Worry is universal, but we would all love to know how to stop worrying and start living. Worry can literally paralyze us to the point of not even feeling alive, or functioning normally as a human being. People on earth have been worrying since the beginning of their existence. It’s not just you and me, it’s ingrained in the history of humans. Even Jesus talked about worry a lot, which was 2000 years ago. He probably got up to speak, looked out at the crowd and thought, “Wow they seem really worried. I think that’s going to be my topic for the day.” Let’s break it down and see what we might be able to do about worrying less. This is part 2 of a 3 part series on worry. Click on the link to see part 1 “How to Overcome the Worries in Your Life.”
Seeking first your own security will fuel worry. Seeking first the agenda of God will free you.
Why Should I Worry
- We are talking about worry and what to do about it.
- The reason there is so much literature on stress/worry is that the consensus is: It’s bad.
- Somebody said, “Worry is like prayer in reverse.” It makes things BIGGER.
- What fuels our worry? We worry about what we are most devoted to.
- So here’s what we discovered last week:
- It doesn’t add anything valuable or solve anything important. No clarity.
- We are to do all we can and then trust our heavenly Father to do all he will . . . he cares.
- What we worry about reflects our devotion. Devotion is reflected in emotion.
- How to stop worrying and start living.
If you want to know what you are most devoted to, look at the things you worry about the most. Understanding this connection is the key to understanding Jesus’ approach to overcoming the paralyzing effects of worry. We worry about what we are most devoted to.
“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. Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life? 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—Matthew 6:27-30
And now he goes to the heart of the issue . . . where we left off.
. . . you of little faith?
You with little confidence in God—ojligo/pistoß: in New Testament only used by Jesus. Combination of oligos and pistuo. Jesus made up a term. You “little faithers,” you! There is a relationship between your worry and your faith in God. If you had perfect faith, what would you worry about? If you believed God loved you more than birds and flowers . . .You can learn how to stop worrying and start living.
Why Do I Worry
How will I retire? How will I pay for school? How am I going to pay the bills? Who’s going to take care of me?
So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after [are devoted to] all thesethings,
Pagans—what we see is all there is. Security is up to me alone. Point: you are acting like God doesn’t exist. If you believe he does, you think he can’t be trusted! Jesus equates “worry” with “run after” in verse 25, “be devoted to,” [e˙pizhtei], seek diligently, be consumed by. Again, we worry about what we are most devoted to. We can learn how to stop worrying and start living.
. . . and your heavenly Father knows that you need them.
How to Stop Worrying All the Time
He does? Don’t rush by that. What if you believed? So what do we do? Here’s Jesus’ solution for worry: shift your devotion, if devotion drives emotion.
But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness [his agenda, his values],
As long as your kingdom is your priority—worry! If it is your priority, it is your responsibility alone.
. . . and all these things will be given to you as well.
What things? The things you have been so devoted to. Logical conclusion . . . final thought . . . wrap-up.
Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of itsown.
Jesus knew that our worries are rarely about NOW. They are about the uncertainty of tomorrow.
Do the next right thing now. Trust your heavenly Father to show you how to do the next right thing tomorrow, and eventually teach you how to stop worrying and start living.
While preparing, I read an article about stress and anxiety. It was about meditation. Typical stuff. At the end, the writer told a story about a friend who lost his 7-year-old daughter in an automobile accident. He began drinking. He lost his job. He went into a treatment center based on AA.
The writer visited him a few days before he was coming out, and he was scared about reentering life: looking for a job, explaining himself to others. He said the only thing that helped him cope with his worry was the AA slogan: one day at a time. He recognized that he could not change the past. He could not control the future. Either thought paralyzed him.
He said, “I realize that I’m always fine in the ‘now’ moment.” He would have to trust he would be fine in the next one as well. World-class worriers always end up there or self-destructing. It’s those of us in the middle who think we are going to add an hour . . . find clarity . . . be better off . . . if we cling to our anxieties about tomorrow. Read on to learn how to stop worrying and start living.
How to Stop Worrying and Start Living
- If there is no God, who has invited you to call him Father, you have reason to worry, to be consumed with your personal security and well being.
- If you believe there is, then why not take Jesus’ advice and shift your devotion to him.
- As we said earlier, the point is not to have a care-less attitude. The point is to do all you can do and then trust God to do what he will do.
- Worry makes things larger than life. Trust shrinks ‘em down to size.
- Clarity and direction are found in faith. Worry results in greater confusion and bad decisions.
Worry is a choice.
Seeking first your own security will fuel worry. Seeking first the agenda of God will free you.
Switching Sides – Andy Stanley
We’re talking about worry, and worry is universal. Everybody worries and has been worrying forever and ever and ever. Worry goes all the way back to Jesus’ time. One time, when Jesus had a little extra time to talk about whatever he wanted to talk about, Jesus talked about worry. So the encouraging thing is it’s not just you and it’s not just Americans; people have been worrying for at least 2,000 years. Because 2,000 years ago, Jesus looked out at his audience and he went, “Boy, they look worried. This looks like a good sermon topic.” So there are amazing things written about worry.
