Series: Matthew: We Need a King

Countering Anxiety

April 11, 2021 | Jeff Crotts

Passage: Matthew 6:25-34

An update on Grace Life Church in Alberta Canada, pastored by James Coates. 

  • James, now released from prison but now video footage of their church wrapped in a double fence. 
  • Police, security, and police vehicles make up a blockade, keeping their church from gathering in their building. 
  • Erin Coates is quoted as saying, “They do not understand that the church is not a building, so you cannot keep the church from meeting together.”

From the LA Times:

WASHINGTON —  The Supreme Court, citing religious liberty has lifted another of California’s COVID restrictions, holding the state may not prevent people from gathering in homes for Bible study and prayer meetings.  Tandon vs. Newsom. The Supreme Court issued a 5-4 order near midnight Friday barring the enforcement of a state restriction that was due to expire on Thursday.  

The order spoke for Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel A. Alito Jr., Neil M. Gorsuch, Brett M. Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett. 

  • The four dissenting Justices accused them of comparing “apples and watermelons!” 
  • But the 1st Amendment applied, held this round.

Our times are becoming more and more worrisome.  Tempting to be so.

  • Worry is a common temptation. 
  • We know what 1 Corinthians 10:13 tells us about how “common” our temptations are, right?

ESV  1 Corinthians 10:13 No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it. )

Being tempted to worry is not only common inside the church but common to everyone alive. 

  • It-is-there.
    • Some know how to deal with it, and most do not.
    • When anxiety takes over, the culture calls this an Anxiety Attack. 
  • This title connects when someone experiences body shut down. 
  • Symptoms from unbridled worry, affecting physiology, in multiplied manifestations. 
  • Worrying becomes an imperceptible effect, where people get used to it. 
  • Suddenly, a gasket blows.

I remember hearing of a man, later in age, shutting down with uncontrolled weeping.  What scared him was, he had no idea where it came from. 

  • A pastor compared the origin to eating fast food.
    • The first cheeseburger does not give you a heart attack.
    • The 500th 
  • Unchecked anxiety overloads to the point of bursting a gasket.

Christians have tools, no one else has, to counter anxiety. 

  • Not master over circumstances but God’s Word and Spirit enable believers to respond to anything. 
  • You cannot control your world, but you can yield to God’s control while in it. 

Verses 25-34 leave no room for any topic but “anxiety” (cff. v. 25, 27, 28, 31, 34 2x).  Dealing with it!

It is common for “anxiety” to be defined as something other than what it truly is. 

  • Anxiety, defined as the “boogie man” lurking, ready to encroach on life.
    • Ready to pounce.
    • Making you, “Anxious about being Anxious!” 
  • Some got to labels.
    • A personality
    • A naturally anxious temperament. 
  • Others make this strait physiology; a medical condition you suffer from with no recourse. 
  • Most commonly, people make anxiety a hard circumstance.

            “I was so stressed out!” 

 There are elements of truth wrapped together in all these labels. 

  • Stressors bring strong influences. 
  • Some are more susceptible to anxiety than others. 
  • Professionals point toward serotonin levels to curb anxious feelings. 

“How does Jesus say to treat this common issue of anxiety?” 

  • The irreducible minimum? “Faith.” 
    • Exercising faith or not.
    • Having faith or lacking faith.

Practically speaking, this is a matter of where you are placing your focus or what your mindset is. 

  • Jesus addresses this pervasive, life-defining issue in terms of commands, making this moral.
  • And, this coincides with two other direct passages that deal with worry.

ESV  Philippians 4:6 do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.

ESV  1 Peter 5:7 casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.  

Dealing with anxiety comes down to dealing with Jesus' commands. 

Worrying or not comes down to obedience.

  • Exercising faith, not fear.
    • The most repeated command is “fear not.”
      • Sins like anger, lust, or hate seem so much worse and even more destructive.
      • This underestimates how the sin of worrying, dominates, debilitates, paralyzes, and puts people in a fog. 
  • Worry ruins your health and wrecks relationships.

Charles Mayo, co-founder of the Mayo clinic said, “Worry affects the circulatory system, heart, glands, and a person’s entire nervous system.” 

