Let us begin with our countdown of the top ten sins and struggles:
- #10: Laziness
- #9: Anger
- #8: Cursing and Gossip
- #7: Pride
- #6: Neglecting the Church
- #5: Coping with Change
- #4: Easily Discouraged
- #3: Overanxious (Worry)
This is another "struggle" issue. Worry all by itself is not a moral issue, although in one sense when we as Christians worry we are disobeying Jesus who said not to worry. Or course that this struggle was named by so many people is no surprise because it has always been a common human reaction by both believers and nonbelievers.
Tonight we will look at this issue and some remedies.
What is worry? It is a feeling. It is a feeling of fear or unhappiness regarding something or someone. Usually it is negative speculation about something that may happen in the future (one minute, one year). We feel regret, shame, or guilt for the past. What do we worry about? Health, family, and security are the top three. We are able to worry about anything that we focus our negative speculation on, for example our hair, our reputation, the car driven by our children, etc. There is a difference between worry and concern which is focused attention.
What does it accomplish?
- It produces nothing except over-stress. This is the only tangible thing that worry produces.
- It saps us of energy, wastes time, is discouraging and robs us of the enthusiasm we need to spend on positive projects. Some people invest a lot of energy into worry. The problem is that we only have so much energy to invest.
- We worry about tomorrow but do not know what tomorrow will bring. If we did, we could do something about it and change worry into action. But we do not and so waste energy and time worrying, and create unneeded stress that leads to burn-out.
- We know all this but continue to worry, is there anything to do?
Jesus and James teach us valuable lessons about worry that show us that worry is not a requirement in life.
Getting the Right Perspective
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 not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? 26 Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they? 27 And who of you by being worried can add a single hour to his life? 28 And why are you worried about clothing? Observe how the lilies of the field grow; they do not toil nor do they spin, 29 yet I say to you that not even Solomon in all his glory clothed himself like one of these. 30 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! 31 Do not worry then, saying, 'What will we eat?' or 'What will we drink?' or 'What will we wear for clothing?' 32 For the Gentiles eagerly seek all these things; for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. 33 But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.
34 "So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.
- Matthew 6:25-34
Notice that in this passage Jesus deals head on with the problem of worry (which suggests that stress caused by worry is not just a 21st century problem, people in every generation worried about something) and in dealing with worry He gives us the correct perspective on it as well as an alternative action in dealing with worry.
A Correct Perspective
The new perspective is found in verses 25-32 and basically it is this:
- Understand that God knows exactly what it is that you need in every area of your life.
- Whether it be food, clothing, work, housing, sex, medical help, family, recreation, etc. He knows, He cares, He can provide all that you need.
When we look into the future and begin to worry about having the wherewithal to finish or the strength to face illness and death, we are taking on a responsibility that belongs to God. He is responsible for the future and has promised to provide the resources to meet that future when it comes. I can be attentive to the future, I can prepare for the future, I can be hopeful about the future. But to worry about it is not only futile but sinful because Jesus says, "Do not worry" (verse 25).
Once we have a correct perspective (verse 34, using today's resources to take care of today's needs because God always provides enough today for today) we need an attitude shift.
Attitude Change - Verse 33
For those who are over-stressed the major attitude in their lives is usually that of worry about the past or future. Jesus explains how things are in the "real" world: God supplies what we need one day at a time. If you do not know this you worry about having enough, being ok, surviving in the home, work, society, etc., because you have to make it happen. But once you are presented with this fact about God and His providence your attitude needs to shift from worry to faith and your lifestyle needs to shift from acquisition to righteousness.
We worry because we think we are responsible for providing everything and in this world that is pretty scary (because so many fail at it) so we focus on acquiring and stockpiling so we will be safe and secure. This attitude and activity creates worry which produces over-stress which leads to burn-out.
To avoid the over-stress that comes from worry we need to concentrate on God's promise to provide each day what we need on that day, and change the focus of our lives from creating and maintaining wealth to creating and maintaining a pure conscience before God. This is the true work of a Christian: doing God's will. This means that we will have the normal stress that comes with working at the challenges that face us each day, but avoiding the over-stress that comes with either the concern that we have to be alone to provide or the worry over the nonexistent concerns of tomorrow.
Converting Stress into Joy – James 1:2-8
James' approach to worry and stress is to demonstrate that even negative things that happen to us do not have to create worry and consequently over-stress and all the negative things that come from it.
2 Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, 3 knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. 4 And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.
- James 1:2-4
In verses 2-4 he explains how to short-circuit worry and its negative effects:
- Understand that when trials (and temptations, disappointments, etc.) come your way they can be the cause of some good in life.
- If one meets them with perseverance (patient willingness to bear under) then the constant "perseverance mode" instead of worry mode in us will eventually produce a mature character, and experiencing this mature character (peace, joy, love, patience, kindness, etc.) will be a joyful thing. Wholeness, maturity is what our spirit craves for whether we realize it or not (usually distracted by the things of this world).
5 But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him. 6 But he must ask in faith without any doubting, for the one who doubts is like the surf of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind. 7 For that man ought not to expect that he will receive anything from the Lord, 8 being a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.
- James 1:5-8
In verses 5-8 he explains that doing this is not always easy and so if one desired to do this and has problems, he should ask God for help and do so with faith knowing that God, who provides for each day's needs, will also provide spiritual help for each day's challenges.
So many times we will not quit a bad habit or attempt to give up a sin which is blocking our spiritual growth because we feel we will never be able to bear an entire lifetime without it, for example smoking or porn, etc. According to the Scriptures we have just studied, we should get help only today and we will, and tomorrow God will provide the help we need for tomorrow's temptation if we need it. The same strategy works for the help we need to develop our talents, reach our goals, convert our family and friends.
So James tells us that trails do not have to be an enemy, producing not only pain and inconvenience but also cause us to worry and produce damaging stress in our lives. No, trials can be used to develop the spiritual maturity we need and desire, which will result in peace and joy. Knowing this short-corcuits the worry caused by trials.
The stress that comes from worry is caused by two things:
- We worry about the responsibility to provide for ourselves.
- We worry when trials interfere with our efforts to acquire and hoard in order to provide for ourselves, which we think will make us happy.
The Lord and His earthly brother provide the answer for those who are stressed out because of worry.
- God will supply what we need each day when we focus our attention on doing His will rather than acquiring and hoarding.
- We should not worry about the suffering brought about by trials, we should invest our energy into perseverance when we suffer. If we worry, it will make the suffering worse and accomplish nothing; if we choose to persevere however, it will create in us a greater maturity and joy which will help us endure the pain, lower the stress level caused by the pain.