Freedom from Worry
P. G. Mathew | Sunday, August 31, 1997
Copyright © 1997, P. G. Mathew
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? Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life? And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies 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, O 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.
What Worry Is Not
In this passage, Matthew 6:25-34, the Lord Jesus Christ deals with our serious problem of worrying. Over and over again Jesus tells us not to worry. He gives ten reasons why Christians should not be anxious and guarantees that we can be free from worry. But before we examine what Jesus is telling us about worry, let us make clear what Jesus is not saying in this passage.
In the New International Version we read in verse 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," and so on. But the King James Version reads like this: "Take no thought about your life. . . ." Now, in 1611 that expression meant "Do not worry or be anxious," but today that meaning has changed. Consequently, many people who read "Take no thought about your life" have wrongly concluded that they should not be concerned in any way about providing for themselves. They think that they should not give any thought to their studies, their careers, or their work. In fact, they conclude that it is spiritual to be lazy and live "by faith."
I have had many opportunities to meet such people. They pretend to be very spiritual because they are taking no thought concerning what to eat and what to put on. They get up late every morning and faithfully check their mail to see whether they have received checks from those who have taken thought and worked hard. But those who live in this "faith" way are not spiritual; rather, they are freeloaders. They want others to work hard so that they can live by faith. In fact, they are usually very careful to send out newsletters to tell hardworking people of God that they should send them money so that they can continue to live by faith. This is not the lifestyle Jesus wants his disciples to adopt.
What Is Worry?
Let us, then, examine what Jesus is telling his disciples. In the Greek text we find the word merimnao , which is translated "Do not worry" in the New International Version. This word means to be divided, distracted, and double-minded. It means to have double vision, to be unfocused. Our Lord used this word elsewhere to refer to the anxiety of Martha, the sister of Lazarus and Mary. In Luke 10:41 we read, "'Martha, Martha,' the Lord answered, 'you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better and it will not be taken away from her.'"
Mary chose one thing, which was to sit at the feet of Jesus and listen to the gospel, while her sister was distracted with many other things. So I urge you: Don't be distracted, friends. Don't be double-minded. Pay full attention to the gospel of Jesus, and there will not be any need for worry. Be warned by what James says in James 1:8 that a double-minded person is unstable in all his ways.
In Matthew 6:25-34 Jesus argues his case for not worrying. Now, modern man has no time for reasoning. He is emotional and feeling-dominated. Even journalists who are supposed to report the facts of an event will make a point to interview people, asking them, "How do you feel now? How does he feel?" and so on.
Christians themselves have abandoned sound reasoning. They do not much care for sound doctrine; rather, they go to church merely to feel better. They turn their minds off as soon as they enter the sanctuary. But if any people should live by thinking, by reasoning, it is Christians. Why? Because they alone are made capable of proper rational thought. Christians are to live by their renewed minds.
Worry causes us to be anxious and fearful. It is not good to live in a constant state of worry. But in order to feel better, we must first think better. We must use our minds, and in this passage Jesus gives us reasons not to be terrorized by anxious thoughts. Let us, therefore, examine the reasons that our Lord Jesus Christ, who is wisdom incarnate and truth eternal, gives us for not worrying.
If You Do These Things
The first reason is given in verse 25. The Greek text begins dia touto , meaning therefore, on account of this, or because. In other words, there is a logical connection with what Jesus had taught previously in the Sermon on the Mount to what he was going to say about not worrying. What did he say previously? Jesus had taught that his disciples should store up treasure in heaven. He said that his disciples should have single vision and serve only God, not God and money, which is an impossible task anyway. So when Jesus says dia touto , or therefore, he gives us the first reason for not worrying: If we serve God alone, store up treasure in heaven alone, and see reality with a good eye, with single vision, then we do not need to worry about anything. In other words, Jesus is saying, pay attention to the gospel and you shall have peace.