If you’re a worrier, you should go online. You should buy a book; there is all kinds of stuff to help you worry. Worry is essentially a preoccupation with tomorrow. That’s what worry is. Worry is: I’m okay right this minute, but it’s those future minutes that I’m not so sure about. Worry is a preoccupation with somehow wanting to control tomorrow or find certainty in tomorrow and you don’t really generally worry about right this minute. Read on to learn how to stop worrying and start living.
Why Do I Worry All the Time?
Isn’t it true you worry about the next minute? It’s all about the future. And as we said last week, the truth is you’ve never at any point in your life, in any category of your life, been able to control the future. There has never been any absolute certainty about the future. But at different times in our lives and different arenas of life we’re reminded of how uncertain things are, and that’s when we worry.Read on to learn how to stop worrying and start living.
Worry is about in this moment worrying about the next moment to somehow try to capture the attention of God or somehow being able to harness some power where there’s certainty about tomorrow. One article . . . I read as much as I could about this subject coming into this series, and one thing I read, one author, it wasn’t a Christian author, just a secular author said that worrying is like prayer in reverse. Worrying is like prayer in reverse. I love that because it’s true. Prayer generally makes issues smaller; worrying generally makes issues bigger.
How to Stop Worrying and Start Living
Because when we worry, what have we done? We’ve sort of cleared out all of the other arenas and all the other issues of life and we’ve focused our attention on one thing. You know: Am I going to get into that school? Am I going to pass the bar? Am I going to pass an exam? Is she going to call me back? Are they going to keep me in the company? Is our industry going to survive the recession? We get hyper-focused on the one thing and it gets bigger, bigger, bigger, and bigger, and we’re just totally distracted by something we can’t really, in most cases, do anything about. Read on to learn how to stop worrying and start living.
So Jesus, knowing all of this 2,000 years ago, it’s as if he wrote this for us in our modern day, addresses the issue of worry. The thing that he does, which is so helpful, unlike anything else I’ve read, Jesus actually gives us a solution. And all the other things, basically, help you medicate your worry or help you deal with your worry or cope with your worry.
Honestly, Jesus comes along and says that actually there’s a solution for this. This sets him apart from everything else. I think you should read everything you can about worry, and find books that help you with your stress and anxiety, and go see a doctor. All of that’s fine, but Jesus, I mean what he says is absolutely incredible. I didn’t want to rush through it last week, so we split it in half, and if you have your Bible and want to follow along, we’re in Matthew 6. I kind of gave you half a sermon last week and some things to think about, and today we get to the conclusion of what Jesus says about worry.
Read More about How to Stop Worrying and Start Living
If you weren’t here, I want to make three quick statements to kind of catch you up on what we talked about last week. Jesus made three amazing points in the verses we looked at last week. The first one was this: he said first of all you can’t add anything to your life by worrying. No matter how good of a worrier you are, you might be like a professional worrier, people may come over and say, “Help me, I’m not as good as you.” You might be like . . . your husband or wife may say, “You worry about everything. You worry about things that aren’t even related to you. You may be like the greatest worrier in the world.”
But Jesus said, “But you’ve never added anything to your life by worrying.” You’ve never been able to harness the future or reach into the future and manipulate the future by your worrying. You’re not able to add even one minute or one second or one hour to your life by worrying. You’re not able to impact the things that are most important to you, so basically it’s a waste of time, which means it’s a waste of life. Because your time equals your life. When you run out of time you run out of life. So when you say it’s a waste of time it’s a waste of life. Read on to learn how to stop worrying and start living.
Jesus says that first of all, even if you don’t believe there’s a solution, we can all agree on this: it’s a waste of time and life. The other thing he says is this, from last week. He said, “By saying don’t worry I’m not saying don’t care.” Now, one of the push backs you’re going to have today or maybe you had last week is when I read the verses where Jesus says don’t worry, you interpret that as Jesus saying well, don’t care. In other words, I have a big test, Jesus says don’t worry, so I’m not going to study because Jesus said don’t worry. In other words, He is showing us how to stop worrying and start living.
So I’m not going to worry about it. I’m not going to care about it. Your marriage is in crisis, your wife says, “We need to go see a counselor.” “Yeah, but Andy said that Jesus said don’t worry, so I’m not going to worry about our marriage. It’ll just all work out.” That isn’t what Jesus is teaching. In fact, if you read the life of Jesus you never find a shred of irresponsibility.
You never find a shred of Jesus saying, “Well, it will just work out. Who cares?” So saying, “Don’t worry” isn’t the same as saying, “Who cares.” In fact, last week we saw that Jesus taught the opposite. He said that God expects us to do all we can do, but once we’ve done all we can do, we don’t need to worry about the next series of moments.
