Scripture Reference: Psalms 139:14-16, Isaiah 26:3, Matthew 6:24-34, Luke 12:6-7, John 1:12, Romans 8:15, Galatians 3:26, Ephesians 1:5, Philippians 4:4-7, 1 Peter 5:7, 1 John 3:1
Freedom From WorryRev. Philip Miller | July 3, 2022
Scripture Reference: Psalms 139:14-16, Isaiah 26:3, Matthew 6:24-34, Luke 12:6-7, John 1:12, Romans 8:15, Galatians 3:26, Ephesians 1:5, Philippians 4:4-7, 1 Peter 5:7, 1 John 3:1
Selected highlights from this sermon
Worry is like a venom, stealing our life. For those of us who worry, Jesus is inviting us into the abundant life of the kingdom of heaven that is “at hand” in His presence. We can be free from worry knowing that our life is perfectly safe in the hands of our loving Father, both now and forever.
In this message, Pastor Miller walks us through six antidotes Jesus offers us to free us from worry.
Well, Happy 4th of July weekend! Happy 4th of July! Are you all there? (applause) Good, good, yeah! So there’s no better way to celebrate the 4th of July than to have a sermon on worry. Right? But there is a connection.
We’re going to talk about freedom from worry today, all right? Because there’s so much to worry about in life, isn’t there? Politics, economy, our health, safety, our families.
As a kid I would worry about tests and grades and recitals. I worried about getting in trouble. I worried that my parents would find out, you know. I remember thinking to myself, “I can’t wait till I grow up because then I won’t have to worry.”
But then I got older and worry followed me. I worried about making friends. I worried about picking a college. I worried about choosing my major. I worried about living up to my potential, whatever that means.
I worried about whether I’d ever find a young lady that I would fall in love with and ask to marry me, and if I did, I worried whether she’d say “yes.” And of course, I did and she did. And then I worried it was too good to be true. (chuckles) I worried about having children. I worried about whether we’d be able to have them, and if we were able to have them, I worried about whether they would survive. And then Claire was born, our oldest, and she survived. And I thought, “Phew! Now I can stop worrying.” Right? Wrong! That little baby was seven pounds two ounces of non-stop worry.
And with each of our four kids the worry only compounds. We worry about their health. We worry about their safety. We worry about their growth. We worry about their education, their behavior, their walk with God. We worry about who they’ll become. I worry about letting them down.
And here’s what I’ve learned, friends. Worry is not my friend. It tries to get me to live in a past I can’t change, or a future I can’t control, and it relentlessly steals my joy in the present. Worry tells me there won’t be enough. Worry says you’re not going to make it. Worry says they’re not going to like you. Worry says the bubble’s going to burst, you’re disappointing people, just wait till the other shoe drops. You’ve got to be on your guard constantly. That’s what worry sounds like.
And worry is really sneaky. Yesterday I was stressed out. I spent the week at a camp in Michigan doing ministry. I spoke every night of the week, so I spoke eight times in eight days, and I was kind of wiped out, a little emotionally thin, anxious, a little testy. And I was worried about getting this message pulled together in time for this morning, and then it struck me. (chuckles) I’m worrying about a message about being free of worry. That’s sneaky, right?
And Jesus hates worry. He hates what it does to people. He hates how it makes us small and selfish and timid and mean. Jesus hates how worry chokes our joy, how it steals our peace, how it smothers our hope, and eats away at our souls. Jesus hates worry but Jesus loves worried people. Jesus loves worried people. Jesus has great compassion for people who worry, people like me, and maybe like you too. And today Jesus is inviting us into the abundant life of the kingdom of heaven that is at hand in His presence. If you will come to Him, believe in Him, trust in Him, follow Him, Jesus says, “Come, believe in Me, get in on all that I have to offer for you, and I will show you the way to live in a life that is actually free from worry. And if you’re like me maybe you can use a little bit of freedom from worry today. If you could use a little freedom from worry today, say Amen. Amen.
Let’s grab our Bibles. We’re going to be in Matthew, chapter 6, verses 25 down to 34, page 811 in the pew Bible. Matthew 6:25–34.
“Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious 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: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all of his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat’ or ‘What shall we drink’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.
Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.”
Thanks be to the Lord for the reading of His Word. Let’s bow our heads and ask the Lord to be our teacher this morning.