Greater to Lesser
The second reason Jesus gives for not worrying is also found in verse 25: "Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes?" God's greater gifts also include his lesser gifts. We must always keep that in mind. If God has given us the greater gift of life, then we must conclude he will also give us the lesser gift of food to sustain that life. If God has given us the greater gift of our bodies, then we as rational creatures must deduce, conclude, and infer that he will also give us the lesser gift of clothes as well.
We find this type of argument all over the Scriptures. Read Romans 8:32 where Paul says this: "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?" Here the greater gift is Jesus Christ, the one and only Son of God. And in this greater gift of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ is included the lesser gifts of all things, meaning all things necessary for our complete salvation--salvation of our soul and salvation of our body.
In other words, as Christians, we can draw the conclusion from God's word that because he gave us life, he will provide for that life. That should cause us to stop worrying and feel better. It is as if I bought an expensive Rolls-Royce car. If you saw me doing that, you would easily conclude that I also have the ability to fill it with gasoline. This is called sound reasoning.
Observe the Birds
The third reason that our Lord Jesus Christ gives us against worrying is found in Matthew 6:26. "Look at the birds of the air," Jesus said. "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?"
Our God is the triune God of the Holy Scriptures. He is transcendent, meaning he is above his creation. But unlike the transcendent god of the Deists, the true and living God of the Scriptures is also immanent, meaning he is involved in the affairs of the world continuously. He is the God of providence who maintains and governs the world. So not only did he create the birds of the air but he also continually feeds them.
Now, some foolish Christians have concluded on the basis of this verse that they should not do any work. They say that because birds do not sow, reap and gather into barns they also should not do so. That conclusion is pure nonsense. Birds are not supposed to sow, reap, and gather into barns, but they are not lazy. Birds work very, very hard. They wake up very early in the morning to sing and look for food. They build nests in which they raise their young, and daily they feed themselves and their young. They travel thousands of miles in search of food and a better climate. They work very hard.
Yet birds do not worry. Have you ever seen a bird worrying? I have not. Why do you think they do not worry? The Lord Jesus Christ tells us that our heavenly Father, who created all birds, feeds every bird in the universe. In fact, in Psalm 147:9 we read, "[God] provides food for the cattle and for the young ravens when they call." God feeds the cattle, the young lions, and the birds.
As intelligent human beings, therefore, enabled by God in salvation to think straight, let us draw this conclusion: If God so feeds the birds who are less than we are in the scale of being, he will feed us also. Why? We are more valuable than birds. Jesus told us that, and in the Greek text it reads, "you differ from birds," meaning on the scale of being we are more valuable than birds. Humans are the crown of God's creation. Do not believe in the environmentalists' gospel which says that man is probably the same or less than the spotted owl. The Bible teaches us that man is greater because he is created in the image and likeness of God for the purpose of thinking and worshiping God. Therefore, beyond any disputation, we can draw the conclusion that God will feed man.
Not only that, the Scripture also tells us that God feeds even those who hate him. God's sun shines on the good and the evil and his rain comes down upon the wicked as well as the just. Therefore, if our God feeds the animals, the birds and his own enemies, again we can draw the conclusion that he who is our heavenly Father will feed us, his children, who are the bride of his only Son, Jesus Christ.
Notice how the cloud of worry is blown away by scriptural, rational thinking. When you think this way, you begin to feel better. I believe in feeling, but it should follow thinking.
The Futility of Worry
The fourth reason not to worry is found in verse 27: "Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?" Worry is useless! Jesus' question is actually a challenge: Who can by worrying add an hour to his life, or eighteen inches to his lifespan? It is a challenge to the competence of any man--the rich man, the educated man, the scientific man, the philosopher man, the political man, the technological man, or the medical man. And what answer does Jesus expect? "No man can do this very small thing." Why? Our times are in his hand. In God's time birds will fall to the ground and man will return to the dust.
