Anxiety is something that is essentially commonplace in the U.S. It is said that nearly 40 million adults are affected by some sort of anxiety disorder. And that is only counting those that would qualify as an actual medical problem, and not the lesser forms of anxiety that are common place among men. In the medical world, anxiety is recognized as a severe case of worry—something that has distressing
But even though that may be the case in some instances, we need to recognize that anxiety is something that is reaching epidemic proportions in our world. And we need to recognize that such things cannot always be treated with a pill. Sometimes—perhaps oftentimes!—the root of the problem is spiritual and not physical. We need to recognize that a visit to the doctor and the swallowing of some medicinal pills may do something for you, but—in a lot of cases—those pills are only treating symptoms and not core realities.
Sometimes the best form of treatment is not something you can get at a pharmacy. What one may most need is a good dose of repentance.
In our passage today Jesus deals with just this issue. And we see that he is very clear in diagnosing it. He tells us that our worries and our fretting over our personal provisions is wrong. It is a sin. And as such, it must be dealt with decisively.
You might even notice that Jesus doesn’t even make the distinctions between mere “worry” and its more severe form, “anxiety”, as the medical world does today. He lumps it all into one category.
I’m not saying that those distinctions are altogether wrong. What I am saying is that Jesus more accurately identifies the problem. Our passage uses two ways of talking about worry and anxiety. At the outset of our passage Jesus literally says, “Give no thought about what you will eat or what you will wear.” Many of our versions say, “Do not worry…” The idea hear is that your thoughts are overly consumed with your material welfare. It is very much similar to the covetous spirit that we talked about last week where you mind is overly preoccupied with material things.
Towards the end of our passage, in verse 29, Jesus uses another word for worry. It is the word “μετεωριζεσθε” (me-te-o-riz-es-thy), from whence we get our word meteor. It means to toss up in the air (thus, meteor). It has the idea of a buoy in the ocean, bouncing around without any sort of anchor.
Maybe us land lubbers would better liken it to a Walmart bag, floating around in the air. It is a picture of complete instability. It is a metaphor for someone who has a wavering mind. When it comes to your material livelihood your thoughts are always swaying this way and that way. Your mind is fretting and your thoughts are continually bothered by the “what if’s?”
No doubt, wherever you may fall on the spectrum in the medical world, you will likely see that Jesus is talking about you. I mean, who doesn’t experience that kind of apprehension from time to time. And hopefully you recognize just how sinful this is.
But, this is why our passage is so helpful today. In this passage Jesus gives us teaching that should help to dispel those anxious thoughts. He gives us the medication of truth so that we might anchor our thoughts and enjoy the calm of spirit that should characterize a Christian’s life.
And we might say that what Jesus does is help us have a more divine perspective on things. What he does is take our minds off the things that we are concentrating on and puts our minds more on God.
For instance, the first thing he does is remind us of God’s esteem us.
I. God’s esteem of us [22-23]
Worry typically happens because we are fretting about the things we value and esteem. But in verse 22-23 Jesus reminds us of how much God values us. Look at what it says. It says, “do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat, nor about your body, what you will put on. For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing.”
The word “more” here means “superior” or “more excellent.” It is getting at the fact that our life is qualitatively greater than the things that are used to support it.
We saw this word used back in chapter 11. Jesus said “one greater than Solomon is here.” It could have been translated, “one more than Solomon is here.” What he was saying was that “one with a vastly greater excellency than Solomon is here.”
What Jesus is saying here in chapter 12 is that, because we are humans and possess this basic thing we call humanity, we have an immense worth. So unlike the evolutionary mindset of today, we are not on par with germs or cows or the hamburger we get from them. God places a great value on us.
And because He does, we should recognize that our needs will be met.
Just think about having a child born into you own house. Of all the children in our congregation today, I do not see one of them that is naked. As a matter of fact, all of them are rather healthy looking. No one is overly gaunt or looking like they are in need of any nutrition. Why is that? It is because you as a parent have placed a high value on them. Because they mean so much to you, you do your best to keep them fed and clothed.
