Worry Leads You Astray

Steve Viars May 30, 2009 Matthew 6:32

 

- Would you agree with me this morning that Christians ought to have a unique approach to life that is clearly apparent to the people around them?...

- in other words – if you’re going to say that you’re a follower of Christ—that Jesus is your Lord…then you ought to act like it, or stop saying it if it’s not true, or if there’s no evidence?...

- and would you also agree that there’s nothing wrong with the people around us who don’t know the Lord keeping their eye on us?...watching to see if the faith we say we possess is the real thing?...

- that’s not a hard case to make biblically, is it?...

 

- Philippians 2:15-16 - …prove yourselves to be blameless and innocent, children of God above reproach in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you appear as lights in the world, holding fast the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I will have reason to glory because I did not run in vain nor toil in vain.

- 2 Corinthians 5:17 - Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.

- 1 Peter 2:12-15 - Keep your behavior excellent among the Gentiles, so that in the thing in which they slander you as evildoers, they may because of your good deeds, as they observe them, glorify God in the day of visitation…For such is the will of God that by doing right you may silence the ignorance of foolish men.

- 1 John 2:3 - By this we know that we have come to know Him, if we keep His commandments.

- 1 Peter 3:15 - but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence;

- Matthew 5:16 - Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.

- 2 Corinthians 8:20-21 - taking precaution so that no one will discredit us in our administration of this generous gift;for we have regard for what is honorable, not only in the sight of the Lord, but also in the sight of men.

- Titus 2:6-8 - Likewise urge the young men to be sensible;in all things show yourself to be an example of good deeds, with purity in doctrine, dignified,sound in speech which is beyond reproach, so that the opponent will be put to shame, having nothing bad to say about us.

 

- so it’s not hard to make the case that followers of Christ ought to be different…not because we’re trying to put on a show, or draw attention to ourselves…but because living for Jesus really does impact everything…it changes everything…do you agree?...

- I wonder how many people will attend evangelical churches today around our country who will have given no practical evidence of knowing Christ at all this past week?...

- how else could you explain the percentage of Americans who claim to be Christians coupled with the direction of the culture in which we live?...

- apparently, the passages we just read are not having the impact on some, or perhaps many church-goers the rest of the week…

- in fact, there would be cases where co-workers, or neighbors, or even friends would have no idea that person claimed to be a Christian…

- there’s no evidence at all…no intersection at all between supposed faith and daily life/decisions…

 

- for others…there’s evidence except in certain areas…

- some will say – I don’t mix religion and business…Sunday is different than Monday-Friday…

- I don’t mix religion and morals, or religion and relationships…

 

- it’s like the child who doesn’t like the different kinds of food on their plate touching – have you ever tried to raise one of those…

- the Christian life is more like lasagna -- where you have a layer of friendships covered by a layer of Christ/biblical truth and then a layer of work and another layer of Christ/biblical truth and then your private life and another layer of Christ /biblical truth and then your finances and another layer of Christ and biblical truth…

- and then you bake it all together until those textures and aromas all mix together and enhance one another…

- so you can’t eat one without the other…

- it would be like going to an Italian restaurant and ordering lasagna and saying to the waiter – but could you take out the noodles – that wouldn’t be too much trouble would it?...

 

- now let me ask you this – if we sampled the lasagna of your life this morning – would the aroma of Christ be sweetly affecting every other layer?...

- and would that include the way you handle worry?...

 

- with that in mind, please open your Bible to Matthew chapter 6 – page 4 of the back section of the Bible under the chair in front of you…

- in airline terminology, we’re beginning our final descent on this 7 week series of - Finding Hope in Handling Worry...this is a verse-by-verse study of Matthew 6:25-34 and we plan to land the plane, Lord willing, next Sunday morning…

- Introduction – at this point, I hope you would be able to summarize the main points…

- and that you would be able to explain where in the text those points originated, and that you would be able to speak about specific ways you have applied these ideas in real time in your life…here’s what we’ve emphasized thus far…

1. Worry Tears You Up.

- that idea comes from the meaning of the term “worry” in this passage…that’s the Greek word merimnaw – [which occurs 5 different times in this short text] -- “To divide, rip or tear apart.”

- so any time you are thinking about some possible problem or difficulty in the future to the point that your focus is divided, and your heart is divided, your allegiance is divided…that’s worry…the net effect is, it tears you up inside…

2. Worry Makes You Small.

- that comes from Jesus’ question in Matthew 6:25 – Is not life more than ______?

