How To Win Over Worry

How to Win Over Worry

Matthew 6:25-27

Dr. Jim Denison

An Arabian sultan grew displeased with his chief servant and ordered him beheaded. On the execution block, the man turned to his king and said, “If you will spare my life one year, I will teach your white stallion to talk.” The king was shocked by such a ridiculous promise, but loved his stallion more than all his other possessions. “What happens if you do not keep your promise?” he asked. The servant answered, “Then you may boil me in oil.” The king gave his servant the year he requested.

A friend of the servant watched all this. As the man descended from the execution platform he told him, “You’ve lost your mind. Being beheaded is much better than being boiled in oil. What are you thinking?” The servant smiled and said, “Much can happen in a year, my friend. The king might grow ill and die. His enemies might kill him. I might become ill and die. The horse might die. And who knows? The horse may learn to talk.”

In other words, don’t worry. But it’s hard, isn’t it?

Billy Graham writes: “Physicians tell us that 70 percent of all illnesses are imaginary, the cause being mental distress or worry. In reading hundreds of letters from people with spiritual problems, I am convinced that high on the list is the plague of worry. It has been listed by heart specialists as the number one cause of heart trouble.

“Psychiatrists tell us that worry breeds nervous breakdowns and mental disorders. Worry is more adept than Father Time in etching deep lines into the face. It is disastrous to health, robs life of its zest, crowds out constructive, creative thinking, and cripples the soul” (Unto the Hills, 52).

What is your greatest worry at this moment? What does Jesus want you to do with it?

Do not worry (v. 25)

Verse 25 begins, “Therefore I tell you.”

“Therefore” connects to what has just come: none of us can serve two masters. We will hate one and love the other. We cannot serve both God and Money (Matthew 6:24). You cannot have two gods.

“I tell you”—Jesus is now speaking with full rabbinic authority. This is the divine word of God himself. Not Dr. Phil or Dr. Laura or Time or Newsweek. This is the holy word of Almighty God.

What does he tell us? “Do not worry.”

The Greek word means “to divide the mind.” To serve both God and Money. To live for us and for God. To be spiritual and secular, carnal and godly. To focus our lives on our material needs and problems, and on our heavenly Father as well. To live as though we are responsible for our lives, while believing that God is.

Such a person is “a double-minded man, unstable in all he does” (James 1:8). Unstable in thoughts, words, decisions, actions, life.

Jesus’ words are a command, an imperative. If you are worrying, you are breaking the word of God. They are best translated: “Stop worrying.” What are you worrying about this moment? Stop it, says Jesus Christ.

They are in the present tense, a continual action. Do this not some of the time, but all of the time. And this is a decision, something we can do. You can choose not to worry, or the Lord would not ask you to.

Jesus means these words to apply to every dimension of our lives, even what we will eat, drink, or wear, the things we must have to survive. Don’t worry about your next paycheck, your health, your safety. We all have problems, anxieties, burdens. But Jesus is clear: don’t be anxious about them. Don’t be burdened, stressed, weighted, discouraged. Every time you worry about anything at all, stop.

In light of the clear word of God, such worry is a sin against the word of God. As we will see in a moment, it is a sin against the providence of God, for he has led us where we are. It is a sin against the provision of God, for he will meet our needs. It is a sin against the temple of God, for it damages our bodies and lives. It is a sin against the witness of God, for it distorts his all-sufficient grace and love in our lives.

A priest met a beggar. “God give you a good day, my friend,” he said. The beggar answered, “I thank God I have never had a bad one.” The priest said, “God give you a happy life, my friend.” “I thank God,” said the beggar, “I am never unhappy.” The amazed priest asked, “What do you mean?” “Well,” said the beggar, “When it is good weather, I thank God; when it rains, I thank God; when I have food, I thank God; when I am hungry, I thank God. Since God’s will is my will, and whatever pleases him pleases me, I am happy always.” The priest looked at the beggar in astonishment. “Who are you?” he asked. “I am a king,” said the beggar. “Where is your kingdom?” The beggar answered quietly, “In my heart.”