We even do this with some of the most insignificant things we possess. All you have do to is look at your phones. I would assume that most of you take the time to charge your phone each week. You prize the thing and it means a lot to you. So you make sure it is properly fed and you plug it in whenever it gets hungry. I would bet that if I had you pull them out we could see that you’ve got your phone all dressed up. I would bet that there are very few naked phones in our midst. If you have a smart phone, you have likely bought a little case to put around it to keep it safe.
The truth is, whatever we prize, we take care of. And the same is true for us. The only difference is that our worth as humans is vastly greater than anything else in this world! God looks down and, out of all his creation, the thing he most prizes is us.
You are not a germ that sprung up from the primordial slime. You are the handiwork of God. You are the apex of his creation and the supreme product of his craftsmanship! And so you should rest in the fact that God will take care of your material needs.
But if you are struggling with worry, it is not just your anthropology that needs to change. It is your theology. Worry doesn’t just stem from a wrong view of yourself. At its core, it is a wrong view of God.
That’s why he doesn’t just talk about God’s esteem of us, he also talks about God’s sovereignty over us.
II. God’s sovereignty over us [24-30]
As a matter of fact, the majority of the passage deals with this. In verses 24-30 Jesus gives three illustrations. He talks about the birds, our age, and he draws from the realm of the flowers. Each of these illustrations have to do with the supreme rule of God and his daily governance of His creation.
And all of these illustrations are for the purpose of getting you to rest in God’s the reality of God’s providence & care.
The first one comes from the realm of the birds. In verse 24 he says, “Consider the ravens: they neither sow nor reap, they have neither storehouse nor barn, and yet God feeds them. Of how much more value are you than the birds!”
Now we’ve seen this before. It is the argument from the lesser to the greater. It is one of Jesus’ favorite forms of logic. These birds can’t get any sort of property to farm; neither do they have any means of storage. So they have no long investments they can access or 401k plans that they can draw from. But yet, despite this, not one of them ever seems to be lacking. God is always providing for their welfare.
The second illustration is found in verse 25-26 and it has to do with our lifespan. He says, “Which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? If then you are not able to do as small a thing as that, why are you anxious about the rest?”
Now, the point that Jesus is making is that we are powerless to do one of the most simple things in life. It is completely useless to worry because that won’t do much to change the situation. But who can do something about it? Who is the one who tells us when it is time to be born or time to die? It’s God.
The third illustration is in verses 27-28. It has to do with the earth’s vegetation and the splendor that it possesses. He says, “Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.”
And again, in verse 28, he uses the argument from the lesser to the greater. “But if God so clothes the grass, which is alive in the field today, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, how much more will he clothe you, O you of little faith!”
And again, all of these illustrations are saying something about God. God will not let us down. In his providence He will be sure to give us exactly what we need.
All of this then culminates in verses 29-30, where he says, “And do not seek what you are to eat and what you are to drink, nor be worried. For all the nations of the world seek after these things, and your Father knows that you need them.”
In other words, stop acting like heathen people! Worry is not a characteristic that is becoming of a Christian because it is a denial of the God-ness of God. To worry &about these things is to equate our God with the gods of the heathen people who cannot do anything.
We should expect unbelieving people to fret and get all tied up in knots about where their next meal is coming from because their gods, being false, are impotent. But why should we get exercised about such things? If God’s hand is behind everything that happens, we should be content to rest in that.
I believe that this is what makes the story of George Meuller so interesting. George Meuller was a man who lived just over a century ago. He is renowned for his running his orphanages solely on prayer and God’s providential provision. He earnestly believed that God would care for his needs and the needs of the children. And so he made it his aim never to fret over any of the slightest details. Instead, he gave everything over to God in prayer. He trusted that God would provide.
As I was preparing I was reminded of his first trial at it. Before Meuller got into his work of missions and keeping orphanages, he had a normal job. When he took the job he was to be paid each week, and he was to present himself to his superior for his wages. Meuller decided that he would not impose himself by his asking. He decided almost to test God on his promise.
At the end of the week, it was time for him to receive his wages. But his boss did not remember to pay it out. Meuller was resolute though. He did not say anything. Another week went by, and he did not receive his wages. By this time he had run out of money and he was not able to eat. Still, he would not let this dissuade him. He simply kept in prayer.