Father, to worry is human. There’s so much in life that can go wrong. There’s so much in the future that’s unknown. There’s so much in our past we wish we could change. But it’s not ours to worry about. Help us rest in your goodness, in your presence, in your provision today as beloved children in the kingdom of our Father. Teach us the ways of Jesus. For His name’s sake we pray, Amen. Amen.
This passage begins in verse 25 with the word “therefore.” Therefore, which means that Jesus is extrapolating on His previous teaching, what He said just previously. So if you zoom back up and remember from before Matthew 6, verses 19, 20, and 21, here are the core ideas of what Jesus has been teaching: Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven...For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
As we’ve seen, what Jesus is doing is He’s calling His followers to live radically upside-down lives in light of the reality of the upside-down kingdom that is at hand in His coming. Instead of living our lives for this earthly pilgrimage to amass wealth and comfort and security in this life that is fleeting, Jesus is teaching us to reorient our lives around the presence and priorities of the kingdom of heaven, to live not for the stuff of Earth, but for the substance of heaven, the things that last. Instead of building our own little kingdoms here on Earth, Jesus is inviting us, calling us to live for the grandeur of the kingdom of heaven, to invest our lives in the things that matter for eternity.
We read the poem last week of C.T. Studd, the famous refrain,
Only one life, ‘twill soon be past,
Only what’s done for Christ will last.
And just when we were trying to find a way to sit on the fence, and sort of get the best of this world and get the best out of the next, Jesus takes away the middle ground in Matthew 6:24, “No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.” You have to choose.
You’re going to have one master at the end of the day, one ultimate allegiance, one overarching purpose for your life, and what will it be? As C.S. Lewis famously said,
“Aim at heaven and you will get earth ‘thrown in’; Aim at earth and you will get neither.”
So what’s it going to be? Will you keep on living for your own kingdom that is only going to crumble and fall in the end, or will you live for the kingdom of heaven, for Christ and His eternal, everlasting kingdom? That’s the immediately preceding context. And those same themes come back at the end in Matthew 6:33 at the end of our section today, “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.”
So everything in the surrounding context is about living for the priority of the kingdom of God, to invest our time, talent, and treasure in the things that will truly last, laying down our kingdom in order to live for the kingdom of God. But that begs a question, doesn’t it? Let’s say I give my life for the kingdom of God. Instead of amassing all the things I can get in life, let’s say I give myself away in radical discipleship of Jesus and live for His kingdom above all else. The question is, “Well then, who takes care of me?” Who’s going to take care of me? Who’s going to pay my bills? Who’s going to put food on my table? Who’s going to make sure I’m okay at the end of the day, because this invitation from Jesus to live in this radically kingdom-oriented kind of life has a shadow side? And most of us feel a little worried about a life like that, a little frantic, and little anxious. What would it mean to really say yes to this radically upside-down way of life? And to worried hearts like ours, Jesus now speaks these words of assurance, “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life.” Don’t worry, not because it’s unpleasant, it is; not because it’s hurting your body, it is; not because it’s destroying your soul, it is. Do not worry because you live in a God-created, God-sustained, God-filled, God-watched, God-loved, God-kept universe. Don’t worry because your life is perfectly safe in the hands of your loving Father, now and forever.
See friends, worry is like a venom, a venom from the snake. It steals our lives slowly, draining it out of ourselves. And in this passage Jesus is going to give us six antidotes to a life of worry, six antidotes to a life of worry. Let’s look at these.
Verse 25: “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious 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?”
Let’s just pause. “You’re all worried about food and drink and clothing. Is not your life (the word is literally in the Greek ‘Is not your soul’) more than food? Is not your body more than clothing? That’s just basic maintenance stuff. You’re adding fuel to your body. You’re dressing up the exterior. But your real life, your God-breathed soul, your God-crafted body, is meant for so much more than just worrying about food and drink and clothes. The first antidote to a life of worry is this: You are a God-breathed soul in a God-crafted body.
You are a God-breathed soul in a God-crafted body. Remember who
you are, friends. Remember who made you. Remember who crowned you with dignity and honor and pricelessness in creation. You are a human being. You’ve been formed from the dust, hand-crafted by your Creator, who breathed into you the breath of life, your spiritual animation. He knit you together in your mother’s womb. You are fearfully and wonderful made (Psalm 139:14).
