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God’s Antidote to Worry

Philippians 4:6-4:7

How many people here this morning would like to learn how to worry more? How many of you feel that your life would be improved if only you could spend more time worrying? None.
Whether you know worry as an occasional visitor or a constant companion,
whether you find it to be mildly uncomfortable or intensely painful,
or whether you experience worry as a slight distraction or as a force that completely immobilizes you,
we all would like to worry less (except for those only seem happy when they’re miserable).

The good news is that you can worry less. God has given us an antidote. It may surprise you to learn that God has something to say about worry. In His book, filled with cosmic events like the creation of the universe, heaven and hell, the rise and fall of kingdoms, and the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, He also considers it important to give us some help with this very ordinary human emotion. Why is that? Because He’s not just a God out there somewhere. He’s a God here, with us.

Why do we worry?

1. Life is hard. Bad things happen to good people, to bad people, and everyone in between.

Even the wealthy and powerful aren’t exempt. All you have to do is glance at the National Enquirer to see that they have their share of tragedy. [Example: Cleveland Browns linebacker Chris Spielman retiring due to a neck injury]

Now, so far this seems pretty depressing. But before we get to the really good news, we have to face the bad news. I live in a real world, and I want a religion that deals with reality. Don’t you? I don’t want a religion that plays, "let’s pretend." I want a faith that can stand up to whatever the world has to give, and still come out on top.

You may be saying, "Of course, life is hard. I already know that." But isn’t it amazing how often people try to avoid worry by pretending, by putting on blinders, by avoiding the issue, by refusing to acknowledge the possibility of anything going wrong. It’s like the song, "Don’t worry, be happy."

We men are especially good at this. Our wives try to talk with us about something that’s obviously bothering us, and we say, "I don’t want to talk about it." Somehow, we think that if we don’t think about it, it won’t happen. Men don’t go to doctors. What we don’t know can’t hurt us.
How many of you, when you are dealing with some serious problem, have had someone say, "don’t worry, I’m sure everything will work out."
Or we become fatalistic. "What will happen, will happen. Why worry about it?"

Of course, it doesn’t work, does it? All this does is transfer the worry from your mind to your gut. And if the worst does come to pass, then you’re completely unprepared. What we need is something that will allow us to face reality, but without becoming consumed by anxiety and worry.

2. Second, the future is uncertain. Another obvious statement, but we worry because we don’t know what the future holds. Not only are there dangers we know about and can make some preparation for, but there are dangers which are completely unexpected. [Example: The most common sign of heart disease is sudden death.]

We can prepare as best we know how. We can watch our diets and exercise to prevent heart attack. We can stockpile food and water to prepare for Y2K. But the bottom line is that the future is unknowable. Oh we try. But as your doctor will tell you, and in spite of what the Psychic hotlines tell you, no one can predict the future. People try to avoid worry by gaining so much knowledge that they can predict the future, but ultimately the future is unknowable.

And that’s very unsettling. How often have you heard someone say, "It’s the waiting that’s the worst part. If I only knew, I could deal with it." What we need is something that will allow us to have peace in the midst of uncertainty.

3. Third, We’re not in control. What I mean by that is that the amount of control we have is not sufficient to absolutely protect us from harm. At best, we have only the illusion of control. If we were in control, then no one would every suffer. We can improve our odds, but even experts can’t guarantee the outcome. Doctors get sick. Financial experts lose money in the stock market. Policemen get robbed. Lawyers get sued. Good, loving, responsible parents are rejected by their teenage and adult children.

We work and work to gain money and knowledge, so that we can ward off danger. We eat right, we exercise, we move to a good suburb, we send our kids to a good school, we do everything we can --- but it’s still not enough. If president Reagan could be shot by some deluded kid with a gun, then no one is powerful to make themselves absolutely safe. We need something that will allow us to have peace even in the midst of events and forces we can’t control.

What’s the solution?

