INTRO: Today in our series about Living In God’s Freedom Kingdom we are going to take a look at why and how we can break free from worry. We are going to be looking at Jesus’ most famous teaching; we are going back to the beginning or back to the basics if you will. We are looking at Jesus’ Sermon On The Mount. Specifically we are going to be in Matthew 6:25-34. This is Jesus 101 from a teaching perspective but it is still a challenge for all of us to flesh-out in our daily lives, so let’s take a look again.
Matthew 6:25-34 (NIV), “Therefore I tell 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? 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. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life? “And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers 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—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 his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”
I want to talk with you about what Jesus has to say about "How Do You Break Free From Worry?" Why is it that we always expect the worst? Have you ever received a letter in the mail with the three letters on the outside that struck terror in your heart -- IRS. Then you opened it up and it was just a form letter. Whew! That was close one! Why do we expect the worst? You hear about a crash out on the freeway and you start wondering if it's a friend involved. Your teenage daughter comes home late at night with a big smile on her face from a date. Why do we expect the worst? How do you break free from worry? That's what we're going to look at this morning.
The word "worry" is an Old English word which literally means "to choke", "to strangle". When you're worrying it chokes the life out of your life. The root Greek word for worry here is the word that means "to divide". Remember when we were in James it talked about a double-minded man is unstable in all of his ways (1:8). Which is very important for our study today, are we going to focus on God and His promises towards us, or are we going to worry about things? Jesus, in this passage, which is part of the Sermon on the Mount, deals with how to break free from worry.
We are first going to look at five reasons we're not to worry. The key verse here is Matthew 6:25, "Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life." In my opinion, that is the hardest command in the Bible to obey. Don't worry about anything -- because all of us do. We might say, "I’m not worrying about it, I'm just concerned." OK, yeah, we are worrying.
Jesus said there are five reasons you shouldn't worry. Matthew 6:25, "Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink or about your body or what you will wear. Is not life more important than food and the body more important than clothes?" God tells that we not to worry, and if God tells us to do or not to do something then He makes it possible for us to obey His command. That’s what God’s Grace is all about. We are made strong in our weakness. He starts off by giving us five reasons not to worry.
1. The first thing He says is WORRY IS UNREASONABLE.
He says, "Isn't life more important than food. Isn't the body more important than clothes?" He's saying it doesn't make sense. Worry is irrational.
There's more to life than just food and clothes. It doesn't matter if you're eating gourmet food and have designer clothes, if your life is messed up what does it matter? How many examples could we give here about famous and wealthy people who seemingly had it all, but their lives were an absolute mess and they lost it all or they killed themselves. Jesus is saying that if you're going to worry about something, worry about something that's really significant. Worry about the eternal, not the external. He's saying that it's unreasonable. To worry about something you can't change is useless. To worry about something you can change is stupid. Just go ahead and change it. So one way or the other, you shouldn't worry.
Have you noticed that worry is unreasonable in the fact that when you worry about something it always gets bigger? You all know the old saying, ‘You’re making a mountain out of a mole-hill.’ Somebody criticizes you and you start getting a little anxious about it, you're worried, you think about it and pretty soon you're thinking everybody's against you, and soon the whole world is against you! Why? Because every time you rehearse a worry in your mind it gets bigger. Worry, Jesus says, is unreasonable. There are things more important than food and clothes and most of our worries anyway are about material things. Jesus in this same teaching tells us to put our attention on the things that are Heavenly not on the things that are of this world (6:19-21.) So the first reason we shouldn’t worry is that it is unreasonable.
2. The second thing He says is WORRY IS UNNATURAL.
(Vs 26) "Look at the birds of the air. They don't sow or reap or store away in barns and yet your Heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not more valuable than they?" Jesus gives us a little bird-watching example. I'm not much on bird-watching but I have learned that if there is anybody on God's welfare rolls it's the birds. They really don't do a whole lot. They kind of fly around, flutter, sing, build a nest once a year. God takes care of them. He says, "If God takes care of the birds, won't He take care of you?"
Then He goes from bird-watching to a botany lesson. (v. 28) "Why do you worry about clothes? See the lilies of the field grow? They don't labor. They don't spin. I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these." Have you ever looked at a flower very closely? The intricacies of it; it is absolutely amazing. He says, "If God cares that much about a flower don't you think God's going to take care of you?"
Worry, He says, is unreasonable. It's unnatural. Animals don't worry. Plants don't worry. There's only one thing in all of creation that worries. People. The only thing of God's creation that doesn't trust God are people. Psalm 145:16 "God satisfies the desires of every living creature." Worry is unnatural. You weren't born to worry. You learned it. It's a habit that you developed. You developed the worry habit. It wasn't innate in you. It's not a part of God’s intended life. Nowhere is Scripture are we commanded to, suggested to or is it even hinted that we should worry.
