Jesus may not be in the habit of repeating commands, but in Matthew 6, in the middle of his Sermon on the Mount, Jesus repeats a command three times: “Stop worrying,” he says. Worry is not only a sin; worry is very harmful to us. It can cause sleeplessness, irritable bowel syndrome, nervousness, fear and other problems.
Most of us know all about worry. I sure do. There have been times in my life when I have worried. Almost always it is worrying about something that I can do nothing about. If I catch myself worrying now, I have found a way of escape. Jesus says in that same passage of scripture, “Keep searching for the Kingdom of God first of all. Put God’s righteousness first. Then all the things you need will be provided for you.”
The amazing thing in Jesus’ day was that almost all the people he spoke to were poor. They were so poor that they worried about food, shelter and clothing. Food and clothing are matters of survival. They were worried that they would not be able to survive!
Our worries are ridiculous, compared with that. We worry about an upcoming test or meeting or about our jobs. We worry about things we can almost always do nothing about. We don’t worry about survival. My students worry about homework and boyfriend, girlfriend stuff, and tests. Most of this they can do nothing about, except maybe study for the tests. Worry keeps us up at night and makes us miserable.
In the Bible, the opposite of worry is faith. Scripture tells us (I Corinthians 10:13) that we are all plagued by the same temptations. But God is faithful. (Notice Paul doesn’t say “you be faithful” — because he knows we usually aren’t.), With every temptation, God provides a way of escape. What is that way of escape? By looking at Jesus when he was tempted in the desert, we can see he quoted scripture. He answered Satan’s every temptation by quoting Deuteronomy.
If you are tempted to worry, focus instead on God’s promises. Focus on his word. He always has something there that will offset our worries. Memorize Matthew 6:33, so when you’re tempted to worry you can focus not on the worry, but on the scripture. God always has something to say about our worries. He wants us to overcome all sin, including worry.
So don’t be anxious for anything. But in everything by prayer and thanksgiving — search for God, his kingdom and his righteousness. He will help you overcome worry. His word always has the answer to our problems. Find a scripture that deals with your worry, and focus not on the worry, but on that scripture. You can overcome worry.
Mark Berrier is the minister of Central Christian Church in Sherman. He earned a doctoral degree in divinity from Dallas Christian College. He and his wife of 49 years, Paula, have two children and eight grandchildren.