You Can Stop Worrying.
- The Cure: Matt 6:33
I read a story, might have been JC Ryle wrote about this, where, there was a businessman whom the queen, Queen Victoria, wanted to send to India to represent her, and he said, “Well, I’m afraid if I was to go to India that my business would suffer.” And the queen said, “You take care of my business and I’ll take care of your business.” And he went off to India, of course, as the queen became a patron of his business and other people learned about that, his business flourished in his absence. And that’s what Jesus is saying here: “Seek first My kingdom. Do what you’ve been called to do.” Now, that doesn’t mean everybody needs to quit and become a missionary. Some of us need to work harder to support missionaries and not just be missionaries, but, fulfill the calling God has given you wherever it is, and I’ll take care of your material needs to pursue His righteousness, to pursue spiritual growth. “All these things will be added to you.” You can cast your cares upon the Lord. And as you rely upon Him, He will not disappoint you. Instead, you can give thanks to Him.
Don’t Misunderstand or Abuse God’s Promises!
Now, the last thing I’ll mention in this text is, sometimes you have a worry-wart married to happy-go-lucky. And the wife is often the worry-wart and she’s upset that we’re going into debt, our house is on the verge of a foreclosure, my husband has a really bad job, he needs to find a better job, and, oh, don’t worry, nothing to worry about, honey. They both need help. She needs the first part but he also, you know, verse 34 doesn’t say you’re not gonna have any problems, just hang loose, it’s easy. It’s not advocating irresponsibility, He says, every day has enough trouble of its own. God solves our problems by means. The birds even get their food, not by waiting for worms to fall off of branches into their mouth, they go find the worms. Luther writes, “God wants nothing to do with the gluttons who are neither concerned nor busy and act as if they have to just wait for someone to drop a roasted goose in their mouth.” So, we’re responsible to use the means that God has given to solve the problems, but not as if it depends upon us. But to be responsible.
Introduction to Phil 4:4-7
So, here’s a text, and I’ve given you even a shorter summary than I would do with a counselee, but, here’s a text you can go through, and let’s think about these things, let’s fill our minds with truth for a while. Assuming the counselee is a believer, that for you, worry is senseless, useless, and faithless because of Who God is to you, and furthermore, the cure to worry is to be busy doing what God has called you to do, to seek His kingdom, and to trusting in Him to perform what He has called you to do. And the responsibility is ultimately upon Him to fulfill what He has said He will do. This does not mean you’re gonna live in a mansion and eat lobster every night, but God has committed to meet your basic needs.
Another key text, the other, well, there are many you could use, but this is another one that I use a lot, we also have an audio for this, is Philippians 4. I would start in verse four. Paul says, “Rejoice in the Lord always, again, I say rejoice. Let your gentle spirit be made known to all men. The Lord is near. Be anxious for nothing, but in everything, by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things. The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things and the God of peace will be with you.”
There are two wonderful promises embedded in that text, aren’t there? He says in verse seven as you pray as you should, that the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” Guard you, I think that includes from worry, fear, debilitating anxiety. And then in verse nine, as you think on the things you should think, it says, “The God of peace will be with you.” So, again, summarizing the passage, you’ve got these commands, starting in verse four. Rejoice! What is the mood? You know what I mean by mood in grammar? Is it indicative, subjunctive, or imperative? It’s an imperative, it’s a command. God commands us to be joyful. Now, for a believer, what He commands is something that we can do. You may say I’m tempted not to rejoice, well, you’re not tempted beyond what you’re able, and you have good reason to rejoice. Who should I rejoice in? In the Lord. God has given me ample reason to rejoice. Now, why are we often sad, why are we worried, why are we lacking joy, is because we’re finding our joy in the wrong place. If your ultimate joy is in your kids, if your ultimate joy is in your house, if your ultimate joy is even in your marriage, then that joy can be taken away. If your ultimate joy is in your health, that can be taken away, but the Lord can never be taken away from you. You can have joy as He is the most important thing.
How do you do that in practical terms? Well, I think verses eight and nine are a good place to start, to think about what God has done for you, to rejoice in Who He is and to dwell on these things. It says be yielding and gentle, “Let your gentle spirit, your forbearing spirit may be known to all men.” Not a person, again, worry will often drive us to pushing ourselves ahead of others, to have our own way, to self-protection. But as we’re trusting in God and in His nearness to us, we don’t have to do that. And then, again, the command, “Be anxious for nothing, instead, put off anxiety.” What do you put on? To pray. And, when he says pray, he gives lots of different words for prayer. Then he says, “Prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God.” So, he uses a general word for prayer, then he says it should be with thanksgiving.
