Charles Stanley - All Our Anxieties
Anxiety is not just a mere emotion, sometimes it's a very painful emotion, and sometimes, unless dealt with, can become very destructive in a person's life. And yet, all of us know what it means to feel anxious, and we feel anxious about different things. For example, you're sitting on the expressway, traffic has stopped absolutely dead. You've been late twice this week already on your job and you know this is gonna be bad news if you walk in again this morning late. You heard on the radio the stock market fell five hundred points yesterday and all of your savings are there. Not only that, you've just been to the doctor couple of days before and you didn't get very good news. You discovered that there were drugs in your son's room and you suspect that maybe your daughter is pregnant. You think that'll make you anxious? That'd make you anxious.
All of us have anxiety for different reasons in our life. And yet in spite of that, God knows how to handle all of our anxieties no matter what they may be. And so, as we think about it and think about what Jesus said about - Jesus said a lot about it. In fact, in the Sermon on the Mount, for example, of the hundred and eleven verses, ten of those verses deal with the very idea of anxiety. And He tells us how we're to handle it.
So, I want you to look, if you will, beginning in this twenty-fifth verse of the sixth chapter of Matthew. He says, "For this reason I say to you, do not be anxious for your life, as to what you shall eat, or what you shall drink, nor for your body, as to what you shall put on. Is not life more than food, and the body than clothing? Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single cubit to his life's span? And why are you anxious about clothing? Observe how the lilies of the field grow, they do not toil nor do they spin, Yet I say to you that even Solomon in all of his glory did not clothe himself like one of these. But if God so arrays the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, will He not much more do so for you, O men of little faith? Do not be anxious then, saying, 'What shall we eat?' 'What shall we drink?' 'With what shall we clothe ourselves?' For all these things the Gentiles eagerly seek, for your heavenly Father knows that you have need of all these things. But seek first," he says, "the kingdom of God, and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. Therefore do not be anxious for tomorrow, for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own," amen?
We'd all agree to that, wouldn't we? Each day has enough trouble of its own. Well, it's interesting that Jesus would spend this much time talking about anxiety because oftentimes we think about the days in which He lived were quiet. They didn't have jets, they didn't have automobiles, they didn't have radios, TVs. They didn't have all the noise makers that we have today. And probably we would think that they didn't have all the diseases that we have today and all the things that go on that cause anxiety. And they didn't have a stock market and they didn't have the newspapers to get the news like we do, and so we'd think, "Well, how in the world could they be so anxious? Why would they have that kind of anxiety"? Well, because things in those days were far different than oftentimes we think they are.
And when you look at this very word, anxiety, the word is a little Greek word, "merimnao," which really means distraction. That is, when a person is anxious, they become distracted. When a person is anxious, they have begun to experience an emotion in their life that causes or is the result of some sense of not just insecurity but uncertainty that's going on. We become anxious when we become very uncertain about something. We hear bad news or we find ourselves in a circumstance that we don't know exactly what to do next, especially if it's some threatening circumstance. If we even perceive that it could be threatening or dangerous, we oftentimes become anxious. And so, over and over and over again, Jesus says, "Don't be anxious, don't be anxious, don't be anxious," because He knew that He was talking to people who were very anxious about their life. And so, His concern here is to encourage them not to be anxious.
Now, you say, "Well, but what about the times when you and I get blindsided with something we don't expect"? We hear some very, very difficult news, some news that's very heart-rending, or something that's threatening us or our family, in those moments, do you mean to tell me that I'm not to be anxious? Let me put it this way. There are times when suddenly we hear something that oftentimes we may at that moment become anxious if we don't know how to respond. Or even if we do, it may be so overwhelming, at least we experience anxiety for the moment. It is not a matter of never experiencing anxiety. It is what we do with it. Will I let that dominate and control me, throw me into depression, or cause me some other physical problem? Or will I have myself a pity party? Or will I recognize what is happening and respond in a godly fashion?
We do not have to live in anxiety. Doesn't mean we won't have troubles, heartaches, burdens, difficulties, trials, things that we can't figure out and things we can't fix. But even in spite of that, He says we do not have to live in anxiety. Now, each time He says we're not to live in anxiety, what He does, He takes a different aspect of nature to bring the truth to our hearts. So what I want us to do is to look at this passage in the light of He says, "Now, here are the thing", listen, "these are the things that cause anxiety within our lives". Now, while He will not mention expressways, while He will not mention your job and so forth, the principles are the same.
