Prince of Peace! And the text says such a refocusing brings tranquility.
Notice how it worked in Christ’s ministry. Remember the Bible story of Christ and His disciples crossing the Sea of Galilee in a boat. While Christ slept, a nasty storm arose. Big waves and gale force winds tossed the boat about like a weightless chip. And focusing on the storm and sinking boat the disciples were terrified! Finally, spotting Jesus asleep in the bow, they roused Him and prayed for help, whereupon Christ rebuked the winds and brought calm. Do you see what happens when you get your eyes off your fears and focus them on God in prayer? Things calm down. There is peace.
Ocean explorers say that there are depths of the sea that are never disturbed. Why, a hurricane can be boiling on the ocean surface with 180 miles per hour winds and monstrous waves, and yet below the surface things are clam. That’s the kind of peace God gives, a peace that passes all understanding. A peace that no one can take from us. Just before the reformation, when John Hus was burned at the stake for his Christian faith, the hot flames licked up his legs and began to blister his body. Such a storm without! Yet within there was tranquility. John Hus died singing songs of the Christ he loved July 7, 1415. And the Bible promises such a peace to you and to me. No, perhaps God won’t take you out of the storm. But He will take the storm out of you.
“Have no anxiety about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” That’s the command. Now the result, the promise. “And the peace of God, which passes all understanding, will keep your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
Needed For Voyage!
I once watched an admiral’s luggage being taken out of a truck and placed aboard his ship. Of the six or eight trunks, fully tow-thirds of them were clearly labeled, “Not needed during the voyage.” I’m told that such pieces are stored in the hold until the next port of call is reached. Much of the baggage of life we carry with us is not needed for the voyage like that. It can be put away and never missed. And certainly your worries are such. They can be put away! Yet prayer must be kept with you for all time. Of its use you will certainly have need!
A doctor once told one of our members, “There are over 40 miles of nerves in the human body. In your case that’s 211,200 feet of frazzles.” She’d become so prone to worry as to have anxiety attacks. Her mind had become a cycle of ineffective thought and emotion whirling around a thick center of fear. Yet there is relief. There is a healing Savior! “Don’t worry about anything,” the text prescribes. “Pray about it! And God will give you peace.”
Worried souls, God is ready when you are. Take Him at His word and see!
Lord, I resign as General Manager of the Universe. You be God and I’ll be your child. Teach me to talk to your about my troubles. For Christ’s sake. Amen.