Tony Evans - Don't Worry
We got a bad situation. God is talking. This pandemic has disrupted our lives, our work, our play, our sports. It has disrupted our gatherings. It has turned what was normal and made it abnormal. It's a wakeup call. One of the ways God speaks is through allowing circumstances into our lives and into our world that are not pleasant. The further you remove God from a life of family and a culture, the more chaotic things will become. But if we would allow God, who is speaking, who is shaking up our normalcy, to become frontpage news again, God is not interested in only a pledge of allegiance to a nation. He's interested in a pledge of allegiance to himself.
Well, hello friends. I'm coming to you again this week from my den here at my home because in Dallas County, we're on lockdown. They've got us staying in our homes in light of this great challenge that we're facing today. But again, the Word of God is not limited by buildings or physical facilities, and so it's my honor to be with you again today to encourage you and to challenge in you, and to not let this virus own you.
There was a man one day, he was terribly worried because life had crushed him, and he just wanted to throw in the towel. They called the police to kind of try to get him to not quit on life. And the policeman said, "Look, I'm going to tell you my worries, you tell me your worries. And if my worries are worse than your worries, then you need to reconsider what you are thinking about doing". So, they both of them exchanged their fears and concerns and worries. And after they did, the policeman reached out his hand. The gentleman put his hand in the policeman's hand, and guess what? They both jumped 'cause worry and fear has a way of transferring very quickly from you to other people.
And I think that's what's happening with this virus. In fact, the virus is not the only thing that transfers quickly. Our anxiety, worry, and fear is outpacing the problem of the virus because it's consumed the mind, the heart, the energy, and the emotions of ourselves, our families, the whole nation, and even the world. I want to tell you two words right now, don't worry. Maybe you didn't hear me, don't worry. In case you missed it, don't worry.
Now, lest you think that comes from me, let me make a correction. That comes from Jesus. In Matthew chapter 6, verses 25 to 34, Jesus says three times, "Don't worry, don't worry, don't worry". He says, "Stop worrying", in verse 25, 31, and 34. Stop it. Now you say, "But how practical is that given all that we're facing, the unknowns, the crisis, the expansion, the speed, the sickness? Is that a practical expectation of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ"? Well, yes it is because he commands us not to do it. But maybe some definitions will help us here.
We have a legitimate right for legitimate concern. What we don't have the right to do is worry because what worry is, is concern gone haywire. God does not expect us not to deal in reality. If you're sick, you're sick. If you're struggling, you're struggling. But that's different than worry. Concern you own; worry owns you. When worry tells you, "You're not going to sleep right now, I'm going to keep you up", okay, that's not concern, that's worry. When concern tells you, "We're going to palpitate your heart right now", and you can't get it calmed down, oh, you've now graduated to worry. When you're shaking and shivering and sweating because the concern is telling you how you're going to operate now physically, you've gone from concern to worry because you're no longer in control of it, it is now in control of you, and Jesus says stop it.
One man said, "I'll pay somebody $100.000 who will do my worrying for me. I've got so many things to worry about". Another gentleman said, "Well, I'll take that. I'll do your worrying for you for $100.000". Then the gentleman said, "Well, where's my $100.000"? That's when the first man said, "Well, that's the first thing you have to worry about".
Worry has a way of transferring it, and we see it now in the culture. When we listen to the news, when we hear what people are thinking, when we get the statistics, yeah, that which started off as concern is now causing us to tremble, and now that is affecting more than health, but financial markets, and confining us to premises, and limiting our motion and movement, and raising questions about supplies of needs and food and all of that. Yeah, it can kind of draw you from legitimate concern for which you should act responsible to illegitimate worry.
In fact, Jesus even goes a little deeper because he says if you're controlled by worry, he says, "Oh ye of little faith", in verse 30 of Matthew 6. He didn't say you had no faith, he says it's too small. Many people believe in God who still worry because they have little faith. But now, how do you measure little faith? How do you know? Well, if you're worrying and that's become your pattern, you know you have little faith. And that's because of the size of your God.
