Good morning to everyone… As many of you know, Im from Syndey, but Im coming to you from Kingaroy. I have found myself stuck up here in Queensland. Obviously it's been a pretty crazy year for everyone, and with all these travel restrictions… Kingaroy has become my new home for the time being…
But that point about being stuck up here… we have had all these changes going on in the world and in our society at the moment… all our lives have been affected by this pandemic… and that actually connects with what I want to talk to you about now.
Today I want to talk to you about the topic of worrying. And Worry, stress, concern… these are all things we like to avoid… but for a lot of people, all these changes going on at the moment due to this virus has unfortunately created a great deal of stress. There is a lot to be worried about.
But these things… worry, concern… these are all actually a normal part of life. God made us, and he made us to have these feelings, so we shouldn't think that feeling worried is in itself wrong. So if you have been feeling a bit more stressed than normal due to everything going on. That’s okay. It’s okay to feel that way, and it’s good to talk about it.
But, there is of course a healthy level, and an unhealthy level of worrying. Like everything else in life, you can have too much of a good thing… Water is obviously a good thing. We need it to stay alive. Too much however will kill you... And worrying about things is bit like that. We can let a healthy level of worry become something far more damaging.
Now you may be wondering how I can say that worry is a good thing. Probably something you would not expect to hear… but it’s true. If you have ever asked yourself… did I turn off that tap? Did I leave the stove on? Is that too big for the baby to eat? Basically if you have ever felt motivated to check on something, then you have probably experienced a healthy form of worry. It is why you start working on that assignment before it's due. It’s what drives you to buy something at the shop… food, clothes, that you might not use today, but you've bought it now, so you have it ready for tomorrow, or next week. A healthy level of stress is basically what gets us out of bed in the morning. Concern for things is what actually makes us function in life.
But there is of course the unhealthy forms of worry… the ones that don't help us to function in life, but can actually stop us from functioning at all. The ones where you don't eat because you're so worried you’re not going to get that assignment done. We’re you can't sleep because you are worried you’re going to get dumped. We’re you’re not just concerned about something happening right here right now, but you're consumed with issues that’s aren’t even on the calendar yet. Will you get into that uni course? Will you get that career? Will you meet that perfect someone and live happily ever after? Worrying about all the things that society tells us are the most important things in life, so you better drop everything and work towards those things now. And sadly… sometimes unhealthy worry is not even about the big things in life. Unhealthy worry is also when you look at your phone every 10 seconds to see if that person you have messaged is online… or how many likes and responses you have on that post you just put up. These things can be mind consuming, and can create a great deal of stress and be very unhelpful.
So that’s the issue we are looking at today The problem of stress and worrying about things… and certainly worrying during this crazy time we are currently in. So what we are going to do now is look at what God has to say about this. What does the bible tell us about the issue of worrying.
There is a passage I want to quickly look at now. It comes from a well known part in the gospel of Matthew, where Jesus is teaching the crowed a number of things. And one of the issues he talks about is this one.
So in a moment the passage is going to be read out. It’s Matthew 6;25-34… so if you have your bibles ready, it would be good to open it up and follow along as it's read out.
“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 than food, and the body more 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 Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life[a]?
28 “And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers 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—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.
So we have read the passage…. Now the question is… What was Jesus getting at? When he says to not even worry about food or clothing... what message is that for us today? What does this tell us about the issue of worrying? And should we be worried about anything in life at all?
So im going to split this up into two parts. The first part is looking at what the passage is not saying. We don’t want to misunderstand what Jesus is saying here, otherwise we may leave the stove on and not check. So part 1 is how not to misunderstand this passage. And the second part will be looking at what we need to understand so that we are not letting the worries of this life consume us.
So to start… Part 1. What this isn’t saying about worry.
The first thing Jesus is not saying… is really what we were talking about before the Bible reading. This isn’t saying that any level of worry is wrong. We know that, because Jesus showed some real high levels of stress and concern the night before he was crucified. You can not read that event in the gospels and not see someone very distressed. Likewise we see on a number of occasions that Jesus shows his concern for his disciples and how they didn’t understand what he was teaching them at times… He showed concern for the people of Israel and the lack of faith they had in God. And we similar things in the rest of the bible. Paul often worried about the churches he ministered to and how some were going off the rails. James talked about showing a real concern for those in need and how we are to live out our faith. We don’t see the faithful people of the bible, and Jesus himself, living a life of apathy. No one is told to live a life of zero concern. So we would be misunderstanding the lesson Jesus teaches here if we thought he meant to basically not get out of bed in the morning because nothing matters and god is in control anyway. So if you have ever had worries… don’t worry… it doesn’t mean that there is something wrong with that.