If worry is learned, that is really good news. That means it can be unlearned. You can learn not to worry. It should not be a part of our lives. Our bodies were not designed to handle worry. Have you ever heard anybody say, "I'm worried sick!" It's true. It's not so much what you eat that counts, it's what eats you. Two and a half million headaches a day here in America. We consume over 100 Billion Aspirin pills each year! Proverbs 12:25 says "An anxious heart weighs a man down." Proverbs 14:30 says "A heart at peace gives life to the body." How do we make the transition from Proverbs 12:25 to Proverbs 14:30? Well that is exactly what Jesus is teaching us right here.
Notice He says, "Your Father" -- "Won't your Father feed them?" He's saying that God cares for you as a father. When you're a child you get special treatment. Worry is unreasonable. Worry is unnatural.
3. The next thing that Jesus says is WORRY IS UNHELPFUL.
(Vs. 27) "Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?" It doesn't work. It's unhelpful. It can't make you live longer. Or if you prefer the King James rendering, it can't make you taller (believe me I wish it could!) -- in fact, it does the opposite; it shortens life. Worry never moves you one inch closer to your goal.
Somebody said worry is like a rocking chair. There’s a lot of activity but you don't make any progress. You just go back and forth . . . back and forth . . . back and forth. . .
Worry is unhelpful. So why worry? The only thing that worry changes is you. It makes you more miserable. It's stewing without doing. When you think about it, worry cannot change your past -- your past is past; it's over. Worry cannot control the future. The only thing worry does is wreck right now. It doesn't take care of the past, it doesn't take care of the future and that's what all of our worries are about anyway.
So He says it's unreasonable, and He says it's unnatural to worry, and He says it's unhelpful to worry.
4. The fourth thing that He says is WORRY IS UNNECESSARY.
(Vs. 30) "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, oh, you of little faith?" He's saying there's no need to worry because God's promised to take care of you. God has promised, if you'll just trust Him.
The Bible says, "Your heavenly Father knows what you need. Won't He take care of you?" It's not only unhelpful and unreasonable and unnatural, He says it's unnecessary. God has assumed responsibility for our needs. He's promised it over and over again. Verses like Philippians 4:19 "My God shall supply..." ...some of your needs when you've been a good person? No, that's not what it says. "My God shall supply..." ... most of your needs if you're pretty good? No, that’s not right either. "My God shall supply all..." How much does "all" include? All of what? All of my needs. My God shall supply ALL of my needs according to how good you've been? No. According to His resources. God says it's unnecessary to worry because He’s got you covered.
I think worry comes from a misunderstanding of what God is like. When we're worrying it means we just don't really know God and we don't really know what He's promised to us. When we begin to doubt God's love, we always get ourselves into trouble. Worry is the opposite of faith. It's saying, "I really don't believe that God has my best interest at heart. I've got to take everything into my own hands and try to work it all out." When we start doubting God's love we get into trouble.
A lot of people think, "I've trusted God for salvation, I’ve trusted Him to forgive my sins but I'll handle all of these other things." When God saved you, He solved your biggest problem. The Scripture teaches in Romans 8 that if God loved you enough to take care of your biggest problem, your sin, then you belong to Him and if you belong to Him don't you think He cares enough to take care of the little issues too. He said it's unnecessary, "Won't God clothe you? Won't God take care of you?" He'll take care of those finances. He'll take care of those other things.
I read a story about a little old lady walking down a country road one day. She had a big heavy back-pack on. A guy in a pick-up truck came by and picked her up and she got in the truck and she said, "Thanks for the ride." She's riding down the road and she was tired. About twenty minutes down the road, the guy looks over and she's still wearing this heavy backpack on her back. He said, "Why don't you just take that off and toss it in the back?" She said, "Oh, no! It's enough for you just to carry me. I'll carry my backpack."
That's about as logical as some of us treat God when it comes to our needs. We say, "God, if You just get me to heaven, I'll worry about making the house payment.... I’ll worry about solving everything at work and I’ll worry about the problems and the relationships and I’ll worry about the difficulties that I've got." No! He says, “Worry is unnecessary”. You don't need to worry about it. God will take care of you.
5. The fifth thing that He teaches is WORRY IS UNGODLY.
(Vs. 31) "So do not worry, saying, `What shall we eat?' or `What shall we drink?' or `What shall we wear?' for the pagans run after these things and your heavenly Father knows that you need them." Underline "the pagans run". He's saying, worry is not only unreasonable and unnecessary and unhelpful and these other things, but it's also ungodly.