Jesus taught we’re to do all we can do in the now. Have you filled out the application? Have you studied? Did you show up for the interview? Did you pay all the bills that you could pay? Have you done everything you can do? Is there a sign in the yard? You do all that you can do, and once you’ve done all you can do, you don’t have to worry about the next series of moments or days or hours, because your heavenly Father cares for you. Read on to learn how to stop worrying and start living.
Stop Worrying and Start Living
He isn’t advocating irresponsibility, so “don’t worry” doesn’t mean, “get a latte, a surfboard and just chill and hang out.” That isn’t what “don’t worry” means. It means that you don’t have to have a pile of anxiety over something you have no control over, which is the future. Because as Jesus said last week, we have the opportunity to be in communication with and relationship with the only one who knows and can manipulate and control the future. Then the last thing, this is where he’s going to take us today, and this is such a big thought. Jesus taught that the things that you’re most devoted to are the things you worry about the most.
If you want to know what you’re really most devoted to, track your worries, because your worries lead you to the point of your greatest devotion. Your devotion impacts your emotion, so it’s time to track those emotions, find out what you’re really devoted to, and learn how to stop worrying and start living.
That’s what we worry about. So one of the best questions that we can ask, as we think about the things that we worry about, is this: If the things I worry about reflect my devotions, what am I most devoted to? That’s where Jesus kind of picks up the thought and takes us to a solution.
Because if what we’re devoted to determines what we’re worried about, then if we could redirect our devotion we would conquer, in many cases, our incessant need or feeling like we need to worry about the future.
So we’re going to pickup in verse 27. I’m going to read three verses that we covered last week just to kind of get us going, and then we’re going to jump into the second part of this passage. There are all kinds of ways to find it, but make sure you get both sides of this. Then next week, as we close the series, we’re going to look at a story from the Old Testament. It’s a fascinating story of someone who, in a very dramatic way, bumped into some of these same truths. All right, so we’re going to start in verse 27. We covered these last week. I’ll just read through and then we’ll pick it up where we go.
Matthew 6:27 (NIV)
27 Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?
No. And he could have said, “How many of you have worried so much you’ve taken hours off of your life?” And we would all raise our hands.
Matthew 6:28 (NIV)
28 “And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin.
Like we do, we labor and we spin.
Matthew 6:29 (NIV)
29 Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these.
And remember last week Jesus says, “I want you to pause and take a little lesson from nature.” “Remember,” he said, “look at the birds of the air.” And we said, “We don’t have time for that.” “Look at the flowers of the field.” And we don’t have time to look at the flowers of the field. I’ve got to pay my mortgage and work on my 401K, if I can find it.
You know, we have all that stuff to do. And Jesus says, “Wait, wait, wait, I’m trying to help you. So just back up a little bit and I want you to consider, I want you to consider what I have done, have been doing, and what you have taught your children that I have done and grew up believing that I did. I created everything. Don’t you believe that?” Well, yeah, yeah.
“I created economy. I created the flowers of the field, the birds of the air. And they have instincts; they fly south and they come back. And flowers break through the soil, and there’s the circle of life, and you know, The Lion King, and there’s all this stuff that I put into motion. And you believe that, don’t you?” Yeah—“In the beginning God” . . . Yeah, I believe all that. I believe there’s a Creator. I taught my children that. We looked at the flannel graph, and did Vacation Bible School, and Noah’s Ark. Yeah, I believe that God’s behind all of that. Read on to learn how to stop worrying and start living.
He’s going, “Okay, okay, okay, don’t lose sight of those things that you believed as a child and you believed your whole life, because this is part of helping you overcome your worry.”
How to Stop Worrying and Start LivingAndy Stanley
Matthew 6:30 (NIV)
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—
Again, taking us back . . . Do you think that God is in control? Yeah. Do you think God started this whole thing? Yeah. Do you think God’s behind it and keeps the planets and . . . Yeah, I believe there’s a power; I believe all of that. He’s going, “Okay, okay, okay, if you’re that far along in your faith, why would you stop short of the next step?” And then this is where he kind of twists the knife a little bit, and this is where we ended last week.
Matthew 6:30 (NIV)
30 . . . you of little faith?
What’s the word? Faith. In other words, this is huge, even if you just stop here and don’t listen to anything else. There’s a relationship between the size of your faith and the size of your worry. He says the reason your worries are so big is because your faith is so little. In fact, this is really fascinating, and I didn’t tell you this last week.
There are two little Greek words that are combined together, kind of a compound word. Is that what you call it? Compound word, yeah thanks. A compound word, this is really fascinating, this word doesn’t show up anywhere in any other Greek literature, older or newer than Jesus. This word doesn’t show up anywhere else in the New Testament. Jesus made this word up. He’s the only one that took these two words that don’t go together and put them together where it says, “You of little faith.” Read on to learn how to stop worrying and start living.