All worry is useless. It is impotent and cannot add an hour to our life. In fact, if we study the subject of worry, there is indication that it can be detrimental to our life. If this is so, what is the logical inference? Worry is useless. Therefore, if you are a child of the heavenly Father, do not worry.
Who is Jesus speaking to in this section of Scripture? He is not addressing unbelievers. Rather, he is speaking to his disciples, the children of the heavenly Father. So the injunction not to worry is only applicable to a child of God.
God Clothes the Flowers
The fifth reason not to worry is found in verse 28: "Why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow," Jesus said. The word for see katamathete , from katamanthano , to study. Study flowers, in other words. Pay attention to the flowers and think straight.
Now, I myself have a garden full of flowers of various types, shapes, colors and fragrance. Jesus here is telling his disciples, "Why do you worry about clothing? Go and study flowers"and he is probably referring to the wildflowers, the scarlet poppies that come up in the spring in Galilee and carpet the earth with their beauty. Such flowers do not toil or spin to create their garments of exquisite splendor. No, God himself clothes these plants, the grass of the field, that last for a day with such splendor that no man, not even Solomon, can excel or surpass.
We must think about these flowers, and from this thinking we must conclude that just as he clothes the flowers, how much more must God clothe us. Why? We are his children and, unlike the grass, which is ephemeral, we are created for eternity. So God clothes us spiritually and physically, as we read in Isaiah 61:10: "I delight greatly in the Lord; my soul rejoices in my God. For he has clothed me with garments of salvation and arrayed me in a robe of righteousness."
Friends, look at the clothes you are wearing and ask this question: Who gave me these? The only answer a child of God can give is "My heavenly Father gave it to me because he is concerned about me." He has clothed us spiritually and physically. He did so today and he will do so tomorrow; therefore, we do not have to worry.
Grow in Faith
What is the sixth reason Jesus gives us for not worrying? It is given in verse 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, O you of little faith?" Faith negates worry. If you want to be guaranteed of a life of tranquility and freedom from worry, grow up in your faith and trust in God.
Christians who worry are people of little faith. Now, there is one good thing about a Christian who has little faith--I will call him Mr. Little Faith. That is that he is a Christian. He is saved and will go to heaven. Why? Because he has some faith in Christ, thought it be small. And when you study the Bible, you will notice that every time Jesus used this word for those of little faith, which in the Greek is oligopistos , Jesus was speaking to his timid, fearful, and doubting disciples. He never used this word to address unbelievers.
So if you are a Mr. Little Faith, you can rejoice that you are saved and going to heaven. You are in a much better condition than the person who has no faith. But even though Mr. Little Faith will go to heaven when he dies, while he lives, he is continually worrying and fretting. He behaves just like his pagan neighbor who can only worry. But if you do not want to worry, you must grow up in your faith.
Among Christians there is a range of faith, from little faith to great faith. We read about the great faith of the centurion, the Canaanite woman, and Elijah. How, then, can we grow in faith? Growth in faith comes through hearing and doing God's word. The Bible says that faith comes through the submissive hearing of the word of God. (PGM) Show me a person who is growing in faith and I will show you a person who is a student of Scripture. Such a person will be steady and confident, not worrying but working hard in the world.
Don't Worry Like the Gentiles
In verse 32 we read, "For the pagans run after these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them." The seventh reason Jesus gives for not worrying is that worry defines pagans, not Christians. Worry is the nature of Gentiles, not children of the heavenly Father. The Gentiles, the pagans, the unbelievers, the non-Christians, all run after the things of the world. They seek material things with all the intensity and determination they can muster. They live for material things, but they are blinded and without understanding about spiritual things. Pagans are unregenerate--without God and without hope in the world. Having no relationship to the heavenly Father, they store up their treasure upon the earth and serve money.
Pagans are characterized by worry. Whether rich or poor, they worry. Why? Because they trust in themselves. They have no great, eternal, everlasting, transcendent, sovereign, immanent Savior God upon whom they could trust.