- the answer is “yes” -- unless you let worry put blinders on your mind…reducing your field of vision and in so doing, make you small…

3. Worry Steals Your Hope.

- even the birds and the lilies prove that God can do His job of caring for our needs…birds are well fed…lilies are well clothed…in God’s plan and in His time...

4. Worry Wastes Your Time.

- that comes from Jesus’ question in verse 27 - Matthew 6:27 - And who of you by being worried can add a single hour to his life?

- and the answer is – none of us – worry accomplishes nothing…

- and then last week...

5. Worry Offends Your Father.

- twice in this text the Son of God Himself emphasized that it is possible for people like you and me to enjoy that level of intimacy with the very God of heaven and earth…

- and of course Jesus knew as He was teaching that such a relationship could only be available for us if He was willing to go to the cross in our place…

- So a position that was so precious – God being our Father – should motivate us to never offend Him by worrying as if He couldn’t/wouldn’t give us everything we need…

 

- now, for our purposes this morning, we’d like to focus on Matthew 6:32, and see how Worry Leads You Astray

- it takes you down a path of handling life like others who don’t know the Lord…

- now let’s read our key text again [read Matthew 6:19-34]…

 

- let’s organize our time like this…

I. The Challenge

II. The Model

III. The Take-Aways

I. The Challenge – Use “Potential Worry Situations” as an Opportunity to Shine the Light of Christ.

- we’re talking about this phrase in verse 32 – For the Gentiles eagerly seek all these things

- the question is – is the way you handle worry any different than the Gentiles?...

- now, I realize you might say – I have no idea what that means – that’s OK, let’s break it down…

A. Compared to Gentiles.

1. Who?

- the word translated Gentiles in this passage is the Greek word ethnos

- of course we get words like “ethnic” or “ethnicity” from this term…and it simply means people groups…

- in the Scripture, God often uses this as a way to summarize those who are non-Jews…and by extension, those who do not yet know Christ…

- so it’s “biblical shorthand” for “unbelieving peoples…”

- the principle is – if you truly know Christ, you should be different than the Gentiles…

- another good example of that occurs in Matthew 20…

- that is the passage where Jesus is speaking about leadership…

- Matthew 20:25-26 - But Jesus called them to Himself and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great men exercise authority over them.“It is not this way among you, but whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant,

- that’s the same root word – the rulers of the “ethnos”…the Gentiles…

- Christ’s point is clear – it is not to be this way among you…you should be different than that…

- in Matthew 6 --- that is what Jesus is saying about worry – something is wrong if the way you handle worry looks exactly the same as the person in the next cubicle who does not know the Lord…

- now, how about the…

2. What?

- what does Jesus want us to understand that these Gentiles do?...

- v. 32 - …eagerly seek all these things…

- what they’re going to eat, what they’re going to drink, what they’re going to wear…

- please lock on to that phrase “eagerly seek” them – that’s an important key to what we’re trying to understand this morning…

- eagerly seek – Greek word epizatew – conduct a diligent and focused search, crave, desire so badly that other things are set aside…

- in other words, I’ve got to have that…that’s the most important issue, nothing else matters till I’m sure that’s in place now and in the future, that’s where my security and my joy are found…

- here’s a couple parallel uses of epizatew that illustrate this emphasis…

- Matthew 12:39 - But He answered and said to them, “An evil and adulterous generation craves for a sign; and yet no sign will be given to it but the sign of Jonah the prophet;

- which word do you think is epizatew?  (craves)

- here’s another one, after Peter had been miraculously delivered from prison which became a fairly significant problem for Herod…Acts 12:19 - When Herod had searched for him and had not found him, he examined the guards and ordered that they be led away to execution. Then he went down from Judea to Caesarea and was spending time there.

- that gives you a feeling for the intensity of all of this…

- see, the issue isn’t – they cook a meal…or they went shopping…

- they’re fixated on that…it becomes an obsession…

- Am I going to have enough?...

- and am I going to be able to continue this lifestyle?...

- am I going to receive all the respect and admiration of those around me because of the clothes I wear and the food I eat?...

3. Why?

- why would things like this become such an obsession?...

- Paul gives us a hint about that when discussing the resurrection…

- 1 Corinthians 15:32 - If from human motives I fought with wild beasts at Ephesus, what does it profit me? If the dead are not raised, let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die.