Thanksgiving is a real help for depressed or worried people. It should be. Have you ever done this? I’ve actually had to do it, sometimes I find myself stressed and I’ll force myself to write down all the reasons I have to be thankful. That’s a good exercise to do when you’re stressed or you’re feeling sorry for yourself. What cause do I have to rejoice in the Lord? What are the causes I have to be thankful? Some of that is God’s past faithfulness, is the times before when I didn’t have a job and then God still provided. The times in the past when things seemed hopeless and He was there for me. And the goodness I still enjoy, that I may be having trouble with a child, but God has blessed me with a wonderful wife, He’s blessed me with wonderful friends, and co-elders, and so that’s back to talking to yourself, to force yourself to do what doesn’t come naturally when you’re dealing with anxiety, depression, fear, anger, is to give thanks to God. And then, make your requests to God. Lord, give us help, Lord, give us wisdom, Lord, provide work. And then you trust Him. And it says that “the peace of God will guard your hearts and minds”, that word guard, you picture a little sentry with his rifle or something and he’s going back and forth, and, my heart, which is in danger of attack from worry and fear which can be debilitating. But as I continue to pray and give praise to God and give thanks to God, that’s gonna protect me from being overwhelmed by worry and by fear. So much of our temptation is to think that if only my circumstances would change, then I would be happy. And where was Paul when he wrote this? He was in prison. And what was his future? Possible death penalty. And the Romans weren’t known for their mercy. But he was able to rejoice because his joy wasn’t based on his circumstances. He had, I mean, for some of us, uncertainty is the worst thing to live with. Some people going through a crisis, if he’s gonna leave, let him leave, if he’s gonna stay, let him stay, I can’t handle the uncertainty, I can’t handle the uncertainty. The layoffs are coming, I don’t know if it’s gonna be me, get it over with. Well, Paul was living with uncertainty in chapter one. I may die, I may live, they may let me go. I’m not sure. But he also knows that, whatever happens, God will be glorified. So he’s able to not be controlled by the anxiety.
Back to the main outline on worry and anxiety, as you’re doing data gathering, you wanna find out what is the focus of the worry. What is it this person desires, and they desire it so much that they think they can’t live without it? You wanna learn, is there a pattern? Is this a crisis in this person’s life and, normally, they don’t struggle with worry? Or is this an ongoing life-dominating sin? And then, how are they sinning in trying to deal with the worry? The sin could be just filling their mind with unbelieving thoughts. It could be means of escape. Stress relief through different types of sin or even doing evil to protect themselves. People with financial worries sometimes find themselves doing evil with finances. That’s where some church treasurers in the past, when they’ve been in financial trouble in their personal lives, they’ve borrowed a bit from the church which trusted them. Sometimes, the bit is six figures. People likewise at work, when they’re in financial trouble, sometimes do bad, do evil, oftentimes deceiving themselves that, when things are better, I’ll pay it back. So, are you addressing this in a sinful way, in some way which is complicating the problem?
Homework for Those Who Are Anxious.
Homework: one is to pray, to spend time praying, maybe to force yourself to write out prayers, to write out praise to God, to write out thanksgiving to Him, to write out your supplications and your requests. To work at rejoicing in the Lord. To actively seek to trust God for whatever may yet be coming. James talks in chapter four, you’re making a plan to have a business, you say if the Lord wills, this will happen, it’s in His hand. Thinking about what is profitable and then seeking first God’s kingdom. Keeping a journal can be helpful. This is also a case where, when they come to see you, maybe when they come to see you they’re not worried but when they spend five out of the last seven days bedridden with worry. So, having them keep a journal of how they’re doing, what they’re thinking, learning to live by faith and not by feelings. Some resources. A book that has just been helpful to many, many ladies especially, Overcoming Fear, Worry and Anxiety by Elyse Fitzpatrick. My wife has actually, at conferences, taught that material to ladies’ groups and it’s been very helpful to them. She’s used it in discipleship with women who struggle with worry. Wayne Mack has The Fear Factor. Then there’s some booklets by CCEF and then the pamphlet by Jay Adams. We have some audios we can recommend as well, along with some homework.