By Rhonda Stoppe, Crosswalk.com
“Do not be worried about your life, as to what you will eat or what you will drink; nor for your body as to what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?” … Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. (Matthew 6:25, 34)
Biblical Meaning of "Do Not Worry"
The NIV Biblical Theology Study Bible comments:
“do not worry. Means not that should not think about or plan ahead but that we are not to be anxious. …Moreover, each day has too many unavoidable worries of its own for us to indulge in worries about the future as well.”
The ESV Study Bible similarly explains:
“If one makes the right choices (see vv. 19-24) there is (“therefore”) no reason that one should be anxious. Jesus gives two a fortiori (“how much more”) examples—“look at the birds” (v. 26), “consider the lilies” (v. 28)—to show that, since God cares even for the birds and the lilies, how much more will he care for his own. To be anxious, then, demonstrates a lack of trust in God, who promises that he will graciously care for “all these things” (v. 33; cf. Rom. 8:32). See also Phil. 4:5-6).
“The conclusion of the whole matter is, that it is the will and command of the Lord Jesus, that by daily prayers we may get strength to bear us up under our daily troubles, and to arm us against the temptations that attend them, and then let none of these things move us. Happy are those who take the Lord for their God, and make full proof of it by trusting themselves wholly to his wise disposal. Let thy Spirit convince us of sin in the want of this disposition, and take away the worldliness of our hearts.”
Anxiety over tomorrow’s concerns will rob you of the strength for today. Getting stuck in worry will steal your joy and render you ineffective for the work God wants to do through your life. If Satan can keep you immobilized by fear he can steal from you the zeal to serve Christ in this generation. Remember how the disciples responded after Christ was killed? After seeing their beloved Jesus crucified, their fear drove them into hiding. What if the disciples had become so consumed with worry that they stayed in the shadows until the day they died?
Sometimes worrying about what others think of us can steal our zeal to serve Christ. What if Peter’s anxiety over his denial of Jesus or Thomas’ shame over his doubt stifled their testimonies for the rest of their lives. Would the gospel still have been proclaimed? Of course. But if they were imprisoned by worry, they would have missed out on all the incredible assignments God had for them. The same is true for you and me.
Worry Plays Itself Out in a Number of Ways
-Some people worry that God could never forgive them, so they don’t think they’re worthy to be saved or to serve Christ.
-Parents fret over giving their kids everythingthey want or need. Forgetting the most important thing they can do for their children is to live a life so in love with God that it makes knowing and serving Christ irresistible to their kids.
-Wives worry their husbands don’t love them enough. Husbandsfear their wives don’t respect them. So, they spend their energy holding one another emotionally hostage until the other gives them what they think they deserve. Only to one day find that their fear of mistreatment has driven a wedge between them and their spouse, creating a relationship characterized by manipulation and isolation. (For more read: Why Isn’t My Christian Marriage Working.)
-Others fear financial ruin or want to appear successful, so they devote their lives to career and cash. Rather than blessing others with what they’ve been given, they hoard their wealth in fear of losing what they have earned.
-Some worry they won’t be able to retire so they spend their lives building their investments only to one day stand before God and realize that they invested in the wrong “retirement.”
Do you identify with any of the aforementioned worries? I know I do. Worry is not something that only happens to the weak or carnal Christian. It’s something that plagues all of us at different seasons of life. So, Let’s look at:
6 Practical Steps to Combat Worry
Often while facing worrisome circumstances Christians will pray, “Why God? Why me? Why us? Why now?” But this is not the right way to pray. Rather than pleading with God to show you why ask Him to show you how to walk through the trial in a manner that pleases Him and brings glory to Christ.
And remember, you’re not alone in your prayers. Romans 8:34 promises that Jesus, “…is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us.” Just as Jesus told Peter He was praying for him when Satan wanted to sift him as wheat, you can rest in knowing that Jesus is praying for you too.
2. Focus on God’s Attributes
Even David, who the Lord referred to as a man after God’s own heart, wrestled with worry. David cried out, “For innumerable evils have surrounded me; My iniquities have overtaken me, so that I am not able to look up.” But when David felt surrounded by evil, and his heart failed him in fear, he didn’t remain stuck in anxiety. Rather, David looked to God for his help. He prayed, “Be pleased O Lord, make haste to help me! Let them be ashamed” (Psalm 40:12-17).
David also combatted worry by remembering that God was for him no matter what man may try to do. He said, “In God I have put my trust; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?” (Psalm 56:11).
We can learn a lot from David’s response to worry and fear. David wasn’t a perfect man with a perfect family. He blew it big time later in life. And his kids made horrible choices that caused him grief. But David knew he could trust in God’s character. He knew that he was the apple of the Lord’s eye and was confident that God was aware of his troubles. And David knew that God was the only One he could turn to for help in his time of need.
The same God who watched over David watches over your life too. Hebrews 4:16 promises that we can “come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need. The reason David knew he could trust God was because David had spent a lifetime learning to know and love Him. The same will be true for you if you spend your life discovering the attributes of God through the pages of Scripture.
Because the best way to be victorious over worry is to know God’s character so well that when troubles arise, you’re ready to trust Him even when life doesn’t make sense.