How to Stop Worrying and Start Living
Literally, I think he was making fun of them and kind of had a smile on his face. Here’s what it would mean literally in this environment. He said, “Oh, you little faithers, you. That’s a word he made up. You’re a little faither, little faither, little faither. He says, “Come on.” I think he’s poking fun at them. He’s going, “Okay, let me get this straight, you believe God created everything? You believe the birds figured the whole thing out because God put it in them? You believe the flowers come up, and they die, and they replenish, and they seed, and the bees and the whole thing?” “Yeah, I believe all that.” “You think God did all that?” “Yeah.” “So you don’t think God can clothe you? Oh you little faither; you’re a little faither.” I think he’s just making fun of them.
He’s going, “Look, you’ve already believed the harder to believe part. Why don’t you just let your faith go the next step and say, ‘You know, I don’t know how it’s going to work out. I can’t control the future. I’ve spun and I’ve sowed and I’ve reaped and I’ve saved, and I’ve done all I know to do. And I’ve paid my bills, and I’ve worked hard, and I’ve studied hard, and I filled out the applications, and I showed up at the interview. I’ve done everything I know to do; I can trust God with the next series of “nows,” and with how to stop worrying and start living.
I can trust God with tomorrow. He’s going, “Come on, the reason you’re so worried is your faith is so small. You little faither.” Because there’s a relationship between your faith and your worry. People with huge faith, they don’t worry much. In fact, they bother you. They have the same set of circumstances you do and they’re not worried. And you’re like, “Come on, you need to join the worry club. The rest of us are worried; you need to worry. What’s wrong with you?”
And some of you have had the privilege of interfacing with, or having friends with, or living close to people, or going to church with people who really . . . they don’t worry. In fact, their circumstances are worse. Their future is darker. Their future is unsure. And you talk to them and they’ve done all they can do and they don’t seem to worry. They don’t even seem to be afraid.
And you think what I think when you meet those people: you think, “I don’t know how I would handle that. I’m glad that isn’t me. Boy, if that happened to me I would be a nervous wreck. If that happened to me I would drink more. I would medicate more. My family would probably blow up. I don’t know how I would get out of bed in the morning if I was going through all of that.”
And they just seem to be, not fine, but they’re just not worried. What is that? You’ve just met somebody with big faith. Because the bigger your faith the smaller your worry. So Jesus says, “Okay, come on, we need to talk about faith here.” You see you don’t stop worrying by trying to stop worry. That’s like trying to go to sleep. Remember when you were a kid and your parents were saying, “Now, just try to go to sleep.” You know, how do you try to go to sleep? I don’t know how you do that. Same thing. Read on to learn how to stop worrying and start living.
How Do You Stop Worrying?
If your husband or wife or your kids say, “Mom, you worry too much; stop worrying.” How do you do that? And Jesus says, “Okay, I’m going to tell you how.” But we’ve got to see this connection. Part of the problem is, and if you don’t understand the problem then you’ll never embrace the solution, it’s a faith problem. Your faith is small. You have not allowed your faith to go the next step. You have not even followed your faith to its logical conclusions. God did all of this. Do I think God can handle this?
He moves on. “Oh you of little faith.”
Matthew 6:31 (NIV)
31 So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’
Now, as we said last week, the “what shall we eat, what shall we drink, what shall we wear,” those were the worry points of the people in his culture. They are not the worry points for most of us. That isn’t what most of us are worried about. We’re worried about some things that could lead to the place where we would say, “What shall we eat, what shall we drink, and where shall we live, and what shall we wear?”
But for the people in his culture, it was day-to-day; it was hand to mouth. If Jesus were speaking today he may say something like this: he would say, “So don’t worry, saying, ‘Where am I going to find a job in this economy? How am I going to sell my house in this economy? How am I going to pay for my kids’ college? How am I going to apply for the scholarship? How am I going to get into that school? How am I going to get into the fraternity? How am I, how am I . . .’”
He says, “Whoa, whoa, whoa!” He says, “Don’t worry, saying, ‘Woe is me! How is it going to happen? How I can ensure a future for myself? How can I control the outcome of these decisions? How can I somehow harness God’s power to make something happen?’” He says, “Look, don’t spend your time stressed out over those things.” Listen carefully: not because they’re not important—they’re very important. Not because you should be careless and not care—not his point at all. He says don’t worry about those things. After you’ve done all you can do, don’t sit around worrying about the future. Then he really kind of twists the knife. Again, he’s just playing with us, kind of playing with his audience. Listen to what he says next in verse and read on to learn how to stop worrying and start living.
32. He still hasn’t given us a solution.
Matthew 6:32 (NIV)
32 For the pagans . . .
Now this is Jesus’ word, not mine. The pagans are people who don’t even believe there is a God, don’t believe there’s a personal God, don’t believe that God knows your name, and don’t believe there’s a God that answers prayer.
