James Merritt - Worry Free
Well, I want to say good morning to those of you who are in our room, those of you who are watching online by TV. Thanks for joining us today. If I were to ask all of you right now, how are you feeling today, and you answered honestly, what would you say? Because if you're like most Americans, you probably would say, not too well. I say that because Gallup's Annual Global Emotion Report, they do every year, they survey 150,000 people. Here's what they found out this year. Americans are more stressed and they're more worried than they've ever been, and particularly, in the last 10 years. Stressed out. Worried.
As a matter of fact, 55% of Americans said, they were more stressed than they could ever remember. That's above the global average of 35%. 45% of Americans said they were worried a lot. That's higher than the global average of only 39%. More than 20% of Americans said they weren't just angry, they were very angry. Greece, listen to this, only Greece, the Philippines, and Tanzania, have stress rates higher than the United States. Sociologists and psychologists across the landscape freely admit, that America's mental health is not very healthy. An article entitled "America's Insomnia Problem Is Even Worse Than Before The Great Recession" has said, that Americans are more stressed and worried than ever, and that many of them, for many of them, their bank accounts are to blame.
65% of Americans lost sleep last night worried about money, worried about their finances, worried about their bank balance. This includes how to pay for health care, how to save for retirement, how to pay off student loans, mortgages, credit cards. Now if that wasn't enough to steal your beauty rest, we now have a global pandemic that we're worried about. 450,000 Americans have died. And even as new vaccines are hitting the market, 66% of Americans say they are still scared to death and worried about COVID-19.
So if you're like me, and I'm just gonna be very transparent in this message today, if you're like me, the last year has been an emotional roller coaster. I try to stay as stable as I can, but I freely admit, I've gone from being sky high happy one day to down in the dumps the next day. And the reason I say all of that is because there's one thing that affects all of us everyday. That's feelings. There are people that didn't come to church this morning for one reason. It wasn't because of COVID. It wasn't because it's a little cold outside. It wasn't because there's just a little bit of snow on the ground. They didn't come because they just didn't feel like it.
Feelings affect all of us, every one of us. And sometimes you don't even know which feelings are going to show up until your feet hit the floor in the morning, and you wipe your eyes. For example, maybe you're angry, because you're a single mom raising kids because your husband left you for another woman. Maybe you're lonely, because you wake up every morning and you look over at that empty pillow where your late husband or your late wife used to sleep. Maybe you're depressed, because you not only lost a job, you never dreamed you would lose, you can't find another one. Maybe you're anxious, because you still haven't heard from the biopsy that was taken the week before.
The full truth of the matter is, emotions play a powerful part in everyone's life. Nobody's immune to it. And that's why we're going to enter into a series that I believe is gonna minister to more people at more times, in more ways than maybe any series I could do, and we're calling it No Hard Feelings. It is amazing. It just blows me away, how much this book, how much God's Word has to say about our feelings. And God shows us in his Word, how we can control our feelings instead of letting our feelings control us. Because here's what goes on, when your feelings are controlling you and they ratchet up to earthquake level, it's almost impossible not to let other people know it.
When somebody says to you, you're wearing your feelings on your sleeves, what they're really saying is, it's so obvious how you feel you can't hide it. Everybody knows it. And learning how to handle our emotions is crucial, not just for emotional health, but our physical health. As I started doing my research on this series, it blew me away to know, medically, how much the mind and body are linked, and that how you and I feel emotionally, can influence how we feel physically. And I thought, why is that? Here's what we now know. Certain emotions, whether it's anger, depression, bitterness, fear, whatever, they release hormones into the body that could lead to the development to diseases.
So researchers now tell us there's a direct connection between the persistence of certain emotions and hypertension, cardiovascular disease, auto immune disorders, chronic pain syndromes. Researchers now link emotions such as depression, to an increase in developing cancer and heart disease. If you deal with anxiety or you deal with fear. There's a direct correlation to irregular heartbeats, irritable bowel syndrome, and tension headaches. So as we begin this series, because I am the pastor, I get to choose which goes first, I'm choosing my Achilles' heel. I'm gonna deal with the one today that has been the biggest problem in my life that I've dealt with all of my life.
