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Greg Laurie - What Jesus Says About Worry and Anxiety

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    Greg Laurie - What Jesus Says About Worry and Anxiety
TOPICS: Worry, Anxiety

How many of you struggle with fear, anxiety, and worry? Raise your hand. Okay, quite a few of you. I read recently that millennials and gen Z are the most stressed generations ever. For this generation, antidepressants are the bestselling pharmaceuticals. In fact, I read this: antidepressant use among 12- to 25-year-olds increased 66% over 6 years. That's 6 years, not 60 years; literally, from 2016 to 2022. This generation also has the highest suicide rate. I think you could trace a lot of this back to one thing: avocado toast.

Now, let me explain. I actually had avocado toast this morning. It was very good. My wife made it for me with a couple of fried eggs, a little bit of bacon. But when you go and buy it in a restaurant, it's very expensive. I read that one financial expert advised millennials who want to one day maybe buy their own home, he said stop buying avocado toast. You know, spend your money more wisely. But I think, honestly, a lot of this stress comes from a device most of us carry around in our pockets: smartphones.

You know, you can trace everything back to 2008. Prior to the emergence of what we call the smartphone, specifically the iPhone introduced by Steve Jobs, the most popular phone was the Blackberry. Remember the Blackberry? Little buttons you pushed. They were so popular, some called it the Crackberry, okay? And they pretty much were dominating the market. But along comes Steve Jobs with this brand new concept for a phone that was all a screen instead of little buttons you pushed. It was so anticipated, they actually called it the Jesus phone. And when he revealed it, it changed everything because now, not only could you make phone calls, yeah, it does that too, but you could access media.

And then, of course, on its heels, comes the explosion of social media and so many of the problems in culture today trace directly back to that. In fact, 44% of people that are constantly checking their phones feel isolated because of this technology, even when they're with their families. I remember I was in Maui a while ago and we were sitting watching the sunset, beautiful Maui sunset, and I watched a family sitting at their table: not one person was looking at the sunset, they were all flipping through their phones. Now they have little holders on baby carriages for iPhones and tablets as well. Is this good to be getting these kids into this stuff that soon? And so everything has cause and effect.

There's an article in "Forbes Magazine". It says, "The more we use social media, the less happy we seem to be. Multiple studies have found a strong link between heavy social media use and an increased risk for depression, anxiety, loneliness, self-harm, even suicidal thoughts and an intense craving for avocado toast". No, I added that, okay? But you see, it can really distract you, and honestly, there's a lot of things to be anxious about today. A poll was taken among people and they were asked, "What are you most afraid of? What is your number one fear"? It wasn't nuclear war, it wasn't the economy collapsing. It was my appearance. So it's like we may all die in a nuclear blast, but how do I look in this outfit? Right, that's so funny, isn't it? But yeah, there are things we get stressed about. I myself, of course, get worried like anybody else.

So for many of us, we worry about everything. We worry about what we're gonna eat, what we're gonna wear, where we're gonna live, what we're going to do. We worry about, when things are good about when they're gonna be bad, and when things are bad, we worry if they'll ever be good again. We worry a lot about what people think about us. "What do they think about me? What do they think about that post? I didn't get as many likes on this one as I got on the other one". You would spend less time worrying about what people think about you if you realized how little they do. But we spend a lot of needless time worrying about so many things.

I heard about one guy who had a real problem with worry. So he decided to hire someone to worry for him. He put out an ad. A guy applied. He said, "I'll pay you $500 a day to worry for me". So his buddy ran into him and said, "Man, you seem stress free". He goes, "Oh yeah, I don't worry anymore at all". He told him about this guy he hired, pays him 500 a day. The guy says, "You don't make that kind of money. How are you gonna pay that guy"? He says, "That's for him to worry about". So you might try that. How many of you have heard that joke before? What do you want, a medal? Okay, so what do you worry about? What stresses you out? What are you the most anxious about?

Let's look at Matthew chapter 6, starting in verse 25: "I say to you do not worry about everyday life, whether you have enough food and drink, or clothes to wear. Isn't life more than food, and your body more than clothing? Look at the birds. They don't plant or harvest or store food in barns, but your heavenly Father feeds them. Aren't you more valuable to him than they are? Can you with all of your worries add a single moment to your life? Why worry about your clothing? Look at the lilies of the field, how they grow. They don't work or make their clothing, yet Solomon in all of his glory was not dressed as beautifully as they are.