Matthew 6:32 (NIV)
32 For the pagans run after all these things,
Now, this is a really important little phrase. When he says, “the pagans run after,” that’s parallel with “worry”; that’s parallel with “seek”; that’s parallel to “devote themselves to.” He says, “Now look, come on, you guys believe there’s a God. You believe God did all this stuff.” Yeah, we believe. We would say that we believe God sent Jesus; we’re there. “Look, if you’re so stressed out over these important things, these critical things, these things that are important to life, if you are so stressed out and bent out of shape over all these things that you can’t get to anything else, and you’re so distracted you’re acting like people who don’t even believe there is a God. Read on to learn how to stop worrying and start living.
Why Do I Worry so Much?
You’re living your life practically as an atheist. You might be saying, ‘Yeah, I believe, I believe, I believe, but that’s irrelevant. I’ve got to worry. I’ve got to stress out. I’ve got to over-medicate. I’ve got to take the edge off.’” He’s saying, “If you do that, you’re acting like a person who doesn’t even believe there is a God.” Now, here’s where I think that little phrase is so important to us right now, where we are in this culture, in our nation.
See, all of us, to some extent, are arm in arm with people who have the same worry and the same needs and the same concerns about their industry, about real estate, about jobs, about school, about future, about marriage—you name it, there’s a group you could huddle up. We could divide up this room and say, “Everybody whose number one concern is what am I going to do with my house, you go right over there.
Everybody whose number one concern is that prodigal son or daughter that you can’t seem to get to act right, you go right over there.” We could all huddle up and be arm in arm. We all have the same worries and concerns. Jesus is saying, “Look, as you bump into, share your story with, and rub shoulders with people in the marketplace who have the same worries that you do, your response should be so different that they are amazed.”
In other words, they should be able to look at your life and say, “Wow, but you don’t seem worried. I mean you seem to care, you seem to be a responsible person, but aren’t you worried? Aren’t you afraid? How do you sleep at night? Aren’t you freaked out? What are you going to do? Why don’t you seem to be as out of control as my other friends who have the same issues?” Jesus says that this is your opportunity to shine brighter than ever before.
Jesus Calls us Not to Worry
You know I think as a church, as a culture, as Christians, this is our opportunity. Because we’re at a place as a nation, we’re at a place as a people where there is more to worry about than there ever has been before. At least, that’s the perception. Which means for those of us who face those same circumstances but refuse to be bound by worry, our light, and your light is going to shine a little brighter.
And Jesus is saying, “Look, if you give into worry, and you get sucked into worry, and you get distracted by your worry, there might as well not even be a God for you. You’re acting like everybody else. Here is your opportunity to shine brighter than ever before.”
Now, I know what you’re thinking. You’re going, “Okay, is there another opportunity to shine brighter than before? I’d like to have another opportunity. Okay, if we could just let this one move on and give me another one, like how to manage wealth. You know, he won the lottery, and all those people, when they won the lottery it ruined their lives, but it didn’t ruin his life. I’d like to shine like that. Could I sign up for the win the lottery shine bright?” But we don’t get a choice, do we? We don’t get a choice.
And Jesus says, “Look, your struggles and your temptations and your circumstances are common to all men. The difference is not the challenge. It’s not the trial. The difference could potentially be your response. Don’t worry, run after, fret, and get bent out of shape over where am I going to live, and what am I going to eat, and what am I going to wear? He says that’s what people who don’t think there’s a heavenly Father worry about. You should be different. Still, he hasn’t given us an answer. But listen to how he finishes out that thought.
Matthew 6:32 (NIV)
32 . . . and your heavenly Father knows that you need them.
Now, this is what separates the pagans from the nonpagans, this right here. He says, “Come on, don’t you believe or do you believe that your heavenly Father knows that you need these things?” Do you believe that? Do you really believe that your heavenly Father knows that you need these things? Wouldn’t it make a huge difference if you were just to live your life as if you really believed and knew that your heavenly Father . . .
Imagine it this way: imagine if tonight you’ve got all this stress—and it’s a kid thing, a marriage thing, a money thing, whatever it is, a business thing, industry thing—what if tonight, just before you went to sleep, in some way that didn’t totally freak you out, an angel appeared. And all the angels said . . . And you knew this angel was from God. I know this is kind of weird. And the angel said, “God knows. He knows.” And that’s all the angel said. Would that be like extraordinarily comforting? If you just knew for certain that God knows?
Even if nothing changes, even if you don’t know what God’s going to do, even if you have no idea about tomorrow—isn’t that extraordinary comfort in the fact that he knows? Read on to learn how to stop worrying and start living.
Worry About What Matters
Because if he knows, and he’s kind of worried about it, if he knows and he’s on it—then I don’t have to really be worried. And Jesus says, “Okay, by the way, in case you haven’t been paying attention, he knows that you need these things, which means they are important. This isn’t about it doesn’t matter. It does matter, but the good news is your heavenly Father knows, and because he knows, you don’t have to worry.