So Jesus was telling his disciples, "Don't be like the Gentiles. You are citizens of the kingdom of heaven. You have been enlightened and made children of the heavenly Father in Jesus Christ. You are the light of the world and the salt of the earth. You are different, so live a distinctive life--a life of confidence, a life without worry, a life that is attractive to the world of worriers."
God Knows Our Needs
The eighth reason Jesus gives for not worrying about material things is also found in Matthew 6:32: "Your heavenly Father knows that you need them." God knows that we need sustenance for life and clothing for our bodies. And when God knows something, he will provide it.
Abraham learned this lesson about God in Genesis 22. When Isaac asked him, "Father, we have the fire and the wood. Where is the lamb for the sacrifice?" Abraham, the father of all believers, answered, "Jehovah Jireh" meaning the Lord sees, the Lord knows. Let me say again, if the Lord knows our needs, he will also provide for them, which he did for Abraham in this situation.
God knows that we have need of temporal things and that we cannot live without them, so he provides them for us. He provides them for the animals, for the birds, for his enemies, and especially for his own children.
God provides for us as our heavenly Father. Now, if you parents provide for your cats and dogs, will you forget to provide for your own children whose needs you anticipate and know? Read what Jesus said in Matthew 7:11: "If you, then, though you are evil know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him?" If you read the Bible history, you will find that God did provide. When the people of Israel were in the desert he provided manna each day and water from the rock. He kept their clothes and shoes from wearing out for forty years. When God sent a drought on the land of Israel, he knew Elijah's need for food and fed him by means of ravens and then through a poor widow. Another time he fed his prophet through an angel.
We must read the Bible. There we will find that Jesus once fed five thousand men and another time four thousand. And after his resurrection Jesus met his disciples on the shores of the Sea of Galilee and said, "Come and have breakfast." Then he miraculously fed them with fish and freshly baked bread.
What, then, is the eighth reason we do not have to worry? Our heavenly Father knows our needs, and from that we can deduce that God knows, not in a detached manner, but in an interactive, knowing, and providing way. David declared in Psalm 23, "The Lord is my shepherd; therefore, I shall lack nothing." As thinking people, then, we must conclude again that worry is irrational and unnatural for the people of God. God knows and provides for our needs.
As We Seek Him, God Will Provide
In Matthew 6:33 we find the ninth reason not to worry. Jesus told his disciples, "But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well." With total determination of their hearts and minds, pagans run to obtain money. In fact, they can do no differently, because pagans have no God, no hope, no King, and no kingdom. But Christians should not run after these things. They are to seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and God will give them what they need.
In Isaiah 52:7-9 we read this proclamation of the kingdom of God, "How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace, who bring good tidings, who proclaim salvation, who say to Zion, 'Your God reigns!'" What is the kingdom of God? Peace, salvation, prosperity and restoration. All these things come to us in the kingdom of God.
Therefore, not only does Jesus tell us not to worry, which is negative, but he also tells us to do something positive, to seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness. Now, unbelievers cannot do this. This is something that only believers can do. Do you remember earlier in this passage how he taught his people to pray, "Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name; thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven"? That is seeking first the kingdom of God. And after that Jesus instructed us to pray, "Give us this day our daily bread." So the idea here is to seek God's kingdom first with all our hearts, minds, souls and strength and God will provide whatever else we need.
Christians are to love the King of their kingdom with all their heart, mind, soul and strength. They are to submit to his rule and delight in knowing and doing his will. They are to concentrate upon that which is of the greatest importance--the kingdom of God and its righteousness and consider money as of secondary importance.
If we love God and seek to please him by doing his will, God guarantees to provide us with money, food and clothing. Of course, we must plant and water, but God will give us the water, the sunshine and, above all, the increase.
