What’s the Matter with Anxiety?

fear

For those of you who do not already know, I recently began pursuing my Master of Divinity from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. I am so blessed and so thankful to be beginning my graduate degree so quickly after graduating from Taylor only a year ago, getting married only six months ago, and beginning my new job at LifeWay Christian Resources only about four months ago. Many of you know that it was always my plan to begin school right away, and though I was unsure of how that was going to work out as I we moved to Nashville, the Lord has seen it fit for me to begin my studies this month.

This January I am taking a class in Biblical Exposition. It has been a great experience so far as I am learning a lot about the nuts and bolts of preaching. I have never been formally taught how to preach before, so though I do have some experience preaching and teaching, it is a wonderful feeling to be formally instructed in the ways of biblical exposition.

The first assignment for our class was to write a sermon on any New Testament text of our choosing. I chose Matthew 6:24-34, a text that was particularly transformative when I was in high school. I have not yet received this sermon in graded form, so beware of any heresy that may be present. In this post I will share my general points and some key ideas. At the bottom of this post will be a link for you to download the sermon in its entirety.

The issue of worry/anxiety, is directly related, I think, to having an eternal perspective, which I wrote about just a few days ago.

Follow along in your Bible if you’d like as the passages are only referenced, not included, in the excerpts below.

What’s the Matter with Anxiety?

In Matthew 6:24-34, we find ourselves right in the middle of the Sermon on the Mount. Kent Hughes, former Senior Pastor of College Church in Wheaton, IL, says that the Sermon on the Mount is perhaps the most profound passage of Scripture in the entire New Testament. Immediately preceding our text for this morning, Jesus speaks on matters of investment. It is no secret that prior to his teaching ministry Jesus was a carpenter and not an economist, but in his infinite wisdom, the Christ teaches us in chapter 6, verse 21, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” The act of investing in heavenly treasure is both an act of worship and an act of wisdom.

Where Jesus’ teaching on eternal investment ends is where our study will begin today.

Point #1: Anxiety is a matter of worship (Matt. 6:24)

Building off of his words regarding worldly and heavenly investment, Jesus says to serve both God and money is impossible—you simply cannot do it, just as a slave cannot serve two masters. For his immediate disciples and the broader crowd to whom he is speaking, Jesus is drawing a clear line between temporary comfort and eternal fulfillment, a life of idolatry and a life of faithfulness.

One of the things we worry about most is our stuff. Just think about all of the insurance policies and security systems we maintain on a regular basis. Again, it’s not wrong to protect your livelihood, but when push comes to shove, our worldly goods will attempt to dethrone our worthy Savior as our one God. Let me say that again, when push comes to shove, our worldly goods will attempt to dethrone our worthy Savior as our one God—it’s going to happen. We can’t pull double duty, and when our stuff overthrows our Savior on the throne of our sinful hearts we get anxious. Why? We get anxious because our stuff cannot bear the weight of our sin—only JESUS can do that. Deep down we know this because if we truly thought our stuff was enough, we wouldn’t be anxious about it sustaining us until the end.

Anxiety is not merely a matter of worship; anxiety is a misdirection of worship. When we worship that which is temporary, we fear for eternity. But when we worship that which is eternal, we fear for nothing.

Point #2: Anxiety is a matter of value (Matt. 6:25-30)

There are two values I’d like us to consider here: 1) The value of human life and 2) The value of heavenly provision.

Value #1: The Value of Human Life

God says in the midst of creation, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness” (Gen. 1:26). What is the meaning of this? In what way is this important? To be made in the image of God is nice and all, but really, why does it matter? John Piper, theologian and former pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church, writes, “The imago Dei is that in man which constitutes him as he-whom-God-loves.”

The same God that rules the birds of the air rules the men of the earth; O that we may trust in his provision as the birds do! John Stott, theologian and avid bird watcher in his lifetime, has a poem about this verse:

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 you and me.”

If our God provides for the birds of the air, how much more might he provide for those created in his likeness? Might we not forget the value found in the image we bear!

Value #2: The Value of Heavenly Provision.

In Philippians 4:19 Paul writes, “And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.” The writer of Hebrews writes in chapter 13, verse 5: “Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, ‘I will never leave you or forsake you.”

God’s Word makes it clear that God provides, thus erasing any need for our anxiety.

Anxiety is not merely a matter of value; anxiety is a misunderstanding of value. When we forget our image-bearing value, we lose sight of God’s ever-present provision. When we remember our God-given value, we cling to our God-given provision.

Point #3: Anxiety is a matter of time (Matt. 6:31-34)

If this is all we’ve got—this life, this body, this job, this family—we have good reason to anxiously protect it. If life ends when we breathe our last bit of oxygen, if life ends when our heart stops pumping, if life ends when our brain shuts down and our eyes close with a finality only ultimate death can bring, WE MUST BE ANXIOUS.

But brothers and sisters, life doesn’t end with the failure of our bodies. Because of the perfect life, timely death, and miraculous resurrection of Jesus Christ, WE MUST NOT BE ANXIOUS. Christ has afforded us eternal life without room for fear of death or loss; we must NOT cheapen the eternal implications of the gospel by fearing the loss of temporary comforts.

