I’m not a huge fan of heights, but have you ever seen any of those videos of people walking on glass bridges. I guess if properly maintained a glass bridge is plenty safe, but there are some pretty hilarious videos of people who start to freak out as they are walking on the glass bridge. You start to walk out over this giant canyon or off of a tall cliff and while there is a bridge you are walking on, the floor of the bridge is completely transparent. If it were me, I’d just stay off the bridge. But some people have really mean friends and they drag them, according to the videos, sometimes kicking and screaming. Once they are on the bridge their bodies fail them and they will often just fall to the floor. There is something about the instinctual fear they are feeling that just takes over.
There is this type of fear all around us. Many have a fear flying or, especially, of spiders or snakes. You can tell people how an airplane works and how safe flying is, but it doesn’t take away the fear. You can tell people how spiders eat pests like mosquitoes and flies. You can talk until you are blue in the face about how black snakes are great to have around, about how they eat poisonous snakes and keep away pests. But none of this arguing will ever convince someone that snakes are good or spiders are you friends. Fears just don’t listen to reason they are just there.
As scary as these fears may be these are not even the ones that keep most of us up at night. It’s those other worries that creep in and really do their damage. For some it is worry about how they will feed their family tomorrow, and if they will have to skip a meal to ensure their kids can eat. Many worry if their child will be safe when they send them to school tomorrow. Anxiety around a diagnosis and worry if a cure can be found. Worry about your security at work as many have already been laid off. Many deal with anxiety on top of this that can even be debilitating in life that keeps them from doing the things they want to do and from being with the people they love. Worry and anxiety have no limits. They feast on the rich and the poor and the young and the old.
Maybe you are caught in a season of worry, and you really want to find a way out, but you just can’t do it. Perhaps you hum that Bobby McFerrin song, “Don’t worry, be happy,” and just imagine or hope that all the worry will work itself out. We all love the upbeat tune and the catchy lyrics, but if I walk up to you and say don’t worry about it—your worry isn’t going to magically disappear. Even though this advice doesn’t really help you not to worry, if you stop and think about it, worry doesn’t do anything to help you prepare or to help you overcome whatever challenge you are facing. All worry really does it keep you up at night and keep you from enjoying and being present in the present.
Worry and anxiety are nothing new. In fact, people have struggled with this type of thing for a long time. Even when Jesus was with us on earth, about 2000 years ago, people struggled with worry and anxiety. The people the Jesus helped and offered new life to felt the real presence of worry in their lives so much that Jesus said something about it. In fact, Jesus gave them a lasting antidote their fear. This antidote that Jesus gave them and offers to us basically offers you three things you can do to escape the worry that threatens to consume you.
Let’s go ahead and take a look at what Jesus had to say about fear. If you have a Bible with you, I want to invite you to turn to Matthew chapter 6, and here you can follow along with me. In Matthew chapter 6 Jesus is teaching a large crowd in what is often called the sermon on the mount. This sermon on the mount has some great stuff in it, and it really helps shape what the church teaches about Jesus and how to live a faithful life. If you want some homework, you can go home and read the whole sermon on the mount; it’s only three chapters in Matthew: 5,6, and 7. At the end of it, Matthew tells us that the crowds were amazed at his teaching.
Today we are going to look at something Jesus said in the middle of this sermon on the mount. At the end of Matthew 6, Jesus tells the crowd something that at first glance doesn’t seem to helpful. He says (in verse 25), “don’t worry about your life, what you’ll eat or what you’ll drink, or about your body, what you’ll wear.” Now, if you were just to read that, it might sound a lot like that bobby McFerrin song, perhaps you could even set those words to his tune. While Jesus saying these words might hold more authority or power than if a friend said them, it doesn’t mean you can just will yourself to stop worrying. Even though this is what Jesus says, there is more to it.
If we read more of what Jesus has to say, I think we can actually find three things that you can actually do to help deal with worry, because we all know that worry doesn’t do any good.
So let’s look back at verse 24 and begin to see what Jesus has to say:
24 No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be loyal to the one and have contempt for the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.
25 “Therefore, I say to you, don’t worry about your life, what you’ll eat or what you’ll drink, or about your body, what you’ll wear.
These two statements, perhaps, seem odd placed next to each other. Alright, Jesus, what are you thinking? I thought we were talking about worry but now you are talking about money and serving masters. The reason Jesus starts here, is because the first step in dealing with worry is for you to answer the question “Whom do you love?”Jesus doesn’t explicitly ask this question, but it’s implied in what he has to say in verse 24. He knew that even when he lived things like money and property campaign for people’s attention and devotion. In fact, it’s easy to see in the lives of many how money or possessions or greed or shopping or drugs becomes your love and your master. But Jesus says, you can only have one master, you can only have one love.