He went on to write in a medical journal, “I never know anyone who died of overwork, but I know many who died of worry.”

  • What Jerry Bridges labeled, “A Respectable Sin.”    

How does Jesus address this sin?  Much different than anyone else.  

Prop: Coming to grips with our anxiety in three ways.
1. Come to grips with yourself (v. 30b)

In his book Spiritual Depression: Its Causes and Cure, Dr. Lloyd-Jones reflecting and applying Psalm 42 said this:

You have to take yourself in hand, you have to address yourself, preach to yourself, question yourself.  You must say to your soul: ‘Why art thou cast down’ – what business have you to be disquieted?  You must turn on yourself, upbraid yourself: ‘Hope thou in God’ – instead of muttering in this depressed, unhappy way.  And then you must go on to remind yourself of God, Who God is, and what God is and what God has done, and what God has pledged Himself to do.  Then having done that, end on this great note: defy yourself, defy other people, and defy the devil and the whole world…!” 

 

“What is anxiety’s source?” 

Verse 30 uncovers the source of where anxiety, worry, stress, and fear come. 

  • All in the little phrase: “O you of little faith?” 
  • The origin of all this is lacking faith.
    • To worry is unbelief; the opposite, believing God does not care about you.
    • Denial is practical atheism. 
  • The sin beneath the sin, is forgetting God and the Gospel. 
  • Forgetting you are God’s child. 
  • Jesus’ tone is like his rebuke to the disciples – skilled boaters and fishermen who lost it during the storm surge when Jesus was asleep in the hull of the boat.
    • Jesus seeing their panicked fear literally said, “Where is the faith of you?” (cf. Mk. 4:40).
      • This is a loving rebuke, here in anticipation of mounting pressure that will come.
      • The struggle to trust God.
      • Casting them men and women of “little faith.”

This characterization is made to elicit a response, like a rhetorical question where they will conclude, “Of course God will take care of me.”  

Coming to the same posture of the father whose child had a demon from childhood. 

ESV  Mark 9:21-24 And Jesus asked his father, "How long has this been happening to him?" And he said, "From childhood.22 And it has often cast him into fire and into water, to destroy him. But if you can do anything, have compassion on us and help us."23 And Jesus said to him, "'If you can'! All things are possible for one who believes."24 Immediately the father of the child cried out and said, "I believe; help my unbelief!" 

 The most frightening thing is for your child’s life to be in danger.

    • Not knowing how to swim or keep out of the campfire. Stressful! 
    • The posture is “I believe; help my unbelief!” 

Jesus lists common temptations like whether there will be money to meet your daily needs. 

Remember the immediate context of verses 19-24.  

  • “Therefore” (v. 25) ties everything Jesus says to what he just said, pertaining to the choice of trusting God or money.
    • Devotion to one or the other.
    • Jesus, calling the crowd to let go of earthly securities. “Treasure” (cf. vv. 19-21). 
    • Choosing God over wealth makes for real vulnerability, like living on the mission field.
    • Depending on God for your next meal. 

Living in Palestine meant there were times when snow would not fall on the mountains.  

  • Streams would not run or a plague of locusts might devour crops or there could have been a famine.    

This command says do not be anxious about your life. 

Basic needs like food, water, clothing; that which, at times, may be at risk. 

 2. Come to grips with your God (vv. 25-30)

Understanding Jesus’ point comes down to understanding that worrying is utterly unnecessary because of who God is and how he relates. 

  • Jesus wants believers to know the Father’s commitment to them.
    • Our Father sustains our life (cf. v. 25).
    • Our life is literally our soul.

 Jesus wants you to ask yourself, “Isn’t there more to you than whether or not you eat?”

God cares about your eternal soul meaning he cares about you. 

Consequently, a believer should believe God will prioritize your needs. 

  • Killing anxiety (not being a worrier like Martha cf. Luke 10:41) begins with understanding you are a “soul” and this is how God sees you.
    • The larger concern is your eternal destiny.
    • More so than your “day-to-day.” 
  • Jesus says, “View life like this” where life is always about something more!   

Verse 26 is where Jesus uses birds as a ready illustration. 

