Peace in the Middle of Anxiety – Matthew 6:25-34
Good morning! If you have a Bible, I invite you to turn to Matthew 6. If you can grab a Bible, we’re going to be in Matthew 6:25-34, this morning.
We would normally be continuing on in our sermon series on Mark: Suffering Saviour and Conquering King, but there are a lot of things abnormal about what is currently happening in the world. At this moment, I’m preaching on a computer screen in an empty church. I can’t see you. I don’t know who is all watching this. But it’s the most bizarre feeling in the world for me. And yet, regardless of how abnormal everything seems, right now, the Word of God is still being preached.
Regardless of how great the spread of the coronavirus, the spread of the gospel is greater. Social distancing and quarantine can keep us from gathering together, but the Word of God can still be preached and the spread of the gospel can still go forward, and in that there is reason to rejoice.
God’s Word does not go out and return void. Isaiah 55:10-11 says, “For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven and do not return there but water the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.”
Now, in the meantime, we wrestle with the implications of what this coronavirus means for us, don’t we? Sadly, it means that we are unable to gather together as the people of God. And that’s hard for us, because we weren’t created to be in isolation; we were created to be in community, as God Himself is community.
We certainly feel the tension in not gathering together as the people of God. It feels weird. But my hope is that this might renew in us a longing for community, where we will be all the more glad to see one another, after the restrictions are lifted and we can go back to gathering together in person.
I don’t know how long this will last. I wish I knew. But in the meantime, this is what God has in store for us, and we continue to trust in His sovereignty in the midst of what is happening all around the world.
And so, this morning, I thought we would hit pause on our sermon series in Mark, to address this global pandemic and to look at how we can have peace in the middle of anxiety. And here is what Proverbs 12:25 says: “Anxiety in a man's heart weighs him down, but a good word makes him glad.”
I’m sure many of us, if not, all of us, can relate to this verse in some way. Anxiety can weigh us down, where we feel the weight of what is going on in our lives and around the world. We are a very anxious people, who are anxious about many things. This generation is actually considered the most anxious generation.
When we’re younger, we become anxious about getting into the right crowd. When we get out of high school, we become anxious about whether we will get into the right university. When we get out of university, we become anxious about whether we will get the right job. Pretty soon, we become anxious about whether or not we will get married and if we will marry the right person. When we’re married, we become anxious about whether or not we will have children and how many to have. When we have children, we become anxious about how we are going to keep said children alive and the kind of life we want to give our children.
An anxiety for me is finances. Ever since Helena and I got married, I have been concerned about our finances. At first, we were both working full-time jobs, and money wasn’t an issue, but we were both working 45 minutes away from where we lived, so we decided to find work closer to home.
Within a couple of weeks, I found a job at a warehouse, but Helena couldn’t find anything. And to make things more anxious, we found out we were expecting. And all of a sudden, money became an issue for me. Since we were living on just my income, finances were tight. We would argue about money on a regular basis. I would check the bank account constantly to make sure we had money.
In fact, one time, Helena and her sister were spending the day together, while I was at work. And on my break, I looked at our bank account and I saw that she had paid for something at Tim Hortons, so I texted her and asked her what she got, and she was like, “How did you know I went to Tim Hortons?” And I was like, “Well, I can see it on the bank account.” I was anxious about our finances.
But we are all anxious about many things. We are anxious about the future and what the future holds. What will happen with my children? What will happen with my aging parents? What will happen with my job? My money? My health? You might have anxieties that I haven't even mentioned. Insert those into all of this.
And then, along comes a global pandemic. And now, we find ourselves anxious about what this will do to our economy, what this will do to our education or our children’s education, what this will do to our finances, what this will do to our job, what this will do to our health.
Will we have enough resources? Will we have enough food and water? Will we have enough medication? Will we have enough money? Will we have enough toilet paper, in some cases? That’s a legitimate anxiety for some people. And all of these questions and concerns begin to weigh down an already anxious heart.
Maybe this is where you’re at, this morning. Maybe this is where a friend or a loved one is at, this morning. Maybe you find yourself weighed down by one of the anxieties I’ve mentioned or the anxiety of a global pandemic.
