Worry: An Enemy of Faith

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Worry

An Enemy of Faith

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Worry: An Enemy of Faith

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Many things in our lives cause us to worry. You name it, and we can worry about it! But as Christians, we are supposed to worry less and trust God more when the concerns of life trouble us.

We find the things we worry about changing as we mature. Our worries change from “What will I wear?” and “What will my friends think?” to “How will my income cover my needs?” “How will I afford good medical care?” ”What does the future hold for my children?” and “What if something happens to my spouse?”

To be rid of excessive worry, anxiety, and types of fear, we need to shift our focus to what truly matters.

Worrying is a part of our lives. But as Christians, too much worry can wear away at our trust and faith in God. We can learn to control worry, and God’s Word reveals how.

Cambridge Dictionaries Online defines worry as “to think about problems or unpleasant things that make you anxious.” Synonyms include agonize and fret or to be anxious, concerned and fearful.

The word “worry” originated from the Old English word wyrgan meaning “strangle.” How appropriate! Excessive worry does “strangle” or “choke” our otherwise intelligent thought, peace of mind, happiness and trust towards others.

Not all worry is bad, though. The right kind of worry prods us to make plans, prepare for the future. And so we create budgets, prepare for exams, secure our homes and save money for that rainy day. The right kind of worry can make life better for us and for others.

The wrong type of worry, however, can cause harm. It can put our mental, emotional and even physical health in a real strangle hold.

According to the WebMD.com article “How Worrying Affects Your Body,” excessive worrying and high anxiety can lead to “suppression of the immune system, digestive disorders, muscle tension, short-term memory loss, premature coronary artery disease, and heart attack.” And “in severe cases … untreated, they can lead to depression and even suicidal thoughts.”

Anxiety can be very debilitating, causing distorted and unrealistic fears. Anxiety is “an abnormal and overwhelming sense of apprehension and fear often marked by physiological signs … by doubt concerning the reality and nature of the threat, and by self-doubt about one’s capacity to cope with it” (www.m-w.com ).

We truly can make ourselves sick with worry, and we can worry ourselves to death!

But such harmful worry and anxiety is not what our loving God wants for us. God wants us to have peace of mind. He wants us to turn to Him in faith and allow Him to care for those things we might worry about the most.

Anxiety vs. normal worry

Jesus Christ taught His disciples that they should not worry. He told them in Matthew 6:25-26 Matthew 6:25-26 25 Therefore I say to you, Take no thought for your life, what you shall eat, or what you shall drink; nor yet for your body, what you shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment? 26 Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much better than they?
American King James Version×
, “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?” And the answer is, of course people are more valuable than birds!

Continuing on, Jesus said: “Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’… For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things … Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble” (Matthew 6:31-34 Matthew 6:31-34 31 Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? 32 (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knows that you have need of all these things. 33 But seek you first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added to you. 34 Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient to the day is the evil thereof.
American King James Version×
).

Now wait. Did Jesus teach that we should never worry? Never give a care or a thought about anything? Never look ahead or prepare for anything? No.

The Greek word translated here as “do not worry” more closely means “be anxious about nothing.” Jesus is actually urging us to give up our anxieties. We are to give up our excessive worrying and fear that undermines sound thinking and faith. We’re to trust God instead of fretting excessively about things.

Jesus’ lessons on needless worry

We can draw several lessons about worrying from Jesus’ instruction in Matthew 6.

First, excessive worry and anxiety accomplish nothing. In Matthew 6:27 Matthew 6:27Which of you by taking thought can add one cubit to his stature?
American King James Version×
, Jesus directly asks this question: “Which of you by worrying can add one cubit to his stature?” No one can!

We might worry endlessly but we’ll never add 18 inches (not even half of an inch!) to our height. Anxiety really seems to do the reverse. It wears us down, make us feel even weaker and smaller than we are.

Endless worry accomplishes little. Christ reminds us that God is our provider and sustainer. We need to trust Him and not doubt that He will provide for us our needs.

Second, needless worry is the opposite of trusting God. In Matthew 6:28-30 Matthew 6:28-30 28 And why take you thought for raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin: 29 And yet I say to you, That even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 30 Why, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which to day is, and to morrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?
American King James Version×
, Jesus encouraged His disciples not to be anxious about clothing: “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 so 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?”

Living by faith in God means to believe and to do what He says. It means to change and to conform our way of thinking and doing to God’s way of thinking and doing.

