Worry Tears You Up

Steve Viars April 19, 2009 Matthew 6:25

 

- this morning I’d like to begin by asking you a question – Do you struggle with the problem of worry?...

- and maybe we just need to skip right over that and ask…how frequently do you struggle with the problem of worry?...

- this is one of those universal topics that affects everyone – nobody could honestly say that they never worry…in fact, if you said that, then we should probably offer a series on lying…

- now, let’s push this a little further – what do you tend to worry about?...

- if you had to list the top ten items you tend to worry about, what would they be?...that might be a very productive exercise to go through during this series…list the top ten items you tend to worry about…

- my guess is, that for many, somewhere on the list is the issue of money…

1. How am I going to pay the bills I have right now?...I hope you’re not, but if you’re behind on some things financially right now, it’s hard not to think about that a lot…and you may even have some companies calling you regularly and being sure you don’t forget…

- it’s like the couple in financial trouble that was having dinner in the home of some people who had lots of money and were pretty proud of it…

- and the homeowner pointed to an antique table and said “this dining room table goes back to Louis VIII”…

- and the other husband said, “our table goes back to Sears and Roebucks on the 15th…”…

- again, I hope you’re not behind on your immediate bills, but if you are, it’s hard to get that out of your mind---those bills kiss you good night and wake you each morning…

- but often worry isn’t really about today…it’s about the “what if’s”…it’s about the future…tomorrow, next week, next year…

- what if I lose my job…or worse, I know I’m going to lose my job…

- what if the car breaks down…or worse…I know the car’s going to break down…

- what if I can’t afford to go to college…or I know I’ll never be able to go to college…

- I’ll never have enough to retire…I’ll be a burden on my family…

- if you start making a list of all the financial issues that you could possibly worry about, it’s practically endless…and that list could consume an incredible amount of time and energy…

2. Or friendships and relationships…

- I know my girlfriend is going to dump me…

- I know my husband is going to be unfaithful…

- I bet my friends are talking behind my back…

- she just sent a text message and then looked at me – I wonder who it was to and what it said about me…

- that list could also grow pretty quickly, couldn’t it…

3. Then there’s your children…

- anything to worry about there?...

- some parents, for reasons I’ve never quite understood, are all worried about whether their children will like them…it becomes this strange and pitiful popularity contest  where pleasing the children and gaining their approval becomes a focus and maybe even an obsession…

- or, are my kids going to be smart, are they going to be popular, are they going to be successful?...

- what are they doing on the internet, who are they texting, are they experimenting with alcohol, are they taking drugs, are they having sex….

- are they going to make it into college…are they going to get married?...are they going to get a job?...

- are they going to have grandkids…are they going to move away?...

- are they going to embarrass me…are they going to love God?...

- these lists could grow very long very quickly…

- and we haven’t even talked about the world economy, the stock market, the banking crisis, the auto companies, politics, world peace, and now “pirates on the high seas”…

- all of that was intended to help you begin to consider – what do you tend to worry about?...

- now, let’s take that one step further…how significant a problem is worry for you?...

- on a scale of 1 to 10, 1 being low (in the sense that it’s not much of a problem) and 10 being high (in the sense that you really struggle here), how would you rate yourself in this area…and if you asked some people who know you well, would they agree with your assessment?...

- now, I realize you might say – but I’ve got some questions about exactly what worry is because I’m not sure about the balance between proper concern and improper worry…

- that is a very important questions and we even hope to do some work on that yet this morning…but please answer the question in your mind with the information you have right now – but you have the freedom to change your answer after we study this issue in more depth…

 

- now, one last word about this in an introductory way…what about the person who would say…I never worry…this is not a problem for me in one way, shape or form…

- we kidded about that at the beginning when we said maybe we should have a series on lying…but let’s be a bit more serious about that dynamic for a minute…

- what about the person who would say – I never worry?...

- 2 responses at this point….

1) I would encourage you to guard against the tendency some folks seem to have where they are very hesitant to acknowledge any way they need to change…

- they see that as a weakness or sign of vulnerability…

- so they have to put on this veneer of supposed perfection…

- so whenever a topic is raised, they are very quick to talk about all the ways they are succeeding in that area and very reticent to admit any ways they are failing…

- that dynamic is poisonous to the process of change…

- authenticity --- or transparency, is one of the first steps to becoming what God desires…and some people really struggle with that…

- you may be familiar with Romans chapter 7 where the apostle Paul says… Romans 7:19 - For the good that I want, I do not do, but I practice the very evil that I do not want.