Trust the provision of God (v. 26)

Stop worrying about any anxiety, any burden, any fear, any problem. Why? Because of the provision of God.

“Look at the bird of the air,” Jesus continues, probably pointing to birds flying around them on this hillside beside the Sea of Galilee. Look in your mind at the birds resting in the trees on our church campus right now.

Notice that they do not sow, reap, or store. Jesus is not saying that they don’t work, just that they don’t worry about their work. He prohibits not work but worry.

Why don’t they worry? Because “your heavenly Father feeds them.” Perhaps some were feeding just then. God Almighty cares about them.

“Are you not much more valuable than they?”

If your father would feed your pet bird at home, won’t he feed you? If God gave us life, can we trust him for all that life requires?

Jerry Clower, the Baptist comedian, told about a mother of 16 kids living near a construction project. One day half a dozen of them were playing near it, and one of them came screaming home: “Momma, come quick!” Momma ran over there to find that one of her kids had fallen into a barrel of roof tar. It wasn’t hot; there was no danger; but this boy was the most awful mess you ever saw in your life. Momma thought about it and said, “You know, it would be easier to have another one than to clean this one up.”

How many times has our Creator been in position to say that of us? But he doesn’t. In fact, he sent his only begotten Son to die for you, to pay for your every sin, to purchase your place in his paradise. Now, won’t he take care of you today?

I stood in line at a museum once to touch a moon rock. It felt just like any other rock. But my Father made it. And me. And you.

So trust the provision of God.

Here is the word of God for those who are hurting today: “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted, and saves those who are crushed in spirit. A righteous man may have many troubles, but the Lord delivers him from them all” (Psalm 34:18-19); “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you” (Isaiah 43:2); “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9); “You have been a refuge for the poor, a refuge for the needy in his distress, a shelter from the storm and a shade from the heat” (Isaiah 25:4); “You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast, because he trusts in you” (Isaiah 26:3): “God has said, ‘Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.’ So we say with confidence, ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?'” (Hebrews 13:5-6).

Here is what he says to the tempted: “No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it” (1 Corinthians 10:13).

To the tired: “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up” (Galatians 6.9); “My dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain” (1 Corinthians 15:58).

To us all: “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid” (John 14:27).

Trust the provision of God for your life today. Here we encounter the difference between faith and trust. We have faith in God; do we trust him? Do we trust his will to be for our best? Do we trust that when we follow him he will lead us well? That he will meet our needs? That he will make our lives to be fulfilled and significant?

Dr. Baker James Cauthen resigned from the faculty of Southwestern Seminary and the pastorate of Travis Avenue Baptist Church in Ft. Worth to take his family to China in 1939, in the midst of war. His explanation was simple: the safest place in all the world to be is the center of the will of God. Do you believe that?

Spend your life in the purpose of God (v. 27)

So refuse to worry, but trust the provision of God. Jesus continues: “Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?” (v. 27).

The question can be translated, “Who of you by worrying can add a single inch to his height?”

Anxiety achieves nothing. It cannot add even a little time to our life span or height. In fact, it may shorten them.

So don’t focus your life on your daily needs, but on God’s eternal purpose for your life. And your daily needs will be met as a result, along the way. We will always have the provision of God, so long as we fulfill the purpose of God. His will never leads us where his grace will not sustain.

Robert Louis Stevenson said: to be what we are and to become all that we are capable of becoming is the supreme end of life. To have his provision, trust his purpose today.

It has been said that not one person in a thousand learns the art of living today. It is also true: all of God there is, is in this moment. So go beyond faith to trust. Trust his will, his purpose, his direction for your life, so that you might experience all that God has for you.

Dr. Cauthen, before he left for China, said to his friend Bill Howse: “Bill, many people are making a lot out of what we are trying to do, but for us it’s simply the will of God. It’s such a good feeling that I can say that if our ship is bombed in Hong Kong harbor and we never set foot on Chinese soil, I will have a sense of completeness because I will have been doing the will of God for me.” Can you say that today?