So I want us to look at these verses and listen to what He says here in light of this. Look, if you will, beginning in verse twenty-five. He says, "Now here's one of the reasons you and I oftentimes allow ourselves to become anxious". Verse twenty-five, "For this reason I say to you, do not be anxious for your life, as to what you shall eat, what you shall drink, nor for your body, as to what you shall put on. Is not life more than food, and the body than clothing"? When He speaks of life here, here's what He's referring to. He's referring to our total being. That is, our physical being, our spiritual being, our emotional being, that is, our entire life. He says, "We don't have a real good reason to be anxious". He says, "Don't let your life become one of anxiety". He says, look in verse twenty-six, "Look at the birds of the air, they don't sow, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them". Now, watch this, "Are you not worth much more than they"?
What is His first reasoning for our anxiety? One of the primary reasons we live in anxiety is because, listen, because we have a poor sense of our self-worth. Listen to what He says. He says, "Are you not worth much more than they"? He says, "If your heavenly Father thinks that much of birds that He would give them such ingenuity and such an instinct to be able to operate the way they do, what about you? Doesn't He care more about you than that"? Yes, He does. Why are we anxious? Because we have such a poor self-image of ourselves, and it's a subtle thing. We don't even realize what we're thinking. And yet, oftentimes people will say, "Well, you know, I know that God loves me, but how could He be interested in these little simple things of my life"?
For example, you know something happened this week, and my car wouldn't start. Surely God isn't interested in my car. Yes, He is. Well, you know what? My water pipe busted. He's not interested in that. Yes, He is. Well, and so we just go on and on and the things we think God isn't concerned about. Let me ask you a question. If God is concerned about birds, is He not concerned about every aspect of your life? It is our poor self-image, sometimes the result of growing up in a home where oftentimes there was child abuse, sometimes because you grew up in a home where you were criticized, deeply criticized until they absolutely tore your self-image apart.
Oftentimes it's because of guilt over past things that we think, "Well, God, how could You care for me? How could You love me? When I look at my past, Lord, how in the world could You be interested in all of these things in my life when these things are so true," and looking at yourself and being critical. Sometimes it's because you think, "Well, Lord, how could You care about me when I don't feel significant. I don't have a significant job. I seemingly am a nobody in this world of five billions of people. Why would You be concerned about me"? Because He loves every single one of us. And one of the reasons that lots of people just live in anxiety, and you see, anxiety is a way of life. Anxiety and worrying and fretting and caring and pity parties and being fearful, and fear and anxiety are very closely linked together.
Many people just live in anxiety, fear of the uncertainty about tomorrows and what's gonna happen and things that could possibly happen. They live in that, not understanding that the heavenly Father understands, cares, and that they're worth more than birds and all the other creatures that God has created. He cares for us. He loves us. He is concerned about all the things that concern us. And so, He said, "Look, if the Father cares for birds, are you not worth much more than they"? And you see, the heavenly Father loves us with an unconditional love. He is personally interested in every single thing that concerns us. So He said one of the first reasons that people live in anxiety is they just don't think God seemingly cares and they don't seem to have a concept of God that is proper, that He is a heavenly Father.
The second thing if you'll notice here what He said. He said a second reason that people live in anxiety is simply this: they attempt to change things, look, they attempt to change things they, listen, they cannot change. They attempt to change things in their life that they have no control over. Look at this, "And which of you," verse twenty-seven, "by being anxious can add a single cubit to his life span"? Now, that oftentimes is translated cubit, eighteen inches, which means that somebody was trying to think in terms of I want to be eighteen inches high. I don't think that's what that means. When He says "life span," He's talking about lengthening life. He says, "Now, why be anxious over how long you're gonna live"?
Now, let's face it, we live in a society that is absolutely consumed with longevity. How long can we live? And you'll read magazines and you'll hear the latest scoop on the television, latest scoop on longevity of life, how to prolong life. You know what? Nobody can prove any of that. Because the simple issue is that you can't prolong your life. God's given all of us a set time to live, and you and I can't make it go any further. Now, I met a lady I've met two Sundays in a row here. She's ninety years of age, and talking about what she can do and so forth, and if you ask her, "Well, why you think you've lived so long"? She can't tell you that. Why? Because God has just seen fit to give her a long life. Now, today we think if we take a handful of vitamins every day and if we drink pure water and if we get enough rest and we exercise twenty to thirty minutes a day at least four days a week and we eat at least five green vegetables a day, that we gonna live forever.
Now, I believe in all those things, try to do as much of that as I possibly can, but you know what? Not in order to live longer, but listen, to enjoy it while I am here. And see, the quality of life is one thing. The quality of life and the productivity of life is one thing, but making it longer, nobody can lengthen your life. God has given all of us a life to live. And so, what is He saying here? He's saying, you know, people are very anxious about things that they can't change. But listen to what He said in this third part, now. He says here's the third reason that you and I live in anxiety. Because we fail to trust God, listen, we fail to trust God to meet our needs. And if we don't trust Him, what are we gonna do? We're gonna be anxious. And so, think about how the Lord Jesus, how He works in your life and how He provides for you. And He says if He will do that for flowers, how much more will He do that for you?
