So we have been in a series where we are looking at 8 questions that Jesus asked at different points in his ministry and I have to say that it has been a lot of fun so far and today’s question is a really challenging one on what I believe can be one of the harder subjects to teach on, that subject is “worry.” Worrying, is a difficult subject to talk about for a couple of different reasons. First of all, if you are a worrier you can dismiss me. You can look at me and see such a calm, cool, and collected person like myself (J) and think to yourself, “Sure Sam can teach on worrying because he isn’t wired like me. He doesn’t have my personality, or he isn’t as focused on the details of life as I am…or even better, he just doesn’t care like I care! What would this guy no about worry?” I hear you, because you know, everything works out for Sam right? I think the other thing that makes it so difficult is, if you struggle in this area where you are worried about what tomorrow will bring, it isn’t like you can just turn that off like a light switch right? I know for me personally I just love when someone not dealing with the weight of a big decision or the stress of something awful happening in my life is like, “Sam…relax, don’t worry!” Well, I don’t think we want to worry in some cases but that is hard to turn off isn’t it? Asking someone who is struggling with worry not to worry is like telling someone who can’t sleep to try harder to sleep! Ever been there? I can’t sleep, well go back to bed and work at it…it just doesn’t work that way does it? Or even better, that’s like someone working really hard on resting right? It just is easier said than done.
So today we are going to find our Jesus question in Matthew 6, right in the middle of Jesus’ famous Sermon on the Mount. So here it is…and we will come back to it in a little bit.
Matthew 6:27 Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life? NIV
Such a good question, and while we know it’s true, it can be so hard NOT to worry. I know for me personally in my days at Lobar, the worst things happened to me late on a Friday afternoons. An awful email would come out, or a mistake would happen on a job, and I would leave the office thinking…its ok Sam, don’t worry…enjoy your family…you can fix it on Monday. But man, not thinking about it, or worrying about it is easier said than done. And this is just one moment at work, let alone where the kids will go to college, or whether you can pay for college. Will I have enough money to retire someday, will everyone stay healthy…and what happens to my 401k if the economy crashes tomorrow. We can worry about little things alot, let alone the BIG stuff about what tomorrow may bring! And let’s face it, it’s not like you can just turn that worrying thing in your head off right? Well, here’s what will be interesting about today. Today I want to really focus in on this idea of worrying even knowing that if you are a worrier you can dismiss me. Even knowing that it is hard to turn off your mind and your worries, because this is a big deal subject. You know, there are some things that worrying does. I want to look at that today. There are also things that worrying can’t do and we really need to take some time in that today. But if you are a worrier, there is also something very important that you need to know. You don’t have to worry! Yes I went there. Jesus actually shows us how we can actually stop worrying. So we have a lot to do today in what can be a very challenging subject and I would like to start by showing you a couple of things that worrying does, to do that we are going to look at one of the coolest guys in the Old Testament his name is Elijah…
So here is the deal Elijah is an amazing prophet of God and God has just moved through him in an absolutely incredible way. You can read all about it in 1 Kings 18, it is an incredible story, but I will sum it up this way. Elijah challenges the 450 prophets of Baal to a duel where they would each prepare a bull on an altar, they would each pray to their god and the true God would respond by lighting the offering on fire. Did I mention this was set up in front of the entire nation of Israel on top of a mountain for all to see? So after the prophets of Baal try for hours and can’t get there no god to light the bull on fire while Elijah talked trash on them, had to add that! Elijah finally steps forward and rebuilds the altar, saturates it with water and then Elijah prays this epic prayer…
1 Kings 18:36 At the time of sacrifice, the prophet Elijah stepped forward and prayed: “O LORD, God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel, let it be known today that you are God in Israel and that I am your servant and have done all these things at your command. 37 Answer me, O LORD, answer me, so these people will know that you, O LORD, are God, and that you are turning their hearts back again.” 38 Then the fire of the LORD fell and burned up the sacrifice, the wood, the stones and the soil, and also licked up the water in the trench. NIV
Elijah stood against 450 prophets of Baal with a confidence and strength that could only be given to him by God. He prays for God to move and fire literally falls from the sky in front of the entire nation of Israel…moments later he is letting everyone know it’s going to rain and it rains, and it hadn’t in a long time and why? Because Elijah said it wouldn’t. Then the power of God comes over him and he outruns a chariot all the way to the city! WOW! This guy is the greatest prophet of the time, this guy has a level of faith that not many do and God moves on his behalf in ways that no one outside of Moses could probably ever say God would move! But it is just a few moments later that something changes…
1 Kings 19:1 Now Ahab told Jezebel everything Elijah had done and how he had killed all the prophets with the sword. 2 So Jezebel sent a messenger to Elijah to say, “May the gods deal with me, be it ever so severely, if by this time tomorrow I do not make your life like that of one of them.” 3 Elijah was afraid and ran for his life. When he came to Beersheba in Judah, he left his servant there, 4 while he himself went a day’s journey into the desert. He came to a broom tree, sat down under it and prayed that he might die. “I have had enough, LORD,” he said. “Take my life; I am no better than my ancestors.” NIV
What in the world just happened here? This man prayed and fire fell from the sky. He seems to be able to pray for it to rain or not to rain and it happens. This guy has just outrun a chariot, and now Queen Jezebel threatens him and tells him his tomorrow is going to be really bad, and he is running for his life? You know it’s funny because we are hear reading through the story and see all the amazing things that God has done in his life and we can find it hard to believe that he is now afraid…well guess what, right here we see the first thing that I believe worrying does.
