I have no idea how many times I’ve read chapter five of the book of Matthew.
Sixty-five years of sermons every Sunday, Bible classes in Sunday School and Wednesday nights, a Bible course every semester for four years of college, personal Bible study, teaching Bible classes to the young and old accumulates into plenty of exposure to the Bible. Memorizing Scripture truly puts it in your heart, but it can slip away with just a little neglect.
My head knows that Jesus told us not to worry. His experiences on earth no doubt just reinforced His deep understanding of our human nature. He used word pictures to stress an abiding truth: we don’t need to worry.
I love this question from His Sermon on the Mount:
“Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?” Matt. 5:27
Our head easily responds in answer to His question, “Of course I can’t add an hour to my life by worry.” But our heart has this little nudge that wants to hold on to control. Even our head can slip into, “But what if . . . “.
In this chapter of Matthew Jesus tells us not to worry about:
- your life
“So don’t worry about tomorrow, because tomorrow will have its own worries. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” Matt. 5:34
Good intentions to remember this passage are not enough.
Our Sunday morning Bible class is known for its prayer warriors. We begin class with a list of concerns to pray for as well as moments of praise. Yesterday our immediate concern was for our teacher. She begins a battle with cancer this week, so we prayed at the beginning of class and again before we left. Chemotherapy is the first line of attack medically, but our prayers have been surrounding her for weeks.
And the prayer list? It comes in an email Sunday afternoon. This week was heavy with concerns and not as many praises.
- a husband with a mental breakdown
- a brother with prostrate cancer
- recovery from breast cancer surgery, chemo
- so many extended family members with cancer
- a close friend with progressive MS
Sarah Young observes that when adversities strike, our instinct is to doubt the goodness of God (Jesus Calling, 187). That must be why Scripture is full of words to assure us that God is with us.
I am the Lord your God,
who holds your right hand,
and I tell you, “Don’t be afraid.
I will help you.” Isaiah 41:13
Knowing that feelings of anxiety are useless, that fear sucks up energy — just the knowing may be enough to turn feelings around.
But usually not. Sometimes we even hide these feelings because in our head we know Jesus promised us we don’t need to worry.
Again, from Sarah Young, “bring your anxieties out into the Light of His Presence” (Jesus Calling, 210). Any good counselor will tell you the same thing, just in different ways. Don’t hide those feelings or stuff them down into the secret places of your heart. Lay them out. The believer can lay them out before God in prayer. Confess those feelings, then read words of comfort.
- Use your shield of faith to extinguish those flaming arrows. (Eph. 6:16)
- Surely God is my salvation. I will trust and not be afraid. (Isaiah 12:2)
- Tell me in the morning about your love because I trust you. Show me what I should do, because my prayers go up to you. Psalm 143:8
And then, I find this.
Ann Voskamp’s astonishing declaration: “The answer to anxiety is the adoration of Christ” (one thousand gifts devotional. 30)
How to adore Christ? With a song of thanks. Too simple, you think? Yes and no. Until you begin your list, your head says this is a silly way to get rid of my worries.
But your heart learns little by little, gift by gift, until the list is nearing 4000 that God has been taking care of the small and the great since the Creation. Ann says, “A song of thanks steadies everything” (30).
The simple act of focusing on the good in your life sends a powerful message to your heart. Life is better than I thought. God has truly blessed me with more than I need.
Does it look gray and wintery out your window today? With snow in the middle of the country, winter still hangs on in many places. Sunshine always makes me smile, so if you don’t have any sunshine today, get ready. I’m sending you a bucketful from MiddleTennessee.
Did you catch it?
Counting these gifts today:
3999. beautiful blue skies and warmer temperatures
4000. friends, brothers and sisters, who pray for each other
4001. God’s words that never get old from the Holy Scriptures
4002. Ann Voskamp’s words that inspired me to count
4003. the promise of spring
4004. anticipating lunch with neice and friends this week