The other day I was reading something written by a pastor from generations gone by, and he said of this certain thing: “This is something which is highly dishonoring to God, a sin which we need to make conscience of, confessing it with shame, and seeking grace to avoid any further repetitions thereof.” (Pink p. 219)
That’s pretty strong isn’t it? “Highly dishonoring to God.” No one who knows and loves God would want to be found doing something that is “highly dishonoring to God”, right? But the truth is, that many of us ARE, even today, because that pastor was writing about the sin of worry.
People are worried about a lot of things these days. Last weekend we took up an offering for hurricane disaster relief in Houston, TX, and now this weekend there is another, even stronger hurricane bearing down on our country — and even on our own state — with perhaps a couple more behind it! Then we see where North Korean leader Kim Jong Un is threatening to send ICBM’s with hydrogen bombs against the U.S, the strongest such threat since the Cuban Missile Crisis of the 1960’s. Others of us would say, Listen, I can’t even worry about hurricanes or atomic bombs, I’ve got some things going on my own life: I need a job; I don’t know where my next meal is going to come from; I’m worried about my family …
Worry is one of the most common ailments that we face as human beings. Most of us would admit that there are times when we worry about one thing or another — and maybe you would admit that you are worried about something even today.
So it is for good reason that Jesus spends the whole second part of Matthew Chapter 6 addressing worry. Three times in these verses He commands His people not to worry: :25, :28, :31, He repeatedly says “Do not be anxious”! Now the people in His day were worried about food and clothing. And many of them had legitimate needs: remember when the 5000 gathered to hear Jesus, and it was time to eat, that they didn’t have anything. The disciples went out and “scoured the crowd” and only came up with 5 loaves and 2 fish. They really were a poor people who had needs for daily food that many of us today have no concept of. But Jesus commanded them not to worry, and what He said to them, applies to US today too. We may not be worrying about the exact same things that they were, but many of us worry nonetheless. And Jesus says, if you are My child, you should NOT be worrying! And He shows us why here in the second part of Matthew 6:
I. SOME REASONS NOT TO WORRY:
A. Worry Distracts You From More Important Things
The opening words of this section are important. Jesus began it by saying: “FOR THIS REASON” — don’t miss this context. Again, Jesus isn’t just shifting to a totally new topic. These verses are all related. We saw last week that after spending the first part of Matthew 6 warning us against being hypocrites, Jesus urged us not to live for this world — not for the approval of men, or the material things of this world — but to live for heaven. And He closed that section with :24, saying that you can only really set your heart on ONE thing (“no man can serve two masters”) so BECAUSE of that, “FOR THIS REASON”, He says, do not be worried about your food or drink or clothing. Because if the focus of your life is on worrying about all of those things, then your focus will NOT be on the Kingdom of God, which should be your main concern.
I know Josh Peterson is reading C.S. Lewis’ Screwtape Letters, one of my all-time favorite books. The book is a fictitious account of a senior demon who writes to his nephew, giving him advice on how to afflict the human that the devil has put him in charge of trying to get to hell. In one chapter the demon tells his nephew: “There is nothing like suspense and anxiety for barricading a human’s mind against the Enemy. … Our business is to keep them thinking about what will happen to them.”
And of course the reason they want us to keep worrying about what will happen to us, is that we can’t be focusing on GOD, and His kingdom work, if we are worried about all these other things.
— You can say: I think God’s calling me into ministry but I don’t know how I’d be provided for. See, you can only either serve God, or money. You can either go ahead and obey God, or stay where you are, and worry about the money, but you can’t do both.
— Or: I think God wants me to go on a mission trip, but I’m afraid I’ll catch an illness, or the plane will crash, or get hijacked. You can either further the Kingdom, or worry about all that stuff; but you can’t focus on both.
— A church can say: we think we should build, but we’re worried about what the economy might do. That church can either focus on building the Kingdom, or worrying about the economy. Not both.
— An individual may say: I’m so worried about this incoming hurricane. Well if you are all focused on that worry, you are NOT going to be thinking about how you can help other people around you, whom you may be able to minister to, and witness to, during this time (which is a great time to do that!) but you never will do it if all you are doing is worrying!