Krista and I like to tell our kids, “You know, God made you just right. God made you just right.” Friends, you are a God-breathed soul in a God-crafted body and God made you just right. Turn to the person next to you and say, “God made you just right.” (chuckles)
You were made for so much more than just getting by. Most of us kind of get up in the morning, we go to work to make money, so we can pay the bills, we can buy food, so we can get up and go to work and make money to pay the bills and buy food, so we can get up...No, no, no, no! You do that till you die, right? No, your life is more than that. You were made for way more than that. You are handcrafted by God Himself. You were formed with beauty and intention and purpose. And yours is an immortal, eternal life. You are a God-breathed soul in a God-crafted body, and you are meant to live for so much more than just what you eat and drink and put on. You were made for life.
Look at verse 26: “Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?”
Look at the birds. Have you seen birds lately? Look at them. Consider them, ponder them, meditate, reflect on them. They’re not farming. They don’t have pantries. You don’t see them walking down the sidewalk with their little shopping cart, you know, stockpiling toilet paper in a pandemic. No! They’re not trading futures for birdseed commodities on the markets. No! Oh, they’re hard at work. They’re diligent. You’ve never seen anything work harder than a bird, but they’re not stressed. They’re not frantic. They’re not worried. “Look at how your heavenly Father cares for them, feeds them, provides for them, watches over them. Here’s a little worm (chuckles), here’s the seed, just enough, just in time. Daily bread, daily manna, daily birdseed.
In Luke, chapter 12, verses 6 and 7, Jesus says, “Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? (that’s pretty cheap) And not one of them is forgotten before God.” He then adds, “Do not be afraid. You are worth more than many sparrows.” Look at the person next to you. How many sparrows would it take to trade them in? (laughs) They are priceless. They are priceless. Right? Some of you need to be quiet right now. (laughter) All right!
The second antidote here to a life of worry is you are a priceless image-bearer in a God-sustained universe. You are a priceless image-bearer in a God-sustained universe. You are made in the image of God. You are infinite in dignity and worth in the eyes of God. You are precious to Him. And you are a priceless image-bearer, and you live in a God-sustained universe that is simply brimming with the provision of God: sunrises, sunsets, fresh air, nutrient-rich soil, nourishing rain, botanical plants that we can extract medicinal properties from. This is an amazing world.
You say, “I don’t see much evidence that God’s taking care of me though. Here I am. I’m just working the same old job, getting the same old money, driving the same old car with the same old troubles.”
A few years ago a friend of mine was diagnosed with an aggressive form of cancer. There were no proven treatments for this particular variety, and he was given a matter of months to live. So he went home and cried with his wife and his kids, and they faced the reality of what was coming their way. And then the doctor called and said, “I want to tell you about an experimental treatment. We don’t know if it will work. It’s totally unproven. In fact, I don’t even think it’ll help, but if you want to try it, I’m willing to do that with you.” And he took it, and miraculously it worked and saved his life. And he got his life back. He got to raise his kids, and love his wife, and he told me, “I will never take life for granted again. Every day is a gift from God.” (applause)
Every day is a gift from God. What changed in his life? He didn’t win the lottery. He didn’t get a promotion. Nobody gave him a house. He simply got another day to do the same things he did every day, the same old job, the same old money, the same old car, the same old trouble, because there’s nothing ordinary about ordinary, is there? There’s nothing usual about usual, there’s nothing “every day” about every day.
Friends, we wake up in a miracle every morning. This is a God-sustained universe, God-created, God-sustained, God-filled, God-watched, God-loved, God-kept universe. The birds know it. Do you? Do you?
Verse 27: “And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?”
(Chuckles) This is a little tongue in cheek of Jesus, don’t you think? For all of our stress and worry and anxiety in life, none of it extends our life. Even Jesus knew, the people in the first century knew stress shortens your life. If anything it’s shortening.
Psalm 139:16 says, “All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.”
Here’s the third antidote to a life of worry: Your life and times are perfectly safe in the hands of Almighty God. Your life and times are perfectly safe in the hands of Almighty God. Our lives are in His hands, friends. In Him we live and move and have our being. He knows when we rise, and when we sit, when we lie down and when we get up. He gives us life and breath and everything else. And our times are in His hands as well, all of our days, each of our moments, from life’s first cry to final breath, He commands our destiny. He is presiding over all of our days and our times are in His loving hands.
