08 November 2017

Acceptable Sins Not Excepted: Worry


Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. (Philippians 4:6)
Christians know they are not to worry and that anxiety should not overwhelm or consume them. After all, God is sovereign; that is why we make our requests known to Him!
And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:7)
Indeed, God, in His faithfulness, offers peace, comfort, and even joy in the midst of even our most trying circumstances.

So it is simple, isn’t it? Just trust God, pray a few prayers, and everything will go well for you! Worry will fade away like the morning fog, and you will find yourself floating through life, light as a feather, without a care in the world.

Yes, it is that easy!

Isn’t it?
For what I am doing, I do not understand; for I am not practicing what I would like to do, but I am doing the very thing I hate. (Romans 7:15)
Have you ever considered that Paul might have found himself worrying about his circumstances? He certainly had good earthly reason to!
Five times I received from the Jews thirty-nine lashes. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, a night and a day I have spent in the deep. I have been on frequent journeys, in dangers from rivers, dangers from robbers, dangers from my countrymen, dangers from the Gentiles, dangers in the city, dangers in the wilderness, dangers on the sea, dangers among false brethren; I have been in labor and hardship, through many sleepless nights, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure. (2 Corinthians 11:24–27)
Perhaps anxiety is one of those things that Paul occasionally found himself practicing, even though he hated that he did it. The Scripture does not explicitly tell us to what Paul is referring in Romans 7, but, considering that he was a fallen human being, one can most certainly deduce that even this great apostle was subject to worry on occasion.

This is precisely why Paul’s admonitions to not be anxious and to trust in God are so applicable. He was no superhero, and he certainly faced far more dire and challenging circumstances than we, yet his unwavering trust in the Lord is something we can all admire and seek to emulate.

Why?

Because worry is a sin, and because God commands us not to worry.
“For this reason I say to you, do not be worried about your life, as to what you will eat or what you will drink; nor for your body, as to what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they? And who of you by being worried can add a single hour to his life? And why are you worried about clothing? Observe how the lilies of the field grow; they do not toil nor do they spin, yet I say to you that not even Solomon in all his glory clothed himself like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, will He not much more clothe you? You of little faith! Do not worry then, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear for clothing?’ For the Gentiles eagerly seek all these things; for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. (Matthew 6:25-32)
In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus is quite clear as to the reason why men need not worry. Our “heavenly Father knows” precisely what we need and He has promised to care for His children.

Puritan J.R. Miller has said,
If we believe what we say we believe concerning our privileges as God’s children—we ought not to worry. Worry is doubting God, unbelief. It dishonors Him whose love is infinite and eternal, and whose promises are so wide and full.[1] 
What have we to worry about that God has not already ordained and ordered? Nothing. Absolutely nothing.

Of course God, in His goodness, does not simply set forth the command to not be anxious in Matthew 6 and then say nothing more. As Martyn Lloyd-Jones has noted,
[Our Lord] takes nothing for granted. He knows how frail we are; He knows the power of Satan and all his horrible subtlety, so He comes down to details…He provides us with arguments and gives us reasons, He puts it to our common sense. We are reminded again that He puts the truth to our minds.[2] 
This is evident in the text itself. Why should God’s children not worry? If God clothes even the flowers of the field, and feeds even the birds of the air, why would He not care abundantly more for those whom He created and set apart for salvation?

Lloyd-Jones goes on, describing the word used in Matthew 6 for “worry:”
The word [is] used to indicate something which divides, separates, or distracts us…[3]
Yes, now we see! Now we can see why anxiety and worry and fretting are not becoming of a Christian! These distresses distract us from the greater purpose of our life and call as Christians. If we are worried about these trivial matters—trivial because they are temporal and earthly—then we will ultimately find ourselves to be of little use to the kingdom. What a perfect position for our enemy to find us in! If he can distract us with the worries of this life, we will find that our zeal for the next life, our desire and urgency to proclaim the saving gospel of Christ, will become buried under the weight of the world’s woes.

Do not worry, then, because it distracts you from the things of God. Do not worry, either, because God has promised to care for you, and when has God ever broken His promises?
Know therefore that the Lord your God, He is God, the faithful God, who keeps His covenant and His lovingkindness to a thousandth generation with those who love Him and keep His commandments. (Deuteronomy 7:9)
Indeed, and we know that God does not change; Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever (Malachi 3:6; Hebrews 13:8).

How, then, can we practically obey the command not to be anxious? How can we avoid growing more anxious by knowing that we are continually disobeying God’s call to rest in Him?

The execution of such a characteristic of the Christian life is found, not in pulling up one’s own spiritual bootstraps and just “stopping it.” No, it is far more gracious and merciful than that.

When we read God’s Word and come to know Him more through that Word, we grow in our knowledge and understanding of His nature as a loving, caring Father who provides. The better we know this great Father of ours, the more we rest in His sovereignty and divine care. The more we run to Him in prayer, casting our cares on Him, the more we find that our strength comes, not from our own weak and fallen flesh, but from Him, whose power is made perfect in our weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9).

We practically and deliberately live as though we truly believe what the Bible says about God. We discipline ourselves to study His Word and commune with Him through prayer. As we do, the Holy Spirit within us strengthens us and conforms us to His image and, if we are growing more like Christ each day, then we cannot help but trust in the Father as Christ did.

________________________
1. J.R. Miller, “Reasons for Not Worrying."
2. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Studies in the Sermon on the Mount (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans), 380.
3. Ibid., 381.

Further Reading
The Lie of Acceptable Sins
Acceptable Sins Not Excepted: Gossip
Acceptable Sins Not Excepted: Impatience
Acceptable Sins Not Excepted: Envy

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