Matthew 6:25-34  :  How to Stop Worrying

Some people are more prone to worry than others. In the mid-1950's , two cardiologists, Milton Friedman and R.H. Rosenman remarked that the primary risk factors of Coronary Heart Disease, i.e. hypertension, smoking, and elevated serum cholesterol, did not explain the vast increase of incidence of the disease occurring in the preceding 50 years. Their research published in 1974 revealed that personality type was a major contributory factor. They divided people into Type A and Type B. They observed that Type A people were more prone to worry than Type B and were also found to be three times more likely to have a stroke or a heart attack than those in the Type B category, even if they were do the same sort of work and living in similar conditions. Rob Parsons has identified some of the traits of Type A personalities. See if this reminds you of anyone.

“We are very competitive. We compete over everything and find to our embarrassment that when we play board games with small children we are desperately trying to win. We cannot resist a telephone ringing. The worse thing in life that can happen to us is to get to the telephone just as it stops ringing. If that happens we begin to ring people, asking, 'Was that you trying to get me moment ago?'  We swap lanes in traffic jams - even though we know that there is an eternal law that the lane we have just joined will now move more slowly than the lane we have just left. When driving down motorways we are constantly working out complicated mathematical sums: 'Stoke-on-Trent is ninety miles. If I drive at ninety miles per hour will take me an hour. If I drive at one hundred and eighty miles per hour it will take me half an hour. If I drive at seventy miles per hour ... no, that's too difficult. We hate stopping for petrol. Why do we hate it much? It's because when we pull in at the service station we look out over the road and see all the cars and lorries we had overtaken going past.”


Maybe you identify with Rob or maybe now realise you are married to one.  Whether you are Type A or Type B you worry and Jesus has a word for you this morning. Please turn to our passage and lets see what Jesus has to say about worrying. The main worry Jesus is concerned with is the worry caused by materialism. This is clear from the context. Verses 24 says “you cannot serve both God and money.”  Verse 25 says “Therefore I tell you…” Remember a ‘therefore’ is always there for a reason. As always, Jesus does not merely deal with the symptom but goes for the jugular he goes for the root cause.

What does Jesus mean? Why are we not to worry? “Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don’t get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes. Jesus gives us seven reasons why we should not worry.


1. Worry is to Miss the Point of Life

Jesus says, “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 important than food, and the body more important than clothes?”  (Matthew 6:25)


Jesus tells us life is far more important than material things. So often our worries are about relatively unimportant and trivial matters, such as food, drink, clothing, houses and cars.

Do an analysis of any typical women’s magazine or men’s magazine and you will find it is preoccupied with the very things Jesus told us not to worry about - with clothes, food and drink. Most of the adverts will focus on the body: with how to shape it, how to 'take four-and-a-half inches off without moving an inch'; with how to make it more attractive; how to 'love your lips', and make them alluring, smooth and more kissable; with how to look younger;  how to rejuvenate your skin and make it as soft as a baby's; with how to feed it - 'soups to be passionate about'; with how to clothe it with lycra for 'comfort, quality and freedom' and silk scarves 'to excite and inspire'. Jesus says that life 'is more important than these things.’

The columnist,
Penny Perrick, wrote in The Times: 'I have spent a fair bit of time this week wandering around the sales trying to pretend I wanted something. What I want is true love, long eyelashes and small feet and you can't buy any of those at Harrods.' Well actually you can. This week’s papers describe cosmetic surgeons who will now perform surgery on your toes to make them more attractive. They will even desensitise your soles to enable you to wear uncomfortable shoes. Jesus says here that if we seek fulfilment in material things we are missing the whole point of life. The point of life is to have a relationship with God through Jesus Christ. Worry misses the point of life.


2. Worry is Illogical

Jesus says, “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?” (Matthew 6:26)


Worry is actually a slander on God's character. Worry suggests that God is more interested in his pets than in his children. Birds are kept alive by food provided by nature, such as worms and insects. They have to spend a lot of time hunting and searching for the food, but it is there to be found. Jesus encourages us to look at them and to think about these facts. Worry misses the point of life because it is illogical.