- the reason many unbelievers focus so much on temporal things is that for them, that’s all there is…

- life is a very narrow window – and that’s all there is…so they eagerly seek – they epizatew the immediate and tangible things around them because that’s all their world and life will allow them to see…

 

- now, the point here this morning is not to be critical of someone who doesn’t know the Lord…but instead to ask the question of people who would presumably claim to know Christ – are you any different?...because the good news is…

B. You can be [different.]

- your epizatew can be entirely different…

- food, clothing, daily needs are not that big of a deal to you because you have issues in your heart and life that are far more significant…

- and you stand out as a result, not because you’re trying to, but just because you do…

 

- a couple of weeks ago I was invited to a volunteer recognition banquet put on by a group of community leaders in our town…

- it was held in one of the skyboxes at Ross Ade stadium at Purdue…

- I was asked to attend because of some of the work I do with the American Red Cross but there were many volunteers from our community who had been invited…

- when I sat down I glanced at the program and saw that a member of our church was the keynote speaker…

- I didn’t know he was going to be there and he didn’t know I was going to be there…

- he was asked to speak on what motivated him to serve in our community… and I thought, I wonder how he’s going to handle this opportunity…

- after giving a brief introduction he said – I realize there are many faiths represented here and I respect that, but my frame of reference is the Word of God…and then he launched into an exegetical treatment of Romans 12 that would have been appropriate for any Sunday morning church service…

- that text explains how the gospel of Jesus Christ transformed your life and you therefore try every day to present your body as a living sacrifice to God and man, and because of the mercies of God, that is just your reasonable service…

- and I was sitting right in the middle of this group of community leaders and watching how all of this was going over…

- and it was amazing – people were locked onto his every word…no one appeared to be upset, no one was moving around, or rustling papers…

 

- that’s what this text is talking about – that speech was much different than what would have been delivered by someone who did not know the Lord…and that’s the way it ought to be…

- the Gentiles would discuss that particular question from that frame of reference, but a follower of Christ would think about it differently…

- also a person who didn’t know the Lord might be concerned about their reputation, or what others would think of them…etc…but for a follower of Jesus – there are far more important issues to epizatew about --- most importantly, what will people think of Christ when this discussion is over?...

- when your focus is there – you don’t have time or energy left to worry about other things…[repeat Roman I]

- you can be different…

- Kris and I were talking with some of our members over the weekend who participate in 4-H…

- and they were at a fair last year and a woman came up at the end of the week and started the conversation with – I want you to know that I’ve been watching your family this week (don’t you love conversations that begin with those words…) and she went on to say that while she was impressed with how well the children did with their animals and the awards they won – what really stood out to her was the way the family worked together and got along so well as they worked…

- of course that became a marvelous witnessing opportunity…

- but if that family had been like the Gentiles during a time of heavy competition…

- worrying about all of that often becomes the focus…the epizatew…

- thank God for young people who don’t live like those who don’t know the Lord…

- now, we probably need to pause at this point and ask some questions…

- how would you evaluate yourself on the issue of using “potential worry situations” as opportunities to shine the light of Christ?...

- for example – where you work --- is your “worry” just like everyone else’s?

- and we’re not talking about being pious and inappropriately spiritual or religious?...

- but what’s in your heart eventually comes out…

- and that’s especially true during times of stress…

- what about with your extended family?...are you different than those members of your family who don’t yet know the Lord?...

- with your neighbors…friends?...

- “The Gentiles eagerly seek these things”…but for you, what you crave, what you diligently seek…it’s something more important and more long lasting and that doesn’t leave much time or energy to be worked up about some things that seem to really bother others…

- Is that your testimony this am?...

 

- now, if you would say – but how do I do that?...there’s a passage that I’ve been trying to get to for some time and my challenge now is that we’re running out of weeks…

- but please turn over now to Philippians 4 (page 156 of the back section of the Bible under the chair in front of you…)

II. The Model – Follow Paul’s Example in Prison.

- this is one of the “must study” passages if our goal is to develop a biblical theology of worry…

- read 4:4-7

 

A. His setting.

- as we said, Paul is writing this from prison…

- and while history tells us that Paul faced different kinds of conditions in his various imprisonments…there is the definite possibility at this point in Paul’s ministry that he could lose his life because of his faith…

- Philippians 1:20 - according to my earnest expectation and hope, that I will not be put to shame in anything, but that with all boldness, Christ will even now, as always, be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death.

