By Bob Russell
Don’t worry! That command is really difficult for many of us to obey. There are so many things in our country, our church, and our families that seem out of control. I’ve heard many of my peers say, “I’m not worried about myself, but I’m just concerned about my grandchildren. What kind of world are they going to live in?”
There’s a big difference between concern and worry. Concern focuses on probable difficulties and does what it can to prepare for them. Worry focuses on improbable difficulties and does nothing about them. Worry is always asking, “What if?” What if it’s malignant? What if my daughter has to go through a divorce? What if my grandson doesn’t make the cut? What if we go bankrupt? What if the candidate I dislike the most becomes president?
In Matthew 6:25-34, Jesus didn’t give an instant solution to anxiety, but he did suggest some changes in attitude that can help us conquer worry over a period of time.
1. Develop an eternal perspective.
“Is not life more than food?” he asked (v. 25). Jesus encouraged his followers to develop a long-range perspective about life.
If you knew that a fire was going to destroy your house tomorrow, you wouldn’t spend tonight rearranging the furniture and straightening pictures on the wall. You’d be removing items of most value. Since this world is going to be consumed by fire one day and we’re all going to leave this earth behind soon, it’s silly to be focused primarily on this world.
I like the song that says, “Turn your eyes upon Jesus; look full in his wonderful face. And the things of earth will grow strangely dim, in the light of his glory and grace.”
2. Learn to trust the providence of God.
“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?” (Matthew 6:26).
Worry is a sin because it calls God a liar. God promises, “All things God works for the good to those who love him” (Romans 8:28). Worry says, “I don’t think that’s true.”
God says he can supply all your needs (Philippians 4:19). Worry says, “I don’t think God will fulfill that promise.”
God says he is with you always (Matthew 28:20). Worry says, “I don’t think he will be there when I need him.”
Worry is disbelief. Faith is trusting God to fulfill his promises.
3. Maintain proper priorities.
“Seek first (God’s) kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well” (Matthew 6:33).
Faith maintains spiritual priorities regardless of pressure. When finances are tight, faith keeps tithing. When a test is coming tomorrow, faith still goes to worship service rather than staying home to study. When the situation is precarious, faith tells the truth.
When priorities are maintained, worry is diminished. Somehow God grants a “peace that passes understanding,” even when the pressure is on.
4. Live one day at a time.
“Do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself” (6:34). Jesus didn’t promise exemption from difficulty. In fact, he realistically predicted that tomorrow would have trouble. “Each day will have enough trouble of its own.” Birds die. Flowers wither. People get Alzheimer’s disease. Companies downsize. Spouses file for divorce. Cancer cells grow.
Jesus didn’t prescribe a shallow attitude of, “Don’t worry, be happy!” But he spoke of a faith that lives each moment to the fullest and trusts tomorrow to the heavenly Father.
Corrie Ten Boom once related that when a friend of her family suffered persecution, she said to her dad, “I will not be able to endure persecution. I fear that I will not be faithful.”
Her father assured her, “Don’t worry, Corrie, you will be faithful when the time comes. Remember when you were a little girl and I took you to the train? When did I give you your ticket? Not until the moment you were to get on the train. I had it all along; I only trusted you with it at the last moment when you really needed it.”
In Christ Jesus, God promises to supply our every need. He will give us the resources for each day as troubles arise. Once we believe that, we will have the capacity to win over worry.
Bob Russell is the retired senior minister of Southeast Christian Church, Louisville, Kentucky. Copyright 2015 by Bob Russell. Permission to copy this column may be obtained by writing Debbie Carper, Southeast Christian Church, 920 Blankenbaker Pkwy, Louisville, KY 40243. Find Bob’s books and sermons online (www.livingword.org).