Some years ago, I was supposed to take a plane to a speaking engagement in Iowa. My wife was supposed to go with me until she found out that I was going to be picked up in a twin engine Cessna to take me there to get me to the engagement on time. She said, "I'm sorry, I'm not going with you". I told her, "Well, you don't have enough faith". She said to me, "That's 'cause you don't have enough plane". The schedule got changed and I wind up going by a major airlines. Oh, she said, "I'm going with you now". I said, "Your faith grew". She said, "That's 'cause the size of your plane grew".
You see, the size of your faith is tied to the size of your God. When you shrink God, you automatically shrink faith. So, if you and I have little faith, it's because we're operating with a small understanding and view of God. So, the way you get more faith is not going faith hunting. The way you overcome worry is not by trying to tell yourself and talk yourself into not worrying. It is to expand your understanding, view of, and submission to God. So, the best way I can help you to work through this crisis, help me, help those who are in our sphere of influence, is to grow God in your understanding, in your experience, and in your focus. Because when we grow him, your faith will grow with it, and your worry will shrink and become responsible concern.
Jesus goes on to say in this passage in Matthew 6 you need to look at mother nature, who's controlled by Father God. Mother nature is not a lady who has independent authority. She's submitted to Father God. And he says what you need to do in verse 26 is, "Look at the birds of the air, who don't sow or reap or gather in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them". He says, "Look, if you're worried about corona or anything else that's causing you to illegitimately worry rather than be limited to legitimate concern, he says you need to go bird watching because they will teach you how God operates".
By the way, he calls them your heavenly Father, not the bird's heavenly Father. He says they don't sow or reap, they don't go farming. Birds don't have 403(b)s, they don't have CDs, they don't have mutual funds, they don't have saving accounts. And yes, they don't have ulcers. Have you ever seen a bird with an ulcer because they don't worried a hole in their belly? And yet he says your heavenly Father, not theirs, your daddy, your daddy takes care of them.
So, let's picture our friend the bird. He's standing on a branch, but he's not standing on the branch with his beak open toward heaven, waiting for worms to drop into its mouth. Every day, it goes worm hunting because it assumes something. If I'm alive, there's a worm somewhere to be found. So, he doesn't alleviate responsibility out of concern to eat. He exercises responsibility, knowing that the provision comes from another source. God says when you're prone to worry, go bird watching 'cause you'll see how the Father operates.
He says, "And look at the lilies of the field, how well they're clothed", he goes on to say. He says, "The lilies of the field, they don't spin", They don't have sewing machines. And yet they are beautiful because your heavenly Father provides for them. You know our problem? We believe in a God who we do not understand as a Father. We hear it in our prayers, "Oh great Father and God, creator of the universe, who spun creation into being simply by the voice and word of his mouth".
All of that's true, but you can believe in that God and still keep a transcendent, long distance relationship, not an intimate association as daddy. He says that, "I want you to look at him as a Father when it comes to not worrying". He says, "I want you to look at him as a Father and understand that this Father cares for you". And when you come to look at him this way, understand him this way, and relate to him this way, you begin to experience God the daddy and not just God the creator.
I love Isaiah chapter 26, verses 3 and 4, "I will keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed upon me". Jeremiah 17, verses 7 and 8 says that God will keep you calm even in a drought, even in a virus. So, I want you to calm down. I want you to look at your family members right now who are seated with you and say, "Don't worry". The kids who now are understanding that they're staying out of school because of this virus, whisper to them now, "Hey, hey kids, don't worry. Let me tell you about your heavenly Father. Yes, your earthly father is limited, but your heavenly daddy is not".
This is the time to go daddy hunting. And yeah, we're talking about God, but we're talking about the fathering of God, who is also the great creator of the universe. You know, we've got this exercise where we're supposed to wash our hands 20 seconds and do it many times during the day. Let me give you a little secret. Use hand washing as prayer time. Just put the soap on your hands, you're washing them, have a conversation, "Hey daddy, you told me not worry, you told me not to worry about the virus. In fact, you told me be anxious for nothing you said. So right now, I'm not going to worry. I know this is a problem out of control, but you're not out of control. And you're my daddy, so as I wash my hands".
