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How to not worry

Sermon on the Mount  •  Sermon  •  Submitted
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It is much easier to not worry when our focus is on heavenly treasures rather than worldly ones.



There is one thing that most people seem to have a natural talent for - and that is worry.
Admittedly, some are more prone to it than others, but even those like myself who are pretty good at shrugging off worries, well, the worries are still there, and it doesn’t take all that much for them to start bubbling to the surface.
But for those of you who excel at the art of worrying, the is generally no limit to the things you can worry about. Will it rain on my washing? Is the traffic going to be bad on my drive this morning? Are those people talking about me? Will people think I look fat in this shirt?
Actually you just need a seed of an idea, and the over engaged imagination gets into overdrive.
You’re lying in bed and you think - now, did I lock the front door. And then you think what if someone breaks in and steals everything while I’m asleep? What if they steal the car keys and then take off with my car? How am I going to get to work without a car? What if they steal the computer? There’s a whole bunch of photos on there and if they go, they’ll be lost forever.
The art of worrying - you sometimes think back and realise how stupid it is, but that worry can be real.
And what is the piece of advice that does almost nothing during these times? It’s the person who says: “Don’t worry about it”.
It’s a lovely sentiment, but for those of you good at worrying, this can have a mind of its own. Saying don’t worry, is almost like saying don’t be hungry when you haven’t eaten for hours and then someone starts talking about food. It just makes you think more about whatever it is your worrying about.
But that advice is exactly what we get in our passage this morning. “… do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear.”
It’s great advice, and as we look further into this, which I’ll do soon, we’ll see that its even really sound logic. But I’m guessing that many of you probably know this passage… that you understand the logic… and yet you still worry about a lot of things.
So what’s going on?
Well, I’m not going to make any promises that at the end of this message you’ll suddenly stop worrying. Actually, if I can make a guarantee, it’s probably that if you worry a lot, you’ll continue to worry after this message. But I do hope that in this message, there may be some practices you can work on which will help you to worry less. And if you can work towards worrying less than what you currently do, then we’re moving in the right direction.
So, how do we turn this from a good theoretical piece of advice, into something which makes a different to how we operate in this world?
This is the question I want to explore this morning.

Your treasure

Well, while we’ll find some answers in the section starting from verse 25, that is, where Jesus first begins with the idea of telling us not to worry, we’ll do well to realise that verse 25 actually starts with the word ‘therefore’. And this is a pretty good hint that we can’t dive into this idea of not worrying until we understand what comes before it.
And the immediate context which is going to help in this regard will see us looking at the section starting at verse 19.
But, you know what? Even that context is best understood when we look at the overall flow of thought going throughout the section we call the Sermon on the Mount.
You see, there is this underlying idea in all of Jesus’ words - you need to stop and look at this world from a different perspective.
The different perspective started right back with the beatitudes. There he told us to stop thinking of being blessed in the way the world think of being blessed. You’re blessing rather comes when you draw nearer to Christ - it often even comes through struggles and hardships.
He gave us a new perspective on the law - it’s not some playbook to be manipulated, for your own benefit.
He gave us a new perspective on being religious - it’s not a tool for self promotion.
You see, in all of this, the point is that there is a heavenly perspective. When you look through the prism of God - which mind you, is the prism of the creator of all things - then priorities change… the end goal becomes different.
And so we take this idea and we come to chapter 6 verse 19. Here Jesus begins to describe the dichotomy in very concrete terms.
He does so by introducing the idea of your treasure.
What is it that you treasure most?
Now I have a strong suspicion that if I asked this question to each of you, there’s probably a good chance that the answer you would verbalize would differ from what we really treasure.
That is, we would probably avoid saying things like money and possessions, and rather focus on things like family, or possibly our faith. And quite likely there would be truth in that.
But then, if you’re honest and think about where you put most of your energy or what you get most excited by, or what goals you try hardest to achieve, I wonder if it’s actually more about wealth or possessions.
Now this isn’t to say you shouldn’t have a savings goal and work towards it, but when this goal takes the centre of our life, we’ve got a problem.
Let’s just see what Jesus says:
Matt 6:19 “‘Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal.”
The logic is quite sound. Earthly treasures don’t last. They break down. If they don’t break down, they get stolen. And even if they don’t break down or get stolen, guess what, at some point you’re going to die and then you don’t have it anyway.
Having the saving goal to say, buy a new car, that might not be bad in and of itself, but if you fail to keep it in perspective of what is going to happen, you’ve got a problem.
Jesus offers the alternative:
Matt 6:20 “But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal.”
So what are treasures in heaven? Well, the greatest treasure is our salvation. The knowledge that we have a place with our Lord for all eternity.
But I think the concept of treasures in heaven can actually be made more broad. I think treasures in heaven can refer to anything that works toward seeing God’s kingdom come on earth. That can of course mean evangelism. But even more broadly, that which honours and glorifies God. I would add to that things like helping the poor… looking after the vulnerable… even caring for the environment.
So the question is - what is it that you treasure? Not just what you’d say if the pastor asked you… but what is it that you really care about?
This really is an important question. Because when we move back to our original question of how we worry less, we’re actually going to start to see that this is going to make a significant impact.