3. Worry is a Complete Waste of Time

Jesus says, “Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?” (Matthew 6:27)


Worry is illogical because it is futile, unproductive and pointless. Jesus reminds us we cannot add anything to our life. Worry can only subtract from our lives by causing things like ulcers or a coronary thrombosis. Most things we worry about never happen anyway.

Sir Winston Churchill once said, 'When I look back on all these worries, I remember the story of the old man who said on his death bed that he had had a lot of trouble in his life, most of which never happened.'
William Barclay recalls the story of a London doctor who was paralysed and bedridden, but outrageously cheerful. His smile so brave and radiant that everyone forgot to feel sorry for him. His children adored him, and when one of his boys was leaving home, Dr. Greatheart gave him this advice: 'Johnny,' he said, ‘…please remember the biggest troubles you have got to face are those that never come.'  Worry misses the point of life because it is illogical and a waste of time.


4. Worry is Incompatible with Faith

Jesus says, “And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labour or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendour 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, O you of little faith?” (Matthew 6:28-30)


Faith and anxiety are like fire and water. In our previous church we had a large 8’x4’ poster board outside. One of my favourite posters was 'Why pray when you can worry?' Another asked ‘Is prayer your steering wheel or your spare tyre?’ Faith means trust. Trust in God's care and provision. To be a Christian is to walk in a trusting relationship with God. But sin interferes with that relationship and leads to worry. Worry misses the point of life, is illogical, a waste of time and incompatible with faith.


5. Worry is actually Sub-Christian

Jesus says, 'For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them' (Matthew 6:32)


So worry is not only incompatible with faith, it is actually sub-Christian.  Having a primary concern with material needs is the characteristic of unbelievers says Jesus. Some of these worry’s may be modest, such as food, drink and clothing. But others are more commonly found in Virginia Water: a bigger house, a new car, a better salary, reputation, fame or power. But all these are pagan because they are self-centred and do not satisfy. An article in the Evening Standard about Chris Evans drives this home. It asked, 'So why isn't this man laughing?' It went on to say why Evans ought to be a happy man. A multi-millionnaire, with cars, homes, girl friends, he nevertheless seemed depressed.

'It hit me one Sunday morning,' he explains, 'that all I ever wanted was the 10 o'clock Saturday night slot on Channel 4 and I'd achieved my life ambition at 27. So what do I do next? 'You can compare it to climbing Everest. You climb it, and what do you do then? Climb the north face? OK, but so what? And then? Climb the north face with a grand piano over your shoulder? There has to be more to life. Finding out what that might be is the problem I've had ever since that Sunday. I haven't got any closer to working it out.'


Have you? Have you worked it out? When we trust in Jesus and receive him as our Lord and Saviour we are born into his family and become children of God. We can be assured that God knows our every need. If our loving Father knows our needs we can trust him for them. Not our wants but certainly our needs.  Worry misses the point of life, is illogical, a waste of time, incompatible with faith and is actually sub-Christian.


6. Worry is Unnecessary

'But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.' (Matthew 6:33).


Worry is actually unnecessary. God promises to provide for our needs if we get our priorities right. Indeed, the Bible is full of such promises. For example, the psalmist says, 'No good thing does he withhold from those whose walk is blameless' (Psalm 84:11). The apostle Paul also writes, 'We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.' (Romans 8:28). Sometimes, as Paul knew only too well and Jesus experienced, our situation may be difficult or painful. Yet God will walk with us and hold our hand and use adversity to build our character.

The result may be increased intimacy with God, greater spiritual insight or far deeper faith with which to encourage and affirm others. Worry misses the point of life, is illogical, a waste of time, incompatible with faith, sub-Christian and a complete waste of time. And if you remain unconvinced, here’s one more.


