I recently heard the story of a person who said “If I worry about it, it won’t happen.” So maybe we should worry! Ha!
Why is that story funny? It is funny because 99% of the stuff we worry about never comes to pass. But yet we worry. We can allow our minds to go wild with worry. We can’t stop and we wonder if it is possible to stop.
Generally these things are fear and emotion based – not factually based. In scientific terms, worry is based in something called cognitive distortion. When we allow our emotions to control our minds, our thinking. I do this regularly, and actually allowed my emotions to control my thoughts a bit this past week.
We had our youth lock-in on Friday night, and I was chaperoning, so I knew that meant a night of no sleep. I also knew the lock-in was going to be fun, but in worry and fear, I allowed myself to dwell on thoughts that weren’t even close to true. Those thoughts were cognitive distortions. Just some simple thoughts like “I’m going to feel horrible” or “the next day is going to be awful” can lead to a sleepless few hours. And they did.
What actually happened at the lock-in and aftermath? It was an awesome, fun night, and I was able to get four hours of sleep Saturday morning. I was a little tired that day, but now a few days later, I don’t feel horrible or awful. Instead, I have great memories of a fun event.
We can allow ourselves to let our emotions control us. So when Jesus says “Do not worry” the first thing we realize is that it possible to make progress in decreasing our worry! He wants to us fight worry in our lives. Jesus teaches us how to decrease worry.
In this passage, Luke 12:22-34, Jesus goes on to give illustrations of how our life is more than food and how our body is more than clothes, as he seeks to help us learn to deal with worry.
First he talks about Food and Ravens in Verse 24. God feeds the birds, right? He has provided a world where they can eat. So what is this illustrating? Jesus gets to the principle in verses 25-26: worry can’t actually help us, so we shouldn’t worry. If God cares for birds, how much more you are valuable to him.
Second he talks about Clothing and Lilies in Verse 27. Not even the fabulously wealthy King Solomon, the richest man in Israel’s history, was as gorgeous as the lily. Jesus is saying that God has made nature beautiful, of which flowers are a stunning example. Again, Jesus gets to the principle in Verse 28: God clothes the grass, how much more will he clothe you.
Did you see the phrase that Jesus repeated? How much more! God has made the world a place that feeds the birds, and he has made loads of spectacular flowers. But How Much More he cares for you!
Sometimes we need to be reminded of the basics. Soak that up deeply: God cares for you. I am preaching this to myself for sure. When I’m lying on my bed in the middle of the night worried about this or that, I can tell myself the truth that God cares for me far more that I realize. There is a great power in that thought!
Use the truth of God’s care for you to mentally attack that worry. Defeat it. You can think, “No, I don’t need to worry to about bills or the kids or (you fill in the blank), because God cares for me more than I can imagine,” then watch the worry gradually fade away. Over time, and it might be weeks or months, you’ll notice that you are depending on God’s care, and you are worrying less. He doesn’t promise that all the bad circumstances will go away. He doesn’t promise that everything will be great. But he promises you aren’t alone. He sees you. He hears you. He knows what you are going through. He cares for you DEEPLY.
Jesus has another way we can attack worry. First we remember that God cares for us, and second, look at verses 31-34. He says we need to seek his Kingdom. That is the second antidote to worry.
Seeking his Kingdom is another way to describe obedience to Jesus. When you are obedient to him there is peace in your heart and mind before the Lord. When you are obedient, you are not expecting that God will reward you with material abundance, but that your hearts are right with him. You are at peace with him. What an amazing place to be in! And when you are focused on his Kingdom and not on yourself there is perspective on the worries of life. Peace with God gives you strength to fight worry. You can trust in him amid the difficulty, amid those struggles in life that bring you anxiety.
Furthermore, Jesus says, you can sell possessions and give to the poor. The early church took this seriously. We don’t need to store up possessions because we know God cares for us. We can seek the advancement of his Kingdom rather than lavishing ourselves with comfort and entertainment.
In other words, Jesus says, find your treasure in heaven.
Obedience is its own reward! To know that I am being pleasing to my father, that is the reward. We have his kingdom! That is the ultimate reward. That is better by far. It is amazing that God has given us his Kingdom. Knowing that God is pleased with us, because we are seeking first his Kingdom is the reward, the blessings.
Thus we can be at peace, feel peace, knowing that we are right with God. It cannot be underestimated how incredible it is to know that we are pleasing to God.
This is why Jesus says, “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” In other words, put your treasure where you want your heart to be.
If you put your treasure in entertainment, luxury, possessions, vacations, food, then your heart will be there. And you will watch those things feel good, but only for a season. They fade, and the anxiety returns.
If you put your treasure in the kingdom of God, there your heart will be. And you will find lasting peace. So how do you put your treasure in God’s Kingdom?
Take a step of faith to trust in God that he will do what Jesus says he will do: God will care for your needs. So take a step of faith, perhaps to give more generously this next week. Say to God prayerfully, teachably, “Lord, I’m going to trust you in this.” It might be frightening, but you will never see forward progress if you don’t take one step.
Place your trust in him, depend on him to care for you.
What Jesus is talking about is not just financial. You can also implement the Sabbath principle in your life. Instead of working 24-7, take time to rest, worship, fellowship serve. Seek his Kingdom. Show that is where your heart is.
What do you need to do to take the next step toward seeking his Kingdom? It is super exciting to trust in the Lord this way! No doubt, stepping out in faith can feel anxiety-inducing. But we need to see the joy and adventure and exciting of taking a risky, step towards God.
One man told me the story about his retirement. He was accustomed to getting a paycheck. The move to retirement-level income was risky, but he asked God to provide. And you know what he did with retirement? He and his wife started increasing the amount of their time serving in church, meeting weekly here at the church to pray for hours at a time, caring for family members, helping at a local transitional housing ministry, teaching Sunday School, and the list goes on.
That is what seeking God’s Kingdom looks like.
And that is how to decrease worry in your life. Dwell on the truth that God cares for you deeply, and seek his Kingdom.