When you send your kids to wash their hands, teach them to pray. See, this is a great time 'cause Philippians 4 says, "When you are tempted to be anxious, that's an invitation to pray". So, you already know what you're supposed to pray because it always should be connected when you're tempted to be a worrier. And if you are going to wash your hands all day long, talk to your daddy all day long, and get your growing focus on God, who is able to calm your fears.
Don't misunderstand me. Corona you ought to be concerned about. We ought to follow the directions that we're given by our government and by our leaders, and we ought to make wise decisions about physical distancing, not social distancing. We want to stay connected, but do the wise things. But still be able to sleep at night, still be able to laugh, still be able to love your loved ones. You don't live in panic when you know you have a heavenly Father.
The problem is we have a world today that has forgotten that God wants to be their daddy, not just a name we throw out. He says if you will make this shift, there will be a dynamic change in your calmness meter. He says in verse 31, "Do not worry, saying, 'What will we eat, or what will we drink, or what will we wear'"? To put it in everyday, colloquial language, "How we gonna make it? Am I gonna get there? How we gonna do it"? He says, "For these things the Gentiles", non-Christians, "eagerly seek". They get worried about it. They go after it. They're nervous. He says, "But your Father", here we got a daddy thing going on again, "already knows you need these things".
You know what our problem is today? We have too many people who have never been with a daddy who knows how to be a father. And so, you don't know what it is to look to somebody to cover you in a crisis. But you do have a daddy, if you're committed to Jesus Christ, you've got a daddy who is more concerned about your welfare than you are, and he says the secret, so I'm gonna give you the secret. If you want to get over your worry, if you want to get over, you want to calm down, be concerned responsibly, but I want you to cool it 'cause Jesus demanded it. Stop it, don't worry.
Here's what I want you to do. Verse 33, "Seek ye first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you". Let me repeat verse 33, "And seek ye first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you". If you want to calm down, and stay calm, and keep your family clam and your loved ones calm and your fellow church members calm, then here's what you do, and the keyword is first.
Did you know there's some things God can't do? You say, "But I thought there's nothing God can't do"? Oh yeah, no, there are things God can't do. For example, the Bible says by two immutable things, it's impossible for God to lie, he can't lie. Another thing God can't do is, he can't be contradictory to his own nature. He is always consistent with himself. God can't sin. So, there's some things God can't do, but let me tell you another thing God can't do. He can't be second. The moment you put God in second place, you've removed him from engagement with your life.
Seek ye first the kingdom of God. God must be put in priority, but not just 'cause you say the word, "God is first in my life". That's nice religiosity. No, he must be functionally first, not philosophically first. He must be functionally first, not merely verbally first. And how do you know when God is first? Because he takes priority in your decision making. When you have to choose what you will do or won't do, he wins the choice. If he does not win the choice, he's not first no matter how often you use his name.
And what should we be looking at when we put him first? It says, "Seek ye first the kingdom of God". His rule in your life. God's kingdom is his rule, that he gets the final decision over everything that has to do with you, that makes him first. He does not want to be one of many. He has an exclusivity clause here. He wants to be prioritized over the highest priority you have in your life. Because when you have to make a choice, you choose him or his way of doing things. That's why you ought to seek first his kingdom and his righteousness. His righteousness is his standard.
What is his standard on this issue? What is his standard on my life? What is his standard on my relationships? What is his standard on myself? What is his standard on this thing I want to do? What is his standard? And when I submit to his standard and relate to him as my Father, because it's a relationship thing, not just doing it because he says do it, but doing it because he's daddy. He's a relationship, God wants a relationship. And he wants a close one, an intimate one with you. He says, "When you do this, I got you".
Now, does that mean there won't be challenges? No, 'cause then there would be nothing to pray about. Does that mean there won't be trials? No, because that means there's nothing you have to trust him for. But it says that you will not face those trials by yourself. They actually will become opportunities for you to see daddy do his thing. There's nothing like a child that doesn't have to worry because they know daddy's got it. That daddy has it not only because he has the power to have it, but because he's my daddy and he loves me.
