His heart pounded, his lips quivered, decay crept into his bones, and his legs trembled (Habakkuk 3:16). He was confused, angry, terrified, and desperate for relief. He cried, “O Lord, how long shall I cry for help, and you will not hear?” (Habakkuk 1:2). Habakkuk, an Old Testament prophet, experienced a season of trials...
Yep, we’re gonna talk about worry. You’ve heard the command:
Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life… (v. 25)
But a good friend of mine told me to always ask, “What’s the therefore there for?” What was said before this to birth Matthew’s imperative? Earlier in the chapter, we read, “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (6:21) and, “No one can serve two masters” (6:24). God in his Word has reminded us that he is our Father and Master, and out of this reality we find the command to live free of anxiety.
When we labor for the Lord, it’s not a part-time employment—he’s the Master. When we fight for the Lord, it’s not a temporary deployment (2 Timothy 2:4)—he’s the King. But one of the ways Christians side-step service to the King and dishonor his Lordship is by worrying.
We know this deadly enemy by our fret and sweat, the jitters, the “oh-no!”s about tomorrow, the thoughts surrounding events that make our palms sweat and elevate our heart rates. But really, worry is our heart’s response to a deeply rooted belief that we are our own master; a deeply felt responsibility that we are our own king; and a deep craving to meet our own needs.
I read Matthew 6, and I write now to admonish my own failure. There are four things, among many more, we can learn about the root of worry—what’s really going on in our heart—from this passage. As we consider God’s Word, I pray he works in us both to put to death this sin in our heart.
Four Things That Happen When You Worry
1. You have disordered priorities.
Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? (v. 25, emphasis added)
Life is more than the sum of solutions to the things we worry about. What things does God warn us not to worry over? Food, drink, clothes, our body. These are real needs, but they’re not worth one minute of faithless fretting.
Verse 38 tells us that “the pagans run after all these things, and your Heavenly Father knows that you need them.” Their to-do list only includes searching out solutions to today’s problems. Food—check. Clothes—check. Thirst for who-knows-what satisfied—check.
Those who have not been reconciled and made children of God by faith through the precious blood of Jesus Christ shed for them, and who have not been united to him in his resurrection, do not have the privilege of running to him for what they need.
But we do!
Your needs are seen by God. They are attended to by the King of kings. And he sees the needs hidden in your heart before you speak them (v. 8). He, the King, sees your need so you can set your eyes elsewhere—on his kingdom.
Don’t spend your energy on trite and transient things, when you could be seeking the kingdom—instead busy yourself in service to the King.
The earlier part of Matthew 6 gives us a host of things we can be spending ourselves for: providing for the needy (vv. 2-4), praying (vv. 6-13), pursuing forgiveness (vv. 14-18), and fasting (vv. 17-18); namely, our relationship with God and others. When our primary concern is material needs, we’re neglecting the eternal concerns God has commanded should occupy our minds and hearts.
2. You trust your preparation over God’s provision.
Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?…And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. (v. 26-27)
Use your imagination, God says. Do you see birds scurrying to harvest crops they planted, laboring like farmers for their food? Lillies don’t take a trip to Home Depot for Miracle Grow to keep themselves rising out of the ground, much less to adorn themselves in the royal robes God has donned on them. These creatures’ preparation has no effect on God’s provision; they are recipients of God’s gifts, and when his provision meets their unvoiced need, he is glorified. These creatures, clothed in dignity and beauty receive the daily provision of the King who delights to provide for them for as many days as he wills. They don’t prepare for later; they—at present—receive from the Maker.
And so should we.
We, as unique creatures made with minds and hearts and wills and hands to work, are instructed to prayerfully welcome his provision, though these faculties deceive us into thinking we don’t need him. As we lift our eyes to the Maker, we find ample reason to continually give him praise.
Ask, and it will be given to you…For everyone who asks receives. (Matthew 7:7-8)
3. You forfeit precious time.
And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? (v. 27)
James 4:14 says, “What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes.” Today’s time is precious; it’s all you’ve got. We don’t know if we will have tomorrow. There are present temptations to be waded through (v. 13), an Evil One to battle (v. 13), and most importantly, a life to be lived unto Christ.
[Tweet “Let’s not throw the pearl of opportunity to the swine of our anxiety.”]
Let’s not give the dog of worry our sacred time or throw the pearl of opportunity to the swine of our anxiety. It won’t just take the pearl, it will tear you to pieces (7:6). Ephesians 2:10 says,
For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.
God has work for you to do that he has predetermined for you. Your time is his, to do his will. Let’s delightfully serve him in the various ways he’s revealed us to do so and not waste our time worrying.
4. You doubt God’s care.
But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? (v. 30)
God dresses the lilies in beauty though they’re seasonal plants, and though they have no will to serve him, nor hearts to know him, nor eyes to see him. He does it because he is good and so we might see his glory in them.
You were bought with precious blood of Christ (1 Peter 1:18-19). How much more does the Father care for his children, if he already gave his perfect Son to redeem a profoundly rebellious band of sons? He knew your need for salvation, your need for awakening from death (Ephesians 2:1). For the joy of future communion with you, your brother Jesus endured the cross. The Godhead planned from eternity past to go through with the crucifixion of his only begotten Son, so you might know him as one of his adopted sons.
He has given you, Christian, a will to serve him, a heart to know him, eyes to see him by faith, and a desire to love him, and he wants you to see his glory in the care he shows you. He’s shown you he cares for the eternity of your soul, though you cared not for him. So give him your needs in prayer, rather than your dishonoring doubt in worry.
Hear how our Father puts this exhortation to us:
Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him! (Matthew 7:9-11)
Ask for your bread; ask for your fish. And remember how God answers these sorts of prayers:
And taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven and said a blessing over them. Then he broke the loaves and gave them to the disciples to set before the crowd. And they all ate and were satisfied. And what was left over was picked up, twelve baskets of broken pieces. (Luke 9:15-17)
Oh how God delights to answer prayer! You can worry your way into sweat and distress. But this isn’t God’s desire for you. It’s not his will for you to worry. What’s the way out?
Matthew follows the command to not worry with this exhortation in the following chapter:
Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. (Matthew 7:7-8)
You’re his child. He’s your good Father. Don’t let your heart be weighed down by worry. Run to him with your requests—big and small—and believe that your Heavenly Father cares for you.