[Matthew 6:25-34 (NIV)]
25. "Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes?
26. Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?
27. Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?
28. "And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin.
29. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these.
30. 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?
31. So do not worry, saying, `What shall we eat?’ or `What shall we drink?’ or `What shall we wear?’
32. For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them.
33. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.
34. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own."

1. Recognize that worry accomplishes nothing. [v. 27, "Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?"].

Not only does worry not help, it often has the opposite effect.
Worried about losing your hair?. Worry will only accelerate the process. It won’t add a single hair to your head.
Worried about getting sick? Again, worry probably suppresses your immune system and makes it more likely that you will get sick. It won’t make you healthier.
Worried about losing your job? Worry may actually cause behavior that lowers your performance.
Worried about gaining weight? You’ll probably eat more.

Proverbs 12:25 - "An anxious heart weighs a man down."

That’s all worry accomplishes. It’s like sitting in a rocking chair. Lot’s of energy expended and no forward progress.

2. Understand that God cares about you. [vv. 26, 28-30] You matter to God.

God is with us and for us. God is did not just create the world and then sit back to watch the show; we are not actors or toys. He is intimately concerned with his creations and actively involved in providing for their needs.

God values us even more than the rest of his creation. Birds, who don’t labor at all to provide for themselves, have adequate food to eat. Even flowers, which only live for a short time, have beautiful "clothing." If God provides for them, doesn’t it stand to reason that He will care for us, since we are "much more" valuable?

3. Put first things first. We worry too much because we care too much about the wrong things.

Example: I remember when I was a teenager being worried about a zit, using Oxy-5. My parents knew that there were more important things to be concerned about. They had the perspective to see that in the grand scheme of things, a zit is not a big deal.

We have our priorities reversed.
We worry about what we eat, but don’t care enough about what we are going to do with the life that the food makes possible.
We worry about what we wear, but aren’t concerned enough about what we are doing with the bodies we put those clothes on. We concern ourselves with how to preserve our lives as long as possible, but we give very little thought to what comes afterwards.

No one would claim that having enough food to eat, and clothing to wear, are trivial matters. For the people to whom Jesus was speaking, these were life and death issues. But they aren’t the most important things.

The things we should be most concerned about are the things which matter most. Putting first things first gives us a right perspective and give us strength to face life without worry. What are they?

" . . . his kingdom and his righteousness . . . " Our primary concern in this life should not be pleasing and serving ourselves. It should be knowing and serving God. His "kingdom" is His rule over the earth, His authority over us as His creation. We shouldn’t live as if we were independent entities, having no responsibility to God, having no concern about what He may desire of us. Our first concern should be understanding who God is and how we can be right with him.

How can we do this? By seeking first His righteousness. What is that? It’s not the righteousness that comes from our own works, because those are insufficient. None of us is holy enough to meet God’s standard of absolute perfection. The righteousness that God desires, the righteousness He will accept, is a perfect righteousness; one that is credited to us on account of faith. It is the righteousness of Jesus Christ which God accepts on our behalf and credits to us in spite of our inability to earn or merit it.

[Romans 4:4-8 (NIV)]
4. Now when a man works, his wages are not credited to him as a gift, but as an obligation.
5. However, to the man who does not work but trusts God who justifies the wicked, his faith is credited as righteousness.
6. David says the same thing when he speaks of the blessedness of the man to whom God credits righteousness apart from works:
7. "Blessed are they whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered.
8. Blessed is the man whose sin the Lord will never count against him."

4. Transfer Trust

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. - Philippians 4:6-7 (NIV)

Rather than trusting in our own power, wisdom, and strength, we need to place our trust in God for everything. As a result, he will give us a peace which defies logical explanation. It’s not a trick of the mind; it’s a spiritual reality.
We exercise this trust by actively committing our concerns to God in prayer.
We aren’t in control, but we can place our trust in Someone who is. We don’t know the future. But we can place our trust in Someone who does.
Worry represents a failure to trust in God as our Father. It is "practical atheism."
Children don’t worry about where their food or clothing or shelter is going to come from. They just trust us. We need to trust God in the same way.

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