How to End Worry Once and For All
By: The John Ankerberg Show
November 3, 2013
Message – Robby Gallaty, Senior Pastor
Did God take care of you yesterday? Did God take care of you the day before? Did God take care of you the day before that? Then why in the world are you worrying about tomorrow? You know, some people have no problem trusting God to get them to heaven but they have a difficult time with God getting them past today.
The title of the message this morning is “How to End Worry Once and For All.” Someone once said that the average person has crucified himself between two thieves – the regrets of yesterday and the worries of tomorrow. The regrets of yesterday and the worries of tomorrow. I believe the great philosopher, Bobby McFerrin offered advice many years ago when he said, “Don’t worry, be happy.” Right? But as we will see this morning, Jesus gives a different kind of advice. And Jesus says, Don’t worry, (watch this), be hopeful. Don’t worry, be hopeful.
If you have your Bibles, and I hope you do, turn with me to Matthew Chapter 6, Matthew Chapter 6 and we will pick up in Verse 25. Now, before we dive into the text, let me remind you that as we begin Verse 25, we begin with the word “therefore.” And good hermeneutical principles will teach us that in order to move forward, we have to go backward. And what Jesus is saying is, everything that I just said up to this point built the case for what I am about to share with you. What I am about to share with you is about what I just said. And Jesus just said, “You cannot serve two masters. You will either love one and hate the other. You can’t serve both God and money.”
So in the context of worry, Jesus is talking about our finances, our pocketbooks, and basically He gets to the heart of the matter because the heart of the matter is the problem of the heart. Do you know that money is a hot topic in the Bible? In fact, as we look through the Bible, Jesus and the Old Testament Prophets repeatedly talk about money and possessions. Sixteen of the thirty-eight parables that Jesus preached about are about money. Did you know that? Sixteen of thirty-eight are about money. One out of every ten verses in the New Testament deals with money. There are 500 verses on prayer, less than 500 verses on faith…watch this…2000 verses on money.
Now, Jesus, why do you talk about money so much? Because Jesus knows and we should know that money is determinative of a person’s relationship with God. The way we spend and acquire and save our money reveals our relationship with a heavenly God. And so Jesus speaks about money.
Look at Verse 25. He talks about it in the context of anxiety and worry. “Therefore I tell you,” when you are there, say “word.” “Do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor even about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?”
Now I want to give you two themes for this text about anxiety and worry and the first one is this, worry rises from a perspective of earthly concerns. Worry rises in our lives when we focus on earthly concerns. The Greek word there for “anxiety” as you see it in the text means to be troubled with cares or to be worried. It is the root word that means to be pulled in two different directions. It means to be distracted. It is from the old Anglo word that means to strangle or to choke if you will.
A good illustration of this in the Bible is found with Martha and Mary. You remember the story. Martha is busy cooking in the kitchen and Mary is at the feet of Jesus and she is listening to our Lord teach and she is savoring every word from Christ. And the text says in Luke Chapter 10 Verse 40, “Martha, who was distracted with service was worried and bothered by so many things.” So she was being pulled in different directions.
Did you ever know that there is always “I” at the center of anxiety? I is always at the center of anxiety. Why? Because we are always worried about ourselves. And so Jesus says, “I tell you, don’t worry about three things: your life, what you will eat and drink, nor your body, what you will put on. And Jesus gives us three real world examples.
Write the first one down. Jesus says, don’t worry about your health. Don’t worry about your health. Verse 26, “Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them.” That is pretty neat. “Are you not of more value than they are?” Now think of birds how they work. They do not sow, they do not harvest, they do not till the ground, they do not gather in bards, they do not collect and yet they are fed. Birds never worry about eating. And so Jesus’ argument is this, since God created animals, He provides for His animals. Therefore, God created man, the crowning jewel of His creation to have dominion over the animal kingdom, how much more does God provide for you?
Genesis Chapters 1 and 2, it says that Adam was placed in the Garden over the animals. Don’t miss Jesus’ point here. Do you ever see the birds starving? No. Do you ever see the birds wanting more, always looking and worrying? Never. Then how much more does your heavenly Father love you, the crowning jewel, those created in His image? How much more does God love you?
Notice what Jesus doesn’t say. He doesn’t say look at the birds of the air, they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet they eat. Because that is what you would think He would say. Notice what He says. “Look at the birds, they neither gather nor sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them.” It is undeniable that the sovereignty of God should be the backdrop to our life, right? Who is the one that provides your food for the table every week? It is God. So Jesus says, don’t worry about your health. God has got that.
Secondly, don’t worry about your existence. Don’t worry about your existence. Don’t worry about your time here on earth. Why? Verse 27, “Which of you being anxious can add a single hour to his lifespan?” Can anybody add an hour to their life? And the answer is no one, not one person. Now James, who is the half-brother of Jesus, picks up on the words of Jesus when he says in James Chapter 4 Verse 13, watch this, “Come now you who say today and tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit. Yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring.”