  • “Look at the birds” (v. 26).
    • Spring is here and the birds are back.
    • Some birds are bigger and even fatter than others. 
    • I have never heard of a grown bird dying from starvation. 
  • Birds are busy getting what they need to eat.
    • They work hard but without concern.
    • Take a lesson from a bird and lookup. 
  • Birds live in the moment, while they fly, and hunt and God provides.
    • This same rhythm should be our rhythm.
    • Otherwise, all you would do is work or worry about your work. 
  • We should be working, hunting, and seeking nourishment while, trusting God will provide.

Life is about more than “food” and the for the “body”, “more than clothing” (v. 26) and then “…you are [of] more value” than birds (v. 26).   

“How does God provide?” 

Understand competing philosophies for how God engages our world. 

  • Called Cosmology.
    • A naturalist believes that god is the creation.
      • This world is all there is where we live and die within this experience.
      • Within the bubble.
      • God is mother nature. 
  • Basic atheism. 
  • Most, are self-appointed agnostics; god is impersonal.
    • Deists believe god, the great clockmaker who wound up the world and let it go.
    • This lack of involvement breeds an insecure version of freedom.
    • Zero accountability and zero security. 
  • Legalist, form a tribal god, easily triggered, waiting to drop lightening down when you stumble. Still impersonal and untouchable. 
  • Mystics also see god as basically checked out. 
  • Still, tapped at a moment’s notice for help or a prize.

We know, God’s Word says God as Creator, is both sovereign and intimate. 

  • Intimately involved with his Creation. 
  • “What does this mean?”

Not too long ago, off of Seward Highway, my boys and I trekked up to the top of a ridge engaging a flock of doll sheep. 

  • Seeing creation like this is a gift from God’s precise and detailed providence.

ESV  Psalm 104:26 There go the ships, and Leviathan, which you formed to play in it.

ESV  Psalm 107:25 For he commanded and raised the stormy wind, which lifted up the waves of the sea.

ESV  Psalm 135:7 He it is who makes the clouds rise at the end of the earth, who makes lightnings for the rain and brings forth the wind from his storehouses.)

ESV  Psalm 147:18 He sends out his word, and melts them; he makes his wind blow and the waters flow.  

Jesus argues from the lesser to the greater, covering details to ask the question, “Are you not more value than they?” (v. 26). 

Verse 27 moves into the application, confronting the temptation to trade trusting God for control. 

  • We all know the desire for self-preservation.
    • To eat better and exercise more.
      • Good things becoming attempts to control the length of your life.
      • The length of your life and death can become a real source of anxiety and can become something to be delivered from. 
  • “Worrying” [being distracted] cannot add a “span” or “cubit” to your life.
    • You know worrying does nothing positive.
    • On your death bed, you will know that most of what you worried about never came to be an issue at all. 

“Worrying is lost time not time gained.” 

Verse 28 uses “clothing” as a basic essential to describe anything material. 

  • Whether to meet a basic need or to enjoy an expensive garment, God provides it all. 
  • He cares for your warmth and your joy. 
  • Viewing an expensive garment under a microscope; magnified, it looks like a sackcloth. 
  • If you look at a flower petal under a microscope, you might be filled with wonder.

What is revealed is what science calls, the Fibonacci Sequence which is a metrical code (discovered in the 12th Century). 

  • Spirals in plant life and snail shells, flowers.
  • Replicated in architecture like spiral staircases.
  • Found in and through nature’s design.

Inanimate beauty does not worry about being beautiful, it just is.  

“…even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these” (v. 29). 

The conclusion is that if God cares to bestow this kind of beauty for his creation that, “today is alive and tomorrow…thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you…?” 

  • Again, God is working from “the lesser to the greater”
    • To elicit the response, “of course he will!”
    • Simply taking “faith” to see this reality!   
3. Come to grips with your priorities (vv. 31-34)

Verse 31 begins with “Therefore” to make his point again.  “…do not be anxious” (v. 31). 

“What does it sound like to be anxious?” 

  • “What shall we eat?” or “What shall we drink?” or “What shall we wear?” 
  • Do you know what this sounds like? “…the Gentiles” (v. 32). 

A “Gentile” is a synonym for an unbeliever. 

