My dictionary defines worry as “to feel uneasy or anxious; fret; torment oneself with or suffer from disturbing thoughts.” Did you ever realize that when you worry, you are inflicting torment on yourself? Worry is self-inflicted suffering, and it never produces anything good.
Jesus fully understood our propensity to worry, and he addressed it strongly in his Sermon on the Mount. From Matthew 6 we read:
“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. 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—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” (Matthew 6:28-34).
I remember when my pastor, Dr. Erwin Lutzer, spoke on this passage and it was such a blessing to me, that I asked his permission to share some of his thoughts with you. In this sermon Jesus gave us three reasons not to worry.
First, if you are born from above and have been redeemed through Jesus Christ, you should not worry because of who you are! Jesus said that God takes care of little birds, and even though they are not capable of taking care of their need for food, he provides food for them. And Jesus asks, “Are you not more valuable than they?”
Well, are you more valuable to God than little birds? Surely the knowledge of how much God loves us, how deeply he cares for us should cause us to stop worrying. After all, our Heavenly Father is sovereign over everything and everyone in our lives; he is always in control, and because we are his children, he has pledged to take care of our needs. So, that’s the first reason that we should not worry—because we are children of God and he never leaves us or forsakes us.
In this crazy world today many people are worried about their job security, or worse, about trying to find a new job because they are unemployed or underemployed. That’s certainly understandable; we all come to depend on our sources of income and if they are threatened, our natural human response is—worry! I’ve been in such situations and I must confess that I’ve worried.
If you’re in that kind of worry mode, I simply want to remind you of what Jesus said: “…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.” Jesus was talking about the basics of life: what you eat, what you wear—the necessities of life. And Jesus said it is his responsibility to give those to us, when we seek first his kingdom. If God takes care of unemployed birds, don’t you know he’s committed to taking care of you? Sure, the birds have to hunt for their worms and insects, but God provides it for them to find.
Notice that Jesus said we should not seek for our basic needs. Rather Jesus said we are to seek for his kingdom and his righteousness. So, instead of praying that God will give you the material things you need—instead of worrying about how you’re going to get what you need or what you want—pray instead that your priorities will change.
That’s what it means to seek first God’s kingdom and righteousness. It means we have our priorities in good shape. We invest our energies in doing what God wants us to do. Our goals and objectives in life are not to make sure our needs are met. That’s God’s responsibility. God knows we need certain material things. He doesn’t condemn us for recognizing these basic needs and, like the birds of the air, we have to do some work to have those necessities. But we don’t need to worry about it, because we belong to God and he has promised to care for us.
A second reason Jesus tells us not to worry is that it just simply does no good whatsoever. Jesus said, “Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?” Worrying is totally worthless. It never produces any good results, but instead it causes us to lose our peace, to lose our joy, to waste our energy.
Do you know how much energy it takes to worry? You are spending lots of emotional and mental energy when you’re in worry mode—and has it ever done you one bit of good? No, of course not. Worrying is worthless! That’s a really good reason for any sensible person to just refuse to worry. You know, most things you are worrying about never happen anyway. Just think back on what you worried about last month or last year? How many of those worries have actually materialized? Worrying probably contributes to bad things happening; it certainly doesn’t prevent them from happening.
Then Jesus gives us another really strong reason not to worry. In Matthew 6:32 he says, “For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them.” Jesus is talking about material things, and he told his disciples that those who are not believers are always worrying about these things.
Isn’t it true that most of the people around you are worrying these days? Just think about the conversations you have with people, particularly people who are not yet believers in Jesus Christ. You’ll observe that they are worrying a lot. So, if those of us who are disciples of Jesus Christ worry just like everyone else, what kind of testimony is that?
If you are a real worrier, you can be sure people know it, because you talk about it, it shows on your face and in your body language, and it’s not particularly attractive. Do an honest assessment of yourself: Are you prone to worry too much—and any worry is too much, according to Jesus. He told us not to worry. Worrying is evidence that you’re not trusting Jesus in that particular situation. And it’s not a good testimony to the difference that Jesus makes in our lives.
Have you ever thought about the fact that anything you are worrying about means you simply don’t trust God in that area? Can you see that it is a slander on God’s character when you worry? Just imagine that you’re a mom or dad with a six-year-old child, and because you love your child, you take care of her. She has always had plenty to eat, nice clothes to wear, a roof over her head, her health needs cared for, her safety provided—everything a parent should do you have willingly and lovingly done for your child. Now, suppose every morning this same child gets up crying, despondent and worried. And every morning she comes to you and says, “What am I going to eat today? I’m worried about whether or not you’ll have food for me today. And what about my clothes? Will I have anything to wear today?”
If your precious child did that, it would be offensive to you, would it not? How could she doubt that you would continue to take care of her as you always have done? Why can’t she just trust you to do what is best for her? You always have and yet she simply doesn’t trust you.
The example is rather ridiculous, since children don’t worry about those basic things—at least not if they are cared for as they should be. And yet, as children of God, isn’t that what we do to God when we worry about anything? It must be offensive to him when he sees us worrying, because worry is always an indication that whatever we’re worrying about, we’re not trusting God for.
Worry is totally worthless, but even more than that, worry is faithless! I just don’t think we often put worry into the category of “sin,” do we? We worry and worry and never think to apologize to God and repent of this sin of worrying. Paul wrote to the Romans that “everything that does not come from faith is sin” (Romans 14:23b). Well, for sure worrying does not come from faith. Faith and worry are like oil and water; they don’t mix. Therefore, continually worrying about anything is a sin.
Maybe the first thing you need to do is to confess your worrying sins. What do you worry about most? Here are some common ones:
- How to stay well
- How to pay the bills
- How to find a job
- How to keep a job
- How to find a mate
- How to find a cure
- How to control something or someone—like your children or your boss or whatever
What is on your list? I encourage you to stop right now and ask God to forgive you for anything you worry about, and be specific. That’s a good first step in getting rid of worthless worries.