Overcoming Worry
Is worry a problem in your life? This lesson examines what Jesus taught about worrying and offers some practical suggestions for overcoming it.

There are many enemies of the mind, but worry may be the most destructive. Some have compared worry to a rocking chair--it gives you something to do but does not get you anywhere! Worry has also been likened to an old man with bended head, carrying a load of feathers which he thinks are lead.

Worrying is a serious problem in the 21st century. If we allow it, worry can destroy us by slowly taking over our minds and bodies! People worry about most anything and everything. For instance, people worry about things that have already happened. Such is pointless since the past cannot be changed. One should learn from the past, seek forgiveness on God's terms when sin has been committed, and move on--that's what the apostle Paul did. He wrote in Philippians 3:13 - "Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead." People also worry about things that will inevitably happen. Many fear growing older or dying, but again, such is futile. Rather than worrying about these matters, it would be better to simply prepare for them to the best of one's ability. One must remember that death is not the end (Heb. 9:27) and that there are blessings to be had in old age (II Cor. 4:16). Additionally, people worry about things that will never happen. Mark Twain once said: "I have worried over a great many things in life, the most of which never happened." The fact that most of our fears will never come to pass should help us understand the futility of worrying. Finally, people worry about things that God has already taken care of. In Mark 16:3, the women who went to anoint Jesus' body early Sunday morning expressed concern over who would move the stone away from the tomb. As it turned out, God had already taken care of the matter.

With those thoughts in mind, let's turn our attention to Matthew 6:25-34. This passage, which is part of Jesus' Sermon on the Mount, addresses the subject of worry in a most powerful way. We'll first read the entire passage, and then we'll take a closer look at some of the verses. As we read these verses, please ask yourself: "Is worry a problem in my life?"

Matthew 6:25-34 - "Therefore I say to you, do not worry 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? Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? Which of you by worrying can add one cubit to his stature? So why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; and yet I say to you that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. Now if God clothes the grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will He not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? Therefore do not worry, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?' For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble."

Now let's take a closer look at some of the verses we just read.

Matthew 6:25
Jesus' use of the word "therefore" indicates that He is drawing a conclusion from His thoughts in 6:19-24; namely, that man must live for God and not for the world. He must trust Jehovah and not physical riches.

When Jesus stated, "Do not worry about your life," He wasn't making a suggestion. He was giving a command that we ought to obey. The word "worry" is used repeatedly in this context (6:25,27,28,31,34). If God is truly one's master, then there is no need to have anxiety or doubt regarding anything--God will take care of us (6:33; Rom. 8:28).

The worrier doubts and is double-minded; such a one is unstable and lacking in faith (James 1:6-8). Such a person fails to realize the benefits and peace of mind that come from relying upon God and not upon physical riches or oneself. Philippians 4:6,7 - "Be anxious for nothing, 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 minds through Christ Jesus."

If one is spiritually perceptive, he will realize that life is more than food, and the body is more than clothing. After all, earthly riches can provide food and clothing, but only God can give life and a body. Since God is the giver of both life and body, certainly He is capable of sustaining the one and covering the other.

Matthew 6:26
Jesus strengthens His argument by referring to the "birds of the air." They never plant, they never harvest, and they never stockpile for later. They don't "treasure" earthly things like man does, yet God takes care of them and provides all their needs! Surely, He will do the same for man, since he is "of more value than they." Man is of more value than the birds and other animals because he is made in God's image and because of his potential to serve. Jesus wants man to trust in God's providence. God will feed us before He feeds His birds!

Matthew 6:27
Worrying is useless. Nothing productive is accomplished by it. One's height is not increased by anxiety, and certainly one's life span is not lengthened. Worrying never solved a problem or made anyone feel better.

Worrying has never been prescribed as a solution to a problem! Imagine a doctor recommending worrying to solve your ulcer! Imagine a preacher chiding you for neglecting to engage in your daily worrying. Imagine a teacher urging his students to go home and worry about the test.

Matthew 6:28-30
Because of the previous facts He has mentioned, Jesus asks what good does it do to worry? We should put forth the effort to dress modestly, but there is no need to worry about attire. The lilies of the field are some of the most beautiful things on Earth, yet they do not worry or work at it--God "clothes" them. Now, if God clothes the lilies which neither toil nor spin, and if He clothes them more beautifully than Solomon in all his glory, then how much more will He clothe His people? Worrying is unnecessary for one who has faith that fully relies upon and trusts God! Who will deny that God has made the fields and flowers beautiful? If the Lord does that for something that will be burned up as fuel in an oven, will He not provide for His children's needs even better?