In Matthew 7:21 Jesus says, "Not everyone who says to me 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.'" We must seek the kingdom of God and his righteousness, meaning we must have practical, experimental righteousness which we gain by doing the will of God. So, friends, I urge you: Love God. Commune with him. Seek his will and do it. Practice righteousness. Fix your eyes on Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith. If we do this, God guarantees that goodness and mercy shall follow us all the days of our lives.
I have been practicing this exhortation and God has provided for me all these years. As I follow God, money follows me. That is why I do not beg for money. God has been adding to me all the things I need for temporal life for many, many years, and he will do the same for you all the years of your life upon this earth. So do not fret, but delight yourself in the Lord and trust in him.
Focus on Today
The tenth reason not to worry is found in verse 34: "Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own." This verse may seem anticlimactic, but God understands that we have a habit of worrying about tomorrow, so Jesus Christ is telling us to concentrate on the affairs of today.
Many Christians worry about the future while, at the same time, they fail to be productive in the present. Isn't that true? But lack of productivity today is a sure prescription for real worry tomorrow. We have enough trouble daily, so rather than worrying about tomorrow, we must receive grace from God for today and do all our work each day.
Most people worry about tomorrow but most of their worry is unfounded. It is simply based on their imagination. Let us understand this: God's compassions never fail and his mercy and grace are new every morning. Just as he gave manna to the Israelites each day, so he will give you grace for each day.
Therefore, receive God's grace and mercy and serve him today with all your heart by doing his will. Go today to your field. Plow, sow, harvest, and store. Do your duties as unto the Lord, worshiping him and serving him this day. Why? He who delivered you from Egypt yesterday is with you today in the wilderness. He will be with you tomorrow and will guide you through the Jordan of your sleep of death and bring you into Canaan land, to his Celestial City.
In Hebrews 13:8 we read that Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and for all tomorrows. Therefore, commit your ways and your work to the Lord, and heed the advice of the apostle Peter in 1 Peter 5:7. He tells us that if we are worrying--and we all do worry--we must come to our senses and cast all our worries--that is the way it is written in the Greek--upon God who thinks about us, sees us, and cares for us.
In Matthew 11:28-29 Jesus Christ tells us, "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light." Isn't that wonderful? God cares for us! He sees us and thinks of us. He thinks of us individually and he thinks of our problems individually. We can give him our burdens, our anxieties, our fears, our worries, and our guilt. And he will feed us, clothe us and add all things unto us. He will never leave us nor forsake us.
Let me tell you something: Your husband may forsake you, your wife may forsake you, your parents or your children may forsake you. This is reality. In fact, all may abandon you. But there is a great hope! Our heavenly Father will never forsake you. He will be with you always, even to the end of the ages.
Therefore, church, think! Think clearly and seriously about the gospel. Pay attention to the Scripture and choose the one thing that is needful. Then your worry shall be blown away by the mighty wind of the gospel of the kingdom of God.
It is not the will of God for us to worry. Rather, it is his will that we live in peace, prosperity, health, and tranquility. It is the will of God that we live our lives differently from those of the Gentiles. Then we will not be telling them, "Come to our church--I will teach you how to worry" but we will say, "Come to church, believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will learn not to worry, both now and forevermore."
Do you worry? I am sure you do, because we all worry and get anxious at times. I do not want to present myself to you in a way that you think I never worry or get anxious. I do. But every time I worry, the Spirit of the living God brings me to himself. He gives me sanity and sobriety and enables me to cast my anxieties on him.
May God have mercy on us all! May we tell God, "O Lord, I have problems and worries. I am living like the Gentiles even though I am a Christian. I am Mr. Little Faith, but help me, O God, to grow in faith and live a different life--a life that is winsome and attractive, a life of rest and peace." Then, by faith may we cast our cares on him, for he is the only one who is able to remove them. And may the peace of God that passes all human understanding fill each of us and steady us that we may live in God's peace now and forevermore. Amen.
Copyright © 1997, P. G. Mathew
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