Now James is not saying that you shouldn’t plan or you shouldn’t have a calendar or you shouldn’t set goals. That is not what he is talking about. He is saying that you shouldn’t be concerned about it as if you are controlling your own life. It is God who controls your life, right? God is the one who is in control, not you. And James finishes this way, you don’t even know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life, for you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes.”
I recently read of a man who had worried so much about getting cancer that for literally 30 years he was concerned that he would die of cancer because it was hereditary and he had it in his family. And so he worried himself with this thought that he would die. Thirty years later he died of a heart attack.
Friends, worry is a waste of time. Especially for a believer. Worry is a waste of time for a believer because we understand the sovereignty of God. So Jesus says, don’t worry about your health, don’t worry about your existence. Don’t even worry about your clothing or your body.
Verse 28, “And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?”
So in essence, what Jesus is saying is, trust Me. And then He finishes with this line which is pretty interesting. It almost looks disjointed. Jesus says, “O you of little faith.” Now don’t misunderstand what Jesus is not saying. Jesus is not saying that they have an absence of faith. Jesus is saying there is a deficiency of faith. They had faith. It just wasn’t much faith. Right? Yea, we believe, Jesus. But do you really believe? And so what Jesus is saying is, do you trust Me? And in the context of this passage, He is talking about finances.
Now I want to be honest and candid with you for a moment. And I want to ask you a couple of questions. Did God take care of you yesterday? Did God take care of you the day before? Did God take care of you the day before that? Then why in the world are you worrying about tomorrow?
You know, some people have no problem trusting God to get them to heaven, but they have a difficult time with God getting them past today. And I just want to place my finger on your pulse for just a moment and hit a hot button. Here is the deal, the reason you don’t give much money to the work of the Lord is because you don’t understand that God pays your salary. You see, the reason you are not actively engaged and passionate about giving money to God’s work is because you don’t really understand that the only reason that you are where you are is because of God. You see, you couldn’t have creatively orchestrated a plan to place you where you are today with a job, with the environment, in this church, in this community, you couldn’t have planned that, right? I mean, you think about it, God has you where you are and it is only by His grace. You see, there is no way you could have orchestrated a plan to get where you are, in your own power and your own intellect. God is the one who did that. And so God, if He is the one who did that, then we give Him the praise and glory.
You have to understand, when you understand that God owns everything, it is easy to give back a portion of everything you own to God because He has loaned it to you, right? You are a steward of your finances and your time and your talents to the Lord. And Jesus says the reason you worry is because you have a temporal perspective on earth and not an eternal perspective on heaven. So stop worrying about the earth.
But Jesus takes it a step further. Jesus says when you worry, it rises from earthly concerns. But secondly, worry…watch this…will reveal your heavenly perspective or the lack thereof. Verse 31, “Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’” You could take it a step further, how do we pay these bills? How do we pay this…how we have any resources to pay for these bills that have come in. “For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all.” Once again, the providence of God. And Jesus says one thing. He gives us a challenge, stop doubting God’s providence. That is what He is saying here. Stop doubting the providence or the sovereignty of God. “Seek” there, in the language of the New Testament, is a compound verb signifying intensity. This is not a nonchalant look for something, this is not just a happy stroll through the woods here, this is to seek with all your might. It is the word picture for duck hunter sitting in the blind waiting eagerly, listening and looking for the birds to fly by, not for sport, but to live. And with that same intensity as they are looking and observing and waiting, Jesus says, that is how we seek after these things. It consumes our life. But He says we shouldn’t do that, why? Because the Gentiles do that, the pagans do it. They are always worried about what they are going to eat and what they are going to drink and what they are going to have. And that is what Paul said in one of his epistles. He said, “We eat, drink and be merry and therefore we die.” Let’s eat, drink and be merry because we are going to die. And that is what the pagans do. You see, the pagans are always concerned that their future lies in the hands of mother earth or father future, or multiple gods.
But Jesus reminds us this morning that when you worry it is basically practical atheism. Let me say that again. When you worry, it is practical atheism. Why? Because you are discounting, you are lacking faith in a sovereign God. So why do you worry? Robby, do you worry? Of course, I worry. I am human. I am like you, I have physical pressures, I have spiritual pressures, I have eternal pressures, I have pastoral pressures, I have all pressures just like you. But I don’t worry for long. Why? Because I remind myself that God is in control, right? I don’t let it linger for a long period of time. And Jesus says it is foolish to worry. Don’t worry about your position or your power or your possessions or your financial security. The defining distinctive of every believer is that we should be courageous, that we should never worry. Why? Because worry is a waste of time.
