Anxiety is like the common cold of our times. It has been observed that anxiety is a thin stream of fear trickling through the mind. If encouraged, it cuts a channel into which all other thoughts are drained. “The beginning of anxiety is the end of faith, and the beginning of true faith is the end of anxiety,” remarked George Mueller. An average person's anxiety is focused like this: 40% on things that will never happen; 30% on things about the past that can't be changed; 12% on criticism by others, which is largely untrue; 10% on their health, which only gets worse with stress; and 8% on real problems that will be faced.
Someone has called anxiety “fear in search of a cause.” We can face the future without fear when we face the future with faith in God who knows the past, present and future and has ordained all events that come to pass. Nothing is random. Nothing is beyond His will and control.
Trust Almighty God, who never lets one promise fall to the ground, and face the future with faith. Our help is in the name of the Lord, but our fears are in the name of man. “We fear men so much, because we fear God so little,” wrote G. K. Chesterton. Life, with all its fearful debris, nevertheless rotates around the fixed axis of God’s sovereignty. “This is my Father’s world,” as the hymn says.
And be sure to always seek first things first. The most important thing is keeping the most important thing the most important thing. It is rather comical when the primary things are made secondary. Victor Borge told about a couple going on vacation, standing in line waiting to check their bags at the airline counter. The husband said to the wife, "I wish we had brought the piano." The wife said, "Why? We've got sixteen bags already!" The husband said, "Yes, I know-- but the tickets are on the piano!"
A short memory is dangerous. If we don’t recall God’s help in the past, we neglect to depend on Him for the future. Our soul is like a ship in a storm when troubles assail us. We must steady the ship when the waves of fear come upon us and keep our souls in a steady position of trust, remembering He is faithful and that He never changes. “If God is for us, who can be against us?” God is completely for us in all that God does. The evidence is that God didn’t spare His own Son, Jesus Christ, but gave Him up for us all. If that is true, then will not God graciously give us all things?
“Who can separate us from the love of Christ?” If God has poured out the Spirit into our hearts, then the answer is no one, nothing. No circumstance in the natural or supernatural realm can ultimately divide us from God’s love. Look at the cross. Look at how much He loves us. Look at the empty tomb. See how He has overcome death and despair. The love of God is the essential key to knowing the future. When you know the nature of God — benevolent, for us, with us — and when you know about yourself — a child of God, completely covered in grace — and when you know about the world — that everything will be set right, re-created and made new in Christ - then you know enough to get through any storm of life.
Jesus says, “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?” (Matthew 6:25) Don’t be anxious, God will meet your needs. Anxiety is a distraction that robs you of enjoying and living life as it was intended. If God cares for the greater thing, for life as a whole, then he certainly cares for the lesser things, the subordinate parts of life that sustain us each day. David said, “I was young and now I am old, yet I have never seen the righteous forsaken or their children begging bread.” (Psalm 37:25)
Jesus says, “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?” (Matthew 6:26) The birds dig their worms, snatch their bugs and pad their nests. But it is God that feeds them. Birds don’t anxiously hoard things for the next day. They go about their work as though when the sun comes up tomorrow, God will still be God. How much should we rely upon the providence and mercy of God? The birds are not suffering from high blood pressure and stress-related illnesses, nor do they worry one bit. God will take care of us, too.
Jesus adds, “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 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.” (Matthew 6:27-32)
God is both able and willing to care for those who trust Him in life. Anxiety will not lengthen our lives. In fact, anxiety shortens it! Since God takes care of flowers that cannot reason or toil, how much more will he care for us, his gifted creation, to whom he repeatedly gives his immediate and living presence.
What should we do then? How should we live? Jesus commands us on the heart of the matter: “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” (Matthew 6:33) Seek God’s rule and His righteousness first and He will take care of the rest. To seek the kingdom is to seek the King, to love him as Savior and Friend, to bow to him as Lord, to trust the God who has chosen us, redeemed us, and taught us to trust him. To seek the kingdom is to pray for it: “Your kingdom come.” To seek the kingdom is to introduce others to our King’s benevolent reign over all of life. To seek the kingdom is to desire that God be known and glorified as King throughout the earth. If we are taking care of God’s business as a priority, then He will take care of our business as He promised. Enter in and enjoy the privileges.
Jesus concludes, “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.” (Matthew 6:34) It has been well-said that, “Worry is wasting today's time to clutter up tomorrow's opportunities with yesterday's troubles.” It is like a rocking chair, it gives you something to do but it doesn't get you anywhere. A wise woman once said, “Every evening I turn worries over to God. He's going to be up all night anyway.” Our task today is not to have the strength needed for tomorrow's burdens. Our task today is to live by the mercies given for today, and to believe that there will be new mercies for tomorrow.
An instructor at a time-management seminar told the participants to prepare for a quiz. He reached under the table and took out a wide-mouthed gallon jar and set it on the table. Next to the jar were several fist-sized rocks. He asked the group, "How many of these rocks do you think we can get inside this jar?" The participants made their guesses. The instructor said, "Let's find out." One by one he began to put as many fist-sized rocks as he could into the jar until the rocks inside were level with the top of the jar.
The instructor then asked, "Is the jar full?" All the participants looked at the jar filled with rocks and said it was. But then he reached under the table and pulled out a bucket of gravel. Then he dumped some gravel in and shook the jar. The gravel filled the spaces between the big rocks. He grinned and asked again, "Is the jar full?" The participants were not about to be fooled a second time. They said that the jar was probably not full. The instructor nodded and said, "Good. You are catching on." He next took out a bucket of sand and poured it into the jar. Slowly the sand filled the gaps between the rocks and gravel. After the sand settled, the instructor once again asked, "Now, is the jar full?" The audience yelled, "No!" He said, "Good." He was pleased that they understood an important principle. The instructor poured a pitcher of water into the jar.
At this point he stopped and asked the group, "What's the point of all this?" Somebody said, "Well, there are always gaps, and if you work at it, you can always fit more into your life." But the instructor said, "No, the point is this: If I hadn't put in those big rocks first, I would never have gotten them in at all." What should be your big rocks? God and his kingdom. Put them into your life first. “Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” Amen.