Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Four Antidotes to worry

Matthew 6:33-34 "But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. 34 “So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own."

Introduction and review
Yesterday we zeroed in on Matthew 6:25-34 to consider the three negative truths about worry.  We mentioned how Jesus' teaching against worry comprised the practical realm of His vision in Matthew 6 on the powerful, practical Christian life.  We also noted that the word translated worry in Matthew 6:25,27,28,31 and 34 speaks quite literally of a person's mind being pulled in all sorts of different directions. The three negatives of worry that we gleaned from Jesus' instructions were:

1. Worry is worthless.  Matthew 6:25-26
2. Worry doesn't work. Matthew 6:27-30
3. Worry's wages pay nothing. Matthew 6:31

In today's post we are featuring the four antidotes to worry that we find in this text and throughout God's Word. 

Distinguishing between concern, responsibility and worry
Before we move into the four antidotes to cure the worry is your life, let me say a word  to those who may be tempted to assume that we should not be moved to concern or responsibility.  Concern refers to being able to target specific attention on an area in a responsible way honoring to God. Romans 12:8 gives an example of what it means to exercise proper concern: "If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men." Likewise, taking responsibility means taking care of the things in life as God's steward. 1 Corinthians 4:2 "In this case, moreover, it is required of stewards that one be found trustworthy." Worry is different from concern and responsibility.  Whereas concern and responsibilty operates on "what is true", worry operates on "what if's". As Oswald Chambers has noted: "Worry is caused by calculating without God." To not take responsibility is negligence; to not be concerned is ignorance. However to worry is sin.  Whereas responsibility and concern for the Christian proceeds from faith, worry proceeds from fear.  

Jesus four antidotes to worry in Matthew 6:25-34
Whenever I think of these four antidotes, they could also be four great doctrinal foundations upon which to lead a church, a family or your life.  Jesus lays them out to us as antidotes to defeating worry.  Please note them.

1. Jesus. Matthew 6:25a
Who is speaking these words of instruction to us? Jesus Christ - God in human flesh. (John 1:1, 14)  He is the foundation (Ephesians 2:20); the anchor of faith (Hebrews 6:18) and the author and finisher of faith (Hebrews 12:1). When the sea vessel of my faith begins to be blown around by the winds of worry, I only need to call to the Master and he through His word will say: "peace be still!" Notice the second antidote...

2. Sovereignty of God. Matthew 6:25b-32
I remember one time seeing a church sign that said these words: "Rather than telling God how big your problems are, you need to tell your problems how big your God is!"  God's Sovereignty is His comprehensive control over all peoples, places and times.  Jesus shows how Sovereign God is in His Provision (6:25b-30) and His All-knowingness or omniscience (6:31-32). Consider some of these other verses on God's Sovereignty. 1 Chronicles 29:11 "Yours, O Lord, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the victory and the majesty, indeed everything that is in the heavens and the earth; Yours is the dominion, OLord, and You exalt Yourself as head over all." Romans 11:36 "From Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory and majesty forever, amen!"  So we see how Jesus and His Sovereignty are effective antidotes against worry.  The bigger God is shown to me, the small my problems become. Let us then consider the third antidote....

3. The cross.  Matthew 6:33
Jesus notes in Matthew 6:33a "But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness....".  Even though Jesus spoke these words some three years before His cross, yet the Bible is clear of there being only one way in which we can access God's righteousness - through the finished work of Jesus on the cross and from the empty tomb.  All that preceeded the cross lokked forward to it, and everything else thereafter proceeds from it.  The cross is the place to flee to for the Christian looking for asylum from worry.  Hebrews 12:3 states - "For consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart." Worry will cause anyone to lose heart - yet the cross is where we go when we feel our faith weakening and our resolve loosening.  So we look to Jesus, God's Sovereignty and the cross to remedy worry.  Praise be to God there is one other antidote in Matthew 6:33-34 - God's promises.

4. God's promises.  Matthew 6:33-34
Matthew 6:33-34 states - "But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. 34 “So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own." There are at least 8,000 promises in the Bible.  2 Peter 1:4 reminds us - "For by these He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises, so that by them you may become partakers of the divine nature, havingescaped the corruption that is in the world by lust." Lamentation 3:23-24 states - 
"The Lord’s lovingkindnesses indeed never cease, For His compassions never fail.
23 They are new every morning; Great is Your faithfulness. 24 “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul, “Therefore I have hope in Him.”

An illustration - His mercies or lovingkindness is new every morning
Whenever we consider Lamentations 3:22-24 in concert with what we read in Matthew 6:34, we have a very potent combination of promises to effectively deal with worry. To illustrate how God's promises work against worry, lets picture those lovingkindnesses spoken of by Jeremiah in Lamentations as 5 crisp one dollar bills, placed in my hand by God every morning.  Throughout the day I encounter typical challenges - some planned and some unknown.  The toast for breakfast burns in the toaster - a fifty cent problem.  On the way to work someone cuts me off - another fifty cent problem.  At lunch I discover I have a flat tire - a two dollar problem.  Once fixed, I work through the rest of my day and on the way home, that same guy cuts me off - fifty cents, and when I get home, I realize the toaster may need fixed - another fifty cent problem.  Now by the end of the day I have a dollar's worth of lovingkindess or mercy left to operate. Suddenly I get a phonecall and find out that the boss would have me to come in a half-hour early to tackle another big project.  Now to me that may very well be a two dollar problem - and here I am with one dollar of mercy left.  I'm tempted to say - "Oh God, I cannot take much more.  I don't have what it takes to tackle that situation.  Then He reminds me of verses such as Lamentation 3:22-24 and Matthew 6:34. That night I fall asleep and the next morning, bright and early, God is there to meet me with five dollars of fresh lovingkindness.  I have five dollars of grace to tackle a two dollar problem.  Come to find out that what I thought was a two dollar problem was really not worth fifty cents of worry!  

Closing thoughts
You see, when we consider God's promises, as coming from the Sovereign God, paid for at the cross by Jesus, we have discovered the antidotes to worry: Jesus, God's Sovereignty, the cross and God's promises.  Matthew 6:25-34 gives us the antidotes we need to defeat the disease of worry.  May you and I regularly take what the Great Physican has prescribed to us here in these verses.

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