- some Bible students believe that Paul wasn’t even a Christian when he said that…or that he must have said it very early in his Christian experience…

- I think the exact opposite is the case…those are the words of someone who has reached the level of spiritual maturity where he understands that his position before God is based on the finished work of Christ alone…it’s not about his (Paul’s) perfection—it’s about Jesus’ imputed righteousness that has been placed on his account…

- that frees him up to be honest about his struggles…and so his response to the kind of questions I’ve just posed isn’t to hide something, or to gloss it over…but to be real, and genuine, and comfortable acknowledging the ways he still falls short…

2. A second response to the “I never worry” person is that this might indicate a sin that is equally grievous to God…namely apathy and laziness…

- I realize that some folks might be here thinking---PV, please don’t say anything that would allow my husband to become any more apathetic than he is right now…

- I wish he would be concerned enough about our finances to work out a budget, or begin saving for our kids’ college, or pay our taxes on time, or do some retirement planning, or put together a will…

- that problem is at the other end of the spectrum of what we’re addressing in this series but is equally displeasing to God…

- and hopefully by studying the biblical balance on this issue – we’ll not just help those who tend to sinfully worry, we might catch a few people who are lazy and apathetic with the same net…

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

- we’re beginning a 7 week series this morning on Finding Hope in Handling Worry

- and what we’re going to be doing during this period of time is quite a bit different than many of the studies that we do here…

- often we bite off rather large chunks of Scripture on any given Sunday…for example, we studied the book of Hebrews, a book that has 13 chapters, in 12 weeks…and there were definite reasons we did it that way although there are definitely pros and cons, but we were dealing with a least an entire chapter of the Bible every Sunday…

- and if you were trying to read ahead and anticipate what the next message was going to be about, you could probably have a pretty good idea because whatever was emphasized in the upcoming passage was emphasized in the message…

- that’s called expository, or expositional preaching --  and that’s what we do here because we want to be sure we are teaching God’s Word, not man’s…so we let the controlling verbs, or the controlling argument of the passage dictate what we emphasize…that also keeps us off of hobby horses or man-made emphases…

- however, that same approach can be used on much shorter passages of Scripture…

- and that’s what we plan to do now…these entire 7 weeks are going to be an exposition of 1 text…Matthew 6:25-34….

- so we from 13 chapters in 12 weeks to 10 verses in seven weeks…

- and of course we’ll be bringing in other parallel passages along the way as we always do…but as I said, there are pros and cons to both approaches…

- the bottom line is that Matthew 6:25-34 is the most extended discussion about worry in the Bible…and when we’re done I hope each one of us is going to have a thorough understanding of what Jesus was teaching about this concept…

- because the good news is – there really is hope for handling this issue of worry well…so let’s dig into the text and learn all we can…

‑ Matthew 6 – let’s begin reading in verse 19 – read Matthew 6:19-34

- this morning we want to especially focus on the meaning of the word “worry” and see how, biblically speaking, Worry Tears You Up

- and with the time we have remaining, let’s think about:

I. What Worry Is

II. What Worry Does

III. What Worry Needs

I. What Worry Is.

A. The meaning of the word.

- merimnaw – “To divide, rip or tear apart.”

-  so when you worry, your focus is divided, and your energy is divided, and allegiance is divided – we’ll talk much more about all of that in a minute…but worry always divides a person in a way that makes it harder for you to concentrate on what God wants you to concentrate on today…or accomplish what God wants you to accomplish today…

- this definition also focus on the effect of worry…worry tears you up…it rips you apart…

- sometimes to the point that a person has trouble sleeping…

- or you have troubling focusing --- you’re staring at a blank computer screen with the deer in the headlights look…

- or having an upset stomach, or cramps, or ulcers…all of that can result from worry…it tears you up…

- the dictionary definition -- “to feel distressed in the mind, be anxious, troubled, or uneasy.”

- “A inappropriate concern about something in the future that you cannot control or that you cannot be sure will truly come to pass.”

 

B. Prohibited in Scripture.

- remember that Matthew 6 is part of the Sermon on the Mount…

- Jesus is teaching His followers about what the conditions will be like in the coming kingdom and these same principles can be applied in advance by any person who chooses to become personal followers of the King…

- some have titled this section --- “Kingdom conditions here and now…”

- and if you’re not familiar with this passage, I would encourage you to read these three chapters weekly, if not daily through the duration of this series…

- if you are somewhat familiar with these verses, you might want to consider committing chapter 6 verses 25-34 to memory during the next 7 weeks --- or if that’s not an aggressive enough goal for you, perhaps part or all of the entire Sermon in these 3 chapters…

- but there is no question about what Jesus had to say about the issue of worry…

1. v. 25 - Do not be worried

2. v. 27 – And who of you by being worried can add a single hour to his life?

