Worrying About Stuff

by Pastor Doug Batchelor

An Amazing Fact: Worry is a "silent killer" that can lead to heart disease, high blood pressure, chest pain, and an irregular heartbeat. Some of the most stressful jobs in the United States include being a surgeon, commercial airline pilot, photojournalist, or a real estate agent. The top-three most stressful cities in which to live in America are Chicago, Los Angeles, and New York.

Two friends were enjoying lunch together when one of them asked, "How are things going in your life these days?"

The other replied, "Well, my house is in foreclosure, I lost my job, my medical insurance has been cancelled, and my credit cards are maxed out."

"Wow!" the first said with great concern. "How are you coping?"

"I'm not worried," the friend smiled. "I've hired a professional worrier to worry for me."

"What's that costing you?"

"He charges $50,000 a year."

The first gasped, "Where in the world are you going to come up with that kind of cash?"

"I don't worry about it," the friend laughed. "That's his job!"

But, seriously, have you ever been overwhelmed with worry? There is no limit to the things we can fret over—our kids, our health, our finances, our relationships, our material possessions, and even our salvation. Wouldn't it be nice if we could have someone do all our worrying for us? In a sense, we can, and the good news is it's free. The apostle Peter tells us to "[cast] all your care upon Him, for He cares for you" (1 Peter 5:7).

Indeed, Jesus commanded us not to worry—but don't let that worry you! Christ teaches us how not to worry by providing some inspiring lessons from nature. Let's look at how listening to Jesus will help us better manage our anxiety about, well, all kinds of "stuff."

A Choke Collar
Christ understands our temptation to worry. In the Sermon on the Mount, He addressed this pervasive anxious attitude:

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? Which of you by worrying can add one cubit to his stature? (Matthew 6:25–27).

Some worry so much about stuff that they burn up an excessive amount of time and energy agonizing about how to have a fulfilling life. The problem is that the joyful life they want slips right through their fingers as they spend all that time brooding over how to live. They are sinking while they are thinking. Few workaholics lying on their deathbeds wish they had spent more time at the office solving problems; instead, they regret not spending more quality time with their families. Jesus told us that there is more to life than accumulating wealth, wearing the latest fashions, or obsessing over your physique.

Worry has been defined as feeling anxious about things that might happen. The word "worry" comes from an old Anglo-Saxon word "wyrgan," which means to choke or strangle. Worry reminds me of choke collars used on dogs—the harder you pull, the more your dog fights for breath.

Yet worry gets you nowhere fast. Studies show that 85 percent of what people worry about never happens. And of the 15 percent that did happen, most people said they handled things just fine. Jesus reinforced the uselessness of worry in a rather amusing way by asking, "Can worrying actually make you taller?" (Matthew 6:27). The obvious answer is no.

Take Your Cue from Nature
Jesus draws our attention to the birds to illustrate an attitude of trust that will help us soar in life. He said, "Look at the birds of the air." The first time I read that verse, I thought, "Lord, I've got so many problems that I don't have time to look at birds! Birds don't have problems like mine."

Have you ever seen a bird carrying a briefcase to work or hoarding food? Of course not. (Except for maybe hummingbirds.) Birds usually begin their day by singing. A little rain doesn't bother these carefree creatures who must trust in their Creator to feed them. There's nothing wrong with gathering your produce in barns or planning ahead. The bottom line is that, no matter what circumstances on this earth bring, we live by faith in the knowledge that we have a loving heavenly Father who cares for us.

Our Savior once explained how God's care for even the small things in our world is so broad that He is aware when a little sparrow falls to the ground. Christ added, "Do not fear therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows" (Matthew 10:31). Worry melts away when we truly believe that we are safe in God's compassionate hands.

To help us not worry, Christ also said to look at the flowers.

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? (Matthew 6:28-30).

Jesus points our eyes to the bright and cheerful. Beautiful lilies don't have fretful looks while laboring over what they will wear. Back in the time of Christ, clothing was much harder to come by and people had to spend lots of time literally spinning and weaving their one set of clothes. Few people in America today sew their own garments, yet many spend hours and hours shopping for the latest trends. Jesus is asking you, "Does all that time and money spent trying to buy happiness really work?"

Observe the matchless beauty of a delicate lily. Breathe in the incomparable fragrance of a rose. The Creator's attention to the fine detail of an orchid, a tulip, or even the common daisy does not surpass the deep love He has for each of His children.

If God cares so much about flowers and birds that quickly perish, how much more does he love and care about people made in His image for whom His Son died to redeem for eternity?

One Thing Needed
One day while Jesus visited in the home of His friends, Christ addressed a woman who struggled with worry.

Now it happened as they went that He entered a certain village; and a certain woman named Martha welcomed Him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, who also sat at Jesus' feet and heard His word (Luke 10:38, 39).

Can you imagine Christ visiting in your home? Jesus enjoyed the fellowship of friends, and one of His favorite places to relax was in the home of Mary, Martha, and Lazarus. During this particular visit, Mary peacefully enjoyed sitting at the feet of Jesus, listening to His words of wisdom. But in this story, one person was not relaxed. She was worried.

"Martha was distracted with much serving, and she approached Him and said, 'Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Therefore tell her to help me' " (v. 40). Have you ever felt "distracted with much serving"? Maybe you've felt like Martha, who was worried over getting dinner ready for a house full of guests. She was bustling around the kitchen peeling potatoes, chopping up salad, setting the table, and working up a sweat. It was no small affair to feed thirteen hungry men.

As Martha rushed around, she noticed out of the corner of her eye her sister "sitting wistfully" in the living room engrossed by the presence of Jesus. Her worry over getting the meal ready led to resentment in her heart toward Mary. She even felt Jesus was an accessory to her sister's "irresponsible" behavior and asked Christ to "tell her to help me." Maybe you know exactly how Martha felt.

Study closely how Jesus responded, for He is speaking to you and me here as well. "Jesus answered and said to her, 'Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled about many things. But one thing is needed, and Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken away from her' " (vv. 41, 42). Christ spoke gently to His hostess and reminded her that many things can cause us to worry, but the antidote for worry is worship—keeping your eyes fixed on Jesus and your ears open to the Word of God.

Do you burn up a lot of time and energy in worry? Go out into nature and reflect on the things God has created for you to enjoy-beautiful reminders of His love for you. Then quietly sit at the feet of Jesus. By choosing "that good part" you will find a Burden-bearer who will carry your troubles for you. True worship will evaporate your worries.

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