Non-believers have a right to worry. They ought to be worried. They're trying to live their lives without any of God's help. Frankly, I'd worry too. But notice "the pagans run". Does not that describe our society today? Everybody's hustling. Everybody's in a hurry, running after getting that Mercedes, running after getting that car paid for, running after that house, running after those clothes, running after whatever. They run. They're always in a hurry. Why? Because they don't believe that anything else is going to help them out. It's a dog-eat-dog world! Get all you can, can all you get, sit on the can, and spoil the rest. You come home dog-tired because you growled all day!
He is saying worry is ungodly. If I were an unbeliever I ought to be worried. You bet, because then it's all up to me. Everything depends on me. I ought to worry if I'm an unbeliever.
But as Christians, it should be different. We're trusting a Heavenly Father who will provide for us. "... the pagans run after all these thing but your heavenly Father knows you need them." But He says in contrast, your Heavenly Father knows what you need. He's saying, "You're my children. When you worry you're acting like an orphan." When it comes down to the bottom line, worry is practical atheism. It's in essence saying, "It all depends on me so I've got to worry to keep it in order. It all depends on me." We don't think about the fact that our Father is providing for us.
Worry is saying, "I don't believe God will get me out of this mess." When we begin to think it all depends on ourselves, when we begin to take matters into our own hands, when we begin to assume that we've got to figure it all out ourselves, that is called playing God. Worrying is playing God. It's assuming responsibility that God never intended for you to have in the first place.
Christians are not to worry. It's a poor testimony when a Christian worries. It's a bad example. It's acting like an unbeliever. Jesus says that it is the pagans that chase after these things.
God says, “I don't want you to worry”. He wants us to be like Him. God is never worried. If you're going to follow Jesus, you need to learn not to worry. God says, "Don't doubt My love." Then He gives us these five reasons we just discussed. That’s Great! But how do we stop worrying? What are some action steps we can take to break free from worry?
I love the Bible because it is so practical. When God commands us to do something, He always gives us the practical steps to obey it. He teaches in this same passage that there are three things we can do to break free from worry.
1. (Vs. 33) “But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness and all these things will be given to you as well." PUT GOD FIRST IN EVERY AREA OF YOUR LIFE. That is the starting point. You've got to set your priorities. You've got to decide who's going to be number one in your life. Who's going to have first place? You just center in on pleasing God and it will always be the right thing to do. He can heal your worries when you put Him first. What does the lines in that great Helen Lemmel song say, “Turn your eyes upon Jesus. Look full into His wonderful face. And the things of earth will grow strangely dim. In the light of His glory and Grace. His word shall not fail you, He promised. Believe Him and all will be well.” Put God first and He will take care of your needs, all will be well.
The second part of 2 Corinthians 5:17 (NKJV) says, "Old things have passed away, behold all things have become new." That includes our worries. You stop living for things and you start living for God. Any time I'm worrying, a little red light ought to come on that says, "Something is taking first place in my life besides the Lord." Worry is a warning light that says, "God's not number one in my life at this moment." Worry is a warning light that says, "Something is taking priority in my life besides God." If God is number one in my life and I seek Him first, then all these other things, Jesus says, will be added unto me.
So that's the starting point. Put God first. As long as we love anything in this world more than God, we're going to worry.
Notice in the Scripture it says, "therefore" in v. 25 "therefore I tell you do not worry about your life." When He starts this passage on worry He starts it with a "therefore". We have an old saying that anytime you see a "therefore" you need to see what it's there for. What is it there for? What has Jesus just finished speaking about when He begins this passage on worry?
In Matthew 6:24 (NLT) Jesus says, "No one can serve two masters. He will either hate the one and love the other. He'll be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and be enslaved to money." The passage right before this is about money. Then He immediately moves from talking about money to talking about worry. Doesn’t that sound logical? Most of our worries are related to money. He's saying you can't have both things number one in your life. Every person must eventually decide who are you going to live for, what are you going to live for. Whatever it is, it is going to become your master. Money, whether you've got it or don't have it, you still worry about it. Have you noticed that no matter how much money you have, you still worry? You can have a whole lot and you worry about losing it. If you don't have any, you worry about getting it. No matter how much you've got, you end up worrying about it. He says, “Don't worry! Put God first in your life.”
That's the number one reason why people won't tithe. They say, "I'm afraid if I give that ten percent to the Lord then I won't have enough to live on." It's a lack of faith, a worry. He says, “Put God first in every area of your life and all of these things will be added unto you.”