But what I want us to see, from Proverbs 12:25, is that, while anxiety in a man’s heart weighs him down, “a good word makes him glad.” And thankfully, there is no word that can address our anxiety better than the words of our Lord Jesus Christ. And so, I'm just going to read our passage for us, and then we will dive in.
Matthew 6, beginning in verse 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? 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.”
Anxiety can be described as “an inner feeling of apprehension, uneasiness, worry, and / or dread that is accompanied by a heightened physical arousal.” In times of anxiety, the heart beats faster, your blood pressure rises, you may experience stomach issues, shortness of breath, an inability to relax or sleep, increased fatigue, and a loss of appetite. You sense that something terrible is going to happen, but you don’t know what it is or why. This is anxiety.
Now, if you notice in the text that I just read, three times, Jesus says, “Do not be anxious.” You see the same command in verses 25, 31, and 34: “Do not be anxious.” We see very similar commands, throughout Scripture. Philippians 4:6 says, “Do not be anxious about anything.” In John 14:1, Jesus says, “Let not your hearts be troubled.” Joshua 1:9 says, “Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed.”
We see clearly in Scripture that anxiety is something to be avoided. But then, just to make things even more confusing, we read other passages of Scripture where anxiety is talked about as a good thing.
Look at 2 Corinthians 11, for example. In 2 Corinthians 11:27, the apostle Paul is talking about facing all kinds of danger and sleepless nights and hunger and thirst. And then, in verse 28, he says that “there is the daily pressure on me of my anxiety for all the churches.” And then, in Philippians 2:28, the apostle Paul is eager to send his friend, Epaphroditus, to the church in Philippi, “that you may rejoice at seeing him again, and that I may be less anxious.”
Here the apostle Paul is talking about his anxiety for the churches that are in his care. And it seems as though there is a kind of anxiety, where you are genuinely concerned for others, that is good and right. So, what does Jesus mean here when He’s talking about anxiety? When Jesus says, “Do not be anxious,” what does He mean?
Well, another word used interchangeably with anxiety is worry. And it seems like this is what Jesus has in mind. And if we were to define anxiety or worry, in this way, it would be “doubting that God is able and willing to meet our needs and that we alone are responsible to provide for ourselves.” It is a good and right thing to be genuinely concerned for others and even for certain things for ourselves, but the problem comes when we take God out of the equation and seek to become our own “provider.”
This is what weighs down a man’s heart. This is what Jesus wants us to avoid. And Jesus gives us four reasons why we should not be anxious—why we should not worry.
1. First, we should not worry, because our life is valuable. Look at verse 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?”
Jesus here highlights what we eat, what we drink, and what we wear. These are pretty basic needs, right? These aren’t frivolous. These are essential things in our life. And yet, Jesus is saying that we should not be anxious about them. Why? Because our life is “more than food” and “more than clothing.”
Our life is more than the friends we have. Our life is more than what university we get into. Our life is more than what kind of work we do. Our life is more than who we marry or if we will even get married. Our life is more than the kids we have or if we can even have kids. Our life is more than our money. Our life is more than our health. Our life is more than this global pandemic. Our life is more than all of these earthly things, because the God who gave us life values us.
Look at verse 26. Jesus says, “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?”
Do you want to know where you can find peace in the middle of anxiety? Look at the birds. Are they concerned about what’s going on with the coronavirus? Are they all huddled around a television screen watching Breaking News on CBC? Are they flying out to grocery stores buying mass amounts of toilet paper and other things? Are they worried about social distancing? No, they’re not. Why? Because they know that their heavenly Father will feed them and will take care of them. And if the birds know this, then we can know this, as well, because our life is more valuable than even the birds.
Look at Psalm 139:13-16. David, the writer of this Psalm, is showing the care and attention of God in creating each human life. David writes, “For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother's womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them.”
You and I were created by God with intrinsic value and worth. We are valuable in the eyes of our Creator God. But the sad reality is that we have all sinned against God. Isaiah 53:6 says that “we have turned—every one—to his own way.” And as a result, we find ourselves separated from God. This is also why there is such a thing as a global pandemic. Everything from natural disasters to wars to famines to diseases to the coronavirus is a result of sin in the world.