Many of you may be able to relate to it. It's called worry. I'm being very honest. My mother was a worrier and I'm just like my mom. I'm a worrywart. I'll just tell you. Listen. I get worried when I'm not worried because I think I should be. I'm just a worrier. But that's a common emotion that afflicts more people than just me, because I guarantee you this, if I ask you right now, if I could talk to you and look watching me right now through this camera, if I could talk to you in this room, and if I were to ask you a question, what are you worried about? I guarantee you, 99% of you could think of something you're worried about. Maybe a big worry, maybe a little worry, but every one of you say, yeah, I'm worried about this, I'm worried about that.
Well, fortunately, Jesus had a lot to say about worry. As a matter of fact, in the greatest sermon that's ever been preached in the history of the world, he devoted a big part of that sermon to worry. So if you brought a copy of God's Word, or you want to look on in your iPhone or your pad or whatever, go to the gospel of Matthew, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. It's the first gospel of the New Testament, go to Matthew chapter six.
Now, before we talk about worry, let me just make one thing very clear, 'cause I don't want you to misunderstand what we're talking about. Worry is not concern. Get that down. Worry is not concern. There are certain things we all should always be concerned about. Are you concerned about the spiritual condition of our nation? You better be. Are you concerned about the safety and the welfare of your children? You better be. Are you concerned what your kids are being taught in schools? You should be. Are you concerned about where our culture seems to be heading further and further away from God? You should be. Are you concerned about saving money for your retirement or for a rainy day? You better be. But there's a difference between concern and worry. This might help you to think of it this way. A worried person sees a problem, but a concerned person solves a problem. If you can possibly solve it, you do it.
So Jesus is going to tell us how to conquer this problem of worrying. And before I get into it, I got to tell you this. You're going to see this in almost every message that I preach. Jesus was the master psychiatrist. Jesus was the greatest psychologist. Jesus knew how to pinpoint every emotional problem that we have, and Jesus knew exactly what to tell us and how to deal with it. God's Word does it. So this is gonna blow your mind. If you're a worrywart like me and I am, Jesus said the way to tackle worry and the way to handle worry is simply to do one simple thing. He said, make sure that you just take care of three days in your life. If you will take care of three days in your life, you won't have a problem with worry.
Here's what those days are, yesterday, today, and tomorrow. It's what he's going to tell us. He said, if you just take care of three days, yesterday, today, tomorrow, you won't worry. So we're going to take those three things. Number one. Jesus said, put yesterday's worry in its proper place. Put yesterday's worry in its proper place. Now, three times in this passage in Matthew six, Jesus repeats three words. Watch them. Therefore, I tell you, say that out loud... So... Therefore.... Over and over. Do not worry. Do not worry. Do not worry. Now once is enough. But when Jesus says something three times, what he's saying to you is, I mean what I say, do not worry.
Well, here's the problem. Some of us worry about yesterday. So they took a biopsy yesterday. You're worried about it. You're involved in a fender bender yesterday. You're worried about it. You made a big mistake at work yesterday, and you're worried about it. Here's what Jesus does. Here's what I want to do. I want you to consider how you can use the past to help you face the present and look to the future. How can you use yesterday, no matter what happened, no matter how bad it was, how can you yesterday to help you with today and tomorrow when it comes to worry, all right? Let me ask you a simple question, you ready? You're here now, aren't you? I mean, you're listening to me, and I'm talking to you.
So here's what I know about you right now. I don't know what happened to you yesterday, I don't know how bad it was, and you may be beaten and bruised and battered, but you survived. You're still here. You're still breathing. You're still talking. You're still living. And there's only one reason why that's true, God got you here. God took care of your yesterday. So here's the point. If God has gotten you through yesterday, don't you think God can take care of you today? You know, when you read the Old Testament, it blows my mind. I'm reading through the Bible every year, I do it every year, and one of the things I get reminded of all the time whenever I read the Old Testament, is how God kept telling the nation of Israel over and over and over how they should use their past so they should not, would not worry about the present or the future.