Being overly concerned and anxious about clothing may suggest being overly focused on appearances and the ordinary things of life. God cares for all of His creation. The wild flowers and the grasses were often used to fuel and heat the ovens of Jesus’ time. And though short-lived and seemingly insignificant, God gave those flowers beauty that exceeds the grandeur of Solomon. God will certainly provide the clothing and other things His people need.

Yet instead of trusting God to provide for our needs, we try to do everything for ourselves and actually rely on God very little. And so we may forget that God has already promised to provide our needs and even to protect us from those things we fear most.

Finally, excessive worry and fear makes us focus in the wrong direction. When we are consumed with anxiety and so many fears, our thoughts often spin ceaselessly around ourselves and our worries. That’s not where our focus should be.

Jesus tells us to set fix our thoughts on something far better. In Matthew 6:31-33 Matthew 6:31-33 31 Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? 32 (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knows that you have need of all these things. 33 But seek you first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added to you.
American King James Version×
, He says: “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.”

If we would shift our focus from ourselves and onto God—start looking at life from the perspective of God and Scripture—then our anxious cares would fall away. We should aim to do those things that please God our Father and seek less those things that please ourselves.

The larger lesson Jesus teaches us in Matthew 6 is this: To be rid of excessive worry, anxiety, and types of fear, we need to shift our focus to what truly matters.

Senseless worry focuses on our rather mundane, physical lives, our daily needs, and the things of this world. While these things are necessary, the most important thing in life is to serve and please God. Jesus taught that “no one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon” (Matthew 6:24 Matthew 6:24No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.
American King James Version×
).

Two ways

There exists two ways of life, and we must make a truly decisive choice: We either serve God, or we do not serve God.

To serve God means to follow Jesus Christ. To live a life of humble obedience to God’s Ten Commandments, of loving and selfless service to God and to our fellow man. To live a life of faith, of believing and obeying God. It’s a life of faith and of trusting God to care for our needs.

On the other hand, to serve mammon means to follow the way of most people who live life as they choose. That typically means living a life of anxious care in gathering mammon for oneself, symbolic of the way of the world and society. Mammon typically means riches or wealth. Jesus uses the term to describe living a way opposed to God.

Followers of Jesus Christ are not to love the world. They are not to be consumed with the cares, worries and desires of society. The apostle John wrote, “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—is not of the Father but is of the world. And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever” (1 John 2:15-17 1 John 2:15-17 15 Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16 For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. 17 And the world passes away, and the lust thereof: but he that does the will of God stays for ever.
American King James Version×
).

If we would seek the Kingdom of God as Jesus taught, and if we want to abide forever, then we must turn to God and submit to His authority over our lives. It does require that we worry less about those things that otherwise consume our lives, like riches, popularity, and power. Not all choose this way.

Jesus was once approached by a young man, apparently quite rich. He wanted to know what he must do to inherit eternal life. Jesus told him, “If you want to enter into life, keep the commandments.” And then He listed many of God’s Commandments making clear that we must keep them all. But the man turned away for he had many possessions (Matthew 19:16-22 Matthew 19:16-22 16 And, behold, one came and said to him, Good Master, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life? 17 And he said to him, Why call you me good? there is none good but one, that is, God: but if you will enter into life, keep the commandments. 18 He said to him, Which? Jesus said, You shall do no murder, You shall not commit adultery, You shall not steal, You shall not bear false witness, 19 Honor your father and your mother: and, You shall love your neighbor as yourself. 20 The young man said to him, All these things have I kept from my youth up: what lack I yet? 21 Jesus said to him, If you will be perfect, go and sell that you have, and give to the poor, and you shall have treasure in heaven: and come and follow me. 22 But when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful: for he had great possessions.
American King James Version×
).

Living by faith in God means to believe and to do what He says. It means to change and to conform our way of thinking and doing to God’s way of thinking and doing.

The Bible tells us “not [to] be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God” (Romans 12:2 Romans 12:2And be not conformed to this world: but be you transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.
American King James Version×
). We must focus “on things above, not on things on the earth” and make our mind more like Christ’s: “Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus” (Colossians 3:2 Colossians 3:2 Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth.
American King James Version×
; Philippians 2:5 Philippians 2:5Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus:
American King James Version×
).

We can be rid of those worrisome thoughts that would strangle our reasoning, disturb our peace, and undermine our trust in God. But it requires a choice. We must practice faith in God: Believe and do what God says.