But you’re only not going to worry if you believe that he knows and you trust that he knows, and that’s why the bigger your faith, the smaller your worry. But if you could come to the conclusion: you know what, I really believe that God knows what I need, and God knows about my loneliness, and God knows about the stress, and God knows about the marriage, and God knows about the house, and God knows about my industry, and God knows about the closing. If I really were confident that God knew all of that, what would happen to my stress level? What would happen to my worry level?
Read on to learn how to stop worrying and start living.
How to Worry Less
Jesus said, “I know what would happen. It would decrease significantly.” And so he says, “Your Father knows what you need.” And now, drum roll, he comes to the solution. I mean he has made fun of us, he says you’re not as smart as a bird, you don’t have as much faith as a flower, you’re as bad as the pagans, you don’t have any faith, you’re a bunch of little faithers,
I mean he has basically made us all feel like total weasels. And he says that there is something you can do about worry other than trying not to worry, and I’m going to tell you what it is. He goes back to this idea that he introduced at the beginning of the passage when he said that you can’t serve God and stuff. The issue is your devotion.
We Worry about What We’re Devoted To
He says the solution to worry is redirecting your devotion. The solution to worry isn’t trying to stop worrying, and the solution to worry isn’t well, it doesn’t matter anyway. Who needs a house and who needs to eat? That isn’t the solution. The solution is to redirect your devotion. Listen to how he opens the statement that gives us the solution. You’ve heard this a thousand times. You may have sung it in songs all your life. Here’s how he begins.
Matthew 6:33 (NIV)
33 But seek . . .
What’s the next word? There’s a pause right there: But—big contrast to all that we have said so far.
Matthew 6:33 (NIV)
33 But seek first . . .
In other words, what you’ve been seeking first is the wrong thing. What you’ve been extraordinarily devoted to is leading you to the valley of worry. What you have been seeking first is why you’re where you are emotionally. You’ve been devoted to the wrong thing. And where you are is the result of being devoted to or seeking first the wrong thing. He says, “So I want to give you the solution. The solution is a transfer of devotion. The solution is to channel your devotion to something entirely different than where it’s been before. Because your devotion determines where your emotions are, and your emotions determine what you worry about.” Here it is.
Matthew 6:33 (NIV)
33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness,
But seek first—as opposed to school and grades and job and house and prodigal son and daughter and kids and singleness and loneliness. He said all those things are very important. In fact, your Father knows all about them. But as long as they are your primary devotion, as long as your primary devotion is financial security, as long as your primary devotion is a happy marriage, as long as your primary devotion is kids that act responsibly, and get a job, and get out of the house, as long as your primary devotion is all of those things—of getting in the right school, fraternity, and the GPA, as long as those are your primary devotions, then you’re just going to worry.
But I want to invite you into a whole different way of living and thinking. This is Jesus’ invitation, this is Jesus’ invitation for every one of us to surrender our entire lives to him—not a segment, and not just the area you’re worried about. He says, ”Here’s what I want you to do. I want there to be a reversal in your devotion. I want you to seek first my kingdom and my righteousness, which means I want you to seek my agenda for the world and to put your agenda second.”
Now, many of you, especially if you were raised in a Catholic Church or Catholic system or went to Catholic school, you know all about this, because you’ve quoted this a thousand times. If you were raised like me in the Baptist church, you only heard this mostly at weddings and it was sung. And this lady went like really high and would shake the chandelier, but in both cases you’ve either said it so many times you’ve forgotten what it means, or you heard it sung so many times you didn’t pay any attention.
But here’s what it means to seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness. It’s not complicated, it’s not theological, and Jesus summed it up this way when he prayed the prayer we’ve all memorized. Ready? “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth.” That means in your life, in your dirt, in your world, in your earth, in your marriage, your business, your finances, your school, your parenting, your kid-raising, all that stuff. They kingdom come—this is what he told us to pray: “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”
To accept Jesus’ challenge of seek first the kingdom of God, it simply means this. It means you pray like this: “God, you know how bad we need to sell our house. Apparently all of our neighbors are in a similar situation, because there are signs everywhere. Now we have added things. First it was discounted, and it’s got a pool, and it’s got a basement, it has a yard, we planted an oak tree.
Why Do I Worry All the Time?
And now the signs are trailing along the ground of all the things why, and then we started putting them on the top. And it’s been discounted, and discounted again, and we got an interview with the president. Please come by, somebody, come see our house.” And so you’re stuck. And I’m making light, and it’s very, very serious for you. You say, “God, we have got to sell our house. God, I don’t know how it’s going to happen. But God, thy will be done.
I’ve made a decision that your kingdom comes before mine.”
“God, you know how bad I want to get into that school and I have done everything I know to do. And my temptation is just to obsess over it. Is it going to happen? What if, what if, what if? But I’ve decided thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth, in my earth, on my dirt, in my life as it is in heaven. I’ve decided to seek your kingdom first and where I go to school second.” “I’ve decided to seek your kingdom first and my business and my industry second.” “I’ve decided to seek your kingdom first and address my singleness second.”
