Last Sunday I had the privilege of preaching at Bethany North regarding anxiety. By now we’re all familiar with Jesus’ saying, “Do not worry…who can add even an hour to your life by worrying?” Its definitely one of those statements of Jesus that drips with truth but has been hijacked by cheesy Christian greeting cards for some many decades it now has as much depth as saying “Just let go and let God.” Statements get robbed of meaning when repeated over and over but not truly lived out. So Jesus says, “don’t worry”. But what did He mean?
It’s always important to see context when looking at scripture. When Jesus delivers these “anti-anxiety words” they come directly after his teaching on money. In Matthew 5-7 Jesus has taught on conflict, war, peace, lust, greed, etc. Basically, He preached on the entire human experience. And He kept saying over and over, “I don’t want your religions, I want your heart” (my paraphrase). He arrives at his teaching of anxiety and its like he is saying, now that I’ve taught you all about following my kingdom and conflict and lust and all these other external things, now I want the last and hardest kingdom to reign: your interior heart. Many of us in the Christian faith get good at being Christian and we’ve got it nailed as far as no murdering, no sleeping with our neighbor’s wife, etc. But we like to worry about things for we like to think we’re in control of every little thing in our life. We want to remain kings of our own kingdom; we don’t really want to give control to the one true King, Jesus Christ. But Jesus wants it all; we can even trust Him with our worries about the future and our worries about material objects and our worries about our earthly significance. And if the key theme of the Sermon is “transformation” postured by Pastor Joe last week, Jesus is saying “One last thing I need before you can be transformed, I need you to follow me TODAY and let ME worry about tomorrow. This is the good news of the Kingdom of God, when we’re so sword to obedience to Him that we give Him not only our money and our sexuality and our conflicts…but we even give him our future. And when we do this, Jesus can take our anxiety away. Simple as that.
Now as a brief aside, there are tools out there to retrain your mind on limiting anxiety. Sometimes simple anxiety, like worrying, can become excessive. And excessive worrying turns into very real anxiety disorders. At times when people suffer from real anxiety disorders, people need to seek a doctor or trained mental health professional to get the skills (or at times medication) to get over the hump that you are stuck in. For as Dr. Seuss says, “un-slumping yourself is not easily done.” For most of us, the worries we face day-to-day can feel overwhelming on certain days or stretches, but often they subside in time. When they don’t subside, its time to get medical or mental health from a real pro.
Jesus isn’t dismissing the notion of medical care, but He’s talking more about the things that we put before Him. What rules you is by definition, your ruler. Is Jesus your ruler? Or your to-do list?
The good news when you follow Jesus, I mean really follow Jesus, He desires to take away even your anxiety and your restlessness and your despair- He will transform it all! He addressed the human propensity to WORRY. This is a big one for me…I like to worry. I like to be in control. I don’t like to trust. I don’t want to take things day by day…I want the 5-year plan with my succinct action steps. But life is just not like this…and Jesus says, you can’t control it anyway
So what do we do with our worry? It can’t jus go away…so Jesus says step into my story, work for my kingdom and let me take care of the rest. We are to take our anxiety and flip it and step into God’s story by investing in his Kingdom here on earth. “Seek first His Kingdom and His righteousness.” Even your lifestyle is a positive action for God’s kingdom. Step into the service of others, for justice of oppressed, of caring for someone else. By taking your eyes off yourself, and putting them on God through looking at others, will suffer.
For many of us, we become slaves to worry and control, thinking if we put it on a “to do” list or employ the newest app to manage our worries, that we can somehow “get it all done. “ This just isn’t the case. Tomorrow’s worries become the next days and the next days. Jesus brings truly good news…you don’t have to be enslaved anymore! Make me your goal and Lord over your whole life and I can make you whole. The striving? The worry? The anxiety? Let them melt into me. Melt into Me.
Jesus came to give you peace. Real peace. Peace that can change your life.