Richard Baxter’s advice is still valuable: “Spend your time in nothing which you know must be repented of; in nothing on which you might not claim the blessings of God; in nothing which you could not review with a quiet conscience on your dying bed; in nothing which you might not be safely and properly doing if guests surprise you in the act” (John Haggai, How to Win Over Worry, 110).

To know the provision of God, fulfill the purpose of God. This is God’s cure for worry. It works every time.


Are you in that purpose this morning? Are you trusting this provision? When was the last time you trusted God sacrificially? What is the issue worrying you right now? What will you do with it today?

Dr. Bill Hinson was the longtime pastor of First United Methodist Church in Houston. I read this week his account of his father’s death. His father came to faith late in his life, primarily through Bill’s influence. The day he had his fatal heart attack, Bill was away taking his college finals. They called and he came, wrecking his car in his haste, but he didn’t make it. His father’s last words, repeated over and over and over, were, “Go get Bill, ask him to hold my hand and help the hurt.” Bill said he was overwhelmed with guilt over being late. He told God he would have given ten years of his life to be able to hold his father’s hand. Finally God began helping him to see that as long as he lives there will be hands to hold and hurt to help.

With this difference. It’s not that we hold our hurting father’s hand. It’s that our heavenly Father holds ours. Are you holding his?

The Cure For Affluenza

The Cure for Affluenza

Matthew 6.5-8, 16-18

Dr. Jim Denison

“They were running hand in hand, and the Queen went so fast that it was all [Alice] could do to keep up with her: and still the Queen kept crying ‘Faster! Faster!’… The most curious part of the thing was, that … however fast they went, they never seemed to pass anything … ‘In our country,’ said Alice, … ‘you’d generally get to somewhere else—if you ran very fast for a long time as we’ve been doing.’ ‘A slow sort of country!’ said the Queen. ‘Now, here, you see, it takes all the running you can do, to keep in the same place. If you want to get somewhere else, you must run at least twice as fast as that'” (Lewis Carroll, Through the Looking Glass, in Arthur Simon, How Much Is Enough? 49).

Psychologist Jessie O’Neill specializes in the treatment of what the doctor calls “Affluenza”—runaway consumerism which drives us to stress but leaves us unfulfilled.

Here’s an example of the problem. Gerard Straub, network TV producer, explains why he abandoned his lucrative career: “The joys I’ve experienced in life have all been lined with sadness … All around me, I see people fighting to suppress the sadness by searching for joy in a wide array of ways: sex, power, fame, fortune, drugs. We crowd into gigantic malls and gobble up all the goodies on display. We consume more than we need because we think we need more than we have … But the sadness remains” (How Much Is Enough? p. 19).

Author Art Simon comments: “The problem is not that we’ve tried faith and found it wanting, but that we’ve tried [materialism] and found it addictive, and as a result find following Christ inconvenient” (p. 21).

All the while the prophet Isaiah asks us, “Why spend money on what is not bread, and your labor on what does not satisfy?” (Isaiah 55:2).

Richard Foster says there is misery when people lack provision, but there is also misery when we try to make a life out of provision. He’s right.

How do we escape the affluenza which surrounds us? How do we find lives filled with purpose which lasts beyond the next promotion or purchase? Deep joy which cannot be lost in the stock market? Transcendent peace which the morning news cannot steal? Let’s ask Jesus.

Trust God with your time (5-8)

Jesus’ Sermon addresses two issues in our lives today. The first is prayer—dos and don’ts. What Jesus teaches may surprise you. “And when you pray,” he begins. Jesus assumes that his hearers would pray.

He was right. Frequency of prayer was not their problem.

The central affirmation of Jewish faith was the “Shema,” a statement which required memorizing 20 verses from Deuteronomy and Numbers. The Jews said it every morning as soon as possible, and every evening before 9 p.m.

They repeated another set of 19 prayer requests every morning, afternoon, and evening.

They prayed specifically when they lit a fire, saw lightning, comets, a new moon, a storm, or the sea, received good news, used new furniture, and entered or left the city.

Their Rabbi Levi taught, Whoever is long in prayer is heard.” The problem was not the amount but the motive.