So if God so cares for wild flowers that are here today and thrown into the fire tomorrow, he certainly cares for you. Why don't you have more faith? Don't worry about these things, saying, 'What will we eat? What will we drink? What will we wear?' These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers, but your heavenly Father knows all your needs". This is the big verse. "Seek first the Kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. So don't worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today's trouble is enough for today," wow.

Point number one, if you're taking notes, the believer should not worry. Jesus was not saying that Christians should not think about or be concerned with the needs of their life, including housing, food, and clothing. Because the fact is elsewhere in scripture, we're told to plan for the future, we're told to work hard, we're told to save our money. Jesus was just saying, "Don't worry about these things. Don't worry," he says in verse 25, "about everyday life". A better translation would be, "Stop having anxiety about this".

It's one thing to think about it. It's another thing to have constant anxiety about it. Listen, worry is not a virtue. Let me take it a step further. Worry can actually be a sin. Why? Because worry is really a lack of trust in God. You're not trusting God. I mean, if you believe Genesis 1:1, that should deal with worry once and for all. What is Genesis 1:1? It says, "In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth".

How many of you believe that verse is true? Okay, I do too. If that is true, and of course it is, that God created the heavens and the earth, this all-knowing, all-powerful sovereign God, then certainly he is able to deal with your problems and mine. So why then am I worrying about them? Good question. Worry is a lot like a rocking chair. You're always moving but never getting anywhere. The problem with worry is it's interest paid on trouble before it's due. The fact is, worry does not empty tomorrow of its sorrow. It empties today of its strength. The great theologian Martyn Lloyd-Jones made this statement, quote, "The result of worrying about the future is that you're crippling yourself in the present," end quote.

There's an old fable about when Death was making his way to a city. A man stopped him and said, "What are you doing"? Death said, "I'm coming to take the lives of 100 people". The man said, "That's horrible. You can't do that". Death says, "That's what I do". So the man ran ahead of Death and warned everyone, "Death is coming, Death is coming". The day comes to a close, the man runs into Death again, that's leaving the city. The man says, "You said you were coming to claim the lives of 100 people, but 1000 people died". Death said, "I kept my word. I took the lives of 100 people. Worry took the rest". Worry. It comes from a root word that means to strangle and choke and we all know what it's like to be choked out by worry.

But here's what the Bible says: "Don't worry about anything, but pray about everything, and the peace of God that passes all human understanding will keep your heart and mind in Christ Jesus". Listen, the best antidote to worry is prayer. So turn your worry into worship, turn your panic into prayer. The next time you're faced with a "what if" scenario: what if this happens? What if that happens? Commit it to God. Say, "Lord, I trust in you. I look to you. I put this burden in your hands". The Bible says in 1 Peter: "Cast all of your care upon him for he cares for you". And the word "cast" means to throw something: take your burdens, take your problems, and throw them on God who has asked you to do that and trust in him. Don't worry: pray.

Number two, worry is a lack of trust. It's not believing God's in control. Classic example of this is the prophet Daniel. He was called by God to be an advisor to King Darius, and Darius really valued the counsel of Daniel. Darius thought very highly of Daniel. And the other counselors to the king were jealous of Daniel's influence, and so they wanted to undermine him and they made up things that were not true about him. And then they hatched a plot to get the king to sign a decree that no one could pray to any one except the king or they would have to die. Well, Daniel had a habit of prayer, good habit. Every day, he would pray. In fact, three times a day, he would pray. And so, after he read this decree, you can no longer pray, he prayed and then he was arrested and he was put into a den of hungry lions.

And an interesting thing happened that night. The king was up all night. He couldn't sleep, worrying about Daniel. And Daniel slept like a baby, probably used one of the lions for a pillow, propped his feet up on the other one. And so that's the difference between a believer and a non-believer. When chaos and turmoil is happening around us, a believer can be at rest but a non-believer cannot. The Bible says he gives to his beloved, sleep. So maybe you've come here to church or as you're watching this right now, you're overwhelmed by your burdens and your anxieties; throw it over to God. Sort of like when you have trash; throw out the trash.

I don't know what the deal is, but I've been issued far too many trash cans. I have separate cans, there's landfill, recyclables, organic waste, and I stand there with little bags, like: where do I put this? It's a little overwhelming. But I'm glad someone shows up and takes out that trash. And Jesus, if you will, wants to take out your trash. He wants to relieve you of your burdens. Cast them on him. Now, Jesus illustrates. Birds don't worry. Why should we? Look at verse 26: "Look at the birds". Now, Jesus is outside. He would often use things that were happening around as illustrations. No doubt there were some birds nearby. "Hey, look at these birds. Do these birds look worried to you"?