Now, He says, "Oh, ye of little faith". The truth is, watch this carefully, anxiety is no more than unbelief in disguise. That's what anxiety is. Something comes that makes us feel very uncertain and very threatened. And so, what do we do? We become anxious, we become worried, and we either get depressed or we become scared about what the possibilities are and the things that could happen. This is not to belittle difficult, trying times that people go through. But here's what He says, He says it's futile to be anxious about it. We don't have to be anxious about these things. He says because what I want to tell you, He says, is that the heavenly Father is caring for you.
Now, think about this. All of us who are believers have done what? We have looked at the Word of God and we've looked at our life and we've said, "One of these days, I know I'm gonna die. The Bible says that Jesus Christ went to the cross and paid my sin-debt in full, and that if I receive Him as my personal Savior, that means that when I die, I know I'm gonna be absent from the body, present with the Lord. And so that my whole eternal future, I am going to trust in the hands of my heavenly Father who promised to forgive me of my sins and to save me and, one of these days, take me home to heaven". Now, he says, "Now, wait a minute. It doesn't make sense for me to bet my whole eternal future on a God who has promised to do for me after I die something I have no control over, and at the same time, not trust Him daily today for something I need. If I can't trust Him today for some material need or some circumstance, why do I think I'm gonna trust Him and how can I trust Him for my eternal future which I have absolutely no control over, when I won't trust Him for something that I at least can get my hands and my fingers in and do something about it". He said, "why would we believe that God is not trustworthy"?
Now, here's the sin about anxiety. Here's what it's all about. When I am anxious before God and I allow that anxiety to capture me and dominate me and begin to control my life, what am I saying? I'm saying, first of all, God, I don't trust You. It's a slam against God's integrity and a slam against God's promises and a slam against God's character. Do you mean to tell me that the God who said, "My God shall supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus". Does He mean that or does He not? Well, look at the fourth reason, if you will, and notice what He says here beginning in verse thirty-two. He says now, "For all these things," listen, "for all these things the Gentiles eagerly seek".
Now, when He talks about Gentiles, usually what He's referring to is those people, for example, who were not Jews. Or sometimes He just means other people out there who are unbelievers. He said now, "All these things the Gentiles eagerly seek, for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things". The truth is our heavenly Father knows what we need before we need them and He's never come up short. But what is He saying? He says, one of the, listen to this, one of the reasons people live in anxiety is this reason: they, listen, they attempt to find contentment and security in life following the world's pattern. Now, what does the world do? How does the world operate? Here's how the world operates. The world operates on the basis of material things. One of the causes of anxiety is simply that, and that is following the world's pattern when it doesn't work for them and is not gonna work for us and it is, listen, it's foolish for us to follow their pattern when we have the resurrected Christ living on the inside of us, moment by moment, day by day. This is the Almighty God, the Lord Jesus Christ, who's made us the promise that every single need we have, He will meet, and He's not gonna come up short.
Now, what do we have to be anxious about? He's promised, listen, He's promised and we have His Word that He will meet every single need. Therefore, He says, you look at the world and you follow their pattern? How foolish; it's empty, it's void, it's not gonna work. Then listen to what He says. Now, He sorta turns this around and He turns into a positive statement. He says, but look, verse thirty-three, "But seek first His kingdom, and His righteousness, and all these things," that you are anxious about, he says, "shall be added to you". What is one of the primary reasons? Look, one of the primary reasons for anxiety is misplaced priorities in our life. Now, here's what He says. This is so simple. He says one of the reasons that people are anxious is because their priorities are out of order. He says, "Now this is the way you're to live". When He says, "Seek ye first," not second, third, fourth, or fifth, "seek ye first the kingdom of God".
What does He mean by the kingdom of God? The kingdom of God here's not some geographical or some political entity, but He's talking about the rule of Christ in our life. He says, "Seek first," that is, first of all, make this your priority. Submit your life to Jesus Christ as the Lord of your life. Secondly, allow Him, allow Him to do what? To create His godly character in your life. Allow Him, listen, submit yourself to Him and allow Him to conform you to His likeness. Now, does that mean, for example, that if you surrender your life to the Lord and you allow Him to conform you to His likeness, that you won't ever have any desires? No, it doesn't. Doesn't mean that. Does it mean that you'll just have anything and everything in life? No, it doesn't mean that. He said, "You'll never want for anything".
