I know that Jesus said it was better for him to leave (and I believe him people…I mean we got salvation, a resurrected Savior & the Holy Spirit out of the deal), but don’t you just wish sometimes that you could get just a few moments with the man?!
In my far too imaginative mind, he would be smacking down religious people on Twitter, turning water into wine (quarantinis anyone?), splitting grocery store lines like the Red Sea, multiplying our toilet paper supply and flexing on the Coronavirus by throwing it into a herd of pigs that go leaping off of a cliff. As I stated earlier…far too imaginative…I digress.
Over the past week I have asked how I could be praying for people and the overwhelming response has been people asking for prayer against anxiety. It makes sense, right? I mean just look at 2020 for crying out loud! We’ve had the Australian wildfires, a global pandemic, the stock market is crashing, earthquakes, and HUNDRED of BILLIONS of locusts have swarmed East Africa. Guys, read that last sentence again…HUNDREDS of BILLIONS. Insanity. A co-worker described it perfectly the other day – “all of these events have felt of “biblical” proportion.”
As we face our anxieties with the backdrop of biblical proportions, let’s take a moment to turn to the Bible itself and see what Jesus would say to us if we had a few moments with him to discuss anxiety. (Disclaimer: we have learned that anxiety is a multi-layered issue with chemical imbalance, trauma, family history, etc. all playing a significant role. The answer to our challenges isn’t always to throw a handful of Bible verses at it, but to use all the resources at our finger tips through professional counseling and appropriate medication if necessary. I’m speaking to the collective anxiety we all feel, not the disproportionate amount that needs medical attention and support.)
In Matthew 6, we find Jesus speaking directly to the issue of anxiety amongst his disciples. Here were his words:
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? 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? 27 And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?[g] 28 And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, 29 yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 30 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? 31 Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. 33 But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.34 “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.
There is so much gold in these passages, but I want to look specifically at three things. Jesus tells us what truth we should believe, actions we should take and a promise to carry with us in the midst of our battle against anxiety.
Truth to Believe
First, Jesus tells us not to worry because we have a compassionate heavenly Father who loves us, cares for us and knows what we need. God feeds the birds of the air and clothes flowers of the field, how much more will he take care of us who are of more value? Friends, you are of infinite value to God and he will take care of your needs.
Actions to Take
In the text we see Jesus give us two actions to take: 1) pause & look around, and 2) seek first the kingdom. Jesus tells us to look at the birds of the air and the flowers of the field. He’s basically saying – pause, take a deep breath and gain perspective. Often, we get so focused on self that it’s hard to see everything from a birds-eye view. Perspective allows us to step away from the uneven terrain of our emotions and onto the even path of God’s truth filled with green pastures and still waters for our souls.
Near the end of the passage, Jesus then tells us to seek first the kingdom and his righteousness. Yet, what does this mean? Ultimately, it means keep God first and central in your life. Practically it means, opening up your Bibles, spending time in prayer, or practicing a new spiritual discipline. It means reading the Scriptures to ground your heart before reading the news. It means talking to God through prayer before talking to friends through our phones. Jesus tells us to do these things and then gives us a promise.
Promise to Carry
The promise Jesus gives us to carry is that when we seek first the kingdom of God, “all these things will be added to you.” He’s saying that God will take care of all of our needs. Now this doesn’t mean that we just sit back and wait for God to do the work! No, it means to be wise and prepared, but also to trust that He will provide for us. Why? Because we have a compassionate heavenly Father who knows what we need and will provide it!
Take It One Day at A Time
Jesus finishes his teaching on anxiety by telling us not to be anxious about tomorrow, but to take it one day at a time. He doesn’t downplay our challenges or tell us to face them with blind optimism, he specifically says that each day has its own troubles. However, he knows that our energy needs to be directed on seeking God, trusting him and facing our troubles head on with faith. It was Corrie ten Boom who so accurately wrote, “Worry does not empty tomorrow of its sorrow, it empties today of its strength.”
So friends, we may not be able to walk with Jesus in the flesh, but we can walk with him in the Spirit and turn to his words. As we face our current circumstances, let us not empty today of its strength, but let us direct it by seeking first the kingdom and trusting God with the rest.