We’ve really got to determine what our focus going to be: the things we’re tempted to worry about, or our service for the Kingdom of God? One or the other is going to determine what you do. As Jesus says here: “You can’t serve two masters.” If you’re worried about all these other things, you can’t really focus on the more important business of the Kingdom of God.
That’s one reason why Jesus says later in this chapter: “Seek first the Kingdom of God, and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” Because He knows we can only truly focus on one thing in our lives: either serving His Kingdom, or worrying about our finances, or our health, or the hurricane, or whatever. So He says, don’t waste your focus on these things. Focus on the Kingdom. Focus on serving ME, focus on ministering to people — and I’ll take care of you. But if you focus on all these temporary worries, you’ll never be able to do what He’s appointed you to do for His eternal kingdom — which is the only thing that really matters in the end. So He says don’t worry; it distracts your focus from more important things.
B. Because it does no good to worry
:27 “And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his life?
There’s a little bit of a debate as to whether this expression means adding to the “length” of your life, or adding to your “height.” The truth is, it doesn’t matter, because both basically mean the same thing: you can’t add an inch to your height, or a day to your life, by worrying. It adds absolutely NOTHING positive to your life to worry. In fact, if anything, worrying will shorten your life, as it can become the source of all kinds of health problems. But nothing good comes from worry and anxiety.
Byron Cox and I were chatting on Facebook the other day about watching football games, and he asked me if I ever got so involved that I tried to “will” them on to do something. I had to laugh; I’m one of those people, who, especially if it’s a big OU game, squirms on the couch as they try to avoid a tackler, or sits up while they are trying to reach something. My legs move, my teeth grit, I strain with them — It all started with my first OU/Nebraska game, back in 1971 (“the game of the century”). I noticed after the game that my stomach was literally sore from being so tense during that game! Some of you football fans know, it can be stressful! But do you know how much good I have done for the team all these years through all my anxiety, all my sweating, all my straining, all my “helping”? NONE! It didn’t accomplish anything. It didn’t help a bit. It didn’t add a single yard to the total, nor a single point to the scoreboard!
And you know what, neither does your worrying! It doesn’t add a single thing to your problem — and in fact it can even create MORE problems for you, as it wears away at your physical and mental and emotional health. So Jesus says don’t worry, because it does not do you good to worry; in fact, it can make things worse.
Jesus gives us several reasons in this chapter why we shouldn’t worry, but most of them boil down to one Big Reason:
II. THE BEST REASON NOT TO WORRY: YOUR HEAVENLY FATHER
Jesus says the very best reason not to worry is that you have a Father who will take care of you.
In :26 He said, “Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, nor reap, nor gather into barns, and yet your Heavenly Father feeds them.”
Here Jesus introduces what is really the central thought of this chapter. I don’t know if you have noticed, and again, so many of us have heard the words of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount so many times that it’s easy for us to take them for granted, but when you really look at it, it is striking how many times in the Sermon on the Mount that Jesus refers to God as our FATHER in Heaven. Over and over we see this in this great sermon:
— 5:45 He tells us to love our enemies “so that you may be sons of your FATHER who is in heaven.”
— 5:48 “Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly FATHER is perfect.”
— 6:1 Don’t be hypocrites, or “you have no reward with your FATHER who is in heaven.”
— 6:4 “your FATHER who sees what is done in secret will reward you.”
— 6:6 Pray in your closet and “pray to your FATHER who is in secret, and your FATHER who sees in secret will reward you.”
— 6:8 “Your FATHER knows what you need before you ask Him.”
— 6:9 “Pray then in this way, Our FATHER who art in heaven …”
— 6:14 If you forgive others, “Your Heavenly FATHER will also forgive you.”
— 6:15 If you do not forgive others, “then your FATHER will not forgive your transgressions.”
— 6:18 Don’t fast to be seen by men, “but by your FATHER who is in secret, and your FATHER who sees in secret will reward you.”
— :26 the birds of the air … ‘and yet your Heavenly FATHER feeds them.”
— :32 “Your heavenly FATHER knows that you need all these things.”
