The Battle Against Anxiousness - Matthew 6:25–34
Who can say that he or she has never been worried or anxious about something? During this time of year, perhaps our anxiousness is more pronounced. Thinking about the money spent, the gifts to choose and wrap, the current state of relationships with various family members and friends, plus a full schedule of social events and traditions.
You might breathe a sigh of relief when the season is over. But there are always things to worry about when we look to the future. In his short book Living Without Worry (which I recommend wholeheartedly), Tim Lane recounts a trip he and his family took to New York City many years ago. They traveled to the top floor of the Empire State Building and looked at the amazing sites: Central Park, Long Island, and the Twin Towers. It was September 3, 2001. As Lane watched the events of 9/11 unfold from his home in Philadelphia, he shuddered to think that only 8 days prior he and his family were so close to the location of the infamous attacks. He writes, “What if the terrorists had chosen a date eight days earlier, and an equally iconic building in Manhattan: the one my family was standing at the top of? When I consider that day, I become anxious. I worry. Why? Because the world you and I live in is unpredictable, dangerous, and unsafe…Once you start to think about it, there are all kinds of reasons to worry and struggle with anxiety.”
All of us are prone to abandoning faith for worry, worry about the political landscape, about morality in our country, about our kids, about our parents, our finances, our investments, our jobs, the environment, our nation’s enemies, the crime in our city, the outcome of our hopes and dreams, and the list goes on. But Jesus Christ came into the world to assure us that worry is neither necessary nor fruitful. In fact, he tells us, very concisely, not to worry.
So, we should make every effort to resist anxiousness. It’s a battle, no doubt. But how do we fight that battle? Here is Matthew 6, Jesus reveals two things his disciples must do to battle anxiousness: marvel at God’s creation and rejoice in God’s incarnation.
There are countless books and blogs offering tips for dealing with worry, but at the end of the day, none get to the core of the problem the way Jesus does here.
Look again at verse , Jesus says, “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?” This comes on the heels of Jesus telling them – and us – not to be consumed with getting money and possessions. He just said, “You cannot serve both God and money.”
What compels someone to serve or live for money? Greediness, materialism, yes. But dig deeper. There’s an anxious desire to control future outcomes. The word “anxious” here means “troubled with cares.” We should think of this anxiousness as the opposite of faith or trust or belief in God. Anxiousness is rooted in a lack of trust in God’s power and willingness to care for us. Unbelief in the heart is evidenced by worry over money and serving money. There can be fear over money and anger related to money and possessions. It’s important to understand that Jesus is not urging us to lack healthy concern about money. He’s not calling us to be irresponsible or to disregard working and saving. He’s simply telling us not to be troubled about it, which isn’t out of character for Jesus, is it? Jesus tells his people to not let our hearts be troubled by this world but to be comforted with the knowledge that in Christ we know that God is for us and not against us.
We can face today and the future with quiet trust because, as Romans 8 says, “we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” Christmas is not only a reminder that God has dealt with our sins, but also, that God has dealt with our fears and our anxiousness about the future. We should be concerned about our needs and act responsibility while resisting the natural tendency to think and live as if God is not in control. Notice in verse 25, Jesus tells us that life is more than just what we use to sustain us.
The body is more than just what we use to cover and protect us. Your life belongs to the One who created you and who created all things. Life is, at its core, about relating to and living in communion with the Creator. And to help us maintain this perspective on life, Jesus directs us to God’s created world. Verse , he says, “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 which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?
Jesus reasons that if God provides for birds, he will provide for his people: number one, because God made the birds; and number two, because people are more valuable than birds.
I realize that many people would say that humans have no more value than animals. We shouldn’t devalue the life of animals – Jesus is not doing that. But humans are more important than animals. Jesus says so here. Humans are made in the image of the living God. Animals are not, but God made them and he takes care of them. When we look at the created world, we see the animals having to gather or labor in some way, but through regular means, God makes a way for them. Just like us, they work.
Of course, animals operate on instinct, as God created them. And it’s true that we instinctively know and do many things as well. But unlike us, animals don’t sin, and they don’t need faith. As a general rule, they automatically know that they do their part, and God does his part. It works that way for us as well, but we naturally struggle to trust that God will do his part.
Therefore, we are anxious. Look at Jesus’ other example from the created world, verse : “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.  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?”
Here Jesus goes from talking about the animals, who actively gather and work, to lilies, basically the wildflowers of the field, which are entirely passive. They don’t seek out food or protection from the weather. But God cares for and has a plan for even the weeds, some of which, like the lilies, are dressed better than Solomon, the richest king in Israel’s history.
In our old neighborhood, where my family would go on walks and bike rides, we would see, growing wild, a flower called Passiflora Incarnata – the purple passion flower. They grow from a maypod which looks like a green egg. Full grown, the flowers are an amazing sight. But like most of creation, easy to overlook when weighed down with worries. Yet listen to what the apostle Paul says about what the created world teaches us. In Romans 1, he says this about God: “his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. God’s power and care are on display in all things, including wild birds and flowers.
Do your worries block your view of God’s glory, power, and continual care? Does your anxiousness cause you to turn your eyes away from what is right in front of you
to remind you that there is an eternally powerful Creator who made you? The next part of that verse from Romans 1 says,  For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. The Bible does not shy away from the difficulty of human life, but instead calls us to interpret those things through God’s eternal plan and purpose. Jesus tells us that God is unwavering in his concern for the needs of his people. Marveling at the wonders of creation assures us of that.