3. v. 28 – And why are you worried about clothing…?

4. v. 31 – Do not worry, then…

5. v. 34 – So do not worry…

- in each case, it’s the word merimnaw…

- don’t let your mind, and your heart, and your energy, and your focus, and your allegiance become so divided…and don’t allow yourself to be torn apart as a result…you have to learn how to overcome worry…

- now, one question we have to clear out of the way or it will plague us during this entire series is:

C. What about proper planning?

- is any thought about the future sinful?...

- we know the answer to that question has to be “no”…

1. God plans.

- Jeremiah 29:11 - ‘For I know the plans that I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope.

- so all planning for the future can’t be bad (unless God has a double standard—it’s OK for Him but wrong for us….)

- a fair amount of the Scripture tells us God’s plans for the future and how we fit into that plan…

2. God instructs us to plan.

Proverbs 6:6-11 - Go to the ant, O sluggard, Observe her ways and be wise,Which, having no chief, Officer or ruler,Prepares her food in the summer And gathers her provision in the harvest.How long will you lie down, O sluggard? When will you arise from your sleep?“A little sleep, a little slumber, A little folding of the hands to rest”—Your poverty will come in like a vagabond And your need like an armed man.

- this text makes it clear that a person who doesn’t properly plan is actually lazy, and is condemned is fairly strong language…

- so we can’t take the position that all concern, or all planning for the future…automatically becomes sinful worry…we also know this…

3. God instructs us to plan, in a balanced way.

- James 4:13-15 - Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, and spend a year there and engage in business and make a profit.”Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away.Instead, you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and also do this or that.”

- some people take that passage to mean that we should never plan or show any concern for the future…

- that’s not what the verses are saying at all…the point, don’t put your ultimate trust in your own plans, and certainly not apart from the sovereign will of the Lord…

- but instead of it being a prohibition on planning, it’s just the opposite…it’s a prohibition of man-centered planning—that’s why the next verse speaks about not being arrogant by believing our plans are the final say in the equation…

- but the person walking away from the text wouldn’t/shouldn’t say – God doesn’t want us to plan…but instead, God doesn’t want us to plan without acknowledging His sovereign will and concern over the future…always include “if the Lord wills” in your plans…

 

- so we have 2 ideas swirling around here…sinful worry divides you up…you focus, your attention, your heart, your allegiance…and therefore tears you apart…

- but that does not mean you cannot/should not be concerned about the future and make appropriate plans…

1. For example, as a church, we have a contingency fund…(develop)…

- we also have funds that are held in our foundation, and some of them are designated for certain purposes, but some of them are undesignated and could be used for certain kinds of emergencies…

- we also have a line of credit with our bank for $500,000 – we don’t have anything on that line of credit, but it is in place…

- we also ask each of our ministry divisions to try to have their own contingency, and while each ministry is different, in many cases the goal is $100,000 of surplus operating funds…

- now, is that proper concern/planning or improper worry?...

- we obviously believe that is proper planning…and please keep in mind that our consolidated budget here is 7.2 M.

- many people believe that a non-profit organization ought to have 3-6 months of operating cash as a buffer against hard times…

- and the theory is that your income probably wouldn’t go to zero over night, so a buffer of 3-6 months of operating cash should yield you a couple of years to make adjustments if you started getting into trouble…

- now, some people might hear that and say – that’s not right – we should spend every dime and trust the Lord for the next week’s provision…

- others would say that an organization like this should cut back on missions and ministry and build up a much larger surplus…

- our leadership team is trying to have a biblical balance in this area…we want to be like the ant…we want to plan in the will of God…but we don’t want to sit around and worry and obsess about these matters…

 

2. (if time, could discuss our response to the economic crisis that started last October, both then and in our upcoming budget, capital campaign…)

 

3. Now, what does that mean on an individual basis?...

- you ought to have certain financial plans in place, and the time it takes to make that happen certainly does not constitute worry…

- for example, you ought to have a budget – you ought to have a plan of how much money you earn, and how much you spend --- if nothing else that’s just a matter of financial stewardship…

- you ought to have an emergency fund…and a plan in place for how much that should be, in what form its kept, and when it would be accessed…