Two years ago one of my kids and I were walking through a park in Washington and this dog came running up while I was carrying my child. I can’t remember which one it was. And this dog came running up and scared (I think it was my daughter), it scared my daughter something fierce, and she grabbed my neck. And her little finger nails dug into my neck. She was so scared, so scared. And do you know what mattered? It didn’t really matter that she was holding onto me with everything she had. What mattered was I was holding her. That’s what kept her safe.
Friends, your Father is holding you. He’s holding you. (applause)
Verse 28: “And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon (the great king), even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?”
Look at how God lavishes flowers with beauty, such excess!
Velvet smooth petals, vibrant colors, dynamic variegation, subtle hues, intricate textures. The best dressed people with all of their fashion-forward labels and custom-tailored outfits, strutting down the red carpet have nothing in comparison with the beauty of a simple lily in a field, just growing wild, unnoticed, unattended by everyone. Everyone, that is, except for God. If He lavishes such attention and adornment on a plant, temporary, just here for a few days, how much more will He attend and adorn His children who are built to last forever?
The fourth antidote to a life of worry: You are an immortal being designed to be clothed in radiance in the presence of God. You are an immortal being designed to be clothed in radiance in the presence of God.
C.S. Lewis, in The Weight of Glory, writes,
“There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal...The dullest and most uninteresting person you can talk to may one day be a creature which, if you saw it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship, or else a horror and a corruption such as you now meet, if at all, only in a nightmare...It is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub and exploit – immortal horrors or everlasting splendors.”
Jesus is saying, “Look O little ‘faiths’ you were made to last forever. Remember who you are. You are made for radiant glory if you are in Christ by grace through faith in Jesus. If your life is hidden in Christ on high, you are a son and a daughter of the Most High King.” And Jesus said, “One day the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father.” And God is preparing for you an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, and He will clothe you in radiant splendor forever. Your Father knows just how to bring out the depths of your created beauty, and to adorn you in such a way that the whole universe will hold its breath.
The flowers know this. They trust Him. Do you? Do you?
Verse 31: “Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or “What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.”
So He says, look the Gentiles, the pagans, they’re running hard after all the stuff of life. It’s all they really know. They’re frantic and stressed and anxious and worried because they live like orphans, and they don’t know they have a Father. They think they’re all they’ve got in this world, and they’re on their own and nobody’s looking after them. But that’s not true for you as children of God.
The fifth antidote to a life of worry is you are a beloved child known by a good Father. You are a beloved child known by a good Father.
John 1:12, “But to all who did receive [Jesus], who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.”
Ephesians 1:5, “[God the Father has] predestined us for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ.”
Galatians 3:26, “For in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith.” Ladies, this includes you. Sons are important because sons inherited in the first century. You’re an inheritor as well.
1 John 3:1, “See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are.”
Romans 8:15, “For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, ‘Abba! Father!’”
And friends, you are a beloved child, known by a good Father. Every word in that sentence matters.
- You are Beloved – His affection rests upon you.
- You are a Child - You are adopted forever as His very own.
- You are Known – He knows you. He knows your name. He knows your weakness. He knows your needs.
- He’s your Father – You’re not an orphan. You are called, loved, and kept in Him.
- And He is Good - and you can trust Him and rest in Him and count on Him.
So there’s an invitation here, isn’t there? “Seek first the kingdom of God.” Seek first the kingdom of God. We can join in with everybody else, frantically running around after all the material things of life, amassing whatever we can get our hands on, and living like orphans, trying to make it on our own. Or we can make it our top priority to get in on this kingdom life that God has made available to us in Jesus Christ.
“Seek first the kingdom of God.” This is an invitation to rearrange your whole strategy for living around this amazing opportunity to follow Jesus and discover in Him the abundant life of the kingdom of heaven, to entrust your life, your future, your everything to Him and Him alone, and discover there’s actually no need to worry after all because our lives are perfectly safe in the hands of our loving Father now and forever. And this is true yesterday, today, and even tomorrow.
Verse 34, “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.”