7. Worry Contradicts Common Sense

Jesus says, 'Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.' (Matthew 6:34)


God intends us to live one day at a time. God has given us our lives in units of twenty-four hours and we should take life a day at a time. If we wish to live a long and fruitful life, we should respect and live by the biological clock he has built inside us. Fiona Castle, who had to face the stress of her husband Roy's battle against cancer, wrote this in her book ‘Give Us This Day’:

“Recently a friend commented to me that many people live their life as though it were a dress rehearsal for the real thing. But in fact, by tonight, we will have given the only performance of 'today' that we will ever give. So we have to put our heart, our energy and honesty and sincerity into what we do every day. As a show business family, we find that a very suitable illustration. And every show comes to the end of its run, when we must lay aside the costumes and step off the stage, into another, larger world. So as we pray the prayer Jesus taught us, we ask God to 'Give us this day' - thankfully receiving one day at a time - looking to him to sustain us with everything we need, whether it be food, shelter, love of family and friends, or courage and hope to face the future. And at the same time we echo the words of the psalmist: 'This is the day the Lord has made. We will rejoice and be glad in it' (Psalm 118:24).


Seven reasons why we should stop worrying. Worry misses the point of life, is illogical, a waste of time, incompatible with faith, sub-Christian, a complete waste of time and contradicts common sense. Jesus says we need to change our priorities and our ambitions. So how do we stop worrying? Jesus gives us that the answer in 6:33-34. The verse begins “But”. “But seek first…” Jesus is stressing by way of contrast that to fill the vacuum, to eradicate worry we must focus our minds and energy on something else. Here there are three things to focus on. Three steps to stop worrying. (Two explicit and one implicit)


1.  Seek First God’s Kingdom

Jesus calls us to a higher, nobler ambition - to seek his kingdom. We are to seek his rule and reign in our lives, in our marriages, in our home, in our family and in our lifestyle. We are also to seek it in the lives of others - our friends, relations, neighbours, work colleagues and in the community.

Our Imagine document and Five Year Plan expresses our shared conviction of what God’s kingdom rule will look like in Virginia Water. Do you share that vision? If you have not got a copy pick one up in the corridor. Read it, meditate on the biblical passages it contains and commit yourself in 2004 to help us turn our vision of God’s kingdom into a reality. Seek first God’s Kingdom. Secondly Jesus tells us how.


2. Seek First God’s Righteousness

We are to seek God's kingdom in God’s way. With God’s 'righteousness' in our lives and community. We should seek to see his standards universally accepted, and invest our time, our energy and money in this pursuit. There are many examples of men and women who, in God's strength, have made a great impact on society because they have been passionate about God’s kingdom and God’s righteousness.

For example,
William Wilberforce, as a Christian Member of Parliament, devoted his entire life to seeing God's standards in our society. He campaigned for forty-five years to abolish slavery. The necessary Act of Parliament was passed in July 1833, three days before he died.  What are the challenges facing our society today? Poverty? The spread of AIDS? Abortion? The breakdown of marriage? The toleration of same sex relationships? The abuse of children? In which of these or other issues is God calling you to step over the line and make a difference in 2004?

Make it an early new year resolution to do something about them.
Jesus promises that if we get our priorities and our ambitions right, then 'all these things will be given to you as well' (ie, all the little worries will be dealt with). Lesser ambitions are good, provided they are in second place. Provided these lesser ambitions serve greater, God-centred ambitions. We have the promise of Jesus here that if we take on his priorities and make them our greater ambition, then he will provide us with everything we need. Everything. So seek first his kingdom and his righteousness.


3. Seek First God’s Son

The wealthy Baron Fitzgerald had only one son and heir, who died after leaving home. This was a tragedy from which the father never recovered. As his wealth increased, the Baron continued to invest in paintings by great masters, and when he died his will was found to call for all his paintings to be sold. Because of their quality and artistic value, messages were sent out to museums and collectors, advertising the sale.

When the day of the auction came, a large crowd assembled, and the lawyer read from Fitzgerald's will. It instructed that the first painting to be sold was that 'of my beloved son'. The portrait was by an unknown artist and it was of poor quality. The only bidder was an old servant who had known and loved the boy. For a small sum of money he bought it for its sentimental value and the memories it held for him. The attorney again read from the will, 'Whoever buys my son gets all. The auction is over.' Jesus said, 'Seek first my Father’s kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well'. That is how to stop worrying and start living.
Lets pray.


This sermon draws heavily on chapter 14 of Nicky Gumbel’s excellent book “Challenging Lifestyle” published by Kingsway. I have also benefited from John Stott’s “Christian Counter Culture” published by IVP.