But also, Jesus consoles us another, greater way: by his incarnation.By that I mean the reality that the eternal Son of God became a man. I’ve constantly heard and read, over the past weeks, statements dealing “what Christmas is all about.” There’s disagreement. Thanksgiving doesn’t appear to present that problem. It’s pretty straightforward. The jury seems to be out on Christmas. Folks need to tell us what Christmas is all about. Well, secondarily Christmas in America today may be about many different things, but primarily, is has only ever been about and will forever only be about one thing: God’s incarnation. I’ve never heard a better summary of it this:
“How did Christ, the Son of God, become man? Christ, the Son of God, became man by assuming a real body and a reasoning soul. He was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit in the womb of the Virgin Mary, who gave birth to Him; yet He was sinless.”
We read about this earlier from Matthew 1. Jesus is “Immanuel, God with us.”
God came to earth as a man. But what does this have to do with anxiousness? Well, look at verse 31, Jesus says, “Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’  For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all.”
When Jesus refers to the Gentiles here, he has in mind those who practice pagan religion.
In other words, those who worship false gods. In Ephesians 2 in the New Testament, the apostle Paul told the new Gentile believers that before they had faith in Jesus,
they were, “separated from Christ…having no hope and without God in the world.”
Jesus is telling us that the godless have good reason to worry. They should be anxious. Why?
Because from their perspective, there is no God who sovereignly rules over all things, much less one who entered into the great difficulty of being human. Those without faith have to work and save as if there is no heavenly Father who cares for them.
They naturally seek first or pursue, as top priority, that things of temporary life on earth. But Jesus teaches his disciples a different approach to life. He says, verse  “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. If you start at the beginning of chapter 6 and read the Lord’s Prayer, this all fits together.
Jesus teaches us to pray in a way that starts with God’s glory, kingdom, and will. So, pray about those things first, and then live a life that mirrors the way you pray. Do your prayers always start with your needs? Then you most likely live your life that way. But to walk by faith, top priority is not work, or family, or finances, or hopes and dreams. Top priority is joining God in what he’s doing in the world that leads to more people living under his reign and for his glory alone. Top priority for those walking by faith is God’s kingdom and his righteousness. This is entirely relevant to Christmas. How?
Because God’s kingdom and righteousness has come in the person and work of Jesus. In the incarnation. In the humble birth and life of the living Christ, who, amazingly, lived a fully human life. He knew sorrow, pain, disappointment, grief. And he makes a very human observation in this next verse. Look at verse . Jesus tacks on this statement: “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble. This sounds like a proverb. By itself, it doesn’t sound distinctly Christian. It’s common sense, really. Tomorrow may never come for you.
But do you have today. Seek first today to do your part in more people being introduced to Jesus Christ and knowing him (which is how the kingdom comes) and seek first today to live the righteous life that God requires (because Jesus has enabled you to do so). That is plenty for today. Anxiousness and worry about tomorrow crowds out your ability to do those things today.
This is similar to how broadband internet works. Broadband internet can carry more signals. Basically, it can handle more users at once and can transport a heavier load. One person streaming a video while another browses a website. But too many users and too heavy a load slows everything down. It jams up the line.
You and I don’t have the bandwidth to live for God’s glory and carry a host of worries.
Yet God gives grace for today to help us live for his glory and kingdom, even as we face trouble. D.A. Carson writes, “If tomorrow does bring new trouble, there will be new grace to meet it.” Jesus urges us to live in today. That sounds easy said than done.
But it seems that all of this boils down to how we move from being troubled by fears
to being consumed with confidence in God’s sovereign rule and his abiding love.
Jesus’ words here in Matthew 6 are very much about a state of mind,
very much about a change not in circumstances but in how we view our
I see a lot of self-help advice that urges people to find confidence within themselves
or to find solace in another person. Certainly, people are capable of a great deal,
often more than we think we are capable of. And that approach appeals to many people and they see varied results. They learn to “think positively,” “look on the bright side,” and “keep the faith.” But always, there must be an object of that faith and a sure reason to be positive and hopeful. Surprisingly, that view isn’t too far off. But hope must be shifted from all other people, including ourselves, to one person.
When we celebrate Christmas – the coming of Jesus Christ into the world – we don’t just celebrate God’s love in a general, abstract sense.
We celebrate the long-awaited arrival of only real person who can bear the responsibility of being the object of our faith and hope. It’s not merely a set of facts or mental tricks that helps us move from worry to faith each day. It is a person named Jesus Christ. It is daily, hourly, moment-by-moment interaction with the living God that comes only through him. And there is no formula to it. There’s no set of steps to follow.
But we have his Word in the Scriptures, and we have the Holy Spirit within us,and we take one day at a time and we walk with him. And we listen to him. And we benefit from his church, we established for us. And we serve and love and bless each other. And we pick each other up. And we carry each other’s burdens. We hurt for each other. And we rejoice together. And each Lord’s Day, each Sunday, we come together like he commands us to, and we sing and see and read and pray and hear the truth together of God’s incarnation.
And he fills us up. There’s no one book or song or preacher or blog or article that fixes it all. Any of those things that don’t lead us to real communion with the living Jesus
are no help to us. We need that person who will take us from the misery of anxiousness to the quiet rest of faith. And that person has come. Joy to the world!
Let’s pray together.