This is a great teaching moment for the beloved ones in your life, for your fellow congregants to know that you don't have to worry. In fact, after this passage, and you should read these verses, Matthew 6, verses 25 to 34, you should read that every day, three times a day. And whenever worry starts bubbling up, you should read it and then you should pray to be reminded daddy got it. Daddy's in charge. Daddy's on a roll. Kids, don't worry, daddy's moving. No, you want to keep daddy in front of them. You want to keep daddy in front of yourself, in front of your loved ones. You want to keep daddy because when you do, it will become clear daddy really does know what he's doing.
I love how he closes this section. He says, "So do not worry", verse 34, "about tomorrow, for tomorrow will care for itself. For each day has enough trouble of its own". Most people are crucified between two thieves, yesterday and tomorrow. Do you know today is the tomorrow you worried about yesterday? Today is the tomorrow you worried about yesterday. So, let yesterday go, trust God for tomorrow, and be at peace with him right now. If he has you here today, believe he's got you today. You plan for tomorrow, but you live by faith today. And when you do, you will see God's Spirit allow you to breathe, allow you to sleep, allow you to rest because you know daddy's got it.
Let me tell you a little bit about my life growing up in Baltimore. My father was a stevedore, he was a longshoreman. And the only time he got to work was when ships came in, and they had to unload and load boats. So, sometimes he would go weeks and sometimes months without being called into work based on what was happening with the loading and unloading of ships. During those times, when months went by when they didn't have work, I never stayed up worrying about how I was going to eat. I never stayed up worrying about how the bills were going to be paid. I never worried because I knew my daddy.
You know what my daddy would do? My daddy would go fishing. Now, folks who know Tony Evans knows Tony Evans does not eat fish. I don't eat fish. I eat seafood, but I don't eat fish because the way I ate growing up when my father didn't have work, he would go catch herring. Now herring, that's fish with a billion bones in it, tiny bones. We had herring for breakfast, we had herring for lunch, we had herring for dinner, and then we had herring for dessert. He would catch them by the nets and bring them home.
I grew up during those periods of time eating herring for everything, so I don't eat fish anymore. But you know what? I never went hungry. Now, I would've preferred fried chicken. Sometimes, I had to settle for herring, but I was always fed 'cause I knew my daddy. And my daddy would do whatever it took for me not to worry. Wasn't always what I wanted, wasn't always what I preferred, but did meet the need.
God's not promising you everything is going to be exactly like you wanted and you won't have some inconveniences during times like this. He is saying he loves you enough to be your daddy. And as a daddy, he loves you enough to meet you at your point of need. So, stop it. Quit it because he cares for you. And let the peace of God, Philippians 4, that passes all understanding guard your heart and mind in Christ Jesus. Take a deep breath, relax. Be legitimately concerned, but don't worry. Stop it now.
One of the great offers of our Savior Jesus Christ is life plus abundant life. That means a fulfilled life. So many people are existing because they don't possess the life of God. If you don't know that you possess the life of God, let's get that fixed right now. Jesus Christ is offering you his life. The Bible says he that hath the Son hath life.
So, if you want life, not existence, the forgiveness of sins, the guarantee of heaven, and having Jesus Christ involved with your life on earth, all of that is in this package called life. And he's offering it to you for free. Now, not a lot is for free today, but this is, life for free. How do you get it? You simply go to Jesus Christ and trust him alone for it. You don't work for it, you don't earn it, you don't go to church for it. None of that can give you life. Only the person of Christ can give you life. So, I'm going to pray a prayer, you pray it after me. You just have to mean it for yourself.
Lord Jesus, I know I'm a sinner. I know I can't save myself. But you've offered me the free gift of eternal life in exchange for my sin. So, I place my sin next to your cross, believing you died as my substitute. And I receive now the eternal life that you said you would give me for free if I came to you for it. So, I receive that now, and thank you for my new salvation, in Jesus's name, amen.