How to Win Over Worry
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?