When The Problem You Face Isn't That of Your Own Making (Cont.)
Sunday December 3, 2006 -
Problems don’t just reach into our circumstances. They probe deeply into our souls. Some of the greatest problems we face come from pain and responses deep within. This week we will launch into studying some of the inward responses we make to problems that are not only contrary to God’s Word but, as is always the case when God’s Word isn’t heeded, are self-destructive.
Remember the first step in implementing God’s solution to our problems from last week’s study. We must begin our quest with a Scriptural mind-set rather than a selfish one. Nothing else will work without this being in place. Today we consider one of the most common inward responses to external problems - worry. We will see that the Bible forbids worry. Then the Bible defines worry. Finally, the truth of the Bible displaces worry.
1) IT MAY SEEM A TOUGH TRUTH AT FIRST, BUT THE BIBLE FORBIDS WORRY, RECOGNIZING IT AS A SINFUL EXPRESSION OF UNBELIEF
The most commonly sited text on worry is Matthew 6:25-34. Jesus deals with the main components of anxiousness or worry. All of His examples deal with the physical body, material possessions, and the future. And all of His examples deal with my concern about these things as they relate to me (none of His examples deal with concern about unsaved loved ones, the poor and needy, the spiritually lost and dying, etc.).
Worry is predominantly (though not exclusively) self-centered. This is why it so effectively shuts the heart up against God. The most important point in this passage is to note its tight ties to Jesus’ strong words in Matthew 6:19-24 - “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal,  but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal.  For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.  "The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light,  but if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!  "No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.”
Worry is the backdoor way to enthrone self. Jesus labels personal worry as sinful because it reveals what is more enthroned than Jesus in my life - “No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other....”
2) THE SCRIPTURES SHOW US WHY WORRY IS A SIN
Again, the key text is Matthew 6:25-34. Verse 25 is so instructive - “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?”
The first word tells us why Jesus launches into this subject of worry - “...Therefore I tell you....” And those four words point us directly back to the words of verse 24 - “No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.”
Essentially, worry is defined in terms of Who or what rules my life. Worry is all about which master is served. Worry comes from linking my life up, even unintentionally, with the wrong master. Who is served isn’t revealed by my creed. It’s revealed by the things I worry about. Look at some of the causes of worry pin-pointed by Jesus:
a) I will be filled with worry when I place the material above the spiritual - Matthew 6:25-26, 31 - “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?  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?.... Therefore do not be anxious, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?'”
b) I will be filled with worry if I focus my life on tomorrow rather than today - “Matthew 6:34 - “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.” Remember, God will give grace for tomorrow’s problems tomorrow, not today. There is no grace given to carry tomorrow’s burdens today.
See also James 4:13-16 - “Come now, you who say, "Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit"—  yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes.  Instead you ought to say, "If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that."  As it is, you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil.”
So we see that two sins find their roots in expending today’s strength tomorrow. If there is difficulty and challenge we are prone to worry. If there is excitement and profit we are prone to independent pride.
c) My life will be filled with worry if I fail to accept the things I cannot change - Matthew 6:27 - “And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?”
3) WORRY CAN’T SIMPLY BE “SWITCHED OFF” - IT MUST BE DISPLACED WITH A SCRIPTURAL RESPONSE TO PRESENT NEEDS AND ETERNAL PRIORITIES
What can we do to start dealing with this sin? It is never easy, but there are some faltering first steps to take in the best obedient faith you can muster:
a) Recognize the sinful nature of worry. Like it or not, Jesus identifies worry as the fruit of living too close to the world and too far from God. He says this, not to be cruel, but because He knows there will never be freedom from any sin until we call it the way God calls it. Confession is the first step out of a mess (remember our very first study in this series?).
b) Fill your life up with prayer and the Word of God. You can’t will worry out of existence. You need something from heaven to re-orient your life around the power of a new master (remember Jesus’ words in Matthew 6:24-25). This is the heart of Jesus’ promise in Matthew 6:33 - “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” Greater kingdom emphasis rids the life of worry.
See also Philippians 4:6-9 - “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.  And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.  Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.  What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.”
c) Focus your energies on present responsibilities. Remember, it is not wrong to think about the future (we are to be constantly looking forward to the day Jesus comes again). What is sinful is to worry so much about the future, you fail to take care of the things today that will prepare you for tomorrow.
The writer of Proverbs praises the ant for its industriousness in laying up store for future needs. The point is simple. The ant doesn’t worry about the future. The ant prepares for the future.
d) Focus on what you can do, not on what you can’t. If you can’t change it, pray about it and leave it with God. If you can change it, set yourself to work at it today - right now.
e) Keep active in serving the Body of Christ in ministry - regardless of how busy you think you are with other things. In fact, the busier you are with the concerns of this life, the more you will need to involved yourself in Christ’s church. We must put the things we learn into immediate application. Remember, God gives his peace and strength to good and faithful servants, not good and faithful students.