Let me give you just one example. There was a prophet by the name of Isaiah. He was the prophet of the nation of Israel and they were facing dark terrible days. I mean, things were not going well. They were facing an enemy that was far more powerful than they were. That would eventually defeat them, that would take them into captivity. So both their today and their tomorrow didn't look too great. But listen to these words that he says to them, "Listen to me, you descendants of Jacob, all the remnant of the people of Israel," now what listen, "you whom I have upheld since your birth, and I have carried since you were born".
God said, look, from the moment you were conceived in the womb, I took care of you. When you came out of your mother's womb, I took care of you. You wouldn't be here right now, if I wasn't taking care of you. When you didn't even know I existed, when you didn't even know my name, when you didn't even know your own name, God said, I was taking care of you. Then listen to what Isaiah goes on to say in the next verse, "Even to your old age and gray hairs, I am He who will sustain you. I have made you, I will carry you, I will sustain you, and I will rescue you". God fast forwards to the end of life, and here's what he says, look, before you were born, I took care of you.
Now that you're alive, I'm taking care of you. When you come to the end of your life, I'll take care of you. So our life, your life has two bookends, from the moment you're conceived to the moment you die, God says, I'll take care of you. God said, yesterday, I was there. Today, I am here. Tomorrow, I will be there. Because if he hadn't taken care of us today, I wouldn't be talking to you, you wouldn't be listening to me. So if you're in a situation right now where you'd say, but you don't know what I'm facing, you don't know what I'm going through, if you're in one of those situations where you feel like there's an Egyptian army behind you, and a Red Sea before you, and you're really worried, here's the first thing I would say to you, this is the first thing Jesus would say, put yesterday's worry in its proper place.
Question. Has God been faithful to you in the past? Can I get an amen to that? Can I get a witness to that? God's been so faithful to me in the past. I see some guys here. There's Mike Dean right back there. Mike knows what I'm talking about. Church for our Pastor here was a great church. My first six months there was hell, but God got me through it. Last six months weren't too good either, but God got me through it. God was faithful in the past. And if God was faithful in the past, he'll be faithful in the present, and he'll be faithful in the future, because he never changes. So put yesterday's worry right in its proper place. So put yesterday's worry right in its proper place. What about today? Well, Jesus says, put today's worry in its proper position. Put it in its proper position.
So now let's go back and focus on the very first thing that Jesus says about where it was. This is so good. He has such a great sight. What a counselor he is. He says, look, "Therefore I tell you do not worry about your life; what you will eat or drink or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes"? All right, now let's think about this. When Jesus is talking about worry, he's always talking about today. He's not talking about yesterday because yesterday's gone. He's not talking about tomorrow because tomorrow isn't here yet. Now, you obviously can worry about yesterday, but you can't worry yesterday. You can worry about tomorrow, but you can't worry tomorrow. You can only worry today.
So here's the question now Jesus is going to answer, well, why shouldn't I worry today? You don't know what I'm going through. You don't know what I'm facing. You don't know the odds that are against me. You don't know how high that Red Sea is. You don't know how powerful that Egyptian army is. You don't know the hounds I've got trailing me and coming after me. Why should I not worry today? Well, Jesus knew that just saying don't worry won't stop you from worrying. As a matter of fact, have you ever had somebody, when somebody says, and this happen to me, man, I'm just so worried about that, and they'll say, well, just quit worrying. You just want to shoot somebody. I mean, if it's that easy, you'd quit. Well, Jesus knew that. He knew just saying, don't worry, wasn't going to stop you from worrying.
So here's what he does. He is so unbelievable. He doesn't go all Freud. He doesn't try to come up with all these abstract reasons why, you know, you shouldn't do it, he says, let me just give you two simple illustrations to prove that God will take care of you today. You know what he says, here's his therapy, you ready? He said, just look outside your window. What? Just look outside your window. So here's what he's says, "Look at the birds of the air. They don't sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they"?
So here's a question. Have you ever seen a worried bird? I mean seriously? Did you know this? I did my homework by the way. Did you know, that in medical history, there's never been a bird treated for high blood pressure? Never. Never. Never. No bird's ever died from a stroke. No bird's ever died of hypertension. I mean, think about it. Here's what Jesus is saying, you ready for this? Jesus is saying worthless worry is so worthless it's not even for the birds. They don't even worry. By the way, when I was studying this, I thought to myself, Jesus, you're so brilliant, but I thought to myself, why would you, of all things you could pick on, of all things you could use to illustrate, why did you talk about birds? Well guess what I learned.