The first step in getting rid of worry is asking yourself, whom do you love? Do you love your stuff more, your drug more, your house more, your car more, your whatever more, or do you love God more? Later on, in what Jesus is teaching us here, he will say, “desire first and foremost God’s kingdom and God’s righteousness.” If you find yourself consumed or full of worry, ask yourself “whom do I love”?, “What or whom do I seek first.” Jesus places this question first, because he knows that commitment to the love of God and a relationship with God has to come first otherwise, there is nothing you can really do about your worry. The first step in getting rid of your worry is to ask yourself, “Whom do I love”? and if it is God, you can move to step two.
Then Jesus continues:
Isn’t life more than food and the body more than clothes? 26 Look at the birds in the sky. They don’t sow seed or harvest grain or gather crops into barns. Yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Aren’t you worth much more than they are? 27 Who among you by worrying can add a single moment to your life? 28 And why do you worry about clothes? Notice how the lilies in the field grow. They don’t wear themselves out with work, and they don’t spin cloth. 29 But I say to you that even Solomon in all of his splendor wasn’t dressed like one of these. 30 If God dresses grass in the field so beautifully, even though it’s alive today and tomorrow it’s thrown into the furnace, won’t God do much more for you, you people of weak faith? 31 Therefore, don’t worry and say, ‘What are we going to eat?’ or ‘What are we going to drink?’ or ‘What are we going to wear?’ 32 Gentiles long for all these things.
Once you love God, once you find that your trust is in God, only then does Jesus begin to teach about not worrying. He gives us examples from nature. He says the birds don’t labor for their food, yet God feeds them. Then he calls to mind the lilies in the field, beautiful flowers that do nothing to spin cloth for clothes to wear—yet God dresses them. God cares for things in intimate and caring ways. And it would be ridiculous for us to think of lilies or birds making a choice to trust God, but yet God still cares for them.
Then Jesus gives us list of common fears, common worries, common anxieties. As he does this, it’s almost as if he is asking you—what is it that troubles you? What fear is it that keeps you up at night. After you have answered the first question: “Whom do you love”?, the second step in getting rid of worry is to ask yourself, “What do you fear?” Once you know where your ultimate love and trust is, then it’s safe to name your fears. The proper ordering of love and fear is essential to overcoming anxiety. When you love God, we have this assurance that God will take care of your fear.
And that’s where step three comes in. I know that when you worry, it’s still not much help to just say, “don’t worry about it.” Because even if you intellectually agree, it doesn’t take the worry away; the worry is still there. So step three is, when you know whom you love (and its God) and know what you fear, give your fear to the one you love.
Your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33 Instead, desire first and foremost God’s kingdom and God’s righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34 Therefore, stop worrying about tomorrow, because tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.
Friends, this doesn’t mean that there aren’t legitimate fears in life. This doesn’t mean there aren’t legitimate worries in life. This doesn’t even mean that you shouldn’t try to make things better or easier for your family. This doesn’t mean that if your family is in crisis you should just forget about it and put your head in the sand. Real challenges and real dangers are out and deserve to not be ignored. But the thing is, worrying and fretting about them doesn’t change their danger or what you might have to do.
Instead of fretting or worrying, when things pop up—give your fear over to the one you love in prayer. Because here is the thing, God is trustworthy and God true and God loves you more than you could ever know. God cares for the birds in the sky and lilies of the field and God cares for you. When worry strikes, ask yourself “whom do you love?” perhaps as a reminder that you love God, than ask yourself “what do you fear?”, then turn this fear over to God in prayer because God has promised to take it.
Even though turning your fear over to God will not magically change your circumstances, it will begin to take away your worry. Worry about what you need to do tomorrow or the next day will not make the challenges of tomorrow or the next day go away or disappear. Instead, if you turn over the worry to God, perhaps you will even be clearer in your thinking or action in what you will do or say to face the challenges.
These three steps to overcoming worry are things you can do in your daily life. You can even do these proactively—ask yourself in the morning, whom do I love today? Then as you walk through your day and fears pop up, as soon as you begin to worry begin turn them over to God in prayer.
And then on those nights when all you do is watch the clock and worries of worst case scenarios play on repeat in your head—remind yourself, whom do I love? What do I fear? And then pray to turn the fear over to God who loves you deeply. And this is the type of prayer that you want to fall asleep in the middle of, perhaps sleep means that you have been successful in allowing God to take the burden of worry from you.
Right now, I want to pray for you. I want to ask God to fill you with love and to take away whatever worry you give to God. To pray that when you give this worry to God that God will take it from you and grant you a sense of peace in contentment as you deal with whatever challenges that life places in front of you.
Decatur United Methodist Church
Our hope is that these messages will be relevant in your life and encourage you in faith.