- if you have children, you ought to have some kind of college savings fund…(cf. Karis…)

- you ought to have a retirement plan (with some kind of target in mind…)

- you ought to have a will…

- if you have minor age children, that will should include your specific plan/desire for what would happen to your children if you and your spouse died at the same time

 

- the point is, all of that can be in place, and should be in place…without violating what Jesus is discussing in this passage…

- now, the next logical question is ---

D. How do you distinguish between proper planning and sinful worry?

- we can’t answer that exhaustively right now so we’ll come back to this idea many times in the next several weeks…but here are some ideas based on the meaning of the word…

1. Sinful worry places an inordinate amount of time on the future and therefore makes it impossible to face today’s challenges today.

- the person doing right planning checks the balance in the retirement accounts once a quarter—the person doing sinful worry checks it every day, and in so doing, neglects important responsibilities or misses valuable opportunities today…

2. Sinful worry believes it knows what will happen in the future.

- there is a huge difference between saying, “I want to do everything I can to build strong relationships today” and “I know my boyfriend is going to dump me tomorrow.”

- any time our thoughts pretend to know the future, they are ought of bounds.

3. Sinful worry attempts to address possible problems in the future without the help and blessing of God.

- no one would actually say this, but some people try to insulate themselves and their futures to the point that, even if God died, they’d still be fine…

- and I’m speaking facetiously, but a plan that does not require the blessing and enablement of God usually involves sinful worry…

 

- now, hopefully we have a clearer picture of what worry is…maybe this would be a good time to repeat our opening questions…how frequently do you struggle with the sin of worry?...how often do you let your mind do exactly what Jesus warned us against in this text?...

 

- now, let’s push all of this a bit further…

II. What Worry Does.

- we’ve alluded to some of this already…let’s develop it a bit more now…

- remember the key ideas behind our definition – worry divides you up and rips you apart…how?

A. It divides your energy.

- here’s a great parallel use of this word merimnaw

- if you know your Bible, you’ll remember this story in Luke 10…where Jesus visited the home of two sisters, Mary and Martha…

- Luke 10:40 - But Martha was distracted with all her preparations; and she came up to Him and said, “Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to do all the serving alone? Then tell her to help me.”

- think about how outrageous it was that this woman accused Jesus of not caring….

- and how did the Lord respond?

- Luke 10:41-42 - But the Lord answered and said to her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and bothered about so many things;but only one thing is necessary, for Mary has chosen the good part, which shall not be taken away from her.”

- do you see the point – some of the things we worry about take our energy away from opportunities that are much more important…could that be true of some of the things on your worry list?....[again – focus on the definition – worry divides]…

 

B. It divides your focus.

- just prior to the verses we’re studying, Matthew 6:22-23, – Jesus offered this compelling illustration of the eye…

- Matthew 6:22-23 - The eye is the lamp of the body; so then if your eye is clear, 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 that is in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!

- and the principle is – be very careful about what you’re focusing on…what you’re bringing into your heart…

- and here’s why – you can only focus on a limited amount of items at once…

- for example, some people worry about having an accident while they’re driving…

- so they’re going down the road imagining how bad the accident is going to be…and the pain, and the medical bills…and their minds are 1000 miles away from concentrating on…actually driving…

- I was behind a person the other day and I was in a bit of a hurry and the light changed and this person (OK – she), was in another galaxy…

 

C. It divides your allegiance.

- let’s face it, many of our worries deal with financial matters…

- which is why the verse that precedes our text on worry says…

- Matthew 6:24 - No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.

- one antidote to worry by the way is generosity…

- cf. our offerings…I’m going to focus on meeting needs of others today, not on hoarding for tomorrow…

 

D. It divides your heart.

- Matthew 6:19-21 - Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

- who does worry place on the throne?  (you)

- worry is a form of self-trust…

 

E. Worry tears you up.

 

II. What Worry Needs.

 

A. Acknowledgment.

 

Proverbs 28:13 - He who conceals his transgressions will not prosper, But he who confesses and forsakes them will find compassion.
 

B. Shalom/Peace

 

- the biblical opposite of being all divided up is the OT concept of shalom, or peace…

- and of course that peace begins by having a personal relationship with God…[develop the gospel]…

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

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

 

C. Focus

- Luke 10:41-42 - But the Lord answered and said to her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and bothered about so many things;but only one thing is necessary, for Mary has chosen the good part, which shall not be taken away from her.”

 

[conclude – “not being divided”]

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