Don't Worry About It!
A sermon based on Matthew 6:25-34
Sunday, July 7, 2013
It's been said that worrying is a lot like running on a treadmill. You do a lot of work, but you don't get anywhere. But actually worrying isn't that much like running on a treadmill because running on a treadmill is good for you. It's good for your health. Worrying causes anxiety. Worrying causes ulcers. Worrying causes us to focus on ourselves.
So what's the cure for worrying? Or better still, how do we prevent it? 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 a problem. This worry is sinful 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, or damn us for our sin. Instead he teaches us the answer to worry in the Lord's prayer as he teaches us to pray, "Give us this day our daily bread," and teaches us to put our trust in God and then, "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 I be able to keep my family together? Or get it back together? Will I ever be happy?
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." We worry, not just about our daily bread, but about our monthly steak, and our annual luxuries. And we do it all for naught. 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?" In fact, worrying can take hours from your life—causing ulcers, making you lose sleep, and be less productive and alert the next day.
But worrying is more than just a foolish act, harmful to your physical health. Jesus called our worries what they really are: sin—which is always damaging, and, if left untreated, 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.
A man was out hiking in the mountains one day when suddenly a thick fog rolled in making it hard to see. But he decided to press on anyway and try to get above the clouds. But suddenly he slipped off the edge of the trail down the side of the mountain and over a drop-off. On his way down, he just barely managed to grab hold of a shrub and hung on to it for dear life. He called out for help, "Is there anyone up there? Anyone at all?" And suddenly a voice came booming from the sky, "Yes. There is!" "Can you help me, please?" the man cried out. And the voice answered, "Yes. I can. Just let go of the shrub and everything will be okay." The man thought about it for minute and cried out, "Is there anyone else up there?"
Isn't that how we often act? 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. And when it comes to our finances, our health, or our family, we cry, "Is there anyone else up there?" Or worse, just try to deal with all on our own. We are full of worry because we lack faith. We're full of worry because we're way too wrapped up in ourselves. And we are guilty. Not just of some minor mistake, but of gross unbelief. And we deserve to be punished for it.
The man stuck in our cliff hanger hung on to his little shrub for hours. But finally, he grew too weary. His strength left him. And he let go. And sure enough, he was just fine. He fell through the fog—about a foot and a half—and came tumbling to the ground safe and sound. Didn't he deserve the burning muscles and the exhaustion that he felt? He'd earned them by all his worry when he could have avoided it all by simply letting go and trusting the voice up above.
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—for our daily bread—we deserve to have him leave us be to our own self-trust. We deserve to be counted as pagans. We deserve to be abandoned to our misery and pain and, ultimately, to 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. After all, he's let you go hungry for forty days already! Time to take matters into your own hands!" 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 away. He gave that perfect trust in God's providence to us. He took our lack of trust—our unbelief—on himself and endured the hell that our sins deserve. So now, when God looks at us, he doesn't see arrogant fools who bring about more trouble by our own self-reliance. 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."
Maybe in Kenai he'd say, "Look at the seagulls. They all go well-fed and I love you so much more than them. Won't I take care of you?" 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 from our Epistle Lesson: "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, had the fog lifted for the man on the cliff, he would have realized how foolish his worry had been and would have let go much sooner and he would have been at peace. But the worry and fear left him crippled. The same can happen to us: Worry and fear can keep us 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 let go, to be at peace, to really start living!
Now, knowing that he will always be with us, that he will always love us, that 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 that he'll ever let us down. We can be generous in sharing the blessings that 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 what others will think. Jesus has put an end to worrying by his gracious promises.
What's the cure to worry? Look to Jesus. Find forgiveness for your sinful worry and your unbelief. Find comfort in his gracious promises to always provide your daily bread. And "Cast all your anxiety on him, because he cares for you." (1 Peter 5:7) And when you grow concerned about your health, about your finances, about your parents, your spouse, or your kids, don't worry about it. Our heavenly Father values us more than anything and his 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, in his work for us, and is his promises to us, we pray, "Give us this day our daily bread. Amen!"