The chaplain at the federal penitentiary in Atlanta, Dr. Park Tucker, felt low and depressed, worrying about life in general. As he walked along the street he saw a sign on a funeral home that said, “Why walk around half-dead? We can bury you for $69.50; we also give green stamps.” The sign was so humorous to Dr. Tucker he realized that many people walk around half-dead because worry has created a mountain of problems which to them is insurmountable, and they have surrendered to fate (Encyclopedia of 7700 Illustrations, sv. “Worry”).
The Roman philosopher Cato once wrote that one of the six mistakes of man was worrying about things that cannot be changed or corrected. One sure way to develop ulcers is to worry about everything-for example, the cost of living, the atomic bomb, graft, corruption, and if nothing else, worry about the weather.
Worry can be defined as mental distress, that is, to experience apprehension or anxiety. An exaggerated example would be a state of mind that leads some people to fear that every time the tide goes out, it won’t come back again. Worry can be caused by real or imagined events, or by circumstances that are impending or anticipated. Some people are literally frozen by worry-unable to accomplish anything in life. While this condition makes many people unhappy and miserable, there is really no need for Christians to be constantly plagued by worry.
The Creator Can Be Trusted With the Details of Your Life
The heart and core of Christianity is the Sermon on the Mount. It is found in Matthew, chapters five through seven. Yet, most people are unable to apply its principles. In this message did Jesus address the matter of worry? Yes indeed!
Notice these words:
. . .Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment? Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they? Which of you by taking thought can add one cubit unto his stature? And why take ye thought for raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin: And yet I say unto you, That even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which to day is, and to morrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith? Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things. But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you. (Matt. 6:25-33)
In brief, Jesus said that worry or anxiety is ill-advised because life is far more important than just what we eat or drink. He said that worry cannot alter whatever situation we may be in, and that worry or anxiety is a characteristic of the pagan world. Regarding life He said: ” . . . Be not afraid of them that kill the body and after that have no more that they can do. But I will forewarn you whom ye shall fear: Fear him, which after he hath killed hath power to cast into hell [gehenna fire]; yea, I say unto you, Fear him” (Luke 12:4-5). Jesus emphasized the importance of seeking the Kingdom of God as the primary goal in life. Then our physical needs will be met.
Worrying About the Future Hampers One’s Efforts Today
Being overly concerned about tomorrow often stands in the way of what one may be doing today. This is why Jesus said: “Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof” (Matt. 6:34). In brief, there are generally enough problems today, so that there is no need to make the situation worse. This text refers, of course, to excessive worry. We all need to plan for the future the Bible makes this plain in the book of Proverbs. “Go to the ant, thou sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise: Which having no guide, overseer, or ruler, Provideth her meat in the summer, and gathereth her food in the harvest. How long wilt thou sleep, O sluggard? when wilt thou arise out of thy sleep? Yet a little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to sleep. So shall thy poverty come as one that travelleth, and thy want as an armed man” (Prov. 6:6-11). But excessive concern or worry is completely unnecessary Christ said. He expressed the importance of man even in respect to sparrows when He said: “Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing? and one of them shall not fall on the ground without your Father. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear ye not therefore, ye are of more value than many sparrows” (Matt. 10:29-31).
The whole of God’s Creation was established to take care of all that is flesh. The Psalmist wrote: “He sendeth the springs into the valleys, which run among the hills. They give drink to every beast of the field: the wild asses quench their thirst. By them shall the fowls of the heaven have their habitation, which sing among the branches. He watereth the hills from his chambers: the earth is satisfied with the fruit of thy works. He causeth the grass to grow for the cattle, and herb for the service of man: that he may bring forth food out of the earth” (Ps. 104:10-14). We can be sure that if God takes care of animals, He will take care of those who trust in Him. “The LORD redeemeth the soul of his servants: and none of them that trust in him shall be desolate” (Ps. 34:22). Excessive worried concern manifests a lack of faith in God’s promises.
Worrying Does More Harm Than Good
We may have heard of the prayer that goes: “O Lord, help me to change the things I can, to accept the things I can’t, and to have the wisdom to know the difference.” Jesus emphasized this when He said: “Neither shalt thou swear by thy head, because thou canst not make one hair white or black” (Matt. 5:36). “And which of you with taking thought can add to his stature one cubit?” (Luke12:25). This is why wisdom is so important. ” For wisdom is a defense, and money is a defense: but the excellency of knowledge is, that wisdom giveth life to them that have it” (Eccl. 7:11-12). “Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore get wisdom: and with all thy getting get understanding” (Prov. 4:7). But where does one get wisdom? The Apostle James tells us: “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him. But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed. For let not that man think that he shall receive any thing of the Lord. A double minded man is unstable in all his ways” (Jas.1:5-8).