But the good news is that God loved us so much that He sent His Son into the world in the Person of Jesus Christ, and He lived a life of no sin, and He would eventually die on a cross, paying the penalty for our sin against God, and three days later Jesus would be raised from the dead in victory over sin and death, so that anyone who turns from their sin and trusts in Jesus will be forgiven of all their sin and will have eternal life.
In the middle of anxiety, this is really good news. What matters more than food and water and clothing and all of these other earthly things is a relationship in which we are infinitely and eternally valued by our Creator God.
2. Why should we not worry? First, our life is valuable. Second, worry is futile. Look at verse 27. “And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?”
Worry really will get us nowhere. It won't make things better. If anything, it will only make things worse. Like the list of side effects I read, earlier: Increased heart rate, high blood pressure, inability to sleep, fatigue, loss of appetite—these things are the result of anxiety.
Life is challenging enough as it is. Why would we worry on top of that? It’s not going to change anything. If anything, it’s going to show us just how little control we actually have when that thing we’re worrying about doesn’t go our way.
It’s like what James, the brother of Jesus, writes, in 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.”
When the coronavirus hit, how many plans had you made that you needed to change? How far in advance had you scheduled your life, so that when it came time to cancel or postpone events, you had a number of things that you needed to reassess? That can cause all kinds of anxiety.
Helena and I had planned to attend the Alberta Home Education Association Convention in Red Deer at the end of March, but it got cancelled. And so, all of a sudden, we had to look at what do we do now.
But again, Jesus gives us an illustration. In verse 28, Jesus says, “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?”
Again, if you want to find peace in the midst of anxiety, look at the grass and the flowers. Now, I understand that this can be difficult with snow on the ground, but we did just have the first day of Spring, which doesn’t necessarily mean a whole lot, but it is an indication that grass and flowers are coming, eventually.
But even so, look at the grass and the flowers. They are not the one bit worried about what they are wearing, or how long they will live, or how they will be able to grow and display themselves for the world to see. Why? Because they know that their heavenly Father will clothe them and will give them everything they need to do what He has created them to do. And again, if the grass and the flowers know this, then we can know this, as well.
Why are we worried about what we will wear, when we will be dressed in splendour in heaven? Why are worried about how much money we have, when we will be given the whole earth as our inheritance? Why are we worried about our health, when our bodies will be fully restored? Why are we worried?
The grass and the flowers reveal to us that worrying is futile. It will not add anything to our life, but it will distract us from the purposes that God has in store for those who love Him.
3. Why should we not worry? Our life is valuable and worry is futile. Thirdly, we are citizens of a different kingdom. Look at verse 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.”
Jesus is pointing out that worrying is what the world does. It’s not what God’s people do. It’s not what followers of Jesus do. But here’s the thing: If you do not know God as your heavenly Father, if you do not believe and trust in Him, then you have a reason to worry. If God is not ultimately in control of what is going on around you, then you have a reason to be afraid.
In Ephesians 2:12, the apostle Paul describes our horrible condition, saying, “Remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world.”
The reason people worry about what to eat and drink and wear—and we’re not even talking about a global pandemic, just the reason people worry about basic necessities—is because they have no hope and they have no God. They do not believe that there is a God who has promised to provide to those who trust Him, so the only thing they can do is provide for themselves and worry to death over their lack of control when they can’t provide for themselves.
And the apostle Paul is saying that this was us. This was us, before the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, so that, if you believe that God is in control, if you trust in His goodness, then you have no reason to worry or fear, because your heavenly Father knows what you need.
It’s why Jesus, in verse 33, “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” How comforting is it to know that, when everything is out of your control, your heavenly Father knows everything you need better than you do? And He doesn’t just know what you need, but He actually supplies everything you need. Your heavenly Father is able and willing to supply all your needs.
We live as citizens of a different kingdom. And there is no shortage of supply with our King. There is never a time when His supply is empty. There is never a time when He has to ration us. Whatever our Father knows we need, He is faithful to supply, and that is a promise that we can hold on to, in the midst of anxiety.
