Surely, in this confused and hectic age, few subjects are more timely.
What is worrying you? What bothers you when you think about tomorrow — or next year — or five years from now? Do financial problems loom on the horizon for you? Do you worry about your job, or the prospect of being unemployed? How about your health or the health of your loved ones? Are you anxious because almost everything you eat these days is tainted or polluted in some way? Do you ever worry about what would happen if you had to deal with cancer or some other catastrophic illness? Does advancing age concern you? What about your personal safety or the security of your possessions in this crime-ridden, accident prone society? Do you fret about that? Does the specter of war or famine or earthquake or some other disaster distress you? Are you anxious concerning relationships with other people and how they might act or react toward you? And at night, how well do you sleep? Do you lie awake for hours trying to sort out the cares that torment you? Or are you the kind of person who always sleeps soundly, but for whom sleep is the only reprieve from the worries that are ever ready to start anew moments after the alarm clock sounds? What is it that lurks in the background of your waking moments like a dark cloud, sometimes swelling to overwhelming proportions, sometimes receding, but always there, weighing on you, dampening the feeling of joy and peace you know you as a Christian should be experiencing? Jesus advised — more than that, commanded — His followers, "Let not your heart be troubled" (John 14:1). What did He mean by that? Did He really mean what those words imply, that a Christian need not be troubled in heart or mind? "Peace I leave with you," He declared, "My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid" (verse 27). If we are to understand Jesus literally, it must really be possible to be free from worry and anxiety. What is this peace Jesus spoke of?
To worry is futile, someone once said, for if you worry about something and it doesn't happen, you've wasted time and energy; if you worry about something and it does happen, you have only prolonged the agony. Well and good. Most people will agree with that. But simply acknowledging that worry is futile does not seem to help those who are plagued by it. We humans have been given minds that can contemplate the future in great detail, whether it be five minutes, five years or five centuries from now. Because we are able to conceive of the future, we are able to worry about it -to be afraid that it may not turn out for our good. The element of the unknown — that which has not yet happened — produces dread and fear. If only it were possible to be in control of all circumstances present and future, there would be no need to worry about them. Of course, we don't have that power. But God does! God proclaims: "I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like Me, declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times things that are not yet done, saying, 'My counsel shall stand, and I will do all My pleasure'" (Isaiah 46:9-10). The future doesn't worry God. He is in control and He will see to it that His pleasure is accomplished. Nothing can stand in the way. What is His pleasure? It is not selfish. Far from it. God experiences pleasure in giving. For instance, Jesus said, "It is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom" (Luke 12:32). God wants us to inherit His Kingdom. That will give Him pleasure. When God allows trials or tests to come upon us in our personal lives, He is not trying to place obstacles in our path to keep us from the Kingdom. He is not trying to trick us or make us stumble. It is not His purpose to make things too difficult for us, to cause us to be discouraged, to give up. Not at all! God so strongly wants us to be in His Kingdom that He gave what was of greatest value to Him: the life of His Son (John 3:16). Since He did that, why can't we have more confidence in His willingness and ability to finish the job — to bring us safely to the inheritance He has prepared for us? He is the Almighty, for whom nothing is too difficult (Jeremiah 32:17, 27). Remember the ancient Israelites and how they let fear and anxiety get the best of them? When God brought them out of Egypt, the Israelites imagined that He did so not to bring them into the promised land, but to trip them up, to overwhelm them with trials, to let them die prematurely (Deuteronomy 1:27). Did they worry! They fretted that the promised land would be too hostile, that the cities would be too fortified, that the giant inhabitants would be too huge to defeat. They worried about this and about that. They were a nation of worrywarts. This, in spite of the fact that God promised them the land was ready for the taking (verses 21, 29-31). God didn't bring us out of modern spiritual Egypt to abandon us to some problem-filled, awkward existence where we are forced to live in today's society, but are not able to be part of it and that's as far as we go. How shortsighted we sometimes are! If God brought us out of the evil system around us, it is because He really and truly wants to bring us all the way into the promised land. He is prepared to do anything and everything it takes to see that we arrive there safely. Let Him do it!