- Philippians 2:17 - But even if I am being poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrifice and service of your faith, I rejoice and share my joy with you all.

- so it’s not like Paul wasn’t qualified to address this topic – he had plenty to worry about if he had chosen to…

- but instead he writes to the believers in this dear church and tells them…

B. The context.

1. Choosing to be joyful.

- Philippians 4:4 – Rejoice in the Lord always, and again I say rejoice!

2. Choosing to be gentle.

- Philippians 4:5 - Let your gentle spirit be known to all men. The Lord is near.

- when we worry, we’re certainly not joyful, and we’re often not gentle…

 

C. The call.

- Philippians 4:6 – Be anxious for nothing.

- that is exactly what Jesus has been saying throughout this entire section of the sermon on the mount…be anxious for nothing…

- now, let’s try to put some balance on this…because there is no one in this room who would say – I’ve mastered this topic…I’m never anxious…

1. This is not to say that you will ever completely overcome worry.

- Philippians 3:12-13 - Not that I have already obtained it or have already become perfect…Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet…

- but on the other hand…

2. The Lord expects us to be trying to make regular progress in this area.

- see, what else did Paul say in that exact same text?...

- Philippians 3:12-13 - …but I press on so that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus…but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead,

- what this means is – on the one hand for anyone who would say – I’ve mastered this topic – that’s certainly a problem…

- but on the other hand – for the individual who would say I’m just going to be satisfied with handling this topic well about 80% of the time – we have to do business with the fact that in both the sermon on the mount and this passage as well, the standard is, be anxious for nothing…

 

D. The antidote.

- Philippians 4:6 - …but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.

 

- that leads to a question, doesn’t it?...

- if we made 2 piles --- “time you spend worrying about something” and “time you spend praying about something”, which pile is larger?...

- people who are different than Gentiles learn to put their concerns on the “prayer pile” and leave them there…

- 1 Peter 5:7 - casting all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you.

 

- now, two of the words that are often ignored in this text are…”with thanksgiving…”

- what does that have to do with it – when we look at our current concern in light of everything the Lord has already given, it puts whatever we might be concerned about today in its proper perspective…

 

- [develop the issue of the possibility of losing the stop-light at 550/SR26…

- have worked with the state on this project for over a decade…

- the Lord has intervened on dozens of occasions…

- INDOT and the various contractors have always been very responsive [in fact for some time, when you went to INDOT”s home page, there was a thank you letter from our church…

- now we had a new challenge – the possibility of losing the stop-light---it would be one thing to handle that apart from prayer, and apart from thanksgiving for all we’d already received…[cf. rejoicing, being gentle…]

- but we tried to respond to that problem carefully, prayerfully, in a measured way in light of all that had already been given – God in His grace changed INDOT’s heart and they added the permanent light to the cost of the project – this week it was finished…[often people who work for organizations like that only hear from citizens when they’re made about something…]

E. The result.

- Philippians 4:7 - And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

 

- [if time – point out the “of God” and “in Christ” aspects of this verse --- the way people like you and me could be different than the Gentiles in the way we handle worry is because of God working in our hearts…]

 

III. The Take-Aways.

              

A. Are you sure that you have a personal relationship with God so that you have Someone to cast your care upon?

 

 

B. List your 5 greatest worries.  Is your response really different than those who do not know Christ?  How?  Are you finding opportunities to shine the light of Christ?

 

 

C. Review your prayer life.  How much is devoted to thanksgiving?  Could/should you pray more and worry less?

Steve Viars

B.S. - Bible, Baptist Bible College
M.Div. - Grace Theological Seminary
D.Min. - Westminster Theological Seminary

Pastor Steve Viars has served at Faith Church since 1987. He and his wife Kris were married in 1982 and have two married daughters, a son, and two grandchildren. Pastor Viars’ gifted teaching ministry, enthusiasm for the Word of God, and organizational skills are instrumental in equipping Faith Church. He oversees the staff, deacons, and all Faith ministries and serves on the boards of the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors, Biblical Counseling Coalition, Vision of Hope, and the Faith Community Development Corporation.

Read Steve Viars’ Journey to Faith for the full account of how the Lord led Pastor Viars to Faith Church.

View Pastor Viars' Salvation Testimony Video