Notice that Jesus does not say nothing troublesome will ever happen to us. In fact, He says just the opposite. Each day has its own trouble. “Jesus, what’s the forecast for the weekend?” “Well, that would be trouble today, trouble tomorrow, and oh, trouble the day after that.” Yeah. (chuckles) Most of our anxiousness and worries relate to future troubles, doesn’t it? It’s unknown. It’s scary. It’s daunting, overwhelming.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates that the average American eats 1,996 pounds of food per year (chuckles), almost two tons. You will eat 75 tons in your lifetime. Imagine we brought in a whole bunch of trucks and we dumped 75 tons of food right here, 43,000 pounds of dairy, 14,000 pounds of beef and poultry, 7,000 pounds of butter and fat, and someone gave you a fork and knife and a spoon and said, “Have at it.” Right? You would be overwhelmed. Right? And yet we will all eat that much in our lives.
What’s the secret to putting away 75 tons of food? One day at a time, one meal at a time, one bite at a time. How are we going to handle all the troubles that life will bring, so much rejection, so many disappointments, all the failures, the pain, the heartache, the sorrow, the grief? How can we possibly handle everything that will come at us over the course of our life? One day at a time. One day at a time.
The sixth antidote to a life of worry is that there’s a life beyond worry in the kingdom of our Father, one day at a time. One day at a time. Look, tomorrow will worry about itself. You just worry about today, this day, this moment, this task, this conversation, this need, this present moment, because this is the only moment where God says, “I am.” Not I was, not I will be, but I AM. When I live in the past I can’t change or try to control the future that’s beyond my control, I fail to live in the present, which is the only place where God is.
“I AM. I am here, I am present, I am near. I am with you. Never will I leave you nor will I forsake you. I am right here. I will keep you, I will sustain you, I will hold you, I will preserve you. Stay with Me. I’m right here, right now. Do not worry about tomorrow. Stay right here. Stay with Me.”
Would you just close your eyes? I’m going to read some Scriptures, and would you just let this bathe over you, wash over you? These are the words of your heavenly Father.
- In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.
- Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me.
- God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in [time of] trouble.
- And my God will supply [your every need] according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.
- The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear?
- Do not be [afraid], and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.
- The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters… Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me… Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.
- And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose – to be conformed to the image of his Son.
- For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future… nor anything else… will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
You can open your eyes.
Friends, in this sin-cursed world there’s lots of trouble. The question is whether we will face it alone as orphans, anxious and worried, or whether we will face it as children of God, joyously confident in our Father who will never leave us nor forsake us, who is working all things together for the good of those who love Him, because in all things, our God is a great Redeemer. Amen? He took the worst thing that ever happened in all of history, the cross, where the most innocent Man was condemned to die. He took that awful Friday and turned it into Resurrection Sunday. And if He did that (applause), He can redeem your life, your story, and your worst days as well. With God as our Father, friends, nothing irredeemable can happen to us. Nothing irredeemable can happen to us.
Bottom line: There is freedom from worry in childlike faith. There is freedom from worry in childlike faith.
Remember Jesus says, “Unless you become like a little child, you will never enter into the kingdom of heaven.” Remember when you were a little kid? You didn’t worry about money, or where the food was going to come from, or how you were going to get by. When you were really little you lived worry-free because you knew somebody was taking care of you. And don’t you see your heavenly Father is inviting you back into that simple world of childlike faith. Not childishness (That’s immaturity. You have to grow out of that.) but into childlikeness, becoming once again like a little child. In Christ, our good days count forever, and our bad days are redeemed for eternity, and our best days are yet to come.
This kind of childlike faith is echoed in verses like Isaiah 26:3, “You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you.”
First Peter 5:7, “[Cast] all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.”
Philippians 4:4–7: “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, 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 your minds in Christ Jesus.”
Friends, Jesus is inviting you and me into the abundant life of freedom from worry into childlike faith that is right at home in the kingdom of heaven.
Will you follow Jesus? Will you follow Him into this life? You’ll probably mess it up the first couple times you try, but don’t worry about it. It’ll be just fine. He’s got you.
Father, teach us to live in the freedom of childlike trust. Help us to rest in your kingdom, in your presence and rule, and to let go of all of the things we can’t control, knowing that you are good, and that you are with us, and if that’s true, it’s going to be okay. Teach us this life, for Jesus’ sake, Amen.