People who worry about things they cannot change are banging their heads against a stone wall. Yet, how many constantly do this very thing? One of the problems with today’s society is that the values and goals that most people strive to attain are not in man’s best interests. These desires are generated through advertisements, by the desire to have more and more, and by a wrong sense of values. This is the reason, as we noted earlier, that Jesus said: “But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you” (Matt. 6:33). When one’s priorities are askew from those of God, the frustration that comes from an inordinate desire to attain and not being able to do so, often leads to frustration. One who is focused on God need not suffer from this syndrome.
The light of the body is the eye: if therefore thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light. But if thine eye be evil, thy whole body shall be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in thee be darkness, how great is that darkness! No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon. (Matt. 6:22-24)
One who constantly worries and is frustrated by the misguided pursuits of life cannot be a happy person. This is why worrying is more harmful than helpful. What should be avoided is the reason for the worry. If that reason is based on what the world regards as important, it is the wrong reason. When one’s goal in life is focused on God and His Kingdom, he will not suffer from the worry that is more harmful than helpful in life.
God Does Not Neglect Those Who Depend Upon Him
Scriptures affirm the above subtitle. Let us consider once again what Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount. Jesus Christ is God, and the Bible states that God cannot lie (Titus 1:2). This is God’s promise, and He gave the following words of encouragement and hope.
. . . I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment? Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they? Which of you by taking thought can add one cubit unto his stature? . . . Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things. But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you. (Matt. 6:25-27, 31-33)
Consider the following Scriptures: “As for God, his way is perfect: the word of the LORD is tried: he is a buckler to all those that trust in him” (Ps. 18:30). “And the LORD shall help them, and deliver them: he shall deliver them from the wicked, and save them, because they trust in him” (Ps. 37:40). “Trust in him at all times; ye people, pour out your heart before him: God is a refuge for us. Selah” (Ps. 62:8). “The righteous shall be glad in the LORD, and shall trust in him; and all the upright in heart shall glory” (Ps. 64:10). “Every word of God is pure: he is a shield unto them that put their trust in him” (Prov. 30:5).
When David was in his declining years, he said this: “I have been young, and now am old; yet have I not seen the righteous forsaken, nor his seed begging bread” (Ps. 37:25). So, the key to receiving God’s care and blessings is practicing righteousness and seeking, above all, the Kingdom of God. Righteousness in the Bible is defined as obedience to God’s Commandments (Ps. 119:172). The Apostle Peter wrote that your hope is: “Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you” (1 Pet. 5:7). And the Apostle Paul tells us: “Be [anxious] for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God” (Phil. 4:6).
These encouraging texts should give us the confidence and trust that we need to lay our burdens and cares upon God. They are based on the pure Word of God, the Word that is irrevocable. Whatever God promises we can absolutely rely on. But we must recognize our part in receiving these promises. We must obey and make Him our primary interest in life.
Worry Reflects a Lack of Faith and Trust in God
“For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith” (Rom. 1:17). Living with worry and fear means we are not exercising faith. And what is faith? “Now faith is the [assurance] of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen . . . . But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him” (Heb. 11:1, 6). Faith is simply believing that God exists, and that He will keep His promises.
A good example of God’s promises during the Old Testament period was that the Israelites would be blessed if they obeyed the command to let the land rest during the seventh year. “And if ye shall say, What shall we eat the seventh year? behold, we shall not sow, nor gather in our increase: Then I will command my blessing upon you in the sixth year, and it shall bring forth fruit for three years. And ye shall sow the eighth year, and eat yet of old fruit until the ninth year; until her fruits come in ye shall eat of the old store” (Lev. 25:20-22). Christ admonished the disciples: “Consider the lilies how they grow: they toil not, they spin not; and yet I say unto you, that Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. If then God so clothe the grass, which is to day in the field, and to morrow is cast into the oven; how much more will he clothe you, O ye of little faith? And seek not ye what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink, neither be ye of doubtful mind” (Luke 12:27-29).
One who sets his heart on the material possessions of this life has a misguided goal. This does not mean Christians should not prepare for the future. Indeed, they should. But if one is constantly worried about wealth and accruing the kind of security the world offers, he manifests a lack of faith in God. Jesus said: “Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal” (Matt. 6:19-20). The Apostle Paul regarded these things as unreliable. “Charge them that are rich in this world, that they be not high-minded, nor trust in uncertain riches, but in the living God, who giveth us richly all things to enjoy; That they do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to distribute, willing to communicate; Laying up in store for themselves a good foundation against the time to come, that they may lay hold on eternal life” (1 Tim. 6:17-19). Faith is required to make this the goal in life.
In the end the Israelites fell short of God’s requirement to exercise faith. They were children in which there was no faith.