Gracie Lou is our four-legged family member. And for dog lovers, you know exactly what I am talking about. For those who aren’t dog lovers, just excuse me for a moment as I talk about our four-legged family member, Gracie Lou. And if you know about a family member, you realize that a dog is man’s best friend when you are sick, right, because dog’s will instinctively know that something is wrong. And Gracie is really smart in a lot of things, but there are few things that I scratch my head and I am baffled at. Gracie, why do you do that? But then I am reminded that she is a dog. And one of those things that she does is, is chasing her tail. I don’t know if your dog does this, but it always starts as that tail rises up from the back and hits that ear. And what is crazy is, it is like her brain does not know that it is her tail hitting her ear. I am thinking…and it starts with just a single ring around the rosy, right, and that is how it starts. It is almost like you hitting yourself in the back of the head with a hand. Now who did that? I mean, that is what it is like, to me, I am thinking. And it always ends when that second tail swipe comes up and hits that ear and then it starts with a growl and then a look and then a stare and then the Tasmanian devil enters our living room, right? And she just runs and runs and runs. And one of the things I realize about Gracie chasing her tail is that it is a complete waste of time, right? I mean, Gracie gets exhausted and she actually runs nowhere. Listen to me, worrying is like chasing your tail. It is silly for dogs. It is even sillier for believers because you get exhausted going nowhere.
Let’s stop worrying and let’s start trusting God. Jesus says, don’t worry because when you worry, you are doubting God’s providence. But secondly, start seeking God’s kingdom. You know, in order to replace a bad habit, in order to get rid of a bad habit, you have to replace it with a new one or a good one. And so, you stop worrying and you replace it with seeking first the kingdom of God. Look at Verse 33. This is the crux, the crescendo of this section. “But first seek the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to who? To you. Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself.” Jesus is kind of tongue in cheek, I love that. “Sufficient for today is its own trouble.” Don’t worry about tomorrow, it has enough to worry about. You seek the kingdom of God today.
Now that word “seek” there is the same word from earlier. And it is the word in the present active tense. This is something that you must do as a believer every single day repeatedly. You need to repeatedly seek first the kingdom of God. Now what does it mean to seek His own righteousness or seek the righteousness of God? I believe what He is saying here is this is a Christ-like character. Seek His kingdom and His righteousness. So we seek the things of God and we live like Christ would live.
Now here is the key. Your outlook determines your outcome. Write that down because that is key to what Jesus is saying. Jesus is saying, your outlook, what you focus on determines your outcome, what you become, how you live. What do you mean, Pastor? When you focus on earthly treasures like possessions or finances or power or positions, you in essence, relinquish control of your life to those things. Okay? But when you focus on eternal treasures like the advancement of the gospel, like investing in the building up of the church, like taking the gospel to people who have never heard the name of Christ, then you are gaining the control of God or releasing the control of God in your life to Him in your life. So when you seek after earthly treasures, you lose it. Sounds similar to Jesus, right? If you wish to gain your life, you need to lose it.
So here is the deal, when your treasure is in heaven, you never worry. When your treasure is on earth, you always worry. Let me say it again. Listen to me, Brother or Sister, if your treasure is on earth, you always worry. Somebody is going to scratch it, somebody is going to break into it, somebody is going to steal it, somebody is going to harm it. But when your treasure is in heaven, you never worry.
Notice what Jesus says, “Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” Not all things, as some have misapplied this text. Jesus is not saying when you seek first the kingdom and His righteousness whether it is faithfully or financially, all things will be added to you. That is not what He is saying here. Look at what He says in the text. “All these things will be added to you.” And that word “these” modifies what He just said which is what? Watch this. Food, drink and what? Clothing for the body.
So what Jesus is basically saying here is this, He is saying, when you seek the kingdom of God first, you never have to worry about anything in this world to sustain you, ever. What an amazing promise. Now it is a conditional promise. This is not a promise that He just gives out to anyone. It is a promise that He gives to His disciples and us. And you see the hint at this future blessing in the millennial reign when Christ returns. And yes, He is talking about that. But more importantly He is talking about a present blessing for those who obey Him. He says, if you put God first in your time, talent and treasure, if you put God first in your finances, He will always take care of you. And that is an amazing promise, Church, an amazing promise. And so maybe if you feel like God is not taking care of you, the question I would ask you is, has God been first in your life?