2. (Vs. 34) “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble on its own." How many agree with that verse? I think we know that one from personal experience. Action point number two: LIVE JUST ONE DAY AT A TIME. That is so simple but it is so profound. Live just one day at a time. Don't borrow trouble. Don't open your umbrella until it starts raining! There are two days every week that you shouldn't worry about: yesterday and tomorrow. Don't worry about those days! Don't worry about the future until you've learned to successfully manage the present. Don't borrow trouble. Today is the tomorrow you worried about yesterday. Live one day at a time.
Why should I live one day at a time? When you worry about tomorrow's problems, you miss today's blessings. You're so uptight worrying about what's happening tomorrow or next month or next year or when you retire that you don't enjoy today. Not only that, you cannot solve tomorrow's problems with today's resources. God gives you just enough strength to make it through today, not enough strength to make it through tomorrow. Doesn't the Scripture say, "Give us this day our daily bread." Why? Do you remember the manna in the Old Testament; it only lasted one day. If you kept it longer than one day it rotted. It spoiled. Manna was God’s resources for that one day (yes, except for Friday when twice as much was given and it lasted for two days.)
I had a lady come to me one time and said, "Steve, your sermons are like manna from heaven!" I said, “Oh, that’s great! That means in 24 hours it’s rotten! That means on Monday it’s no good!” But that is why you need to read your Bible on Monday, then again on Tuesday, then again on Wednesday, then again on Thursday. . . You get the idea!
He's saying God doesn't give you the power today to worry about the problems of tomorrow. So if you're going to worry about tomorrow's problems today, you're doing it on your own without God's power. First, He says, commit your life to Him and put Him number one in your life. Then number two, live one day at a time. The third thing that we need to do is:
3. (Vs. 30) God says, "If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, will He not much more clothe you, oh you of little faith?" Circle "faith". The issue is trust. The third step is TRUST GOD TO CARE FOR THOSE THINGS BEYOND YOUR CONTROL. The root of worry is a lack of faith. "Oh, you of little faith." Worry and trust can't live in the same house. When worry comes in the front door, trust goes out the back door, and it stays out until you invite it back in. When you invite trust back in, worry goes out the back door. Trust God to handle those things you can't handle anyway, the things that are beyond your control. There are things in your life that are beyond your control.
You say, "Are you saying we shouldn't plan for tomorrow?" No, not at all, Scripture teaches us to. Even Jesus said, "What guy goes to build a house and doesn't consider it? What man goes to war without counting his troops?" Of course you ought to plan. You can plan for tomorrow but you've got to live in today. You can't live in tomorrow. You have to live today, in the here and now. Sometimes the future seems so overwhelming and it seems like it’s going to consume you but fortunately God has designed our lives so that it comes to us in little bite- size pieces, 24-hour segments, called days. Just like the hourglass and the sand, it only goes through a grain at a time. You only have to face life one day at a time.
Did you hear about the grandfather clock that had a nervous breakdown? He goes to the psychologist and says, "I'm nervous. I'm going to crack up. I have to tick and then tock every second, that’s 172,000 ticks a day, that's 61 million ticks a year. I can't handle it! I'm going to crack up!" That's the way we treat life. The psychologist said, "Just take it one tick at a time."
That's what Jesus is telling us here. Is life tough on you? Did you have a tough week? Take it one tick at a time. Don't worry about tomorrow. Don't worry about next week. Take it one tick at a time.
Trust is the essence. Trust is the key. Trust is a must. So, how do you trust? Here are two practical suggestions:
1. Don't panic -- pray.
When you start to panic, pray instead. Philippians 4:6-8 says when all these problems come into your life, “be anxious for nothing. But in everything by prayer and supplication make your requests known to God." If it isn't worth praying about, it isn't worth worrying about. If we'd pray more, I’m sure we would worry less. If we'd pray about everything we worried about, we'd have a lot less things to worry about. Prayer does change things, worry doesn't. When you start to worry, stop and pray. Also, 1 Peter 5:7 says "Cast all your cares on Him." The word doesn't mean toss it like in a javelin throw. It literally means just let go, drop it. Let it go! Turn it loose! Don't panic, pray.
2. Learn and memorize the promises of God in His word. Read the Scripture. Get into a Community Care Group. Everybody needs to be in one of our Community Care Groups where you can learn those promises together and pray for each other and encourage each other.
How many of you have insurance policies? When I get an insurance policy, like on health, I read it through and see what all it covers. I don't worry about those things because I know I'm covered. When I bought my car, I bought an insurance policy that would cover it. I read through all the things it would cover if it broke. I don't worry about it.
People who worry just don't know what’s in God's Word. They don't know all the things that He's promised to cover in your life. We need His Word in our lives so we know that He has us covered.
We're in this series on “Feeling Free Again” and I wanted to talk about this, this morning because I find so many people who are bound up by worry. They're not really free. They're tied down by their worries. Jesus said, "Don't worry! Just trust in Me!”
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