Now, here's the key. Watch this. When you and I are walking in the will of the Father and we're allowing Him to conform us to His likeness, who do you think controls what we want? He does! Aren't you glad that you don't have everything you've ever wanted in life? Amen? Say amen like you mean it. Amen, that's right. Because if you'd have gotten some things you wanted, you'd probably be dead and gone by now. God protects us. But listen, He says when you seek the rule of Christ in life, that that's first. And you want to be conformed to His likeness, He said look, you tend to that. Don't worry, you don't have to worry about all these other things. I'm gonna give you, provide for you, exactly what I know you need and what I want you to have. What an awesomely, listen, liberating, freeing experience to know that God the Father assumes responsibility. Listen, He assumes responsibility for the things in life that we need and what we desire.
Now, either Jesus Christ told the truth or He lied. If He lied, let's shut the book, close down the church, and forget it. But if He told the truth, listen, how foolish, how foolish and empty and vain, what a failure we come up to be when we don't put His rule in our life. His character in life is number one. That's number one. Does it mean we'll always succeed at it every day? No. Does it mean we won't sin? No, but listen, conforming us to His likeness, what is He doing? Conforming us to His likeness, He is sending into our life those things, difficulties, hardships, trials, good things in life, doing what? Focusing our attention upon Him, sifting and sanding out our life those things that don't belong there, whatever they may be.
Here's what happens: as the years go by and God conforms us more and more, what does He do? He gets deeper and deeper and deeper, we see things we never seen before. And what does He do? He goes all the way down to the bottom of our heart, as we say, scraping up stuff that we've never seen before. What is He doing? Conforming us to the likeness of His Son. Here's what Jesus said. He said if you'll make your first priority, if you make it your first business every day, if the number one on the top of your list is today, I submit to the Lordship of Jesus in my life. Today, I want Him to conform me to His likeness, whatever it takes. Here's what He said: you and I don't have to worry or be anxious about anything else in life, no matter what.
Now, friend, would you not agree, if that's the truth, and it is, that it is very foolish for us to put anything else in life first other than Jesus Christ. Amen? Now, listen to what He said. Then He moves on down and He says in this next verse, "Therefore, do not be anxious for tomorrow, for tomorrow will care for itself". Or the same word in the Greek is anxiety. He says the same, He says tomorrow is gonna have enough anxieties of its own. "Each day," He says, or as He would say, "each day," He says, "has enough trouble of its own". Now, what's the cause of anxiety here? Trying to live in tomorrow today. Probably that's one thing I have to deal with every day. Because people who are goal-oriented and people who want to see things, accomplish, and plan, it's real easy for us to live in tomorrow.
And I know that's one thing I have to deal with personally. I want to live in tomorrow. Not that I'm afraid of tomorrow or anxious about it, but I want to do something today to be sure we got things moving tomorrow. And so sometimes we can get over into tomorrow, which we should not do. And so He says, now, one of the things that creates anxiety is attempting to live in tomorrow today. When He says we have enough going on today that we shouldn't be trying to live in tomorrow.
Now, you and I both know this, that the call of God in our life will never call us to go somewhere that His grace is not sufficient to take care of us. So therefore, whatever God has called us to do in life, and I think about sometimes young men who are called into the ministry and they say, "Well, you know, how am I gonna ever be able to preach two or three times a week for the rest of my life"? I remember one young pastor saying to me, "You know, when I hear you talk," he says, "it scares me to death to think that I have got to come up with enough sermons for the next fifty years". That'd make anybody anxious. In fact, it'd make you anxious if you had to come up with one next week sometimes. And so, that's not even the issue.
You see, here we are, living in tomorrow. Well, suppose tomorrow this happens. Suppose my house burns down tomorrow. Suppose I have a wreck tomorrow. Well, you know what? You and I could have a nervous breakdown right here in this place if we get into enough of tomorrow and all the possibilities of the things that could happen. But what are we doing? We are focusing on earth, materialism, and things, not on the Father. Why don't we think about the Father who says, "I will care for you and I will watch over you. I will watch over your going out and your coming in," which is His way of saying I'm gonna take care of you all the time. Trying to live in tomorrow today creates all kind of anxiety.
Now, listen to this. Somebody passed this on to me. "I was regretting the past and fearing the future, and suddenly my Lord was speaking. He said, 'My name is I am.' He paused. I waited. He continued. 'When you live in the past with its mistakes and its regrets, it is hard. I am not there. My name is not "I was". When you live in the future with its problems and fears, it is hard. I am not there. My name is not "I will be". When you live in this moment, it is not hard. I am here. My name is what? I am.'" Isn't that absolutely wonderful? Not I will be, not I was. I am. So, what good reason do I have to be anxious? Not a single good reason.
So what is my response to be? Father, today I just want to submit myself to You. I want to walk in Your will by the power of the Holy Spirit. I want You to conform me to Your likeness, whatever it takes to do that. And you know what He says? Don't worry about anything else. Don't be anxious about anything else. Because I assume full responsibility not only for your needs, but every desire of your heart that fits into My plan for your life.