But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble. (Mat 6:19-34)
The motto of many twenty-first century Christians seems to be, “Why trust when you can worry?” Some realize it is wrong and try to hide their worry by giving it other titles such as “concerned,” “troubled,” “disturbed,” “interested,” or “bothered.” Regardless of the term used, worry saps your energy, drains your joy, destroys vision, curtails evangelism, and aggravates physical ailments. Unfortunately, it is also contagious—easily caught and fearfully experienced.
The Greek word for worry is merimnao, a combination of two words—merizo(to divide) and nous(mind). Worry actually means “a divided mind.” In the Bible, the word is translated “worry,” “anxious,” “anxiety” or “care.” It is not to be confused with diligent care and concern toward your responsibilities (2 Cor 11:28; Phil 2:20; Gal 4:19). Also, planning that acknowledges God’s sovereignty is not worry (James 4:13). Worry is over-anxious concern regarding the future and trepidation that keep a person from fulfilling current biblical responsibilities.
Worry is Sinful
In Matthew 6:19-34 Jesus addressed worry and He forbade it three times (vv. 25, 31, 34). The Apostle Paul also tells believers to, “Be anxious for nothing …. ” (Phil 4:6). Christ’s teaching in Matthew 6 exposes the two sinful roots of worry and the cure for each.
A Word About Fear & Worry
In the bible Fear is often spoken of in the same sense as worship. Fear produces worship. What we fear dictates what we worship. What we worship determines how we worship. What we fear/worship is either the Living God, or an idol. As we talk about worry and anxiety, you should know that fear is never distant. We worry because we fear. We are anxious because we fear. And we fear because we do not fear God rightly.
Worry is Idolatry, and the Solution is Repentance (Matt 6:19-25)
Idolatry means to worship someone or something other than the true and living God. It means giving yourself to some person, goal, ideal, concern or object rather than Christ. And it means putting your desires above God’s desires and commands for your life. It is allowing your concerns about the future, situations, and material objects to be more important than thinking and acting God’s way. Worry expresses idolatry in the heart (v. 21).
When we worry we tend to have an inordinate focus on:
Material objects (vv. 19-21)
Goals (vv. 22-23)
People (v. 24)
The things you worry about reveal your idols—finding a mate, getting a promotion, health, money, success, children, peoples’ opinions, etc. Jesus declares that you cannot serve God and something or someone else simultaneously (v. 24). A worrier needs to be called to confess his false master, false gods, and false refuges and renew his faith in Jesus Christ, His Savior and Lord.
Worry is unbelief and the Solution is Faith (Matt 6:25-34)
Jesus described worriers as people of “little faith” (v. 30). The presence of worry indicates that there is someone or something you are living for other than the Lord. There are two senses in which Jesus says, take up your cross and follow me (Mt. 16:24; Mk. 8:34; Lk. 9:23). First, when we come to Christ for the first time we are invited/commanded to consider the cost of following Christ and it is likened to dying. Second, in Luke he says to take up our cross daily, which seems to indicate an ongoing series of choices that need to be made. In everything, and in every way, we are to choose between the world, our desires, our longings, our fears, and Jesus. Take up your cross and follow Jesus. The worrier should be helped to identify the specific idols and lies that are ruling him and called to confess them as sin.
The fruit of repentance for someone who worries will be manifesting faith in God by disciplining his mind to focus on:
God’s care for mankind, argument from the lesser to the greater (vv.25-30)
God’s omnipotence, He knows your needs (vv. 31-32)
God’s promises are real (vv.33)
Pleasing God by caring for today’s responsibilities (v. 34).
The idolatry and unbelief of worry is to be replaced by a worship of and faith in God.
This will manifest itself in a lifestyle marked by:
1) Right relationship with God (Phil 4:6, 7)do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. This relationship makes grateful petitions to God; is characterized by confesses worry as sin; is governed by an active peace; and gives hope. Instead of worrying about things that cannot be changed we are to pour our hearts out to God, understanding that he loves us, is good, and wants to be our all in all. It shows itself when we make general as well as specific requests, requests for God s love and care; for how He is using the trial to spur growth; for the peace He provides. We make it our goal to please him (2 Cor. 5:9).
2) Right thinking (Phil 4:8)Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things: Faith, a clear conscience, and thankfulness frees the mind to be used correctly. The mind will need to be disciplined to “dwell on these things” (not thosethings). Plan according to biblical principles and priorities; be solution oriented in dealing with problems. Study and meditate on other passages such as John 14; 1 Peter 5:6-7; Psalms 27, 37, 46, 56, 73, 94.
3) Right acting (Phil 4:9)What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me– practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you; Focus attention and energy into fulfilling today’s responsibilities. Live your theology. Learn from the lifestyle of productive Christian leaders. Read biographies. Sing hymns and study the authors’ lives.
*Note the progression: Right Praying 🡪 Right Thinking 🡪 Right Acting
Some sins are so common among Christians that they appear to be acceptable behavior. Fear and Worry would certainly be near the top of the list. We will consider them together in this study because of the similarities between both problems and their solutions.