4. Why should we not worry? Our life is valuable, worry is futile, we are citizens of a different kingdom. And then, lastly, we should not worry, because God is sufficient. In verse 34, Jesus closes by saying, “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.”
This is so important for our day, church. Honestly, who among us knows what is going to happen, tomorrow? We don’t even know what's going to happen later today. We don’t know how much longer this social distancing is going to last. We don’t know if this will go on for another week or a month or three months. We can give our best guess, but we don’t ultimately know what will happen, tomorrow.
And that is why this verse here is so precious in these times, because it is in the midst of all this uncertainty where people find themselves becoming more and more anxious. When people can’t see the light at the end of the tunnel, they tend to get more worried about the situation.
And what Jesus is saying is that God is more than sufficient for us during these times. The good news for us today is that God gives mercy to us for each new day. Lamentations 3:22-23 says, “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.”
You might be worried about tomorrow, but the point that Jesus is making is that tomorrow will come and it will have its own mercies. The mercies of God for you today are not for tomorrow; they’re for today. God has specific mercies for you today, and God will have specific mercies for you tomorrow. The challenges you will face tomorrow you will not be ready to face today, but you will be ready to face them tomorrow, because God is sufficient for you.
I don’t know what tomorrow will bring. I don’t know what challenges I will face. But what I do know is that God will give me new mercies for each new day, and I know this, because God is always faithful.
When Helena and I went back to Nipawin Bible College, so that I could finish my schooling, finances were really tough. There were some days when we weren’t sure if we would have enough money for groceries. But then, we would check our mailbox and there would be an envelop in there with money in it and a note from someone saying that they wanted to bless us with this gift.
It was those daily mercies that got us through. But if we were only looking ahead and wondering what God would do in a month’s time, then we would have missed all that God was doing in our lives on a daily basis. Every day, He was revealing to us that He is sufficient, that He is enough, and that He will give us the mercies to get through each one of our challenges.
Church, this is how we can find peace in the middle of anxiety. This is how we can find peace in the middle of a global pandemic and all the social distancing that comes with it. This is how we can find peace when worry about our life weighs us down. The good word Jesus has for us, this morning, is that He will free us from our anxiety and will give us the peace of God which surpasses all understanding, if we trust in Jesus and cast all our anxieties on Him.
How can we face everything that is going on around us, all of the uncertainty, all of the worries, all of the sickness? By putting our trust in Jesus. By giving our life to Jesus. When we do this, He will fill our heart with peace like nothing we have ever known, before.
And it’s even better than that. Ephesians 2:14 says that Jesus “himself is our peace.” And so, it’s not only that Jesus gives us a peace in the middle of our anxiety, but He Himself is our peace, having given His life as a sacrifice for sin, so that you and I can be at peace with God.
Right now, all those who have not put their trust in Jesus are at war with God. They are in blatant rebellion against Him. But Romans 5:8 says that “God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” He became our peace with God, so that if we put our trust in Jesus, we will be at peace with God. Whatever is going on in our lives that is making us anxious, this is the peace that we so desperately need, and it’s offered to us by Jesus Himself.
Do you know Jesus as your peace? Have you put your trust in Jesus? If you have not done so, then worry will continue to dominate your life and you will never truly know peace. But trust in Jesus, and He will be your peace, forever.
If you have any questions, or if you need help with anything, you can contact me and we will try to help you with whatever you need. I’m just going to close our time together in prayer, and then I will sign off. Let’s pray…
Heavenly Father, I pray for those who are watching this, that they would trust in you and know real peace. I pray that you would free them from their anxiety, that whatever is making them anxious or worried would completely fall away in comparison to the glorious realities of who we are and what we have in Christ Jesus. I pray that we would come to believe that our life is valuable, because you value us; that we would know that worry is futile and doesn’t ultimately accomplish anything, that we would comprehend that we are citizens of a greater kingdom, and that you, our Father, are more than sufficient for us. We commit ourselves and the rest of our day to you, in Jesus’ name. Amen.
Romans 8:38-39 says, “For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
May we grab hold of this reality as we live out this peace-filled life in Christ Jesus in the middle of anxiety. God bless!