Anxiety is not merely a matter of time; anxiety is a miscalculation of time. When we live as though life ends with the failure of the flesh, we live as though there is no existence of the eternal. 

Conclusion

Revelation #1: Anxiety reveals idolatry.

In verse 24, we see that anxiety is a matter of worship. Not one of us can serve two masters, so a decision must be made: we will serve God or money? Which one will reign over our hearts? Ultimately, anxiety is not a merely a matter of worship—it is a misdirection of worship.

Revelation #2: Anxiety reveals a lack of trust.

In verses 25-30 we see that anxiety is a matter of value. Jesus clearly communicates two things in this passage: 1) The value of human life and 2) The value of heavenly provision. If we forget our God-given value, we lose sight of God’s ever-present provision. Ultimately, anxiety is not merely a matter of value—it is a misunderstanding of value.

Revelation #3: Anxiety reveals a lack of eternal perspective.

In verses 31-34 we see that anxiety is a matter of time. If this is all we’ve got, temporary comforts are worth worrying about. But this isn’t all we’ve got. The life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ has afforded us life beyond the grave, eradicating any need for anxiety or fear. Ultimately, anxiety is not merely a matter of time—it is a miscalculation of time.

So let’s finally answer the question: “What’s the matter with anxiety?”

The matter with anxiety is that when we miscalculate our time, we misdirect our worship and misunderstand our value.

When we lack eternal perspective, we worship the temporary and forget whose image we bear.

May God give us the grace to prayerfully worship him, always keeping our eyes on eternity never forsaking that which he has afforded us in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Brothers and sisters, I beg you: cling to Christ for all provision, both now and for forever. He is enough.

Click here to download the full sermon in PDF form.

The Problem with our Perspective

perspective

Perspective is dangerous because we all have it and are so rarely aware of the way it influences every action we take every day we wake up.

I think we have a perspective problem.

Christians too often cruise down the highway of life avoiding any difficulty and fearing death as the Scriptures nag at us from the backseat reminding us of the brevity of life and the reality of eternity.

Randy Alcorn understands this idea. Alcorn is an author of numerous books including The Treasure Principle, The Goodness of God, If God is Good, Why Do We Hurt?, and a number of other works. Additionally, Alcorn created and directs a ministry called Eternal Perspective Ministries, who describes its “heartbeat” as:

At EPM it’s our conviction we must learn to live now with the perspective that will be ours one minute after we die.

As there will be no second chance for the unbeliever to go back and live his life over again, this time accepting Christ, so there will be no second chance for the believer to go back and live his life over again, this time serving Christ. Now is our window of opportunity. Now is our chance to follow Christ, speak the truth and reach out to the needy in love. Now is our chance to invest our lives in eternity.

What if we lived this life as though it is but a preface in the reality of eternity, rather than an altogether different existence?

What would our lives look like if we interacted with people with the understanding that we are not guaranteed tomorrow?

I love theology. I truly do. A robust theology and a big view of God are crucial to the life of the Christian. But living a life that honors God and glorifies him is made up of much more than being theologically astute.

Perspective is pervasive—it affects every area of our life, whether or not we recognize it. Here are three implications of perspective:

How we Think

The state of one’s perspective lies solely in the mind, making the thought-life of the Christian the epicenter of the perspective problem. Perspective dramatically affects how we think. Perhaps one of the most prevalent examples of a perspective problem is the presence of fear.

A lack of eternal perspective is the kindling for an anxious mind. Viewing life through any lens except that which considers the eternal invites anxiety. If we forget the extent of eternity in the midst of the pressures of the present, we have every reason to fear—for what is there to save us?

Maintaining an eternal perspective frees the mind of fear by focusing on future fulfillment in Christ. 

How we Love

This point lies in close proximity with “How we act,” but has a unique focus. Think of your closest friends and family members. Think of your coworkers. Think of those who have wounded you. Perspective profoundly shapes the way in which we treat those around us.

A lack of eternal perspective sets the stage for a self-serving heart. If we only view our family and friends in light of the present with no regard for the future, we tend to see them in a utilitarian light, only thinking of how we might profit from our relationships.

What if we treated everyone with whom we come in contact as if we knew we were going to die tomorrow? How much more might we encourage and love one another? Here’s the kicker: we don’t know we’re going to die tomorrow, but we also don’t know we’re going to live through tomorrow.

Maintaining an eternal perspective fuels the heart with urgent love by reminding us of our brief life.

How we Act

Finally, perspective profoundly affects our actions. Loving others is an action, and is briefly discussed above. However, missionally speaking, how might perspective influence living a missional life?

A lack of eternal perspective produces a passive Christian. If we forget how little time we have on this earth, if we forget the length of eternal life in relation to the brevity of earthly life, we lack the urgency in evangelism and obedience.

While we are encouraged by our ability to do all things through Christ who strengthens us as Paul writes in Philippians 4:13, we ignore the brevity of life as David describes in Psalm 144:4.

How might we live lives on mission if we truly believed David’s prayer and Paul’s encouragement?