You see, if you pursue building your own financial kingdom, you will never have assurance that God will take care of you. There is no assurance from Scripture that God is going to take care of your needs. But if you put God first, He always takes care of your needs. And I think, as I was studying this passage, the greatest example of putting God first in the testing of one’s faith is Elijah in I Kings Chapter 17 and I love this passage in I Kings Chapter 17. You can turn there as I am telling you kind of the back story. Basically Elijah who was the prophet of God, hears from God and God speaks to him and says, “Elijah, I want you to pray that it will not rain for three years.” We take for granted the request that was asked of Elijah. This is why. You have to understand, when Elijah prays for no rain, that means no rain for him. That means no drink for him, that means no food for him. You have to understand. So the prophet participates in the drought. But he prays in spite of what he thinks, in spite of what he believes would happen and Elijah prays for the drought. And he is affected by the drought. But God comes through. And God sends ravens with fake filet mignon in their mouth for him every single day. Look at the text. I don’t know if it was filet, but it was probably top sirloin. And so they send him food, meat, every single day. So he is sitting, no rain, the country is in a drought and he is eating filet mignon Ruth Chris, right? I don’t if it was Ruth Chris, but it was probably close back then to him. It probably tasted like Ruth Christ. And so he is eating this and all of a sudden, right in the middle of everything, it couldn’t go any better for him. Right in the middle of that, God gives him another test of faith. I love this. And God stops sending the birds. Have you ever trusted God before, particularly in your finances or with a decision to follow the Lord and then all of a sudden things start falling apart? And you start to say, God, what is going on now? I mean, have I done anything to offend you? What is going on? No, you haven’t done anything. In fact, I want to test you even more. You said you were faithful here, lets see if you are really going to be faithful.
And so God speaks to Elijah. He doesn’t have any food. God speaks to him and says, “I want you to go to a widow’s house.” You would think that birds carrying barbeque blew your mind? Then wait til you see this one. Go to a lady’s house in Zarephath, which belongs to Sidon, and dwell there. And I have commanded a woman there to feed you.” Just go to the third house on the right and knock on the door. I am home for dinner, and she will be waiting for you.” So he goes, look at Verse 11, I Kings 17. He walks up to the woman and he says, “Bring me a morsel of bread in your hand.” Hi, I am Elijah. And she said, “As the Lord your God lives, I have nothing baked, only a handful of flour in a jar and a little oil in a jug. And now I am gathering a couple of sticks that I may go in and prepare it for myself and my son, that we may eat it and die.” That is it. We have got one meal left for two and now you have just come in, now you want three and I have got one meal left. “for thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, (here is Elijah), ’The jar of flour shall not be spent, and the jug of oil shall not be empty, until the day that the Lord sends rain upon the earth.’” And I love the faith of the woman. “She went in and did as Elijah said. And she and her household ate for many days.” And what is interesting is, Elijah says, bring me first the food. Don’t feed yourself. Bring it to me first. Give what you have first to the man of God and then you can feed yourself. Trust me. “The jar of flour was not spent, neither did the jug of oil become empty, according to the word of the Lord that he had spoken through Elijah.”
What did this woman get or gain from giving Elijah all that she had at the time? Complete step of faith. She had her needs met. Now don’t overlook this. She didn’t get a new house. A new car, a new chariot wasn’t sitting in the driveway for her. She didn’t get a check in the mail. She didn’t even get barbeque beef delivered by the fowl of the air. This woman, that is all she had was her needs met. She didn’t die. Don’t overlook the fact, Church, that God has provided for your needs. Don’t overlook the grace of God when we live in a world where millions die every single day because they don’t have food. And yet we sit in a place with air conditioning and lights in a country that is free to share the gospel and we seize every single day. Don’t overlook God’s grace this morning.
But you know, sometimes when you give to God faithfully and financially, He doesn’t necessarily bless you back just physically, He will bless you back spiritually. Friends, let me remind you of something about giving. You can’t measure in earthly currency what God will do with a faithful commitment. And praise God for what He has done. And you know, by trusting in the Lord, we put God first in our finances and God has always taken care of us. Let me ask you, is God first in your finances? Is God first in your family? Is God first in your possessions? Because when we put God first, He always takes care of us.
Now this isn’t…I believe as I was thinking about this, there is no other tangible way to give back to God and express our faith than through a financial gift. Why? Because we are saying to God, we are trusting you to take care of us. And some of you have already come prepared to give for Harvest Day which the one time of the year when we focus on finances and resources and what God has given to us and we give back to God graciously, not begrudgingly. Not because we have to but because we want to. And some of you have already come prepared to give and praise God for you. But some of you, after hearing this message, have realized that your gift that you are about to give lacks trust and faith, that you are even convicted now that the tips percentage-wise that you left the waitress last night that served you food and refilled your tea is proportionately larger than the percentage gift you are going to give today to the one who sustains your soul and formed you by His own hands.
And so I want to challenge some of you that God is even asking you to step out even more and give graciously and generously back to Him. Why? Because here is the promise. When you put God first, He always will take care of your needs. Friends, you can’t see around the corner, but God can. And God is saying, if you trust Me and put Me first, I will take care of you.
So to answer the question we began with, how do you eliminate worry once and for all? Start trusting God.