Don't Worry About It!
A sermon based on Matthew 6:25-34
Sunday, February 27, 2011 – Epiphany 8A
A man once ran into an old friend who was known for his worrying. He worried so much that he had been sick with high blood pressure and ulcers. "Hey, how's your health?" the man asked his friend. "It's great!" he replied, "The ulcers are gone! My blood pressure is 120 over 80! And I don't have a care in the world!" "Wow! Sounds great!" the man said, and asked with curiosity, "How'd you manage all that? You used to worry so much!" "I know!" his friend replied. "But now I've hired a professional worrier. I tell him what's bothering me and he worries about it for me!" "That's incredible!" the man said, "I'd like one of those! How much does he cost you?" "Well, he's not cheap," the friend replied. "He charges $100,000 a year." "Whoa!" the man said with bulging eyes, "How in the world can you afford to pay so much?!" "I have no idea," his friend said. "I let him worry about that."
Wouldn't it be great if we could hire a professional worrier and dump off all our problems on him? I mean, let's face it. We all worry. We worry about our health, about our families, about our jobs. We worry about what the future holds, even us Christians who know who holds the future. And this worry is sin because it's really a lack of trust in God and his promises to care for us. We're too self-dependent to rely on God. And yet, God doesn't abandon us to our worry, but rather encourages us to place our trust in him. By the time Jesus gets through with us today, we'll be better able to put our trust in God and "Don't worry about it." Listen now to Matthew 6:25-34...
25"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? 26Look 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? 27Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life? 28"And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin.29Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. 30If 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? 31So do not worry, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?' 32For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.
I. Don't Worry About It... O You of Little Faith!
Jesus makes it clear that we shouldn't worry, doesn't he? "Do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear." And yet, we all do it, don't we?
What sorts of things are you worried about? My job... will it be okay? Will I keep it and not get fired when the next round of layoffs hit? What about my finances? Will they be okay? Will I survive retirement? Will I be able to provide for my family? How about my health? Will I be okay? What if I don't get better? My family... will they be okay? Will my kids be deviants when they grow up? Will my spouse be okay after I'm gone?
This morning in a portion of his Sermon on the Mount, Jesus addressed our worries. First, he pointed out how useless worrying is: "Do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own." Someone once said that worrying is nothing more than borrowing trouble from the future. And what good does that ever do? "Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?" Worrying is like running on a treadmill, you exert all your energy and wear yourself out, but go nowhere. But actually worrying does have effects, doesn't it? Rather than add an hour to your life, it actually takes hours away. It increases your blood pressure, makes you lose sleep, adds stress, and can cause ulcers.
But worrying is more than just a foolish act, harmful to your physical health. Jesus called our worries what they really are: sin - which, if left untreated, is damaging, even deadly, to your spiritual health. He pointed out that worrying about anything is really failing to trust in God. If he cares for birds and lilies, why don't you trust that he'll take care of you? He tells you why. "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?" It's because you and I have little faith in God that we worry about anything.
In the 1800's there was a tightrope walker by the name of Blondin, who walked across Niagra falls many times. He did back flips, rode a bike, even crossed on stilts. There was no doubt in his mind that he could make it across. And there was no doubt from the on-lookers that he could make it across too. He would ask them, "Do you think I can make it across?" They would always cheer, "YES!" "Do you think I can carry someone across on my back?" And again they'd chee, "YES!" But when he asked for a volunteer, no one said a word. Did they really trust Blondin?
Do we really trust God? Or are we just paying lip service when we say to God, "I trust that you will take care of my sins and save me from hell," but then doubt that he will take care of our smaller, less important needs, asking, "Will you take care of my finances, my health, or my family... my church?" We are guilty. Not just of some minor mistake, but of gross unbelief. And we deserve to be punished for it.
Imagine you're in a fourth story room that's burning to the ground. The flames leaping in the doorway block your exit. The only way out is through the window. Thankfully the fire truck pulls up outside. They raise the ladder and a firefighter climbs to your window beckoning you to climb aboard to your safety. But you refuse. After all, how do you know you can really trust that ladder? What if it's not structurally sound? Or what if that firefighter, who you don't know from Adam, suddenly decides to push you off? You don't know what psychological issues these people have! "No thank you!" you declare. "I'll take my chances with the fire!"
Wouldn't you deserve to be burned for your lack of trust? Likewise, for claiming to put our trust in God for the greater blessings of forgiveness, resurrection, and heaven, while refusing to put our trust in him for daily protection and provisions, we deserve to have him leave us be to our own self-trust. We deserve to be counted as pagans and left to the fire -- the fire of hell. But thankfully, God loves us too much to leave us to what we deserve. Instead he provides for our every need, giving us his kingdom, his righteousness, and our daily bread on top of it all...
II. Don't Worry About It... Your Heavenly Father Will Provide!
Where you and I fail to put our complete trust in God, Jesus trusted him perfectly. Remember when he was tempted in the wilderness? Satan tempted him to turn stones into bread after he'd had nothing to eat for forty days and forty nights. In a sense he said, "You can't trust in God to provide for you. He won't give you your daily bread." But Jesus didn't fall for the temptation. Instead he answered with God's Word, "It is written: 'Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God,'" and he continued to trust in God -- perfectly.
But then Jesus gave that perfect trust in the Father and in his providing care to us. He took our lack of trust--our unbelief--on himself and endured the fire of hell that our sins deserve. So now, when God looks at us, he doesn't see faithless rebels who refuse to trust that he can or will help. Instead he sees his children, who have always trusted in him perfectly all the time.
And so, now you are no longer counted as a pagan, but as a dearly loved child -- one who God longs to care for, giving you not just the things you need to stay alive, but so much more on top of it. Standing out the mountainside with the crowds sitting around him, Jesus may very well have gestured to a few birds flying overhead when he made this argument from the lesser to the greater, "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?" Or in Matthew (10:29-31) Jesus put it this way: "Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from the will of your Father. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don't be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows."
In other words, if God will take care of the (relatively) worthless birds, you can be sure that he will certainly take care of you for whom he sent his own Son to die. The Apostle Paul summarized it in this one verse in Romans: "He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all--how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?" (Romans 8:32)
You know a dense fog that covers a seven-city-block area one hundred feet deep is composed of less than one glass of water divided into millions of drops. There's not much there, but it can cripple an entire city. That's a lot like worry. There's not much to it, but it can cripple people from being fruitful and productive Christians. But you know the love of your Savior. You know you can trust his promise to take care of your every need, providing food and drink and clothes, in a way far greater than he provides for the birds or the flowers. And when we trust in him, the fog of worry is lifted and we're set free to really live.
Now, knowing that he will always be with us, he will always love us, he will give us each day our daily bread, we can receive those blessings in thanks. We can be confident in our trust in Jesus without worrying he'll let us down. We can be generous in sharing the blessings God's given us without worrying that we'll have nothing to live on. We can be bold in our Christian living and in our witness, without worrying about being taken advantage of, without worrying what others will think. Jesus has put an end to worrying by his gracious promises.
You know, that man in the story who hired a professional worrier was maybe on to something. No, we can't pay someone to worry for us. But we do have someone on whom we can dump our cares and worries: on God, our heavenly Father, who promises that we can, "Cast all [our] anxiety on him, because he cares for [us]." (1 Peter 5:7) So, when you grow concerned about your health, about your finances, about your parents or your kids… don't worry about it! Our heavenly Father values us more than anything and he is more than able to meet all of our needs. "But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well." And through faith in Jesus, his work for us, and his promises to us, we say, "Amen!"