— Then in 7:7-11, “Ask, and it will be given to you … for what man is there among you, who, when his son asks for a loaf, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, he will not give him a snake will he? If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will YOUR FATHER who is in heaven give what is good to those who ask Him!”
Over and over here in the Sermon on the Mount — least 14 times! —Jesus refers to God in heaven as our FATHER. Do you think He might be trying to emphasize something to us?!
God is NOT just a “master”; He is not just a “king”; He is not just a “boss” (though there is a sense in which some of these things are true) but more than anything else, Jesus says over and over and over that we are to see God as a Heavenly FATHER.
And this especially comes to the forefront here in the second part of Matthew 6, as Jesus talks about worry and anxiety. He says don’t worry about all these things, because your FATHER in heaven will take care of you:
— He knows what you need even before you ask Him (6:8)
— You’re worth much more to Him than other beings He takes provides for (6:26)
— He knows that you need all these things (6:32)
— And He says if WE know how to take care of our own kids, how much more will HE take care of us? (7:11)
So really the ONE lesson we need to take away from the second part of Matthew 6, perhaps more than any other, is that if you are a Christian, you have a Heavenly Father who loves you, who will take care of what concerns you, and you don’t need to worry about it. Your FATHER will care of you!
Now, if you’re like me, it can be hard for you sometimes to really comprehend that God sees you as a child whom He loves and will care for. I think of our kids, like Michael, who has gone off to college at North Greenville. Before he left, we did everything we could to prepare him and provide for him. We cut back on several areas in our budget to help pay for his tuition at a private school. Cheryl took him to Bed, Bath, & Beyond and bought all kinds of sheets and towels and coffee pots, and dishes and cleaning supplies and everything you could imagine for his room. Everything is pretty compact there at NGU, and he may not need a car, but we left him Cheryl’s car at least for a few weeks, to make sure he can get out and get whatever he might need. (We had one relative who told us, “Well, Michael needs to provide for himself!” — and he has been. Some of you know he worked at K-Mart this past year; he did not just “blow” that money on things like a lot of kids do; virtually penny of what he earned he saved to pay for his school. But he can’t provide it all for himself, and we love him; he is our son; he is going in a great direction with his life, and we want to help him as much as we can — especially since he plans to go into God’s work. And I know you all; you are the same way with your kids. Sometimes to a fault, we love them, don’t we, and we want to provide for them whatever we can.
BUT DON’T YOU SEE; JESUS IS TELLING US HERE IN MATTHEW 6 THAT THE WAY THAT YOU LOVE AND PROVIDE FOR YOUR KIDS IS JUST HOW MUCH GOD LOVES AND PROVIDES FOR YOU!! Maybe you’ve never realized that; maybe you didn’t have an earthly father around as you were growing up; or may you didn’t have a father who really loved you and provided for you, and so you don’t understand what this kind of fatherly love and provision is all about — but the message of the Bible is that God loves you like a good earthly Father loves his children — and infinitely more so. And we need to realize that, and stop worrying, because our Heavenly Father is going to take care of us.
When Hudson Taylor went as a missionary to China in the 1800’s, some of his well-meaning friends were concerned that during his absence, the people in England who were giving to his mission cause would forget him, and his provision would suffer. But Taylor said: “I am taking my children with me, and I notice it is not difficult to remember that they need breakfast in the morning, dinner at midday and supper at night. Indeed, I could not forget them if I tried. And I find it impossible to think that our Heavenly Father is less tender and mindful of His children than I, a poor earthly father, am of mine. No, HE will not forget us!” (TAYLOR, p. 125)
See, this is really what it’s all about: you love and care for your children — and you need to understand that that is exactly what God is going to do for you. So stop worrying, and start trusting your Heavenly Father to love you at least as much as you love your own kids!
III. DO YOU TRUST YOUR HEAVENLY FATHER?
But I must add before we close, that this certainty and peace is ONLY available for those who do know that God really IS their Heavenly Father.