There's a scientific reason, Jesus even knew what he's doing, he said, hey, let's just take the birds, let me tell you why. You know what an ornithologist is, right? An ornithologist is somebody who studies birds. All right, by the way, if you're an ornithologist, I know one thing about your life, you are a boring person. All right, but anyway, ornithologists study birds. Now listen to this. This blew my mind. Do you know how many species of birds there are in the world? There are 18,000 different species of birds in the world. Do you know how many birds there are in the world? There are over 400 billion birds in the world.
Now think about that. Here's what that means. That means that for every one person on planet earth, there's between 40 to 60 birds. In other words, if you're into birdwatching, if you were to see one new species of bird everyday, just one, it'd take you 50 years to see every species of birds. They say, wow, those stats. I think this is what Jesus was saying. If every day of that we live, every day, if God can take care of 18,000 species of birds and 400,000 birds, don't you think he can take care of you? Can I get a witness? Don't you think he can take care of you? He says, look, just look at the birds. Well, if you aren't into birds, he said, okay, let's try flowers.
So he says this, "Why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They don't labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that's how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you, you of little faith"? So again, I'm sure most of you have some flowers in your yard somewhere. Have you ever seen a flower break into a sweat? Have you ever seen a flower pacing the flower bed, wondering how he's going to be clothed? By the way, speaking of flowers, did you know that there are not only 90 different species of lilies, no two of them are exactly alike?
Did you know that all totaled, would you like to know how many different species of flowers there are in the world, you ready for this? There are 369,000 species of flowers all over the world. There are 369,000 species of flowers all over the world. And what Jesus is saying is listen, if God knows, not only how to make sure that every flower has just the perfect clothes to wear and they all match, don't you think he knows how to take care of you? So practically speaking, that raises the question. So if I'm wasting all of my time, and I'm wasting all of my energy, and I'm wasting all of my emotional vitality on worry, what do I need to do to reinvest that in something that is productive?
Jesus says, I'm glad you asked, and he shares this next verse, "But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things," what things? All the things you're worried about, your mortgage payment, your next paycheck, your job, your health, your family, all these things he said, "will be given to you as well". What does that mean to seek first God's kingdom and his righteousness? What does that mean? Here's what it means. Simply means you put God above everything else. It means you put God above anyone else and you do it everywhere all the time, because let me tell you now what worry really is, you're ready for this? This is when you are worried. This is when I worry.
The moment you put anything ahead of God, you'll be worried. The moment anything concerns you more than God's kingdom and God's righteousness, you will be worried. I'll give you an example. If you seek first the kingdom of money, you're gonna worry about every dollar and every dime. If you seek first the kingdom of health, you're gonna worry over every skin spot and every headache. If you seek first the kingdom of popularity, you're gonna sweat every critical word that somebody says about you. If you seek first the kingdom of safety, you will be worried about every noise you hear in the middle of the night.
I was reading the other day. There was a couple in bed. One night, they were fast asleep, three o'clock in the morning, the wife sat straight up in bed straight. Just sat straight up. She shook her husband. She said, get up. He said, what is it? She said, there's a burglar in the house. He said, there's nobody in the house. She's said, I'm telling you, there's a burglar in the house. He said, I'm telling you, there's not. She said, I'm telling you, there is somebody in the house. He's in the kitchen. Go check on it right now. He said, all right. He's getting out of bed. She says, by the way, get the gun out of the drawer. He says, I don't need the gun. She says, get the gun out of the drawer, you might need it. And he said, all right.
Well, he stumbles into the kitchen, and lo and behold, there's a burglar ransacking the refrigerator. He threw his gun up and he said, put your hands behind you back. Well, the robber said, yes, sir. He said, follow me. He said, you take me to jail? He said, no, I'm taking you to my bedroom. Sir, why are you doing that? 'Cause I want you to meet my wife. He's, why do you want me to meet your wife? He said, she's been worried about you for 33 years. See, God says, listen. Here's what God says, if you'll make me your number one priority, if you'll seek my rule over you, if you'll surrender to me, if you'll seek to be righteous before me, I'll take care of everything else.