  • An atheist, agnostic, naturalist, pagan, who has no clue about who God really is and how dialed in he is to our needs. 

Gentiles are “seeking all these things” (v. 32) and not by faith. 

  • “What does “faith” look like?”
    • Affirming “your heavenly Father knows that you need them all” (v. 32).
    • In essence, leaving provision ultimately up to God.
    • Gentiles “seek” first stuff and we “seek” first “the kingdom of God and his righteousness” (v. 33). 
  •  When we worry about provision as Christians, this is confusing.
    • Unbelievers expect you have a reason not to worry, claim to know a personal God who cares. 
  • “What about when you worry and fret for provision in front of your children?” 
  • Children look to dad and mom to model faith. 
  • Should it not be this way in our homes? 
  • When the pandemic hit and our priorities were tested, did you “seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness?” 

“Seek” is a present active imperative that connotes, “to keep seeking first” (v. 33). 

  • God’s “righteousness” comes at conversion, but this is also practical sanctification.

“What does it practically mean to ‘seek first the kingdom?’” 

  • Simply put, you need to think in terms of your relationship with God. 
  • As a child of God, you know a King and you are his son serving him in his mission.

ESV  Romans 14:17 For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. 

 “I love the final verse of this chapter.” 

Verse 34 is a small taste of reality beginning with “Therefore” (v. 34). 

“…do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself…” (v. 34). 

  • Live within your day. 
  • There will be temptations to be “anxious” tomorrow but stay inside your day. 
  • In one sense, we need to reset daily! 

The reason we do not sleep is when we allow what is outside of our control to take control of us. 

  • Instead, take up “faith” in the One who is in control of everything we cannot control. 
  • Is your God big enough? 
  • There is no denying that our world is filled with pain. With challenges.  
  • Do not take up practical atheism, denying God and how big and near he is

I still remember being taught the story of David and Goliath in 5th and 6th grade Sunday school. 

  • The youth pastor gave a lesson on how and why David was able to face Goliath when his brothers and all of Israel’s army would not.

ESV  1 Samuel 17:32 And David said to Saul, "Let no man's heart fail because of him. Your servant will go and fight with this Philistine."33 And Saul said to David, "You are not able to go against this Philistine to fight with him, for you are but a youth, and he has been a man of war from his youth."34 But David said to Saul, "Your servant used to keep sheep for his father. And when there came a lion, or a bear, and took a lamb from the flock,35 I went after him and struck him and delivered it out of his mouth. And if he arose against me, I caught him by his beard and struck him and killed him.36 Your servant has struck down both lions and bears, and this uncircumcised Philistine shall be like one of them, for he has defied the armies of the living God."37 And David said, "The LORD who delivered me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine." And Saul said to David, "Go, and the LORD be with you!"

ESV  1 Samuel 17:41-47 And the Philistine moved forward and came near to David, with his shield-bearer in front of him.42 And when the Philistine looked and saw David, he disdained him, for he was but a youth, ruddy and handsome in appearance.43 And the Philistine said to David, "Am I a dog, that you come to me with sticks?" And the Philistine cursed David by his gods.44 The Philistine said to David, "Come to me, and I will give your flesh to the birds of the air and to the beasts of the field."45 Then David said to the Philistine, "You come to me with a sword and with a spear and with a javelin, but I come to you in the name of the LORD of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied.46 This day the LORD will deliver you into my hand, and I will strike you down and cut off your head. And I will give the dead bodies of the host of the Philistines this day to the birds of the air and to the wild beasts of the earth, that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel,47 and that all this assembly may know that the LORD saves not with sword and spear. For the battle is the LORD's, and he will give you into our hand." 

  •  Bringing this down to a heart level, he took the chalk and drew on the board an image representing a nine-foot-tall giant. 
  • Then he drew a younger and much smaller, teen-aged boy. 
  • To illustrate, David, the teenager’s faith, the youth pastor drew a great big image of a much larger Being just behind David. 
  • Taking up the entire chalkboard, this figure represented David’s view of God
  • David’s focus was on the massive nature, presence, and provision of God
  • This same God had always been there for him. 

 How we must live by the faith Jesus demands.  

Seeking first his kingdom.   

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Series Information

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