What worrying does! When we worry we forget all that God has done for us. You know it’s funny for us to look at Elijah and see all the ways that God has come through for him, and we think how in the world is he afraid of what tomorrow is going to bring…right? I mean you seem to have God on your side dude, what in the world are you afraid of? But this is what worrying does, as Elijah begins to worry about what is going to happen tomorrow, he forgets all the amazing things God has done in his life, and you know what…we do this too! I think for a lot of us, if we stop and think about it, we can identify different areas where God has come through for us, now I’m not saying that you have called down fire from the sky or anything like that, but God has come through for you and it’s so easy when we begin to worry about tomorrow and what tomorrow will bring to forget just how faithful God has been in the past. This is the first thing that I see that worrying does, we become so focused on the issue of tomorrow that we forget just how faithful God has been in our lives!
Poor Elijah, now he is off wishing that he would die, and he almost does but an angel comes and helps him and Elijah then walks for 40 days and 40 nights to the Mountain of God and here we find the second thing that worry can do…
1 Kings 19:8 he reached Horeb, the mountain of God. 9 There he went into a cave and spent the night. And the word of the LORD came to him: “What are you doing here, Elijah?” NIV
I love this moment, and it’s going to get better here in a minute, but listen to this question that God asks, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” God’s like, hey Elijah…You are no where near where you are supposed to be right now, and why is that? It’s because he is afraid of what tomorrow might bring! So we are starting to see something else that worrying does here, but let’s keep going because the story just keeps getting better!
1 Kings 19:10 He replied, “I have been very zealous for the LORD God Almighty. The Israelites have rejected your covenant, broken down your altars, and put your prophets to death with the sword. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me too.”
Elijah doesn’t seem to answer the question as to why he is there but instead does what we all do when we are in a bad spot. He explains how hard he is working, how he is all alone, and how no one is on his side…and God comes back with this…
1 Kings 19:11 The LORD said, “Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the LORD, for the LORD is about to pass by.” Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the LORD, but the LORD was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the LORD was not in the earthquake. 12 After the earthquake came a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper. 13 When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave. Then a voice said to him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”
So Elijah was so worried about what was going to happen to him tomorrow that he ends up forgetting that God is with him, and we also see another thing that worry does…it takes him somewhere he just should not be.
What worry does: Worrying about tomorrow can change your actions and lead you to places you just shouldn’t be. Let’s make this a little more practical. I know you haven’t had a Queen threaten your life. Odds are that you haven’t run to a cave miles away from where you should be, but worry sure does cause us to do things we know we should not do. Has a stressful situation ever caused you to run away? Maybe it wasn’t physically running away, but have you ever escaped into a bottle of alcohol? You know where a stiff drink just “takes the edge off.” Ever ran to anything you shouldn’t run to just to numb the worry away for a little while? Well this is what worry does…it can consume us to the point where we run away. We want to escape it mentally, emotionally, and we can check out spiritually, or fall into habits we just shouldn’t be in. What’s really cool is that God shows Elijah through all those amazing moments standing there in the mountain, the earthquake, the fire, the wind and shattering rocks…just how big He is again. I know he shouldn’t need more of a reminder but he does and then he asks him again in a whisper, “What are you doing here Elijah?” This is huge.
Can’t you hear it? God is like Elijah, why are you allowing your worry to change your actions. What in the world are you doing here? I’m here Elijah and here’s the plan go back, follow these steps…but don’t let your worry change your actions. Oh man, do I wish we could spend all day in this story but we haven’t even gotten into the Jesus question yet! God shows Elijah just how big He is and then tells Elijah to go back from where he came from…and reveals to Him that He had a plan all along. So from that story we see that worry does accomplish a couple of things. When we worry we forget how God has come through for us in the past, and we also end up in places we just shouldn’t be.