Matthew 6:31,32
Jesus here begins summarizing, stating that we ought not to worry about the necessities of life. God's care for the flowers and birds should teach man to expect that He will show more interest in providing for those who have been fashioned for eternity. After all, God gave His Son for us, why would He withhold the necessities of life (Rom. 8:31,32)?

Worrying is unbecoming on true disciples. It is perhaps to be expected that those who are not believers in God would have life's necessities as their chief interest, but Jesus tells His followers that they have a heavenly Father who will provide these things for them, and they are to trust Him to provide. This is the case because He is both knowledgeable of man's needs and able to supply them.

Jesus also shows worry to be destructive. Worry robs us of our spiritual values and encourages us to focus on things of this world. An example of this can be seen in Luke 10:38-42 - "Now it happened as they went that He [Jesus] entered a certain village; and a certain woman named Martha welcomed Him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, who also sat at Jesus' feet and heard His word. But Martha was distracted with much serving, and she approached Him and said, 'Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Therefore tell her to help me.' And Jesus answered and said to her. 'Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled about many things. But one thing is needed, and Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken away from her.'" Martha was more concerned about being a good host, rather than learning as a disciple. Her worrying was not good. Today, there are many who still allow worry to interfere with being the kind of disciples that God would have them to be.

Matthew 6:33
Jesus said: "Seek first the kingdom of God." Literally, "keep on seeking." To seek first God's kingdom and His righteousness is to endeavor to live a godly, obedient life at any cost, a life that glorifies God in the church (Eph. 3:21), which is His kingdom (Matt. 16:18,19). To accomplish this is to live by the principles set forth in the Sermon on the Mount, as well as the rest of the New Testament.

To be worried about matters of life implies that one does not trust God completely. If one doesn't trust God fully, then his treasures are on the Earth and his master is mammon. Such a one may be seeking the kingdom partially, but such is not sufficient. God does not want to hold second or third place (or even lower) in our lives. He expects that we make Him our number one priority!

A beautiful truth from this verse can be stated as follows. If a person seeks only the material things of life, he will likely find them, but he cannot expect the spiritual. However, if one seeks that which is spiritual, then he can expect both. That is a wonderful promise from God!

Matthew 6:34
It should be noted that there is a big difference between worrying about the future and preparing for it to the best of one's ability. All are to be good stewards of God's entrusted blessings, but none should worry about tomorrow if he is doing his best to serve God faithfully today. It is foolish to attempt to anticipate tomorrow's troubles today and to try to bear them today. As we noted earlier, much of man's unhappiness arises from the dread of that which never comes to pass.

In this lesson we have seen many reasons why we ought not to worry. Let us conclude with ten suggestions for overcoming worry.

  1. Decide to conquer your worries. Control your thoughts; don't let them control you. Abraham Lincoln once said: "I have been about as happy as I have made up my mind to be." How true!
  2. Form the right relationship with God and man. The one who has the calm assurance that all is right with God and that he is not struggling against any of his fellowmen usually has few worries.
  3. Develop the right attitude of mind. Count your blessings, not your problems.
  4. Do what you can and turn the rest over to God.
  5. Live one day at a time.
  6. Cultivate a faith and realistic trust in God and His promises. God promises to never forsake us (Heb. 13:5); He will supply all of our needs (Phil. 4:19).
  7. Busy yourself working for the Lord. Those who are busy serving God have no time for worry--they are too busy in the daytime and too sleepy at night.
  8. Keep a proper perspective. "Set your mind on things above, not on things on the Earth" (Col. 3:2).
  9. Live life free from a sense of guilt and shame. Don't violate your conscience; seek God's ways fully; repent when sin is committed & trust His forgiveness.
  10. Take it to the Lord in prayer. Cast your cares upon Him, for He cares for you (I Pet. 5:7). Psalm 55:22 - "Cast your burden on the LORD, and He shall sustain you; He shall never permit the righteous to be moved."

Friends, is worry a problem in your life? If so, decide to start conquering it today. Worrying doesn't accomplish any good, and the cure to it is simple trust in the faithfulness, love, goodness, and providence of the heavenly Father. He will take care of His faithful today and tomorrow! Thank you for listening, and may the Lord bless you as you strive to do His will.