Some would pray standing in the synagogues. Standing was the usual posture of prayer. The synagogue was where the religious gathered. To pray standing before them is obviously to be seen by them, as would be the case if any of you stood and began praying right now.

Some prayed standing on street corners. These were where crowds stopped for business or to talk, and could be seen from all four directions. Picture a street-corner in downtown Dallas, and you have the idea. Jews were required to pray each day at 9 a.m., noon, and 3 p.m. They could arrange their schedule so as to be in the synagogue or on a street corner when the hour of prayer arrived. And they often did.

To pray for these reasons was to be a “hypocrite,” literally an actor who played more than one role. Actors only act before crowds. Spiritual actors only pray where they will be seen praying.

Many kept on “babbling like pagans” as well (v. 7), thinking that they could impress God with their many and eloquent words.

Jesus had to warn his followers about praying to impress people, which shows that the problem is a very real temptation. It still is.

Last weekend Janet and I visited the LBJ library and museum. It was a fascinating trip back in time, and reminded me of the time Bill Moyers was at a meeting with the president and was asked to lead in prayer. As Moyers was praying, President Johnson said, “Speak up—I can’t hear you.” To which Moyers replied, “I wasn’t speaking to you, Mr. President.”

So how are we to pray?

Regularly: “when you pray” (v. 6a). Have a set appointment to meet with your Father every morning, and through the day.

Secretly: “go into your room, close the door” (v. 6b). “Room” meant a closet or storeroom where the treasures were stored. Set aside a place where you will not be distracted by work or anything else, where you can meet only and secretly with God.

Intentionally: “pray to your Father, who is unseen” (v. 6c). R. A. Torrey: “we should never utter one syllable of prayer, either in public or in private, until we are definitely conscious that we have come into the presence of God and are actually praying to Him.”

Expectantly: “your Father knows what you need before you ask him” (v. 8). He promised through the prophet: “Before they call I will answer; while they are still speaking I will hear” (Isaiah 65:24).

Let’s summarize.

Why pray? Not to tell God what he already knows, but to agree with his will. To surrender to his purpose. To trust our need and lives to his care. He can only give what we will receive. In prayer his Spirit molds our spirit, his heart our heart.

How do we pray? Trusting our unseen Father to reward the commitment of our hearts and lives. Not to impress others, but to commune with him. Not to earn his favor, but to receive his blessings.

How long since you prayed like this? Why not more often? Here’s the answer for my soul: it’s a trust issue. I must believe that the time I sacrifice to pray will be more than compensated by God when I do. What I surrender in time, commitment, and devotion will be blessed with the power and purpose of God. What I give, I get.

Here is the cure for “affluenza.” Will you receive it?

Trust God with your body (16-18)

Now Jesus turns from the spiritual to the physical: “when you fast.” To “fast” is to abstain from the physical for the sake of the spiritual. The ancients practiced this discipline regularly.

The Jews fasted on the Day of Atonement, at other prescribed times during the year such as New Year’s Day, and for personal reasons such as mourning or repentance. The Pharisees fasted on Thursday and Monday, since these were market days and crowds would see them.

Again the problem was not the means but the motive. They disfigured their faces to show men they were fasting. They colored their faces to look pale, sprinkled ashes on their clothes, and left their hair and beard unkept.

By contrast, Jesus teaches us to fast “so that it will not be obvious to men that you are fasting, but only to your Father who is unseen” (v. 18a). With this promise: “your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you” (v. 18b).

His words apply to anything physical. You are fasting if you turn off the television to read the Bible, silence your pager or cell phone to pray, abstain from newspapers and computers for a morning to be alone with God. You are fasting properly if you are doing so not to impress us but to please your Father.

When was the last time you did this? Again, it comes to a trust issue. I must believe that what I give, I get. The food I forego to pray is more than compensated by the time with my Lord. Bible study will bless and help me more than the newspaper. Communion with God will encourage and empower me more than the computer or television.

Author Tom Sine asks, “Why settle for more and miss the best?” Such belief is the cure for “affluenza.” Would you consider it today?