3. Learn from Others
As a young wife and mother, I thought I was too busy to spend time studying the Bible. But when the anxiety of parenting weighed heavily on me and I looked to older women in my church for help. Rather than giving me a list of how to be a better person, they invited me to a Bible study.
My first thought was, These ladies don’t have a clue. I don’t need another Bible study. I need advice. I chuckle now because whenever I encourage young women to study God’s Word, they often respond to me in a similar manner. Fortunately, these women wouldn’t let me off the hook. They encouraged me to join their weekly study of the book of Philippians. While studying with these older women, my faith grew as they shared wisdom from their own stories and testified of God’s faithfulness.
And God’s Word began to transform my thoughts. Soon it became second nature to view life’s circumstances through a biblical lens. My husband noticed the difference and my parenting was different. Truth was washing over my mind exchanging worry for wisdom and pessimism for peace. As a result, I fell so in love with God through the book of Philippians that I’ve memorized much of it.
Philippians4:6, “Be anxious for nothing but in everything with prayer, supplication and thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace that surpasses all understanding will rule in your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.”
4. Be Aware of Satan’s Schemes
Christians who don’t focus on God’s Kingdom tend to pursue comfort, health and prosperity. So, it’s easy for them to believe false teachers who promise that God wants all of His children to be healthy and wealthy. If you hold to this belief you can expect a rude awakening when life doesn’t go your way.
Be aware, Satan has ruined countless lives by seducing them to believe God won’t let anything bad happen to them––only to later deceive them into questioning God’s goodness when trials occur. To guard against the enemy you must be aware of his schemes.
Ephesians 4:14 warns, “That we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes.”
When Satan tempted Eve to distrust God’s motives, he got the foothold he needed to trick her into eating the forbidden fruit. And he wants to do the same to you so he can seduce you into rebelling against God (see 2 Corinthians 11:3).
After four years of watching my son have seizures, I recall how distressed I became. One day I told God, “I’m serving You and You won’t heal my son? I quit!” Thank God He brought me to repentance when the Spirit reminded me of a verse I’d memorized, “In everything give thanks for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (2 Thessalonians 5:18).
5. Focus on Eternity
Colossians 3:2 reminds us to set our affections on things above rather than things of earth. When your thoughts are on Christ and His Kingdom your eternal perspective will help you make sense of worrisome circumstances.
We’ve all heard stories of believers who glorified God amidst unthinkable trouble. We think, I could never endure such trials. But you’d do well to realize that in every generation God entrusts heroes of the faith to suffer for the sake of the gospel. God knows that a watching world cannot deny the power of Christ when they observe His servants focused on His Kingdom and His purpose––no matter what the cost.
When Peter and the other apostles had been beaten for sharing Christ we read, “So they departed…rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for His Name. And daily in the temple, and in every house, they did not cease teaching and preaching Jesus as the Christ” (Acts 5:41-42).
The MacArthur Study Bible says, “Like doomed gladiators, [the apostles] were ridiculed, spit on, imprisoned, and beaten; yet, God glorified His Name through them as He used them to build His Kingdom.”
Before you dismiss the apostle’s courage as something unattainable, realize the same Holy Spirit that empowered them empowers you too–if you’ve surrendered to Jesus as your Lord and Master. And as much as God used them to proclaim His gospel in their generation, He wants to draw others to Christ through you and your testimony for His Kingdom and His glory.
6. Trust Jesus
Hebrews 4:15 says, “For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin.”
Remember when Lazarus died? Jesus didn’t come when Mary and Martha sent for Him. Rather, He waited until after their brother passed away. “Then Jesus said to [the disciples] plainly, ‘Lazarus is dead. And I am glad for your sakes that I was not there, that you may believe.” (John 11:14).
When Jesus arrived, both Mary and Martha mentioned that if He’d come when they sent for Him their brother wouldn’t have died. What was Jesus’ response? Did he chastise them for questioning His methods? No, instead John 11:35 says, “Jesus wept.”
David, the Psalmist understood God’s compassion when cried out, “You number my wanderings; Put my tears into Your bottle; Are they not in Your book? When I cry out to You, Then My enemies will turn back; This I know because God is for me” (Psalm 56:8-9)
This is the character of Christ. Even though He asks you to trust Him when life doesn’t make sense, Jesus feels your pain and grieves with you, even though He knows the good that will one day come from your trial. You can cast your worries at Jesus’ feet and know that He is praying for you; He is an ever-present help in your time of need. And you can rest in God’s promise that, in His timing, all things work together for good to those who love Him and are called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28).
Rhonda Stoppe is dedicated to help women LIVE LIFE WITH NO REGRETS.
Rhonda is the author of 6 books including: Moms Raising Sons to Be Men, and Real Life Romance Her newest book is The Marriage Mentor, co-authored with her Pastor-husband, Steve Stoppe. (Harvest House Publishers) With over 30 years experience of helping women build a life with no regrets as a pastor’s wife, mentor, speaker, and author. She’s a regular guest on Focus on the Family and other popular Christian Radio broadcasts. Rhonda helps women to:
- Break free from regrets that hold them back
- Grow in wholehearted devotion to Christ
- Find victory over people-pleasing
- Have the marriage others only dream about
- Build a godly legacy to become more influential than they ever dreamed possible
Photo credit: ©GettyImages/tommaso79