Last semester, I entered into a course called Communicating the Gospel. A class typically feared for its final project of preaching a sermon as our last grade in the course. Growing up in Christian education, it can be difficult to find the line between religion and relationship in context of Christianity, but somehow I found the silver lining to find the Lord in them both. My assigned passage for this course, and my final sermon was Do Not Worry found in Matthew 6. This passage was my favorite passage all throughout high school. Now, as a senior in college, this passage has given me a whole new insight to worry. Hopefully the journey through my sermon will provide a new lens for you too.
Do not worry…a well-known scripture.
Do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. The idea of worry and anxiety are found all throughout scripture.
- Philippians 4 “Do not be anxious about anything”
- Proverbs 12 tells us that anxiety weighs down the heart
- 1 Peter 5 “cast your anxiety on him”
Do not worry in Matthew chapter 6 is just a small part of the Sermon on the Mount – Jesus’ most popular and most quoted sermon in today’s time. Why is this idea of worry discussed so often? Maybe it’s because of its applicability to our lives today. Maybe it’s because of the conviction it brings to the table. Or maybe it’s because of its persistent pursuit in our heart.
Do not worry…a good idea in theory.
- “How is this possible?” asks the homeless man whose next meal isn’t provided.
- The mother argues that worrying for her children is a loving quality.
- Those continuously persecuted because of their race or sexual orientation will see this idea as unattainable.
- “I don’t need to worry,” says the privileged. “I can provide for myself.”
- But my best friend has clinically diagnosed anxiety…is this possible for her?
Classmates see God’s faithfulness and yet still doubt his promises.
Do not worry…the unavoidable sin.
Worry can occur to anyone… at anytime… in any circumstance. Worry doesn’t care about how much money you have. It doesn’t care how emotionally stable you are. Worry doesn’t even care if you’ve seen the clear work of the Lord in your life. Somehow, we all slip into the fear and anxiety that is ever so present in this fallen world. This phrase of “Do not worry” is meant for us all. We must believe this if we also believe that the Bible is a living word, one that applies in all of time. If you are still in doubt of its applicability, I ask you to listen to this rewrite of Matthew 6:25-34 daring to consider the truth and conviction that lies in this message.
25 “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your future, what job you will get or where you will live; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than affirmation of others, and your value more than your achievements? 26 Look at the birds of the air; they don’t plan ahead or work endlessly, and yet your heavenly Father provides. Do you not believe the Lord will provide for you too? 27 What good does worrying do for your life? 28 “And why do you worry about clothes? See how beautiful my creation is. They have done nothing to earn 29 I tell you that not even the rich in their splendor can be as beautiful as this. 30 If God provides for something as short lived as grass, surely he will provide for his children – destined for eternal glory. Don’t be so preoccupied with getting and respond to God’s giving. Those who don’t know the Lord worry, but you know the Lord, you have a relationship with him. Trust he will provide. Continue in pursuit of the Lord and you’ll see that your needs will be met. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow and look at what the Lord is doing in your life RIGHT NOW. The Lord will walk with you in whatever may come.”
If we desire to overcome the idea of worry, we must first recognize the power and authority we have given it in our life. We must acknowledge that it’s there and it’s present.
Do not worry…the minimized sin.
With the applicability of worry in our lives, comes the temptation to minimize it. The more common something becomes, the more it becomes normality. Take something simple like a fashion trend. We all go through old yearbook photos looking at our clothes and accessories wondering how we ever thought those items were in style. But on that day, for that photo, we truly believed that we looked SO good in comparison to other classmates. Take something more current, like a pop socket for an iphone. In reality, the idea of a pop socket is silly. This object that makes your phone bigger and something you can fidget with. But somehow they truly have become something that’s trendy and cool to have or to own. Even a fidget spinner has become something that is wanted among many students… another object to grab the attention of many middle and high school students. Many today debate on if this object truly provides a way to stay focused for scattered brained individuals or causes more distractions for the focused students.
Have we done the same with worry? Normalizing it, misunderstanding its true purpose? Turning it into something that brings benefit? Do we see worry as a motivator to get tasks done or a way to plan for our future? Have we watched everyone around us worry to the point where it’s become a sin to us that is unattainable to overcome? Somewhere along the line, we’ve discussed and debated over worry so much that we’ve forgotten its impact on our spiritual growth. In verse 32, Jesus tells us the pagans run after these material things. Is our faith really being compared to that of a non-believer? Is worry that distinct to cause a separation between us and the Lord? Have we normalized worry? Have we excused it? Acting as if this, too, wasn’t a sin. Worry at its core is essentially irreligious. It is not caused by external circumstances. It does not come from circumstances but from the heart. Don’t misunderstand me; scripture isn’t calling us to excuse all concern or telling us to live irresponsibly, reckless, or careless only to recognize the separation it can cause between the one thing we were created for….a relationship with the Lord.
Do not worry…the misunderstood sin
All throughout this passage we see a recurring theme of the Lord’s provision in our lives, but what is God actually promising us here?
- Does he promise a job after college?
- Does he ensure the affirmation from others?
- Does he secure for us a life without suffering?
We mustn’t chase after these things acting as if they hold our salvation. Many of us fall into a belief that the Lord can provide, but not for us. Matthew 6 emphasizes the Lords great power, but also stresses that God only guarantees what we need. So how will you respond when the Lord provides but not in the way you had hoped? Will we respond in anger if God provides a necessity that we have assumed is a requirement?
Do not worry…the redeemed sin.
Maybe we’re unable to rid of this sin because in the absence of worry requires the replacement with the love and trust in Christ. Have we had the equation wrong all along? Have we been playing the game wrong? We were never meant to play on the offense against worry, but to defend and understand the Lord’s love.
- Culture says to worry…Matthew 6 says don’t spend time worrying, for you gain nothing from it.
- Culture says you must work to be beautiful…Matthew 6 says you don’t earn beauty, you are beauty.
- Culture says beauty is in the eye of the beholder…Matthew 6 says the Lord is our beholder and to him, nothing is more beautiful
- Culture says in order to survive you must always look out for yourself…Matthew 6 says the Lord knows and will provide exactly what we need.
- Culture says pursue what makes you happy…Matthew 6 says seek first his kingdom and his righteousness.
The Lords love is countercultural. Have hope to pursue a God who can provide something as crazy as a life without worry. Such love removes every other concern in scripture. 1 John 4:18 “Perfect love drives out fear” This countercultural love is to be understood and never earned. The love necessary lies in the context of a relationship between our heavenly father and his children. A love that can redeem the sin in us as individuals. A love that can become a dominating power in our lives.
Matthew 6:25-34 “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? 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? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life? “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.”
Do not worry: Well known, unavoidable, minimized, misunderstood, redeemed.
Love of Christ: Well known, unavoidable, maximized, understood, and through it worry is redeemed.