Here’s another guest post from Doug Lyle while my family & I are still enjoying time away. I trust you all are faring well and enjoying the grace and mercy of an ever-active King!
Have you ever had one of those nights where, no matter what you did, you couldn’t get to sleep because your mind was busy worrying about something? Maybe it was a medical report you were to get the next day or maybe a big expense that was coming up.
Your worry list might have different things on it but, regardless, we know that all of us tend to worry about things. And we do this despite the overwhelming evidence that the only thing that ever changes when we worry is us. There’s got to be a better way! In the book of Matthew, chapter 6 Jesus give it to us. Hopefully, we will all be smart enough to adopt it as our own. The setting is Galilee, north of Jerusalem. Jesus has been teaching and healing the sick. News is spreading fast all the way to Syria and people are flocking to Him in droves. So when He sees the crowds, Jesus climbs the hillside and sits down. His disciples come sit with Him and Jesus begins to instruct them. Verse 27 reads, “Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?”
Jesus asks this rhetorical question to state a reality…there’s just no point to worry; we all must operate within the boundaries that exist and there is a boundary around life that keeps it from being changed by our worries. Jesus drills down to the practical in verses 28-34:
“And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor 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? So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore, do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”
This so practical! There is a very important phrase in verse 30. Jesus says His disciples are “of little faith”. This makes it sound like they need to get more, kind of like you would do if you had a bucket that was only half full. But the word translated as “little faith” literally means incredulous. It’s not that they need to get more faith, but that they need to shape how they think, how they see their world with what they have. It’s the same thing that we feel when we hear a story that is just impossible to believe. We say, “No way! That’s simply too good [or bad] to be true!” It’s the rejection of something because we can’t see how it could be. We are incredulous. Jesus is saying, “Don’t react incredulously to what I’m telling you. Just because it sounds too good to be true doesn’t mean that it isn’t true and reliable.”
Back in the 1950s, there was a TV show called The Millionaire. The millionaire, John Beresford Tipton, would select someone in need and have his secretary, Michael Anthony, deliver a check for a million dollars. In almost every case, the recipient refused to believe that anyone would give them a million dollars and, initially, would reject the perfectly good check. They were of little faith. So they rejected what was legitimately theirs because they were incredulous. Jesus is telling us to reject that thinking instead of rejecting His words. This is why He says in verse 31, “So do not worry…” “Do not be incredulous as if what I am telling you isn’t true. Don’t go chasing after what you think you need because your needs are already well known by God. He’s got your back and the check is good.”
In other words, since God knows what we need, Jesus implies that should be enough to calm our fears. Let’s stop there for a moment. In all candor, the fact that God knows what you need right now and what I need right now doesn’t always calm us down, does it? And there’s a simple reason for it. We are also of little faith when it comes to whether God will actually act on what He knows. And even if we believe He will meet our needs, we aren’t always so sure about His timing. And this makes us nervous. And that sets us up for acting incredulous. Ok, now that we have acknowledged our own incredulity, what comes next? Do we take a relaxation course? Maybe do some yoga or spend a day contemplating our navels? No…Jesus gives us a replacement for worry instead of a treatment for it. And the replacement starts in the mind. It’s the decision to make God’s Kingdom and righteous living our top priority, with His assurance that the things we worry about will be taken care of. Not eliminated but taken care of. But wait! Isn’t that being Pollyannaish? Well, it would be except for one thing and it’s the thing Jesus implies when He reminds us that God knows what we need. He implies that because of who knows what we need, we can confidently expect our needs to be met. In short, we don’t need to bother with worry. Anyway, Jesus makes it clear that worry is incapable of changing anything. And our experience confirms it. Right?
Jesus closes with a very, very practical reminder. Any given moment already has enough trouble in it so don’t go borrowing tomorrow’s troubles. In other words, don’t worry about what’s coming. It’s a waste of time and energy that could be used taking care of today’s business. Right now, many people are worried about money. Some of us might be in that group. We wonder if we will outlive our money if we are retired. Or we worry about losing our job because of economic downturn. Or maybe you’re staring at a payroll date with not enough money. Perhaps money isn’t what you are worried about. Maybe it’s your children who seem determined to mess up their lives. I guess if anything could possibly be worth our worry, it’s our children. Others worry about health and its impact on their life and the lives of their families. Will I be able to afford my treatments? That’s a hot topic right now with the healthcare reform debate. What if I become disabled or injured? How will my family make it?
The worry list is as long as we want to make it. Jesus offers us an alternative to a worry list by giving us something very important to do. He essentially says, “Make up your mind.” Decide that you will make His Kingdom your top priority. That means make His value system ours and use it to regulate our lives to produce a righteous life. This is what He says is important. And He tells us that when we do we will be worry free – not free of things to worry about but free of worry – all because of who is taking care of the things we would otherwise worry about.
What are you worried about today? We have a better option and now it’s time to choose between the two. When you think about it, the choice is obvious because to put it bluntly, there just ain’t no point to worry.