For he established a testimony in Jacob, and appointed a law in Israel, which he commanded our fathers, that they should make them known to their children: That the generation to come might know them, even the children which should be born; who should arise and declare them to their children: That they might set their hope in God, and not forget the works of God, but keep his commandments . . . . Because they believed not in God, and trusted not in his salvation: Though he had commanded the clouds from above, and opened the doors of heaven, And had rained down manna upon them to eat, and had given them of the corn of heaven. Man did eat angels’ food: he sent them meat to the full . . . . For all this they sinned still, and believed not for his wondrous works. (Ps. 78:5-7, 22-25, 32)
Let us not be like the Israelites of old and fail to trust in the promises of God. Remember, worry shows a lack of faith.
Worry Prevents Us from Accomplishing the Real Challenges of Life
Few people today understand what human nature really is and why God gave us this nature. Various theories about why humans act the way they do fall short of reality. The reality is that human nature is man’s own worst enemy. How does the Bible describe it?
This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh. For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would . . . . Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, Envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God. (Gal. 5:16-17, 19-21)
Jesus Himself said: ” . . . That which cometh out of the man, that defileth the man. For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, Thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within, and defile the man” (Mark 7: 20-23). With this knowledge we should be able to understand why the prophet Isaiah said: “O LORD, why hast thou made us to err from thy ways, and hardened our heart from thy fear? . . . ” (Isa. 63:17), and why the Apostle Paul wrote: “For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be” (Rom. 8:6-7).
God has given us a brief lifespan to overcome this nature. Overcoming means to repress our passions and lusts so that they do not control us. Through the power of the Spirit of God, we can control them. This is the real purpose in life-overcoming the evil pulls of human nature in order to be accounted worthy of God’s Kingdom. Why did God give us this nature? The answer: So that we may build holy righteous character. Character is the ability to recognize right from wrong and to always choose the right in opposition to the wrong. And what defines right and wrong? The answer: The Law of God. God has never given man the right to define right and wrong. Only God has this authority and He defined this long before man was created. “My tongue shall speak of thy word: for all thy commandments are righteousness” (Ps. 119:172).
Worry thwarts us from keeping our minds on this real challenge. Jesus warned of this when He said: “He also that received seed [the Word] among the thorns is he that heareth the word; and the care of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, choke the word, and he becometh unfruitful” (Matt. 13:22). The reality is: The care of this world is fraught with troubles, problems, and worries. Jesus stated this worried, anxious concern could prevent us from achieving the goal for which we were born-overcoming the pulls of human nature and building character. “Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good” (Rom. 12:21). ” . . . For of whom a man is overcome, of the same is he brought in bondage. For if after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled therein, and overcome, the latter end is worse with them than the beginning” (2 Pet. 2:19-20). God promises great rewards to those who overcome. “To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne” (Rev. 3:21). “Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust” (2 Pet. 1:4).
When we allow worry to occupy a large portion of our time, we are thwarting our ability to accomplish the real challenge of life-overcoming in order to inherit the Kingdom of God.
Live One Day at a Time to Alleviate Worry
In the Lord’s Prayer, Jesus said to ask the Father, “Give us this day our daily bread” (Matt. 6:11). By this statement, Jesus emphasized the need to live one day at a time. Does that mean we should put no thought into the future? Of course not. The worry that Jesus talked about was this anxious concern or mental anguish that detracts from the quality of life. Some people worry themselves sick about securing physical bread alone, but fail to consider the spiritual bread from heaven. Both are required to truly live. ” . . . Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God” (Matt. 4:4).
On one occasion Jesus miraculously fed about 5,000 people. On the next day the people followed Him to Capernaum, a city on the northwest corner of the Sea of Galilee.
And when they had found him on the other side of the sea, they said unto him, Rabbi, when camest thou hither? Jesus answered them and said, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Ye seek me, not because ye saw the miracles, but because ye did eat of the loaves, and were filled. Labour not for the meat which perisheth, but for that meat which endureth unto everlasting life, which the Son of man shall give unto you: for him hath God the Father sealed. (John 6:25-27)
While physical sustenance is a necessity for physical life, Jesus admonished the people to place their priorities on the spiritual things of God. By seeking the spiritual, God promises to provide our physical needs. To repeat, David wrote: “I have been young, and now am old; yet have I not seen the righteous forsaken, nor his seed begging bread” (Ps. 37:25). This is why Jesus admonished us not to have this worry or to have this over concern about our needs. “But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you. Take therefore no thought [anxious, worried concern] for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof” (Matt. 6:33-34).
The Apostle Paul instructed: “Let your [manner of life] be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee. So that we may boldly say, The Lord is my helper, and I will not fear what man shall do unto me” (Heb. 13:5-6). And Jesus gave these encouraging words: “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid” (John 14:27).
If we can put to practice the above principles enumerated in this article, we can experience a happier and more relaxed way of life. While it is necessary to secure our daily needs, and to plan for our physical future, what needs to be emphasized is planning for a future life in God’s Kingdom. This can be accomplished by heeding Jesus’ words: ” . . . Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God” (Matt. 4:4).