Now, someone may say, but isn’t God EVERYONE’S Father? There is a SENSE in which He is the “Father” of all, in the sense that He made us all, and loves us all. But the problem is that every one of us has walked away from God — just like in the story of the Prodigal Son in Luke 15. That son basically swore off his father; took everything that was due him, and left. The reason Jesus told that story the way He did is that this is exactly the picture of what we have each done with our Heavenly Father. We’ve walked away from Him, and told Him that we wanted to go our own way; do our own thing. This is what is called “sin.” And the Bible says our sins have caused a separation between us and God.
But just like the Father in the story of the Prodigal Son, God still loves us, and wants us to return to Him. So God came to earth in the Person of Jesus Christ, and died on the cross to pay for our sins, so that we could come back to Him. And John 1:12 says “As many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become CHILDREN OF GOD.” When you turn back from your sin, and follow Jesus as your Lord & Savior, then you are in a sense “adopted back” into the family God, and God becomes your Heavenly Father in truth. You have His forgiveness, His Spirit comes into your heart; He has a plan for your life to use you in His Kingdom — AND Jesus tells us here in Matthew 5-7, He will provide for you, just like a Father does His children, so that you have no need to worry about anything.
But that confidence that you don’t need to worry is ONLY for those who know that they have come back to their Heavenly Father through Jesus Christ.
So your first step towards eliminating worry from your life today may be to commit your life to God through accepting Jesus as your Lord & Savior. You’ll never begin to lose your worries until you have done that.
Then after you have done that, you just need to purposefully TRUST yourself and everything about you, to your Heavenly Father. Philippians 4:6 commands us: “Be anxious for nothing, but in all things through prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God, and the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, shall guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.”
That scripture tells us that whenever we are tempted to worry about something, we need to pray, and give that thing to God, and trust Him with it, and let Him give you His peace about it. Now this can really become a spiritual battleground for some of us. The devil and his demons are going to keep throwing worrying thoughts at you — and honestly, some of us have gotten into bad habits of worrying about things, so this is a stronghold in your life. But we have to do spiritual warfare in our minds, and take these thoughts captive to God’s truth when they come. Say, “NO! I am not giving in to that worry. Tell yourself the scriptural reasons why you should not worry — quote Philippians 4:6, and some of these verses from Matthew 6 (another good reason why we need to be memorizing scripture, so we can fight these spiritual battles in our minds) and as often as they come, keep pushing those evil thoughts out with the word of God! If you’re a Christian, you know what is true about God as your Father. Keep quoting that and keep holding to that truth that you have a Father in Heaven whom you KNOW is going to take care of you!
Back in 2010 Cheryl & went to England for a month; it was the trip of a lifetime for the three of us. I have heard Cheryl tell people that one of the reasons it was so enjoyable was that she just told me the things that she wanted to do, and then she just trusted me with all the details and the directions and the provision. But what if she and Michael hadn’t trusted me? What if they’d kept saying the whole time we were there: “Are you sure you know where you are going, Dad?” “Are you sure you have enough money for this, Dad?” That would’ve gotten old really quick! It would have been insulting, in fact. I had studied, and planned, and prepared, and made sure we had enough to do everything we needed to do. For them not to have trusted me would have been an insult.
But don’t you see; that’s just how it is in fact with many of us and our Heavenly Father? He says don’t worry, but trust Me to take care of you. He says I’ll provide all your needs according to my riches in glory. But when we worry, we are saying, “I don’t believe you. I don’t think You are going to take care of me.” It is an insult to our Heavenly Father, and as that preacher said, it is a sin, and it is “highly dishonoring to God.” Do you realize, THAT is what you are doing when you are worrying?!
You know, a lot of us, especially here in the South, SAY that we believe in God. But there are some things in our lives that show how much we really believe. Last week we saw that the way we give, and the way we treat our material possessions shows what we really believe. Another ancient preacher, John Chrysostom, said that the way we mourn Christian loved ones and face death shows what we really believe. And this area of worry does too. God promises that through the gospel, He becomes your Heavenly Father, who will provide everything you need, and give you a home with Him forever in heaven. Do you really believe that? If you do, then one of the best ways you will show it, is by trusting Him, and not worrying. And if you don’t trust Him with things here on earth, then how much can you really say that you are trusting Him for heaven?