I love birds. I like to watch birds eat. So I have two bird feeders in my backyard. One is filled with seed and then another one is for the hummingbirds. And the hummingbirds, they go through their bird feeder a lot faster than the other ones do. The little hummingbirds come and drink it all. It's just sugar water, but they come, they're like little alcoholics or something, they just can't get enough, you know? And they're just drinking constantly, drinking constantly. And so we went on a short trip for a few days and the hummingbird feeder was empty when we got back and they didn't return. It's almost like they were mad at me. I think I offended the hummingbird community. So I quickly issued a tweet and told them that we have more hummingbird food for you. But now, of course, it's X but they'd all moved over to Tiktok.

So I had to make a video to reach those hummingbirds, but they're back now. But you know, the birds are stress free. Now, they still collect seed, they still do their little jobs. You know, some eat seed, some come to my bird feeders and get free food. Some hang out at McDonald's and wait for the fry to hit the ground. Sometimes they don't even wait for it to hit the ground, they'll steal it from you. Then there are seagulls, they eat anything they want, they carry off your food, they carry off your children. They fly off with your small dogs, which may be a good thing. But still, birds don't worry. Why do you worry? Have you ever seen a birb? What's a birb? Have you ever seen a bird taking a Valium or biting his little talons? No, they're stress free. "Look at the birds," says Jesus. "They don't worry. Why do you"?

You ever heard that poem about the birds? "Said the robin to the sparrow, Friend, I'd really like to know, why these anxious human beings rush about and worry so. Said the sparrow to the robin, Friend, I think that it must be, that they have no heavenly Father such as cares for you and me". "Look at the birds," Jesus says, "they don't worry". Then he says, "Look at the flowers". Verse 28: "Why do you worry about clothing? Look at the lilies of the field, how they grow. They don't work or make their clothing, yet Solomon in all of his glory was not dressed as beautifully as they are". Now, when Jesus says "lilies," it wouldn't be like an Easter lily. Would be more like the wild flowers that we see out in the countryside. Look at all these flowers. They're so beautiful. God cares for them, won't he care for you? God clothes them, won't he clothe you as well? He'll take care of you as well.

It's just a reminder that sometimes we become a little too focused on these outward things and we forget about the things that really matter. 1 Timothy 4 says: "Physical exercise has some value, but spiritual exercise is much more important and it promises a reward for this life and the next". We don't want to go too far either way. Too much emphasis on the physical, neglecting the spiritual, so much emphasis on the spiritual, we neglect the physical. Look, God has placed a soul in a physical body. Your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit. You wanna take care of it, but don't be obsessed with the outward and forget about the inward.

Number three: worry does not make life longer; it just makes it more miserable. Worry does not make life longer; it just makes it more miserable. Verse 27: "Can all of your worries add a single moment to your life"? Now, there are obviously things that we can do to bring our life to an end sooner than we should, living dangerously or living in a very unhealthy manner. But by and large, the Bible is saying God's in control of your life. Your days are numbered, the Bible says, so help me apply my heart to wisdom. God's in control of that. By worrying about that, you're not going to extend the length of your life. So don't worry about it.

Number four, instead of worry, put God and his will first in your life. Instead of worrying, put God and his will first in your life. Matthew 6:33: "Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you". So put God first in your life. In the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 6:22, Jesus says, "If your eye is single, your whole body will be full of light". What does that mean? It means if you're focused on what matters, it will affect you in everything that you do. So seek first the kingdom. So in your business, you want to seek first the kingdom.

Now, look, some of you are getting ready to go to college or maybe trade school or be an apprentice somewhere. You're thinking about your career, what you're gonna do down the road. That's a good thing. Find that job and maybe that will change a number of times. It often does. But no matter what you do, do it for the glory of God. Our goal should be to honor God, do honest work with excellence, have personal integrity, and a good testimony in the workplace, because sometimes people may be successful financially. But to get there, they've lost their integrity, they've lost their reputation. You should be an honest person. You should be a trustworthy person. You should be a hardworking person. Your word should be your bond. And sometimes this is not the case.

You know, sometimes, Christians will use spiritual things to justify laziness. Maybe the boss is walking around on the worksite and you're just standing around. The boss says, "What are you doing? You should be working". "Well, I'm praying". "Oh, you might start praying about your next job because you're not working for me anymore. I expect you to work". And that's a realistic expectation. Christians should be the hardest workers, the most honest workers. And so this is something we want to all keep in mind. Put God first and he will bless you as a result.

