All too soon, 2018 has come and gone and we have entered a new year. I trust the past year had its own successes. Undoubtedly, I am sure the year also included its own failures. That said, a new year is here with us and in Paul’s words, let us enter the New Year “forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead” (Philippians 3:12).
The New Year presents us with many opportunities to amend and improve on areas of our lives where there were failures and forge ahead with confidence. As humans, it is very likely our past experiences, especially where they are not positive experiences may influence our moving forward and if not checked, may slum us into a state of worry, anxiety and in extreme cases hopelessness. To address this, we turn to a very popular sermon delivered by our Lord himself: the Sermon on the Mount. It is so called because the sermon was delivered on a mountain:
Seeing the crowds, he went up on the mountain, and when he sat down, his disciples came to him (Matthew 6:1).
When he came down from the mountain, great crowds followed him Matthew 8:1)
The Sermon on the Mount begins from Matthew 5:2 and ends at Matthew 7: 29. It is considered Jesus’ longest speech in all of the New Testament; stretching about 109 verses. If you use a red letter edition Bible, you will appreciate how long the sermon was. And in this sermon, we see some of Jesus’ most popular words recorded. Our focus for this article will be on Chapter 6 especially from verses 25-31. A bird’s eye view of the Chapter presents us with these divisions:
1) Rebuke of Ostentatious Living: A life of Pretence (vv. 1-13)
2) Forgiveness (vv.14-15)
3) Attitude Towards Money (19-24)
4) Worrying (25-34).
As indicated, the focus of this article will be on verses 25-34 from which we will glean four lessons.
Worrying Is Disobedience
Worrying first and foremost is disobedience to God’s commands. The Bible clearly commands against worry and anxiety. Jesus in His sermon on the mount issued some imperatives against worrying. Continuously we hear him saying “Do not be anxious” (vv. 25; 31; 34). These are not suggestions or pieces of advice Jesus was giving with an option for us to heed to or not. “Do not” is a command and Jesus commands us not to worry. “Don’t!” If Christ says “don’t” and you do, it is simply disobedience. And the things that cause us worry often are the very basic necessities of life: food, clothing and shelter.
This may sound too simplistic but for those of us in the developing world, these indeed are our major headaches. Of course there are other issues to worry about, but the crust of Jesus’ discourse is that your life is more important than these. It is an argument from the greater to the lesser: “If I have given you your life, why can’t I take care of you in these basic necessities” Christ seems to be saying. In this New Year one of the ways you can deal with worry is to look at it as disobedience to the commands of Christ and stop it.
Worrying Is Unbelief
Look at the little phrase in verse 30: “O you of little faith”. This is a rebuke of unbelief. God has promised to take care of us and to worry is to not believe He is able to do what he has promised he will do. To worry is to take matters into our own hands rather than leave them in the capable hands of God. When you worry, you live your life like an unbeliever without hope: “For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all.” (v.32). God knows your needs and he has promised to take care of us. There are many places in Scripture we are warned to not worry.
Do not be anxious about anything, 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 understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:6-7).
This is very instructive. Whatever will cause you worry and anxiety, Paul says bring it to God. Talk about it with God. And after you have done all that “…the peace of God will guard your hearts” (v. 7). You see where the battle of worry and anxiety takes place? In your heart and mind; and God has promised to calm the storm of worry and anxiety if you will bring your worries to Him in prayer; “casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you” (1Peter 5:7).
Your Life is More Precious Than Birds and Flowers
In verses 26-29, Jesus contrasts the worth of human life to that of animals and plants. Though we are all creations of God, human beings are created in the very image of God. And especially as believers, God’s care is upon us. In fact, he calls us beloved in Christ. If God cares for birds and flowers; how much more you who is created in his image?
One of the things that fascinates me about birds is how they perch on electrical wires but are not electrocuted. Did God foresee a time in human civilisation when there will be live electrical wires on which birds will perch? Hence he gave them cells and tissues appropriate for that? He surely knew. And he structured birds with a system to handle that. This is about his divine Providence:
God the great Creator of all things does uphold, direct, dispose, and govern all creatures, actions, and things, from the greatest even to the least, by his most wise and holy providence, according to his infallible foreknowledge, and the free and immutable counsel of his own will, to the praise of the glory of his wisdom, power, justice, goodness, and mercy (Westminster Confession of Faith 5.1).
God knows everything. He knows what we need. He has promised to take care of us and we should learn to trust in him. He has promised never to leave or forsake us.
Worrying Changes Nothing
Worrying will not change anything. Worrying will not heal a sickness. Worrying will not put money in our pockets. Worrying does no good to anyone: “Which of you by taking thought can add one cubit unto his stature?” (v.27KJV). In fact worry may rather worsen our lives. It has been proven that worrying has negative medical effects.
Worrying can have a negative effect on your health, making you tired, stressed, speed up the ageing process and sometimes more prone to depression….When you worry, your body responds to your anxiety the same way it would react to physical danger…. Your heart rate increases, your breathing becomes heavier and you may sweat more…. over a prolonged period of time, raised levels of these chemicals can start to have a toxic effect on the glands, nervous system and the heart, eventually leading to heart attacks, increased risk of stroke and stomach ulcers….You may also become more prone to infections. It is widely accepted that stress and anxiety can lower your immune system, making you more susceptible to picking up colds or more serious illnesses… Worry may also make you absent minded or neglectful of your health…. Excessive worry could even lead into depression.¹
We have a Father who cares: a Father who has promised to never leave us nor forsake us. Whatever we may experience or go through in this New Year, we can be confident of God’s provision.
1. Rosalind Ryan, “What Worrying Does To Your Health”, accessed 18th December, 2018, https://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-97853/What-worrying-does-health.html