So we are finally getting into Jesus teaching for the day, and it’s found in Matthew 6, this is again part of that famous sermon Jesus taught called The Sermon on the Mount. Jesus teaches on worry here…
Matthews 6:24 “No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money. 25 “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? 26 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? 27 Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life? 28 “And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. 29 Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. 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? 31 So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. NIV
So this is a profound teaching. The Sermon on the Mount is words to live by and here Jesus does an unbelievable job of breaking down worry for us and right of the bat I am starting to see something about worry that is really important for us to see today.
We worry about what matters to us. The more it matters to us, the more we can worry about it. Think about what you worry about the most. Is it something you don’t care about? No, it’s your family. It’s your finances. It’s your future. Things that are very important to you. So Jesus starts by talking about THE thing that matters to all of us…money.
24 “No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money. 25 “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes?
So we see the money thing there in verse 24. Jesus knows that he has to help us see something that matters to us, and then look at verse 25…don’t worry about your life. Don’t worry about what you will eat or drink, don’t worry about your clothes because life is more important than food, and clothing. So in our culture today we aren’t too worried about food and clothing right? I mean we can go to Giant and pick stuff up, and we don’t have to kill a lion to get a jacket or anything like that we just hit Walmart, but think of it this way for today. Jesus is saying don’t worry about your kid’s future, your retirement plan, or finding a job, or whether you will get married or not, or _____________.
So Jesus has the nerve to say to all of us, don’t worry about your life!?!?!? That is kind of offensive isn’t it? I mean we have children, and bills, and responsibilities, and I’m sure it says somewhere in the Bible that I need to be a good parent and a good steward of my money, and that I should work hard, and now Jesus is saying don’t worry about my life!?!? WOW! Does Jesus just not care? Well he does care, but if you notice he is trying to get our focus off of the thing we are focused on and onto something bigger. Life is bigger than your child’s sport career. It’s bigger than your future plans. It’s even bigger than your retirement plan. Isn’t life itself bigger than all of those things? Well look at where Jesus goes next…
v26 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? NIV
What? You tell me not to worry about life, and then you tell me to look at the birds? My life is falling apart, my son may get cut from the team, my financial portfolio is a mess, my bills need paid and you want me to stop and look at the birds! Well this is a big moment here. Jesus is saying the birds can’t do any of the things you do. They don’t think. They can’t sow, or reap, they aren’t putting money in savings and retirement…they just think bird thoughts and do you know what? God takes care of them! And guess what, you are more valuable than the birds. You are created in God’s very image. So while we have things to do, and bills to pay, and our child’s college to prepare for, and taxes to file, and on and on it goes. Maybe we should grasp that God has it in control and we don’t.
Now this is where the worrier can get me right? Because Sam is now going to the hippy route of everything will just work out. Before you do that let me tell you this isn’t about being irresponsible. This isn’t about being lazy and just letting everything work out on its own. It’s not about not caring. No, we can sow and we should sow. We can reap a harvest and we should reap a harvest. We should save in our barns but we need to understand something, we can’t worry about it because worrying does nothing.
Here we see what worry CAN’T do. Worrying cannot fix anything. So here we get the Jesus question of the day and I’m telling you I think it’s a big deal question…Jesus is saying that worrying does nothing.
v27 Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?
This is such a big deal, worrying just isn’t going to get you anywhere and what is really interesting is that I think even the worrier would agree with Jesus here, if they thought it through. Their worrying doesn’t help…in many ways we looked at what worrying does, and it often just makes things worse. But it doesn’t mean it just can be turned off like a light switch. But Jesus doesn’t just leave us hanging, look at what he does next…
28 “And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. 29 Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. 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?
Jesus says that your worrying doesn’t fix anything and he goes on to say why do you worry about things like clothes. Once again he says look at the flowers just like he said look at the birds earlier. What I’m hearing here is Jesus building his point, he is saying “Look, if your worrying isn’t going to get you anywhere…look at the flowers, look at the birds.” God loves you more than them, and they are taken care of. So if you are reaping and sowing. If you are doing everything to your best ability in the moments of today…AND God loves you more than those things why can’t you trust God? And then he starts to drop the hammer! He says God loves you the most, so why worry. Why can’t you trust God. Uh oh, we are back to a faith thing again.
