There is a phrase in the Bible that is used 365 times. It is a phrase that, coincidentally, needs to be heard all 365 days in a year by every person that follows Jesus. The phrase is “fear not.” These words were spoken by Jesus more than any other phrase.
Why did he use these words so often? Probably because he understood the weakness of the human state.
Why do you think he used these words so often? Probably because he understood the weakness of the human state. The disciples and others around Jesus were full of fear. Some of those fears included:
- Fear of the unknown (Matt 10:26)
- Fear of what people will do to them for following Him (Matt 10:28)
- Fear of not being provided for (Matt 10:31)
- Fear of future decisions (Luke 5:10)
- Fear of not being valued (Luke 12:7)
- Possible fear of future career decisions (Luke 5:10)
- Fear that Jesus wasn’t really who he said He was (John 12:15)
- Fear of not gaining treasures of the world (John 14:27)
- Fear of the unknown or death (Matt 14:27)
- Fear of the angels God sent (Luke 1:13)
- Fear of speaking to others about Jesus (Acts 18:9)
- Fear of the mission Jesus gave them was in vain (Matt 28:10)
- Fear of losing loved ones (Luke 8:50)
These fears and many more are connected to a word that is more commonly used today, anxiety. Anxiety connects to a spirit of fearfulness or worries about something that lies in the future.
We all have a fear that leads to anxiety in many different areas of our lives. It is a shared human quality that no one escapes. When fear rises to a high status that impairs us somehow or gets out of our control, we refer to it as a phobia. Some of the more common phobias include:
- Claustrophobia: This is the fear of being in constricted, confined spaces.
- Zoophobia: This is an umbrella term that involves an extreme fear of certain animals.
- Acrophobia: This is the fear of heights.
- Brontophobia: This is the fear of thunder and thunderstorms.
Many types of social phobias have to do with the fear people develop as they interact with other people. This can be one-on-one, small group, or large group settings, especially when someone is required to speak.
Jesus’s command to “fear not” is just as relevant today as 2000 years ago. But how do we do it? Does Jesus want us to pretend that fear does not exist? No, Jesus is well aware that we are going to be afraid of many things. Does he want us to muster up a false sense of courage with some high-energy music or a motivational speech? Not at all. Instead, in Matthew chapter 6, Jesus explains how we can do it. Let’s look at the passage.
Matthew 6:25-35 (ESV)
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?[g] 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.
The focus of this sermon is on the necessities of life, food, and clothes. Today our lives are filled with all sorts of anxieties over things that are far from necessary. We rarely worry about where our next meal may come from or if we will freeze over the winter seasons. But the truths we can pull from this part of Jesus’ sermon are still as valuable for our anxieties today. Let’s pull out a few.
1. You don’t have to be anxious because you are valuable to God.
Jesus is pulling illustrations from the things that are most likely in the eyesight of the listeners. When he says, “look at the birds of the air…” and “consider the lilies of the field…,” the listeners could have looked up and look over to see them both. They would see them every day as they went about their routine tasks. The characteristic of God that Jesus is highlighting is His care for what he has created. He does not the birds, which he made, go hungry. He does not let the flowers, which he created, go without clothing. If he treats the lesser things of his creation with such care and concern, how much more will he care for the pinnacle of his creation, us!
Much of our worry is rooted in a lack of trust that God values our well-being. It is easy to live as though God has more important things to do than care for our needs. But Jesus tells us just the opposite. He says, “Are you not more value than they?” The answer is a resounding YES!
The connection we must make is that if we are of greater value than the lesser things God created and cares so well for them, he must care an immense amount more about us. So the anxiety issue is not that God does not value us, so we are left on our own; instead, God values us more than any other part of his creation, and we don’t believe it.
Stop and think about that for a moment. Do you believe you are as valuable to God as Jesus says you are in this sermon? If you live a life crippled by fear, which leads to constant anxiety, the answer is no. Jesus wanted his fear-filled disciples to realize how much God cared for them because they were filled with fear when they didn’t. It is why Jesus says, “o you of little faith” at the end of verse 30. This was the disciple’s most significant issue. Therefore it is where we must begin if we wanted to break free from a fear-dominated life.
2. Seek first God’s Kingdom today, and leave the worries of tomorrow to God.
These words give us more insight to how anxiety works. Anxiety is always about the future. It is about the worry of tomorrow. We rarely, if ever, worry about something that has happened in the past. We may worry about the consequences of the past, but only because they will have repercussions in the future. There is nothing to fear when it’s over. We are gripped by anxiety before because we don’t know how troublesome or hard tomorrow will be.
Notice that Jesus is not advocating a fatalist mentality here. He does not say that God is in control, so just sit back and relax because nothing is going to change regardless of what you do. He is not saying don’t be provident or prudent because other places tell us that he who doesn’t provide for his household is worse than an infidel (1 Tim 5:8). Instead, he is making a statement to our spiritual attitude towards how we think about tomorrow. Do what you have to do, but at the same time, tomorrow is in the hands of God.
When we begin to get in God’s territory by trying to control the future, we end up crippling our ability to be faithful today.
- A father cannot engage with his family at home because his mind is filled with the anxieties of that next promotion or job change in the future.
- A mother is short-tempered with her children because she is glued to her phone, wrapped up in how her next social media post will be accepted in the future.
- A pastor is disengaged with a member of his church because he dreams of larger congregations or better financial opportunities in the future.
- A college student cannot leave their dorm room because of fear of what people might think in the future of their personality.
When we worry about a future out of our control, we lose control and become anxious. But when we stop and remind ourselves that we are only responsible for being faithful with what God has put in front of us today and allowing God to take care of tomorrow, those anxieties can fade away.
How to Worry Less About Tomorrow?
Focus on the Kingdom of God
Jesus says, “seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness…” If we ever hope to rid ourselves of fear, we must shift our thinking from building our earthly kingdoms to building up the kingdom of God. So much of our fear that leads to anxiety comes from self-absorption. We want life to be a certain way that is beneficial for us, and when it doesn’t work out the way we hope, we get anxious.
Instead, we should have our eyes focused on what is above (Col 3:1). What is above? The Kingdom of God. This one shift of perspective will melt away fear and anxiety because living for God’s Kingdom never returns void; it is only when we build our kingdoms that vanity engulfs us (Psalm 127:1).
Don’t Worry About Tomorrow
You have no control over what tomorrow might bring. The unpredictability of life catches off even the most diligent planners’ guard. We are all potentially moments away from unexpected circumstances. I am not advocating reckless or chaotic lifestyles. Instead, we must put our hands to the plow, accomplish what we can achieve today, and allow God to take care of how it plays out tomorrow.
If we are not careful, the worries of tomorrow (that we can’t control) will cripple our efforts to obey the clear commands that God has given us for today.
Consider How Much God Values You
It is important to remember that God is for you and if God is for you, who can be against you (Romans 8:31). The entire redemption story of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection is so that YOU could be reconciled to Him. If you are in Christ, you are his child with the freedom to approach his throne. He has given you his Holy Spirit to aid you and mold you into Christlikeness while you are here on earth, and he has prepared a place for you in his Kingdom for the day you leave.
Everything God does is for your good, whether you realize it or not. Even his discipline in your life is for your growth and overall good (Hebrews 12:11).
Cast your Anxieties Upon the Lord through Prayer
Philippians 4:6-7 says,
6 do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
God is ready to give us peace in our moments of fear, but we must ask Him for it.