Editors Note: This is an excerpt from The Zondervan 2015 Pastor’s Annual, an annual bestselling resource for preachers by T. T. Crabtree. The Annual provides a planned preaching program for an entire year, including Sunday morning, Sunday evening, and midweek sermons, as well as helps for special occasions such as weddings, funerals, and youth meetings.
Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious with your life. – Matthew 6:25
Scripture Reading: Matthew 6:25-34
Hymns: “Come, Thou Almighty King,” Unknown
“Savior, Like a Shepherd Lead Us,” Thrupp
“Take My Life, and Let It Be,” Havergal
Offertory Prayer: Lord God, we think about the blessings of health and gainful employment and feel moved to share these with others through our tithes and offerings. We thank you for the opportunities you have provided through the work and mission thrust of our church and denomination. May your kingdom come and your will be done on earth as it is in heaven, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Once a woman, who had lived for years under the tension of many responsibilities in the home, church, and community, went to her physician for a checkup. She had her diagnosis ready for him, for in the opening conversation she said, “Doctor, I am all run down.” Upon hearing her out and completing the physical examination, he told her, “Friend, the trouble is not that you are all run down, but that you are all wound up.” Many of us can identify with that. The step-lively-don’t-block-traffic civilization has many casualties.
Some people seem to think that to be in tune with the times they have to be going somewhere, anywhere, under a full head of steam.
Long ago Jesus spoke to the needs of His day and ours in the Sermon on the Mount. Among the many other things He taught on that memorable occasion were the ABCs of handling our worries and tensions. In ten verses Jesus set out seven arguments and defenses against worry and unnecessary tension. Let us take a brief look at some of His arguments.
We are not to “be distracted by cares.”
If God gave us life, surely we can trust Him for the things necessary to support life.
He talked about the habits of birds.
Though they do what to us would be called work, they don’t get uptight about an uncertain food supply. If people are true to the best they know (which includes trustful work), as birds and flowers are true to their nature, God does not fail them. Anxiety adds nothing worthwhile to life. Worry, according to Jesus, is characteristic of the heathen, not of those who know what God is like. To possess the kind of life Jesus talked about, we must have a joyous trust in God.
An Obvious Fact
Most of us miss the kind of life Jesus described, as suggested by the sign on a chaplain’s door: “If you have worries, come in and let’s talk them over. If not, come in and tell us how you do it!” A businessman put the matter pointedly when he observed: “I’ve come to the point where I can’t keep going and I can’t stop.”
Mechanical engineers study the strength of metals. They tell us that every metal has a “fatigue limit.” There is also a personality “fatigue limit” — a point at which personality goes to pieces and we lose our capacity for self-management and self-control. When we are caught in the grip of unrelenting stress hour after hour and day after day, the least added pressure brings us closer to the “fatigue limit.” The pace of modern life is demanding and terrific.
Sources of Anxiety
Tension is often caused by more than external pressure. Often inner conflict is the problem. Paul Tillich traced anxiety to three main sources: (1) a sense of meaninglessness, (2) a sense of guilt, and (3) the fear of death.
Many remedies are given for the handling of worries and tensions, some of which have some truth in them but fail to deal adequately with all facets of the problem.
Relaxation is often only a Band-Aid for the real problem.
It is never possible on this side of eternity to eliminate completely worry and tension from our lives. They are marks of our creatureliness. Augustine hit close to the mark when he cried, “O God! Thou hast created us in Thine own image, and our hearts will ever be restless until they find rest in thee.” There is a real sense in which Christianity adds to rather than subtracts from our anxiety. It enlarges the area of our concern and sharpens our sympathies.
A certain measure of tension is necessary for achievement. Violin strings must be tight in proper proportions if the violinist is to play the instrument well. The archer must pull his bow to stem tension and let it go in order to hit his target. The human mind is often highly creative under pressure.
The key to proper handling of our worries and tensions comes from Jesus. During those days and hours before His crucifixion, He knew what awaited Him. The tension of knowing how much depended on what was to happen must have been terrific. Yet, with serenity and calmness He addressed the terrified disciples in those words that have become immortal: “Let not your hearts be troubled…” (John 14:1).
In Jesus’ actions we see what has been called the paradoxical miracle of grace. Under tremendous pressure, Jesus was absorbed in two things — the comfort of His disciples and communion with God the Father (as seen in Gethsemane).
Christ gained His security through faith in the faithfulness and generosity of the heavenly Father. He would suggest that we trust implicitly in the promises and provisions of our Father as we face the uncertainties of the coming year. Instead of worrying about Himself, Christ concentrated on serving and ministering to others. He lived for the good of others rather than for his own personal profit.
“Through faith in God and through dedication to others, we can walk through the coming year with confidence and cheer.” – John C. Huffman
As we approach the new year we can be sure that God will be faithful through it all. Whatever you’re worrying about, give it to Him and trust that He will give you the grace and strength you need. Share your comments on the blog. We would love to hear your thoughts!