Do you remember last week on Easter when we were talking about how through faith we can reach a new level of peace in our souls that can’t be found any other way? Well, this is what Jesus is talking about here. Why worry? Where is your faith in your Heavenly Father who loves you so much! It’s all about your belief that God has your best interest in mind…EVEN IF THE OUTCOME ISN’T EXACTLY WHAT YOU WANT IT TO BE! It’s all about faith. Listen, you aren’t going to stop worrying by trying to stop worrying. It isn’t like a light switch that you can just simply turn off, it’s doesn’t work that way because it is an issue in your faith. If you worry, it’s not a personality issue, or that you care more than others…it’s a faith issue…Jesus is saying that you don’t trust God. Jesus is going for it now, saying that God handles all of this, so why do you worry that he can’t handle what you need him to handle in your life? But he doesn’t stop there…
31 So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them.
Jesus is saying don’t worry about these things, what you eat or drink or wear. For us today, don’t worry about your money, your retirement plan, your child’s future…for the pagans worry about these things! Jesus is saying that people far from God, people who don’t believe in God at all worry about these things! This is ferocious. Jesus is saying how can you believe in the All Mighty God of the Universe and know that you have the power of the Holy Spirit living and active in your life and worry about things that people with no faith worry about? They don’t believe in God. So they should worry, because these are things only God could control. You believe in God. You are different. You have God on your side, and he loves you more than birds and flowers! Your faith should separate you from these struggles that are common to everyone else in this world! Yes, we have the same challenges that everyone on this planet is challenged with…our finances, our families, our futures…BUT we have God, so we who believe in Him don’t worry like those who don’t! Jesus makes sure that we see it again there in verse 32, God knows what you need…God will take care of you. If that is true then we shouldn’t worry. So we are back to faith, because if we believe that God knows what I need, then I won’t be bound up by worry of what tomorrow will bring. So the more I believe in God the less I should worry! Well now we are on to something.
How do I stop worrying? So there actually is a solution to our worry. Most worriers have decided there isn’t one…but Jesus says there is. This is the coolest thing about this teaching. Jesus doesn’t leave us hanging here and you know I started this talk by saying that it is so hard to not worry if you worry right? I mean it isn’t just like you can turn it off because you worry about the things that you care about. The things you care about the most are the things you worry about the most. That doesn’t seem to just be something I can turn on and off, well Jesus actually gives us the solution to our worry in verse 33.
33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.
Jesus showed us that we worry about the things that matter to us the most and now he goes for it. He shows us that it is possible to turn off the worry of what tomorrow will bring! Here is what you do. We redirect our focus. We reprioritize our lives and our devotion. We must seek God first. We must center our lives around God and his righteousness. This is huge. We established earlier that we worry because we care. There are things that matter to us and there is nothing wrong with that but what would happen if we reprioritized our lives fully around God. Jesus says we must seek Him first! Listen to me here…it’s not your house payment…not your 401k…not your child’s college life…not your future. Jesus has told you these things are important. You need to eat, you need to be clothed…you should sow, and reap, and save…but he is trying to open our hearts up to the central idea that God matters more. You are loved by God and He knows what we need.
Jesus is saying that you are holding on too tight. You are trying to control things you can’t control and in the end your worry doesn’t accomplish anything. Jesus is saying we must get to a place where we believe that God has this, and we do not. Instead of being committed to my kingdom, I must fully commit to God’s will and that is challenging…and may take some time. It may start by spending time with God each day, and just allowing his love and grace to enter your day. Maybe as you sit with God and allow Him to speak into your life, over time the focus actually could shift off of you and onto him!
So as you leave here today you really have a couple of options. The first one is to continue to try to control things that you just can’t control. Keep worrying, even though we know that we aren’t fixing anything but often making things worse. Or you could seek God first. You know for you to make that change maybe you today you could walk out of here, take a deep breath and look at the birds in the air and the flowers in the field, and soak in God’s great plan! God made them and He has them under his control and takes care of them and you were made in his image. You matter more. So it may be time to seek God’s kingdom and His righteousness first. That is Jesus invitation for us all…to open our hearts and minds up to a much bigger picture and to seek God first…after all…worrying doesn’t fix anything anyway. What a great question we studied today…and I will leave it with you now…
Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?
It doesn’t mean you don’t care. It doesn’t mean you are lazy. It doesn’t even mean you have a calmer personality than the next person. It means that you are gaining a deeper understanding of the God story, and that you have enough faith in Jesus and you are seeking God first, knowing that He loves you and has your best interest at hand…because worrying doesn’t fix anything anyway.