True or False?
Fear, per se, is not wrong.
In Scripture, Jesus is never said to be afraid.
The fear of God is the only thing that removes allother fears.
God warns us over 450 times in the Bible not to fear.
Genesis 3:10 is the first occurrence of fear in the Bible.
Fear is a feeling of anxiety and agitation caused by the presence or nearness of perceived danger, evil, pain, etc.
Fears That Are Right
Fear of God (Ecc 12:13,14; 2 Cor 5:10; Prov 1:7)
Fear of danger (Job 41:33; Gen 4:14,15; 1 Cor 6:19-20)
Fear Due to guilt (Prov 28:1; Matt 14:1-2; Lev 26:17-18,36)
*Summary: Fear is right and good when it moves us toward God and biblical behavior.
Fears That Are Wrong
Fear of man, not God. (John 12:42-43; Luke 12:4-5)
Fear of things temporal, rather than eternal. (Luke 12:4-5; 1 Cor 4:5)
Fear of things we cannot Change (Pro. 3:25; Gen 4:14)
*Summary: Fear is wrong and sinful when it is allowed to motivate thinking and behavior that is unbiblical.
Keys to Overcoming Sinful Fear
Develop a strong God focus. (Gal 1:10; 2 Cor 5:9,10; Isa 26:3; Ps 46:1-10).
Deal with guilt biblically. (Prov 28:1; 1 John 1:9; Matt 5:23,24).
Develop love as the antidote to fear. (1 John 4:15-21, esp. 17-19; 2 Tim 1:7; 1 Cor 13).
View fearful situations as opportunities to grow for God’s glory. (Rom 8:25-29; Matt 5:16; 1 Cor 6:19, 20).
Meditate on and memorize key Scriptures. (2 Tim 1:7; Ps 163:5-7; 1 Pet 5:7 and others mentioned above)
Adams, Jay E. “What Do You Do When Fear Overcomes You?” Phillipsburg, N J: Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Co., 1975.
Bridges, Jerry. Trusting God. Colorado Springs: NavPress, 1988.
Fitzpatrick, Elyse. Overcoming Fear, Worry, and Anxiety. Eugene: Harvest House Publishers, 2001.
Jones, Robert D. “Getting to the Heart of Your Worry.” The Journal of Biblical Counseling, volume 17, number 3, 1999, 21-24.
MacArthur, John F., Jr. Anxiety Attacked: Applying Scripture to the Cares of the Soul. Colorado Springs, CO: Chariot Victor Publishing, 1993.
Welch, Edward T. “Learning the Fear of the Lord: A Case Study.” The Journal of Biblical Counseling, volume 16, number 1, 1997, 25-27.
Welch, Edward T. When People are Big and God is Small. Phillipsburg: p & R Publishing, 1997.
Welch, Edward T. Running Scared, New Growth Press, 2007.
Welch, EdwardT. What Do You Think of Me? Why Do I Care?: Answers to the Big Questions of Life. New Growth Press, 2011.
Welch, EdwardT. When I Am Afraid: A Step By Step Guide Away From Fear and Anxiety. New Growth Press, 2008.
Possible homework assignments over the course of the counseling
- Read Jay Adam’s pamphlet What to Do When You Worry All the Time. Mark the ten most helpful sentences. Write a 1-3 sentence personal application of what you have learned.
- Read Jay Adam’s “How to Handle Trouble.” Mark the ten most helpful sentences. Write a 1-3 sentence personal application of what you have learned.
- Read Christ and Your Problems by Jay Adams. Mark the ten most helpful sentences. Write a 1-3 sentence personal application of what you have learned.
- Keep a log of when you worry. Record:
- What happened (time/date/circumstances)?
- What were you thinking or feeling as it was unfolding?
- What did you do?
- What did you want to accomplish by what you did?
- What would God have said you should have done?
- Read Matthew 6 four times in the next week. Each time record one verse related to worry and what you should think and do as a result of the truth in that verse.
- Read Philippians 4:4-9 and write a one-page essay on “How to have the peace that surpasses understanding.”
- Memorize Philippians 4:4-9
- Summarize Philippians 4:4-9 in 2-4 easily memorable steps. Write them on three 3×5 cards and post them in three conspicuous places. When you are tempted to worry, quote Philippians 4:4-9 then go through the steps.
- Make a “think” list of specific truths and promises of God to meditate on when you start to worry.
- Make a “prayer” list of problems you tend to worry about. Pray daily for wisdom and strength to handle them.
- Memorize Isaiah 26:3
- Memorize 2 Corinthians 5:9 and Romans 8:28-29
- Make a list of the problems you worry about. Answer the following questions about each concern:
- What is the specific problem?
- What have I done about it?
- What do Biblical principles command me to do about it?
- What steps am I going to take to address the problem?
- Begin reading In the Arena of the Mindby John Vandegriff. (Mark the 3-5 most helpful sentences in each chapter. Write a 1-3 sentence personal application of each chapter.)