Edna St. Vincent Millay was the first woman to win the Pulitzer Prize for poetry. She wrote these impressive words:

My candle burns at both ends;

It will not last the night;

But ah, my foes, and oh, my friends—

It gives a lovely light.

But how “lovely” was her life, a candle burned at both ends? She was promiscuous with men and women, drank, partied, used drugs, had affairs and abortions, married, had more affairs, and died an alcoholic at age 58.

By contrast, St. Francis gave up wealth and pleasure to become an impoverished fool for Christ, embracing lepers and preaching so effectively to the poor that he became a major force for renewal in the Catholic Church.

By contrast, Corrie ten Boom risked her life again and again to rescue Jews from the Holocaust. While in a concentration camp, she praised God for the lice and bedbugs which kept the Nazi guards at bay.

By contrast, Maria Nuri of Guatemala City gave up a profitable profession of telling fortunes and casting spells, even though it means living with her son in a shack at the edge of a ravine. “I don’t feel that I gave up anything,” she says. “I now know Jesus as my Lord and the Savior of my life, and nothing can take that away from me.”

Do you have their joy this morning?


What is God asking you to trust to him, to sacrifice in faith? A sin you must refuse to commit or continue? The gift of your money, time, or abilities in serving him? When last did it really cost you something to follow Jesus? When last did you sacrifice time to pray or material comfort to grow closer to Jesus? Do you believe that what you give, you get? That what you lose, you gain?

Psychologist Carl Jung once wrote that the great question of the second half of life is whether we human beings are “related to something infinite or not.” Is “affluenza” afflicting you this morning?

The Supper we have celebrated today is proof of God’s unconditional, sacrificial, surrendered love for us. Now he waits for our reply. He waits to give back more than we will ever lose, to empower us with purpose and significance beyond all that faith will cost us. But he can only give what we will receive.

A spiritual mystic said, “There is one thing that must never be forgotten. It is as if a king had sent you to a foreign country with a task to perform. You go and perform many other tasks. But if you fail to perform the task for which you were sent, it will be as if you had done nothing at all.” Have you done what you were sent to do?

In that light, there once were two dogs. The first dog spent all of the time and energy it could muster chasing its tail. The second dog watched and finally asked, “Why do you chase your tail all the time?” The first dog replied, ‘I have studied these matters, and I have learned that happiness lies in my tail. That is why I chase it.” “I understand,” said the second dog, “for I, too, have studied and learned that happiness lies in my tail. But I have also learned that if I chase my tail I never catch it; but if I fulfill my purpose, my tail always follows.”

The Power Of A Mother’s Prayers

The Power of a Mother’s Prayers

Matthew 6:6

Dr. Jim Denison

On April 13, 1989, in Los Angeles, California, a little girl named Tiffany Schaffer was walking home from school clutching her teddy bear. Mrs. Johnnie Matheston, mother of one, was waiting at a red light where Tiffany was crossing the street.

All at once a man turned right on red and headed right for little Tiffany. Mrs. Matheston blew her horn, but it was too late. She watched in horror as the blue Datsun ran over the little girl. The car stopped, with Tiffany directly under the motor. Before anyone could react, Johnnie Matheston got out of her car, ran to the 2,600 pound car and picked up the front end four inches while someone pulled Tiffany out.

Tiffany escaped with only two broken bones and some abrasions. Mrs. Matheston pulled two muscles but was otherwise unhurt. Though six months pregnant, she dead lifted over 1,000 pounds—something no man has ever done, but one mother did.

On this Mother’s Day, we are grateful for the power of a mother’s love.

As you may know, a woman in Philadelphia named Anna Jarvis began a campaign in 1907 to honor mothers, for the sake of her mother. President Woodrow Wilson made the second Sunday in May an official national holiday in 1914.

And so the holiday is not found in the Bible or on the church calendar. As a result, preachers have often wondered what to do with it. My friend Daniel Vestal, now coordinator of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, preceded me as pastor of First Baptist Church in Midland. They tell the story about the time Daniel decided to ignore Mother’s Day in his sermon. It’s a secular holiday, he said, as he determined to continue in his sermon series for that day. He later called it the biggest mistake of his ministry.

