I Fear We Fear
by Joseph Franks
Our Worry is Constant.
Yes, we all have the same problem. All of us are fearful, worrisome, or anxious about something or someone. It could be we are fearful over our aging parents. It could be we are worried about our children gone away to college. Some of us worry about making our next paycheck. Others are fearful about losing our retirement portfolio. We have friends who are worried they might never get married. Then we also have friends who are worried their troubled marital relationship may never improve. Perhaps there is someone reading this blog who has “Third World” problems — they are anxious over where they will find their next meal, where they will find a warm place to sleep, and whether or not this will be their last night on earth. Most reading this blog are anxious over lesser issues — pathetically we are anxious over peer-pressure, physical image issues, athletic demise, decorating faux pas, ecclesiastical adjustments, and cars with too many miles. Yes, the list could go on and on, but this is true — we all have problems being fearful, worrisome, or anxious.
Our Worry is Sinful.
Well, what does Jesus’ think? Listen to his instruction, “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on ….” (Matthew 6:25) This is Jesus’ loving counsel. It is the wish and will of our Master. This is also the Law of the Sovereign God. His righteous expectations are clearly stated, and therefore we have another problem. Not only are we fearful, worrisome, or anxious, but we are rebelliously fearful, worrisome, or anxious. We now have issues with our environment, ourselves, and our God. Our anxiety is disobedience.
Our Worry is Covered.
We have a compassionate God. In the past, the Father looked upon our transgressions (including fear) with love and sent his Son. The Son came. He experienced our life, earned our righteousness, and partook our deserved wrath and judgment. The Son lived and died that we might not receive the just wages of our sin. And then the Holy Spirit moved in. We were declared to be blameless, holy, and sin-free. We became God’s sacred space, and never shall we be otherwise.
Our Worry is Decreasing.
And the God who loved us in the past, continues to love us in the present. Today, he encourages us to love him, obey him, keep his Law, trust him, and make progress in worrying less and less. The Spirit is sovereignly working within gifting us more and more faith, and following his lead we are training ourselves to think more and more like Jesus. We are being transformed by the renewing of our minds, and the result is we are learning to live like we sing, “Tis so sweet to trust in Jesus.”
Our Worry is an Ever-Present Temptation.
But still we struggle with sin. Our flesh is weak, and there are countless opportunities for us to sin by being fearful, worrisome, or anxious. Therefore, our Wonderful Counselor has words of encouragement for us. Jesus gives us several reasons why we ought never be fearful, worrisome, or anxious.
Our Worry is Groundless.
Jesus says, “Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? … And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?” (Matthew 6:26, 28-30) Our Heavenly Father feeds birds which have no eternal value to him. They are soulless creatures who live, fly, die, and rot. Then look at how God clothes the grass, flowers, bushes, and trees. Each season, they are majestically adorned though they are destined to live, wilt, die, mown, and thrown into the fire. However, we are different. We are beloved children of the Heavenly Father. We are custom-created by him in the womb and marked with his image and likeness. We are eternally foreknown and then we are regenerated and recreated according to his all-encompassing salvific will. We are citizens of his Kingdom today, and we will dwell in the Father’s house forever and ever. Christian brothers and sisters, we who are eternally beloved and immutably attached to the Son, how can we worry when we see God caring for that which is comparably trivial? Hear the poem of John Stott:
Said the robin to the sparrow: I should really like to know, why these anxious human beings, rush about and worry so. Said the sparrow to the robin, friend I think that it must be, that they have no heavenly Father, such as cares for your and me.
Our Worry is Helpless.
Jesus says, “And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?” (Matthew 6:27) When we worry about that which has already been done, what does such worry accomplish? Our anxiety and fear cannot change the past. What is done is done. Additionally, worrying about the future is equally vain. Ninety-percent of that which we worry about never comes to fruition. It proves to be wasted pain. And in regards to the ten-percent of trouble that actually comes our way, prayer may help, friends may help, action may help, but fear, worry, and anxiety does nothing. Worrying is simply a waste of time, energy, and emotion. It is a futile endeavor that only makes matters worse. It is offensive to God and paralyzing to you and me.
Our Worry is Poor Worship.
Jesus says, “Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” (Matthew 6:31-33) Again we hear the stated desire of our Heavenly Father, we are not to be anxious. Why? Because this is Gentile-like. Fear, worry, and anxiety are traits of pagans and not those filled and fruited by the Holy Spirit. It might be fair to say that our anxiety is divine slander. We are to be different than the Gentiles. As worshipers of God, we are to focus on Him, his Kingdom, his gifted righteousness, and his worship. Gentiles may worry, but we are to “not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present our requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard our hearts and our minds in Christ Jesus.” Yes, we are to “learn the secret of being content in any and every situation,” and this comes by focusing on “whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable– if anything is excellent or praiseworthy — we think about such things.” And the glorious result is “the God of peace is with us.” (Adapted from Philippians 4) Yes, we “cast all our anxiety on Him because He cares for us.” (1 Peter 5:7)
Therefore, Let us Worry Less about the Future and Worship More Today
Jesus repeats his wisdom and instruction, “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.” (Matthew 6:34) Perhaps a good paraphrase is, “Why borrow tomorrow’s troubles as if today’s were inadequate.” Again, why worry about that which probably will not even transpire? And God will give us strength for tomorrow — tomorrow. As my father says, “We can cross that bridge when we get there.” Therefore, let us focus on today, and let us worship instead of worry.
One day when John Wesley was away from home someone came running up to him saying, “Wesley, Wesley, your house has burned down! Your house has burned down!” It is said that Wesley replied, “No it hasn’t, because I don’t own a house. The one structure I have been living in belongs to the Lord, and if it has burned down, that is his business and one less responsibility for me to worry about.”
One day Tauler, the fourteenth-century mystic and preacher, met a beggar. “God give you a good day, my friend,” he said. The beggar answered, “I thank God I never had a bad one.” Then Tauler said, “God give you a happy life, my friend.” “I thank God,” said the beggar “I am never unhappy.” Tauler in amazement said, “What do you mean?” “Well,” said the beggar, “When it is fine, I thank God; when it rains, I thank God; when I have plenty, I thank God; when I am hungry, I thank God; and since God’s will is my will and whatever pleases him pleases me, why should I say that I am unhappy when I am not?” Tauler looked at the man in astonishment. “Who are you?” he asked. “I am a king,” said the beggar. “Where is your kingdom?” asked Tauler. And the beggar answered quietly, “In my heart.”
Friends, let us trust God and ask him for greater faith. This is not what the pagans do. This is not what unrepentant and foolish Christians do. However, this is the way we live as repentant, growing, Children of the Heavenly Father. We do not excuse our sin; we confess and forsake it. Therefore, let us all seek to have greater faith and better worship. Let us ask God to assist us in saying “No” to the temptation to fear and grant us more and more sanctifying success in saying “Yes” to faithful, fear-free, worship. Such is honoring to the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. It is the reasonable way of living for those who are the beloved children of the Heavenly Father.