So this is the simple advice Jesus gives us, you ready? You ready for this? God says, if you'll take care of my business, I'll take care of yours. Ain't that good? If you take care of my business, I'll take care of yours. Put today's worry in its proper position. Put yesterday's worry in its proper place. But Jesus ain't finished. He says, put tomorrow's worry in its proper perspective. So, he covers it perfectly. Here's what he says at the end of the day, "Therefore, do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble on its own". There are two days you should never, ever, ever worry about, yesterday and tomorrow. Never. Yesterday's gone, and tomorrow may never get here. Today, yesterday is in your imagination, tomorrow is in your dreams.
And oh, by the way, can I tell you something? You'll say an instinct. You read that book from beginning to end, let me to tell you what you're gonna find, God never promises you strength for tomorrow. He only promises you strength for today. Because today is the only day you have. He said, just be focused on today because he says, look, it's got enough trouble of its own. By the way, that word worry, I don't know if you know this, it comes from the Old English word, wyrgan, W-Y-R-G-A-N, which is kind of related to a German word. And you know what the word worry literally means? It means to strangle.
Boy, that's such a good word, because you know what worry does? Worry doesn't take the sorrow out of tomorrow, it just chokes the joy out of today. We'll say that again. Worry does not take the sorrow out of tomorrow, it just chokes the joy out of today. You cannot change the past, but you can ruin a perfectly good present by worrying about the future. Mark Twain once said this, he said, "I've been through some terrible things in my life most of which never happened".
By the way, there's a scientific study that proves what he said was true. This was mind boggling when I read it. This study looked into how many of our imagined tragedies and fears that we worried about never materialized. You ready for this? Listen to this. They did some research, some psychologists and some sociologists, and they learned this, 85% of the things people worry about never happen. Think about that. 85% of the things you and I worry about never happened. Well, wait a minute, what about the other 15%? Listen to this. With that 15% that did happen, 79% of the people discovered, either they could handle the problem or it actually taught them a lesson worth learning.
So in other words, here's what they discovered. 97% of what we worry about is mainly your mind beating you up with either things that don't happen or things that were not nearly as bad as we thought they might be. The worries that we manufacture never leave the warehouse. They don't. I read about a lady that was checking her email one time. She noticed a note from a friend and it had an urgent tag on it. Well, when she opened the email, here was the two-sentence message in her email, "Start worrying now. I'll send details later". Start worrying now. I'll send details later. A majority of our time, we've learned, worry is unnecessary, it's not even worth it, but it's more than that. Jesus said not only is worry unnecessary, he said, it's unfruitful. 'Cause listen to what he says in verse 27, "Can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your life"?
Here's the dirty little secret about worry. Worry never changes anything. Worry never makes things better. Worry never solved a problem. Worry never lifted a burden. Worry never answered a question. Worry never dried a tear. So there are two things you should never worry about. Write this one down, this will be good for you, ready? Here's the two things you should never worry about. Got it? Never worry about things you can't change and never worry about things you can. Write that down, that's good stuff. Well, I can't change anything about that, then why worry about it? Well, I can change something about that, well quit worrying and change it. So don't worry about things you can't change, and don't worry of things you can. If you can change it, do it. If you can't change it, drop it. Do you understand the mathematics of worry? Everybody. I don't feel you learned this in school when you learned math.
Let me teach you the mathematics of worry. Worry divides the mind, multiplies misery, subtracts from happiness, and adds distress. That's all it does. That's the mathematics of worry. It divides the mind, multiplies misery, subtracts from happiness, and adds distress. You see, if you're ever going to get a handle on a worry, with the hands of faith, not the hands of fear, that means you got to leave tomorrow alone. You're gonna put the past in the rear view mirror, and you've got to put tomorrow in the trunk. The reason why the calendar gives every day its own number it's because you're supposed to live them in the order that God has arranged them.