It is interesting that you have come to church for Mother’s Day. Many of you would be here anyway, but most of you see worship as a part of your Mother’s Day observance. Some of you are our guests today as you have come to worship with your mothers. Most of you wouldn’t feel it was truly Mother’s Day without such worship.

Why is this? What is it about being and having mothers which requires spiritual connection, spiritual help? Why do we seek the vertical in the midst of the horizontal? What is it we need and seek by coming to church on this day?

Praying for an unborn child (1 Samuel 1.10-11)

In our text last week we studied Jesus’ admonition: “when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you” (Matthew 6:6). The “room” Jesus mentions was the storeroom where the treasures were kept. A mother’s greatest treasure is her child. So how do mothers in the Bible pray for their children? Here’s what I discovered this week.

Some of you are not mothers, but wish to be. For you, this is a hard day. You watch the joy of the mothers and families around you in worship and don’t understand why you cannot join them. You know that you would be a wonderful mother. You hear of mothers aborting or abusing children, and you just cannot understand why you don’t have a child to love.

How did someone who wished to be a mother pray? Hannah was the wife of Elkanah. She desperately wished to bear a child, but the years passed with her prayer unanswered.

One time when she and her husband had traveled to worship at the sanctuary at Shiloh, Hannah “wept much and prayed to the Lord. And she made a vow, saying, ‘O Lord Almighty, if you will only look upon your servant’s misery and remember me, and not forget your servant but give her a son, then I will give him to the Lord for all the days of his life, and no razor will ever be used on his head” (1 Samuel 1:10-11).

Hannah made the “Nazarite vow,” dedicating her child to full-time service in the Temple and the work of the Lord. And her son became what she dedicated him to be. Samuel was Israel’s last judge, anointer of her first king, prophet and priest of God.

So why go to worship on this Mother’s Day? Why seek the spiritual today? Why did Hannah? Because she knew that a child is his gift. How would Hannah answer our question today? She would tell us that every child is the miraculous gift of God, and that he is to be praised and worshipped for such a grace and trust to us. Something in us draws us to worship on Mother’s Day, so we can praise the God who has given us the child we celebrate.


Never give up. Keep praying for God’s will to be done. Consider all the ways he might answer your prayer, through conception or adoption. Keep trusting him.

Dedicate your unconceived child to the Lord. This does not guarantee that you will have a child, and certainly does not suggest that you have not yet conceived because you have not made such a commitment. I do not know why God brings children to some and not to others. But I do know that every child he gives us is to be returned to him. This is a gift, a trust, a stewardship. Be in prayer now that your child will belong to him.

Praying for a growing child (Luke 1:38)

Some of you are hoping for a child. Some of you are expecting one. Next Mother’s Day, you’ll have a baby in the church nursery. And many of you have one. Your children are in the preschool, or beside you in church, or living in another part of the world, or preaching this sermon.

Here’s someone who was where you are. When the angel Gabriel visited Mary, a 13-year-old peasant teenager in the tiny village of Nazareth, he brought astounding news: this virgin would conceive a bear a child. How? “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God” (Luke 1:35). What a birth announcement! Outside Mary’s home there would not be a wooden stork with a baby in its beak, but an angel with a baby in its arms.

Here was her reply to such astounding news: “I am the Lord’s servant. May it be to me as you have said” (v. 38).

To be the Lord’s “servant” meant literally to be his “slave,” his bondservant. To do only his will and bidding, always. To belong to him, to be owned by him.

If a mother was such a servant to her owner, so was her child. Mary was here dedicating herself and her unborn Son to her Lord. In total surrender and obedience.

Why come to church in such circumstances? Why bring your child to worship, in our sanctuary or in your soul? Because you are where Mary was.

Yours is the greatest challenge in all of life: responsibility for a life. A baby will be dependent completely upon you for every day that it lives, every meal that it eats, every protection that it needs. Your life will center in the life of the child you carry today.