Another way of misunderstanding this teaching would be to feel guilty if you suffer from… or to dismiss anyone who does suffer from… anxiety. Anxiety is real. People do suffer from it. And I know people who do suffer from it, and I know that it’s not due to a lack of faith. A lot of people who genuinely trust in God, and people who always pray to him and hand their issues over to him… these people can still have anxiety and find themselves worrying a lot. Unlike a lot of worry that is a result of an issue to be concerned about… those who suffer from anxiety will often already have the feeling of extreme worry and stress… then they can often find something to worry about. That means that even if the issue gets resolved, it doesn’t always get rid of the anxiety. Anxiety is a real health issue that can’t just be ignored. Telling someone with anxiety not to worry is like telling someone having a heart attack to stop making all those groaning noises. People who suffer form it can’t just turn it off. So it’s important not to read a passage like this and go… “you have anxiety?.. you’re worried?… you must have a lack of faith”. This isn’t telling us to dismiss the genuine hardships that people with anxiety go through. So that’s the second thing not to wrongly assume from this passage. Having anxiety that leads to a lot of worry is not an indication of a lack of faith.
So that was Part 1. What this passage isn’t saying. This then leads to the question of… what is this passage telling us then? If the last part was the things that we shouldn’t get from this passage… not to have zero worries, or not to dismiss anxiety issues… What should we learn from this?
Well one thing Jesus is saying here is, don’t let the things of this world consume you. Don’t worry about the things of this world that it becomes your focus in life. Look at verses 31-32…
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.
We see here that it says God knows the things that we need, so don’t worry about the things that don’t matter. When you start to worry about wearing the right fashion, when you worry about being a part of the right crowd, when you worry about getting that latest gadget or what’s going to happen in next weeks tv episode… when these are the things that consume you, then you are probably passed the point of worrying about things that don’t really matter. That’s certainly worrying about things that you don’t really need. That’s why Jesus says in verse 33…
But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.
because we need to focus on the things of God. Reading the bible. Praying to god. Telling others about Jesus, and living in a way that reflects the faith we have. That’s what it means to seek his kingdom and righteousness… not worrying about how many people like your latest post on Instagram, but instead, living for God in all that you do. There is an obvious difference between the healthy forms of worry that God gives us in order to live the life he has set for us, and the unhealthy worry that can consume us… the things that actually stops us from living the life that God has set for us. Jesus is saying here, don’t worry about those trivial things. Social media, movies, TV will tell us to worry about that stuff, but they are the things that we need to ignore.
The second thing to get from this, is to live in the moment, not the future. We see right at the end of our passage in verse 34 where it says…
Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.
and it’s such common sense. When we stop to think about it, it is amazing how much of our time gets devoted to things that really don’t matter, and this year, this insane 2020, has probably shown that to all of us. I like everyone started this year with concerns. Back in Sydney I would normally spend several days a week teaching high school scripture. I had a youth group and bible study group to get set up at church for the new year. Like everyone I had things that needed to be done, and like everything, it caused a degree of… worry. Now all those things can’t happen because of this shutdown, and I’m now here in Kingaroy planting potatoes! … there was no way I saw that coming back in January!... We can worry and worry about stuff… and then things change so quickly and it was all for nothing. Ask yourself, what we’re you worried about a month ago, and does it matter now? What about a year ago? Is there anything you worried about as 10 years ago that you care about now? When we stop to think about it, it is amazing how much of our time gets devoted to things that really don’t matter in the long run. And that’s the second point here. Don’t get obsessed worrying about the future. We don’t know what’s going to happen tomorrow. Only God knows, so don’t worry about it!
Which actually leads into the third and last thing from this passage. The last thing to know is that when we do get worried about things… and we will… we all worry about stuff, and things worth worrying about as well. When that does happen... Hand it over to god. We may not know the future. We may not be able to control every part of our life… but God does… so let him deal with it. And this is the most important point tonight, so if I lost you 5 minutes ago, time to wake back up, because this is what matters. The main thing to know is… Don’t pretend to not be worried. Don’t completely ignore your worries when you are. Instead, hand the issue that is concerning you over to God in prayer. And this also really is a matter of common sense. Just like calling the police, the fire brigade, an ambulance. When things are out of our control, we hand those issues over to those who can look after it. When you take your problems, the things you're worried about to someone else… It's not ignoring the problem or pretending that it's not an issue. Instead it’s saying "I have a problem that I can't deal with… I have something I’m concerned and worried about… and I need your help to fix it.”… And it should be exactly the same with God. There are things in our life that we should be worried about. As said earlier, God made us. He made us to have feelings of worry and stress. But what he wants us to do, is to hand those concerns over to him in prayer. These worries we have in our life, they should actually points us towards god. When we worry about the pointless things of this world, that’s when we stop looking at god. It’s when we get consumed about the trivial things in life that we don’t pray. But when we focus and worry about the things god wants us to, then it will actually in our weakness drive us to turn to him in prayer.
So how about we finish by doing that now. Praying to god. And after I have prayed for us, maybe ask yourself, what things have you been worrying about in your life. Are they things you should be worried about, or are they trivial worldly things that are a distraction? And what are you going to do about it? Let that issue consume your thoughts. Or instead, hand it over to god in prayer?