So, God hasn't called you to worry about tomorrow. God's called you to live for today. These words came from an anonymous person, but they are so true. Better not trouble trouble until trouble troubles you; for your only make your trouble double-trouble when you do. It's true. Better not trouble trouble till troubles you, for you only make your trouble double-trouble when you do. I've never seen gravestone, and I've seen a few of them, I remember I saw one, I think it was up in New York that said, I told you I was sick. But you know, I've never seen a tombstone with these words on it, he died of worry. I've never seen a death certificate that said cause of death, worry, and yet how many of us have heard of people or we've known people who died from worry? Worry takes years off your life, it doesn't add life to your years. We now know that medically and scientifically that's true.
So let me just tell you the bottom line of this whole message, okay. If I could summarize this message, here's what I would tell you. Do you know what worry really is? It's an insult to God. Worry is a slap in the face of God. Worry is basically telling God, I know you're a great God, and I know you can do a lot of things, yet you can't handle this one. It really is, it really is a slap in God's face. I was reading the other day, I'll leave you with this. I was reading about how ocean liners are designed. This is kind of fascinating. Ever since the Titanic, they went to work and said, we got to do better on ocean lines. We don't ever want that to happen again. Have you ever noticed, we've never had another problem with, since the Titanic sank.
Well, here's what they've done. When the hull of a ship is pierced by a collision, the steel doors of the hull can be lowered so that only a portion of the ship is flooded. I thought about that and I thought, well, that's a great application. So think about this. You're sailing along in the ship of your life, and all of a sudden, without any warning at all, you hit this iceberg of trials and tribulations, and troubles, unforeseen. Here's what you do. Lower the rear hull door of God's goodness against yesterday, lower the forward hull door of God's promises against tomorrow, and then live safe and dry in the compartment of God's grace today.
Now you may think, well that's pretty good spiritual psychobabble. That's a good, good try at being a therapist. No, I've got a reason for saying it. There's a cross, and there's an empty tomb that tells me there is no problem that God cannot solve. There is a cross and an empty tomb that tells me there is no question that God cannot answer. There is a cross and an empty tomb that tells me there is no situation that God cannot handle. So the next time worry knocks at your door, let God answer it. As somebody put it, I don't know who wrote these with their great words, "All the water in the world, no matter how hard it tried, could never sink any ship unless it got inside".
All the hardships of this world might wear you pretty thin, but it won't hurt you one least bit, unless you let them in. God has a word for worry. Every worry is an opportunity to do what only you can do, and trust God for what you can't do. So Jesus said, you'll take care of my business, I will take care of yours. Let's pray together, with heads bowed and with eyes closed.
Now, let me talk about one thing everybody should be worried about. I'm gonna describe somebody, and if this is you, if I were you, I'd be worried, I wouldn't be concerned, I'd be worried. If you've never become a true follower of Jesus, if you've never surrendered your life to Jesus, if you've never accepted Jesus as your Savior and your Lord, your sin has separated you from God and if you die, you're not separated from God from all eternity, you'd better be worried. You better be big time worried. That'll be your biggest worry. But God took care of that worry, through the death and the resurrection of his son. You know, I told you I was a worrywart and I am.
Can I tell you one thing I'd never worried about since I was a nine-year-old boy? I've never worried about dying. I've never worried about my eternal destiny. I've never worried about where I'm gonna go when I draw my last breath. I settled that as a nine-year-old boy. I don't worry about that anymore. And if you're one of those people in this room right now, or you're one of those people listening to me, and you're just being honest, you know what? I've never really given my life to Christ. I've never really become one of his disciples. I've never really become one of his followers. I've never trusted him. I've never accepted him. Would you do it right now? Would you get rid of the biggest worry you ought to have just by praying this prayer with me right now, just do it in your heart right now. Say:
Lord Jesus, if I were to die without you, I don't even want to think where I'd be. I want to settle that today. I want to settle that today. I'm a sinner. I need a Savior and you are that Savior. So I ask you right now to become my Savior and become my Lord. I believe you died on the cross for my sins. I believe God raised you from the dead. I believe you're alive right now, and I ask you this moment, come into my life. I repented my sin. I surrender all that I am to all that you are. And I give you my heart and soul.