A growing child will be dependent upon you for its needs, guidance, and direction. Your children will never stop being your children. Their pain, grief, failures and problems will be yours. When they hurt, you will hurt, for the rest of your life.

So you need the help of God. The angel said to Mary, “Nothing is impossible with God” (v. 37). Underline that verse in your heart. Keep claiming it as his promise, his guarantee to you.

Claim the fact that you can do all things through Christ who strengthens you (Philippians 4:13); that nothing can separate you from the love of God (Romans 8:35); that your Lord will be with you always, to the end of the age (Matthew 28:20). God’s word calls you to “cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7). Cast and keep on casting. And God will hear and help your heart.

Praying for spiritual children (Luke 2:38)

Some of you have come to church on Mother’s Day as hopeful mothers, some expectant, and some the mothers of living and growing children. And some of you are none of these. You do not have physical children, or plans for them. You wonder what Mother’s Day has to say to you. Let’s close by thinking about spiritual children.

When Mary and Joseph brought the infant Jesus to be dedicated at the Temple, they encountered an elderly woman, a prophetess and preacher named Anna. She had been married for seven years, and now a widow at the age of 84.

She “never left the temple but worshiped night and day, fasting and praying” (Luke 2:37) Hers was a life of enormous spiritual significance. She had no biological or adopted children, so she made the children of Israel her own. She made their spiritual lives her concern and passion. She became a spiritual mother to all who knew her.

Now, with Jesus at the Temple in his mothers’ arms, “she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem” (v. 38).

Anna became Mary’s spiritual mother, and Jesus’ spiritual grandmother.

Her words encouraged and affirmed Mary in her faith and her own spiritual experiences with the angel of God. They blessed and encouraged Joseph in his faithful commitment to this child which was not his.

And they would be remembered by Mary and given to her Son one day. They would be given to his biographer, the writer Luke. They have been given to you and me today. Anna has become a spiritual mother and influence for us all.

If you do not have biological or adopted children, would you adopt us? Would you be a spiritual example and mentor to those who know you? Would you give them the gift of intercession and spiritual guidance?

My spiritual mothers have included the Sunday school teacher who led me to Christ, the teacher who supported my commitment to ministry, the professor who encouraged my gifts, so many of you who pray for me faithfully. The world needs more Annas. Would you be one?


So, why are you in church on the “secular” holiday of Mother’s Day? Isn’t it because you know with Hannah that your child is the gift of God, and that he deserves your praise and thanks? Isn’t it because you know with Mary that you must have God’s help in raising and caring for the children whom he has entrusted to you, all the days of their lives? Isn’t it because you desire with Anna to be a spiritual mother, example, and influence on the lives you can touch?

Know that your prayers and your child are both in the care of God. One day, we trust, someone will say to your child what Paul said to Timothy: “I have been reminded of your sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice and, I am persuaded, now lives in you also” (2 Timothy 1:5).

Pray specifically this morning that God would make you such a mother. The world needs more Timothys. And so we need even more to be Lois and Eunice today.

Not all of us are mothers, obviously, but all of us have or had a mother. If your mother has been a woman of faith like Hannah, Mary, or Anna, you’re here to thank God. If she has not been, you’re here to pray for her.

And we’re all here to make a fresh commitment of our lives to the Father without whom we would have no mother and no life at all. The Father who sent his Son to die in our place, to purchase our salvation, to grant us his peace and life.

Let’s close again this year with Peter Marshall’s beautiful Mother’s Day prayer, and express in its words our commitments together:

“On this day of sacred memories, our Father, we would thank Thee for our mothers who gave us life, who surrounded us early and late with love and care, whose prayers on our behalf still cling around the Throne of Grace, a haunting perfume of love’s petitions.

“Help us, their children, to be more worthy of their love. We know that no sentimentality on this day, no material gifts—no flowers or boxes of candy can atone for our neglect during the rest of the year. So, in the days ahead, may our love speak to the hearts of those who know love best—by kindness, by compassion, by simple courtesy and daily thoughtfulness.

“Bless her whose name we whisper before Thee, and keep her in Thy perfect peace, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.”