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Stress Is a Part of Life (But Worry Doesn’t Have to Be)

October 9, 2023

Life pressures us from all directions. We face demands of us at work and school to perform at an acceptable level; we hear words from family members and friends that often stir us up; we concern ourselves with making payments on time; not to mention concerns about the economy and our future. All these factors and more contribute to the stresses that are a part of our life.

The truth is that there is not a whole lot we as human beings can do about many of the pressures of life – they are just a natural part of living in a fallen world. Our best approach – the Biblical approach – is to give them to God. Jesus said, “Come to Me, all who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28). Face your stresses, your problems head on, prayerfully seeking the wisdom of God in all matters.

We could choose to just quit and run away, but that won’t stop the stress completely because new and different pressures find us wherever we go. One problem is replaced with another. And now we might even have feelings of guilt and regret that we didn’t have before. If we choose to worry about the problem, we don’t solve anything either – the problem remains unsettled. Besides, the Scriptures teach us clearly that worry (also called anxiety and fretfulness) is a sin. Consider the teaching of Jesus in Matthew 6:25-34, part of His famous Sermon on the Mount. Three points are made in this passage about worry – (1) worry doesn’t solve anything, (2) worry shows a lack of belief in God, and (3) worry is totally unnecessary.

Worry Solves Nothing (Matthew 6:25-27)

This entire part of the Sermon on the Mount deals with our attitudes toward material things. Jesus has just made the point in the verses before this to give total obedience to God rather than things – Trust HIM.

Verse 25: “For this reason I say to you, do not be worried about your life, as to what you will eat or what you will drink; nor for your body, as to what you will put on. Is life not more than food, and the body more than clothing?” STOP WORRYING! The NIV says, “Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes?” On another occasion Jesus said that a man’s life does not “consist of his possessions” (Luke 12:15). This is a verse about our priorities. We are not to worry about what we eat, drink or put on.

What, then is it that we should be concerned about when it comes to our life?

Verse 26: “Look at the birds of the sky, that they do not sow, nor reap, nor gather crops into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more important than they?” Jesus uses the illustration of the birds. God takes care of them and He provides for their needs. How much more then will He take care of you and me – human beings who are made in His image and capable of eternal fellowship with Him? Jesus is NOT promoting laziness or a slothful attitude here. Birds are not examples of idleness. They don’t just wait for God to feed them. No, they are constantly foraging for food. Therefore, Jesus is not saying that people should just fold their hands and wait for God to feed them. Birds are an example, then, not of idleness, but of a lack of anxiety.

Said the Robin to the Sparrow:
“I should really like to know
Why these anxious human beings
Rush about and worry so.”
Said the Sparrow to the Robin:
“Friend, I think that it must be
That they have no heavenly Father
Such as cares for you and me.”

Like the birds, we need to be busy. Busy doing what? Sowing, reaping and storing up for the future. There is no contradiction between working and praying. We must put forth the effort to do our part and God will bless that.

Verse 27: “And which of you by worrying can add a single day to his life’s span?” Worry does not add a single day to our lives. In fact, the medical community can testify that worry harms one’s health and shortens life. Worry is not only unproductive but also dangerous to one’s life and health.

Worry Demonstrates Unbelief (Matthew 6:28-32)

Jesus now turns from the birds to another example – that of the flowers and the grass. Like the birds, they are examples of God’s provision.

Verses 28-30: “And why are you worried about clothing? Notice how the lilies of the field grow; they do not labor nor do they spin thread for cloth, yet I say to you that not even Solomon in all his glory clothed himself like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, will He not much more clothe you? You of little faith!” If God will clothe the flowers in splendor and beauty, how much more will He provide for us?

Verse 31: “Do not worry then, saying, ‘What are we to eat?’ or ‘What are we to drink?’ or ‘What are we to wear for clothing?’” In Jesus’s day, people had real concerns about the necessities of life. He lived in a poor society. For many of us in America, the worries are not so much about where our next meal is coming from, but which restaurant to choose from. Whatever your obsession, Jesus’ point is this – the one that worries about secular things is one who does not know God. To know God is to KNOW that He WILL take care of you.

Verse 32: “For the Gentiles eagerly seek all these things; for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things.” God knows what you need and He cares. For that reason, we know we can trust him to provide for our needs. I love 1 Peter 5:6-7: “Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, so that He may exalt you at the proper time [His timing], having cast all your anxiety on Him, because He cares about you.” Carrying your worries, stresses and daily struggles around by yourself shows that you have not trusted God fully with your life.

Worry is Unnecessary (Matthew 6:33-34)

Did you know that there is an alternative to worry? There IS something else we can do other than worry.

Verse 33: “But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be provided to you.” What does Jesus mean by “seek first His kingdom and His righteousness?” He means to place a top priority on seeking God’s will for our lives. We must seek the reign and rule – the Lordship of God – in our personal lives! If we do that, we have a promise from His word: “All these things [all the stuff worried about in the previous verses] will be provided to you.”

Jesus does not teach a so-called “welfare” Gospel. He does not promise a handout – something for nothing. Salvation is indeed FREE (He paid for it with His own life). But Jesus clearly teaches that to follow Him WILL cost you personally. Here is what He commands in verse 33: Put God first in ALL aspects of your life – your finances, your job, your dating life, your marriage, your relationships – EVERYTHING! If you will do that, then you won’t worry because He will provide all your needs and give you a sense of fulfillment and purpose. He will fill you with His Holy Spirit and your life will exude the fruit of the Spirit – love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23).

Verse 34: “So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” DO NOT WORRY. Worry basically is a fear about what may happen in an unknown future. Today is the only day in which we can live. We should live a day at a time, trusting God in meeting today’s challenges and relying on Him for our unknown tomorrows. We have no idea what tomorrow holds. But God does.

Horace Greeley records a story recounted by Abraham Lincoln. Lincoln was asked shortly after he took office if he thought there would be civil war. He recalled an incident from earlier in his life as a lawyer in Illinois. He and his fellow lawyers dreaded crossing the Fox River especially when it was at flood stage. Traveling with a preacher one time, they asked him if he knew about crossing the Fox River. The preacher replied, “I know all about the Fox River. I have crossed it often, and understand it well. But I have one fixed rule with regard to the Fox River – I never cross it till I reach it!” Worrying about things before they happen is an exercise of futility.

The Biblical Alternative to Worry (Matthew 11:28-30)

The following passage is a personal invitation from Jesus.

Verse 28: “Come to Me, all who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” If you have a burden, bring it to the Lord. We are not strong enough to bear life’s burdens alone. We need the help of God and of each other. When we come to him with a heavy heart, He refreshes us.

Verse 29: “Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and YOU WILL FIND REST FOR YOUR SOULS.” In this verse Jesus promises a yoke. What is a yoke? It is a harness used on oxen when plowing a field. As believers we are harnessed by the Scriptures, God’s instructions to us. That is why He says, “learn from Me.” His yoke controls us and guides us in our task as His disciples. The end result of submitting to the yoke of Christ is a peace and fulfillment in life that only He offers.

Verse 30: “For My yoke is comfortable, and My burden is light.” Jesus says that His yoke is easy. The teachings of Jesus are in stark contrast to those of the scribes. His burden is light compared to the burden of keeping the requirements of the Law. But Christianity is not about keeping a set of rules. It’s about a relationship with Jesus Christ.

In conclusion, we are admonished, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and pleading with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God” (Philippians 4:6). My problem is an opportunity for God to work in my life, an opportunity to grow, a chance to learn more about Him.

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