Worry About Nothing
“I’ve decided to address, in other words, I’ve made a transfer of devotion. Instead of being committed to my kingdom and trying to get you to answer my prayers, I’m going to take Jesus up on this challenge. I am, to the best of my ability, going to surrender all of my life and say thy kingdom come, thy will be done. And no matter what happens, at the end of every prayer, at the end of every day when I’m so tempted to delve into tomorrow, worry about tomorrow, I’m going to say, ‘Wait, you know what I need. I believe that. You know what I want, I’ve told you that. But at the end of the day, I sincerely, to the best of my ability, I want your will to be done in my life more than I want my way.”
And when you make that transfer of devotion, something happens to your worry. I’ve seen it a thousand times. Sometimes people are forced there through brokenness. Everything is so taken away, and life is so shattered, and life is so unpredictable that they feel like they have no option at all except to say, “God, I surrender everything to you.” God is going, “Well, you didn’t leave me with much, you waited a little long, but hey, okay, I’ll take it.” I just surrender all my life to you.
And they will tell, and you’ve been there at different times in your life, suddenly there’s a peace, and the Bible says it this way, that surpasses human comprehension. Which means it’s a peace that doesn’t make any sense, because nothing’s changed except something in your heart. And Jesus says, “Look, I know you’re freaked out and I know you’re worried. You’re wondering where the next meal is coming from, you’re wondering what you’re going to wear, what your kids are going to wear, and where you’re going to eat and sleep. And I’m telling you, you don’t stop worrying by trying to stop worrying. You stop worrying by exchanging devotion, by becoming devoted to something entirely different than you and your kingdom.
And so he says to his audience and to us: “And so I’m inviting you. I’m inviting you.
Would you begin, would you make the decision to open up your hands and say, ‘I’m surrendering everything—my good marriage, my bad marriage, my finances, my 401K, I’m surrendering everything to you. At the end of every prayer, after you know what I think I need, thy kingdom come, thy will be done. I’m trusting you for tomorrow—as if I had any option anyway—I’m trusting you for tomorrow, and I’m praying that you’d be glorified, and that your kingdom would be glorified, and you would shine brighter, and people would know you better because of what happens in my circumstances. That’s what I want more than I want anything else.’”
You say, “That scares me to death.” Well, there’s another option. Just worry. Just worry. “Well. Andy, if I open up my hands and offer God everything, what if he takes it?” What do you think is happening right this minute? Maybe that’s why you’re so worried, because you can’t control it anyway.
Worrying Solves Nothing
Okay I’m telling you, I don’t care how good your job is, you have no idea what tomorrow holds. None. “Oh yeah, I got a Daytimer, a Day Planner, and four assistants and a calendar.” You may not even make it to work. You have no certainty about tomorrow, so why would we worry about it? “I don’t know; it doesn’t make any sense.” But Jesus says, “I’m just inviting you, I’m inviting you, I’m inviting you to say, ‘In every area of my life, thy will be done on earth, here, as it is in heaven.’” And then here’s the surprise ending.
Matthew 6:33 (NIV)
33 and all these things . . .
What things? All the things you’ve been worried about. All the things you’re concerned about. All the things you don’t have any control over. All the things you don’t know how they’re going to work out.
Matthew 6:33 (NIV)
33 and all these things will be given to you as well.
They will? Really? Yes, because you’re more important to God than a bird, and you’re more important to God than a flower, and you’ve been invited to address him and call him your heavenly Father, so of course he’s going to take care of you. Then he closes.
Matthew 6:34 (NIV)
34 Therefore . . .
A summary statement; he’s wrapping it up.
Matthew 6:34 (NIV)
34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.
In other words, when your mind begins to wrap its emotion and its tentacles and its concern about tomorrow, he says, “No, no, no, that’s just when you stop and you say, ‘No, thy will be done tomorrow. Thy will be done tomorrow. Thy will be done tomorrow. I have done all I can do in the now. I have done all I can do in the today. Thy will be done tomorrow. I fully trust you with my tomorrow, as I have sought to seek your kingdom first today.’”
When I was preparing, I read all the stuff I could on worry and I read an article by a secular psychologist. It was an interesting article on meditation and how to relax your mind, your brain, your feet, and your toes, and your eyes, and it’s all good. Meditation is good, but the funny thing was at the end of this really sort of not medical kind of high-end kind of article about meditation and relaxation, he tells a story. And the story parallels stories I’ve heard all my life in ministry, but it was like this unique little “huh” kind of story to this guy.
Quotes About Worrying
The story was about a friend of his, whose seven-year-old daughter was killed in an automobile accident. The guy totally freaked out. He started drinking, he drank his way out of a job, drank his way out of a marriage, he drank his way into a hole. He just could not deal with the stress and the unpredictability of life, and eventually checked himself into a rehab place that was built around the AA model.