God will supply our needs
Our heavenly Father has promised to supply everything we need (Philippians 4:19). That doesn't necessarily mean everything we desire or think we need, though. When it gets right down to it, we really have only one need in this life. That is to be more like God, so we can qualify to inherit eternal life. Everything else is of secondary importance. Once a woman named Martha invited Jesus into 'her house. This was a major occasion for her. Here was the very Messiah and, probably, at least several of His disciples under her own roof (Luke 10:38)! Everything had to be just so, she thought. While Jesus was teaching spiritual truths to those listening, Martha was fretting about scores of details concerning the preparation and serving of the meal. "And she had a sister called Mary, who also sat at Jesus' feet and heard His word. But Martha was distracted with much serving, and she approached Him and said, 'Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Therefore tell her to help me'" (verses 39-40). Martha thought she needed to be engaged in the preparation of an elaborate meal. She thought she needed help. She was in a fluster, worrying about what would happen if this detail and that detail did not turn out as planned. "And Jesus answered and said to her, 'Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled about many things. But one thing is needed, and Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken away from her'" (verses 41-42). Yes, one thing is needed: to learn God's ways. Anything else is secondary. Anything else can be taken away. Anything else is expendable. What if God does allow financial problems to come upon us? We don't need affluence if it is necessary to go without it to develop godly character. We don't need perfect health if that would interfere with our Christian growth. We don't need many of the things we think we need exactly when we think we need them. Oh, God wants us to have physical blessings — even some of the very ones we often worry about. But only as they contribute to our spiritual welfare. You can't know whether something in your future plans will turn out the way you think it ought to turn out. No reason to be anxious, though. Put the matter in God's hands and trust Him to do what is best. You have His unbreakable promise that "all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose" (Romans 8:28). You can't lose in a proposition like that. So why worry? Worry is actually a lack of faith that God knows what He is doing.
One day at a time
The future is in God's hands. Let it stay there. You don't need to worry about what is going to happen tomorrow. In what is frequently called the "Sermon on the Mount," Jesus addressed the human tendency to worry. "I say to you," He declared, "do not worry about your life" (Matthew 6:25). Instead of being anxious about the things of this life, He said, we should concentrate on seeking God's Kingdom and His righteousness, and God will take care of our physical needs (verse 33). Do you really believe that? The apostle Paul wrote, "But if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever" (I Timothy 5:8). The God who inspired Paul to write that principle is Himself bound to fulfill it. God will most certainly provide for His own household. You can count on it! As long as you yield to Him, He will never forsake you, no matter what may happen in this life. You can be "confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ" (Philippians 1:6). We have the two greatest beings who exist on our side. How can we lose? Jesus said of His followers: "I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of My Father's hand. I and My Father are one" (John 10:28-30). Jesus and His Father are in perfect agreement. They both want what is good for us. Who or what can stand against that? They are not going to let anything harmful happen to those who belong to them. What is it that you fear, that you worry about, that can possibly escape God's attention — that is too big for Him to handle? In His "Sermon on the Mount," Jesus concluded His remarks about worry and anxiety by giving a vital principle:
What is it that you fear, that you worry about, that can possibly escape God's attention — that is too big for God to handle?
"Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble" (Matthew 6:34). In other words, as far as any preoccupations you may have are concerned, concentrate on today. Be thankful for this day and do the best with the opportunities it offers. Leave tomorrow in God's hands. Make all your plans for the future contingent upon whether God wills that events happen as you would like them to. As James wrote, "You ought to say, 'If the Lord wills, we shall live and do this or that'" (verse 15). That way, you need never be disappointed.
Think for a moment of the worst things you have worried about happening. What are the eventualities you have dreaded most? If you remain faithful to God, what does it matter if they do in fact happen? Can that take eternal life away from you? Can a catastrophic illness rob you of your salvation against your will? Can unemployment, accident, old age, earthquake or any disaster imaginable in your worst fears come between you and God? "Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?" No, a thousand times no! "Neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth , nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Romans 8:35, 38-39). Press on with courage to the reward God has promised. The goal, the vision of being in His Kingdom, does not grow dimmer, less real, as each day goes by — no matter what that day may hold. To the contrary, for those in Christ it becomes more real, more vivid, more imminent. Each day we can say, "Now our salvation is nearer than when we first believed" (Romans 13:11). Time is on our side. The future is ours. Victory is ours. Instead of worrying about the things of this life, let your heart be filled with joy and anticipation!