His employer eventually realized his mistake and reimbursed Meuller his wages. Meuller believe that this was a manifestation of the good hand of God. And that attitude of resting in the majesty of God & his providence became characteristic of all of Meuller’s life.
Now, I don’t think it would have been sinful to ask for his wages! But we should take the lesson to heart. Under normal conditions, our God will not let us down. Yes, there may be times when God calls us to suffer want. But his normal way of working should not be doubted. And our minds should be set at ease in knowing that God is the one governs course of our life.
In verse 31 we find another truth. When it comes to our worldly welfare, we not only need to recognize God’s esteem of us and his sovereignty over us. We also need to keep our minds focused on his will for us.
III. God’s will for us
Jesus wraps this section up by saying, “Instead, seek his kingdom, and these things will be added to you.”
You will notice what Jesus is doing here. He is essentially pointing you to what you should be thinking about. Too often our anxieties arise from the fact that we are focusing on the things that will be added to us and not the kingdom. We get it all backwards. We get so wrapped up thinking about how this or that will come together or if we are going to get that promotion that we forget what our real purpose is in life.
You might even say that what happens is that we are thinking more about seeking our own kingdom, rather than the kingdom of God.
Perhaps that is the root of much of this worry. We want to see ourselves as kings and queens and we want to advance ourselves in this world. But Jesus says here, what needs to come first and foremost is the kingdom of God. That is what you need to seek. And as you do, you can be assured that God will take care of you.
Charles Spurgeon, in speaking of this, told the story of Queen Elizabeth. He said,
“In the reign of Queen Elizabeth, a certain merchant of this great city [London] was desired by her Majesty to go abroad for her upon affairs of State. He pleaded that his own business would suffer, whereupon her Majesty replied, “Sir, if you will mind my business, I will mind your business.”
He had no reason to concern himself about his affairs. The queen would not let him suffer loss.
If that is the way it is here on earth, how much more will it be so with King Jesus.
Understand, of course, what he means by seeking his kingdom. This encompasses the whole of the Christian life. The kingdom of God has to do with the rule of Christ. Wherever Christ’s rule is asserted, that’s where his kingdom is being manifested.
So, on one level, this has to do with your sin and salvation. Do you recognize that you are by nature someone who is under the rule of sin and Satan and not a part of Christ’s kingdom? Do you understand that Jesus is the only one who can bring you into that kingdom?
But this also has to do with your life before God. The rule of Christ is demonstrated when you submit to him in your everyday affairs. As a mother and housewife, you are seeking Christ’s kingdom as you tend to your household. As you discipline your children you are enforcing the rule of Christ. As you clean your house or prepare a meal, you are seeking Christ’s kingdom because those are ways you submit to his rule.
Or if you are out in the workforce, you can seek the kingdom there too. Working diligently and upholding biblical standards for business deals, not cheating your clients, employees or your employers.
It can also be when you are advocating for Christian morality in the public sector. Whatever the case may be, you seek the kingdom by attempting to bring the principles of Christ’s kingdom to bear in every realm of life.
And if this is your attitude—if this is the aim of your heart, then there should be no worries whatsoever. Because the promise is, as you seek Christ & his kingdom, he will be sure to take care of you.
As we think about worry and what we are told in this passage, I think we can liken it to the recent developments in what is called anti-noise.
A number of companies are seeking to develop new technology that reduces in the workplace. You can now even find headphones that emit what is called antinoise.
In an article in Time Magaine Philip Elmber-Dewitt said, “The principle behind all anitnoise is the same. Noise is basically a pressure wave traveling through the air. Antinoise is the mirror image of that wave. [It is an] equal and opposite vibration. When noise and antinoise collide they interact with what is called destructive interference, cancelling each other out.”
This antinoise technology is being put in headphones. So people who are working in an environment where there is all kinds of noise can now have the soothing repose of silence.
In the same way, we can cancel our worries and fears with the anti-noise of God’s Word. When we begin to think about ourselves and God’s sovereignty over us, we will find that our souls will experience the quite repose that they should.
And when we seek first his kingdom, we will find that we will lack absolutely nothing.
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Matt is blessed to be a husband, father, and pastor in Ashland, Ohio.