So the guy was in there for several weeks. When he came out, his friend, who wrote this article, was talking to him. And he said, “I was surprised by the sense of peace that he had, not only just in terms of alcohol, but just life. He had no job, he had left a trail of destruction behind him financially and every other way.” In this article he said he asked him how he was coping with the uncertainty, because everything in this guy’s life was uncertain. And here’s what he said. He said, “I’m hanging onto something I learned in AA.” The guy said, “What is that?” He said, “One day at a time. One day at a time.”
The guy wrote this article, a Ph.D. or whatever, and, “You know I think that’s really good advice.” And I’m going, “Yeah, it’s like 2,000 years old. Your friend didn’t discover this and AA knows they didn’t discover this.” Jesus, 2,000 years ago, said, “I’ve got an idea, why don’t you worry about today and let me worry about tomorrow?” In other words, why don’t you decide to just take this one day at a time, not because of a sense of fate, whatever happens, happens. No, we’re not trusting in fate. We’re trusting in God, who has invited us to call him Father.
And Jesus says, “I’m giving you permission, I’m giving you permission not to obsess over tomorrow, because I will be in your tomorrow. You just be responsible today. And then at the end of this day, you say, “But thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth, in my world, in my circumstance as it is in heaven. And I’m not going to worry. Not because I don’t care, not because I’m not responsible, but because I can’t control the future, and I’m trusting you to be there. And as my trust gets bigger, my faith, my worries get smaller.
So, here’s what I suggest that you do between now and next week when we wrap up this series. This is a version of something that many people have done for many years and I’ve seen this done in lots of different ways. I thought about wrapping up the service and having us to do this together, but I think this is a bigger deal than a quick commitment. Okay, Andy, I’ll pray, or I’m not going to worry anymore and you can be in control of me. You know we’re sincere when we make those decisions, but as soon as we walk out these doors, nothing has changed, right?
Here’s what I would suggest you do. Would you be willing this week at some point to get alone when you’ve got a few minutes, and this may be five minutes and this may be thirty minutes, and would you be willing to make a list of all the arenas and areas of your life, not just the ones you worry about, but everything.
Start with the ones you worry about—job, industry, next week’s closing, kids’ school, tuition—am I going to have to pull my kids out of private school, what about keeping my son in college. Here’s basically everything; here’s every arena of my life—my marriage, my husband’s job, whatever it might be. Just make a list, because this is life to you. This is that part where Jesus would say, “Is life not more than ?” And then you fill in the blank.
Is life not more than a job? Well, yes. Is life not more than clothing? Yes. Is life not more than where your kids go to school? Well, yes I guess life is bigger than that. Just make a list of all those things, every arena of life. Here are the areas where I tend to worry; here’s, basically, here’s my whole life. If you were to say, “Tell me about your life.” Here’s every category. It may be a word, it may be a sentence; it’s whatever you want to do.
Redirect Your Devotions
Then I want you to read this passage and I just want you to pray and say, “God, I know what happens when I hold this like this. I worry, because I want somehow for there to be the certainty and the future the way I imagine it. But God, I know where that has gotten me. I know where that’s pulling me. I know what that has done to my relationships, my thinking, and my health.
“So I just want to say that I’m changing devotions. I’m redirecting my primary devotion away from all of this. This still matters, this is still important, I still care, but I want to learn what it means to seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, so I’m letting you have this.
You’re going to be more important to me than all of this. I’m releasing this. I’m saying thy will be done. You know what I want, you know my hopes and dreams and my goals. I’ve got a plan, and I’ve got an agenda, and I’ve got sub point A and 3, because I’m organized, or I just have a general idea. Thy will be done. I’m devoting my life to you above my devotion to all these things.” That’s just called surrender.
And this passage is simply an invitation to what we say in lots of different ways in lots of different weeks. Would you be willing to surrender your life, what represents your life, to your Father in heaven? When you do, that will be a step of faith, and I’m telling you, that’s where the action is. It’s one thing to believe that, it’s another thing to trust him. Believe that is I believe that the Bible is written by God, or I believe that Jesus is the Son of God. I believe that we should go to church.
Stop Worrying and Start Trusting
I believe that, I believe that, I believe that. That’s fine and good. The action is the transition happens, the change takes place when you move from, I believe that to I trust in. And when you say, “God, I’m shifting my devotion from me and my kingdom to you and yours, and I’m surrendering and I’m trusting you with what defines life for me—that’s a trust in not a believe that. And something will begin to happen inside your heart.
Jesus says you conquer worry, not by trying to conquer worry; you conquer worry by surrendering your life to God’s agenda for your life. You don’t conquer worry by trying to conquer worry; you conquer worry by surrendering your life to God’s agenda for your life. You end every day and every prayer with, “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on this earth, in my life, as it is in heaven,” Then you cannot worry about tomorrow. because tomorrow will take care of itself.
Let’s pray together.