Now listen, if you're single... how many of you are single? You're not married. Raise your hand, you're single. Okay, how many of you are happily single? You like being single? How many of you would like to be married one day, who are single, okay? How many of you are married and wish you were single? Raise... no, don't. Don't's always a guy that does it. And sure enough a guy had his hand up first. When you're looking for that person, know this. God cares about this. He has a lot to say about the person you will spend the rest of your life with. So pray about this and look for a godly person. You know, some people believe they're called to missionary dating, right? "I'm gonna date these nonbelievers and lead them to the Lord".

Maybe and maybe they'll pull you away from the Lord. See, the Bible says, "Don't be unequally yoked together with nonbelievers, for what fellowship or friendship does light have with darkness or righteousness with unrighteousness"? It's far easier when you're a believer to get pulled down than you, as a believer, to pull someone else up, because they have gravity on their side, you see? And I've seen so many Christians get misled and get into trouble by getting into these relationships.

Listen, honest truth. Marriage is hard enough with two Christians. Much less a believer and a non-believer. You want someone that shares your beliefs, your faith, your worldview, your values. This will really matter when you have children, okay? So these are things to think about now. But if you find yourself married to a non-believer, however that came about, don't give up hope. God can still reach that person. Keep praying for them. But the idea is put God first, if you're a single person, and ask for his will.

And point number five, if you put God first, life will find its proper balance. If you put God first, life will find its proper balance. Again, verse 33, Matthew 6: "All these things shall be added to you". What things? "What you're gonna eat, what you're gonna wear, what you're gonna drink, where you're gonna live, all the things that are important to us will be taken care of. But put God first". A classic example of this is a story of young Solomon, the son of David and Bathsheba. His father was getting ill and getting old and it was time for the crown to be passed on from father to son. And David said, "Solomon, my son, know the Lord God of your father and serve him with an undivided heart".

So David passed into eternity. And now here's young Solomon with the weight of the world on his shoulders. And the Lord comes to him and says, "Solomon, ask me and I'll give you whatever you want". Can you imagine if God appeared to you and said, "I'll give you whatever you want," what would you pray for? If God said, "I'll give you whatever you want". Reminds me of a story of a man that was walking down the beach and he saw something embedded in the sand. He reached down to pick it up. It was a lamp. And as he rubbed the sand away, a genie appeared. True story. And the genie said, "Oh, master, I will give to you one wish".

The guy said, "One wish? What happened to three wishes"? The genie said, "We've had to cut back. Just one wish". "Oh, well," the guy says, "I've always wanted to see the island of Maui. I've heard it's really beautiful, but I don't like to fly. I'm afraid of flying. So Genie, my wish is they have a giant bridge built from California to Maui so I can drive over. That's my wish. I want a bridge from California to Maui". The genie said, "Are you insane? That would cost so much money. It would take so much time. There's no way. Come up with something else".

The guy said, "Well, I've never understood women. They mystify me. I would like to understand them better. So my wish, Genie, is: I want to understand women". The genie says, "Coming back to that bridge, two lanes or four"? Okay, so back to Solomon. The Lord says, "What do you want? I'll give you anything you want". Solomon says, Lord, "I want wisdom to rule your people". Loose paraphrase: the Lord says, "Because you didn't ask for wealth or power and all these things, I'm gonna give you the wisdom you prayed for and give you these other things as well".

I'm not saying that God's gonna make everyone wealthy. But what I'm saying is God will give you what you need when you need it. Just put him first in all things. That's it. Another way to seek first the kingdom of God is with your finances because where a man's treasure is, there will his heart be also. So when you invest in the kingdom, when you get paid, and you say, "A percentage of this belongs to the Lord and I'm gonna give it, I'm gonna tithe this and even above that tithe, I'm going to give an offering". That's a person who is seeking first the kingdom. Do that as well. God will bless you. He promises he will.

And there's one last point and we'll bring this message to a close. The best antidote to worry is prayer. We all know this verse, Philippians verse 6: "Don't be anxious about anything but in everything by prayer, with petition and thanksgiving, present your request to God". I love that. Another way it's translated: "Don't worry about anything. Pray about everything, and the peace of God that passes all human understanding will guard your heart and mind in Christ Jesus".

And I love that phrase "guard" because it suggests a Roman sentry, like a centurion, guarding the door of your heart. God's peace will protect you if you pray about it instead of worry about it. So turn your panic into prayer, turn your worry into worship. Turn your anxieties into petitions. "Lord, I'm troubled by this right now and I just commit it to you. I'm overwhelmed by this other thing. Lord, I commit it to you". It's like, the moment it hits you, boom, it goes right back up as a prayer to God.
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