Your eyes

But before we move back to thinking about our worries, Jesus moves into a discussion about how healthy your eyes are.
Of course, let’s not think about this too much in medical terms. If you’ve got poor eye sight, don’t worry, Jesus isn’t trying to tell you that you can’t have this light he’s talking about. Rather, Jesus is making a point about the fact that what we see and look at makes such a difference.
If your gaze constantly fixates on things of this world, you’re heart is probably going to fixate on that too. But if your gaze is on things that honour God, then our heart is going to be so much more inclined to follow.
I think this really calls for honest reflection on our own behalf. And for full disclosure, I certainly want to recognise that this passage is speaking to me and my own circumstance. I can very much be guilty of gazing on earthly things - and this is something I try to work on - to varying degree of success.
Perhaps a question for you to ponder - let’s assume you have an accountant who can see where you spend all of your money, and also assume that your accountant doesn’t know you are a Christian. Now the question is: would your accountant be able to tell your a Christian by looking at where you spend your money?
What would this accountant think that you valued most?
In verse 24, Jesus states it clearly - you cannot serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other.
I think however that for many of us, we might dispute this. Perhaps not verbally. But in our actions, we try to give it a red hot go… trying to seek after the almighty dollar, and seeking after God at the same time.
This is not to say we need to shun money. Money is important. Jesus never said we shouldn’t have money. But money should be a tool for the kingdom, not the end. And this is the point of all of this. This is what we really should be seeing what we do.


Okay, well it is now that we come back to the question I started with - that is, how do we get a control of the worry in our life?
And as I pointed out before, this section starting in verse 25 starts with the words: “therefore”. In other words, this discussion should be informing how we approach this.
You see, if our focus is on heavenly treasure, then when Jesus says: “do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear”, the reality will be that those things really just don’t matter.

Birds and flowers

Jesus goes on to give two examples of why we shouldn’t worry.
The first being the birds of the air, which he reminds us don’t need to sow or reap, but yet always have what they need.
The second being flowers, who don’t labour or spin, yet always are dressed with splendour.
Jesus of course is getting at the heart of two of our greatest needs - to eat and to be clothed.
But here’s the thing. You can go, yeah yeah, I do trust God, but the worry remains.
But how much of that worry is because of misplaced treasure?
We’re not worried about whether we’re going to eat… what we’re actually worried about is whether we can eat the fancy food (like iceberg lettuce).
These examples Jesus gives actually make a lot more sense when our focus in on the heavenly treasures.
When we fix our eyes on God, we see a new reality. We see a reality where we can be blessed whether we have a lot or whether we have very little. Remember back to the beatitudes? Where Jesus completely turned upside down this idea of what it means to be blessed.
If you truly get that, then you’re actually not going to be worried whether you lose all your money, or whether you’re ridiculed, or whether you have a time of sorrow.
Because we remember that Jesus says that those who mourn are blessed. Those who are persecuted are blessed.

Seeking the kingdom

So what is the key to all of this?
Well, let me suggest that you will do well to pay attention to verse 33.
Matt 6:33 “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”
Let’s just break down this verse a bit because it really is important in all of this discussion.
It starts with the call to seek first his kingdom.
How do we do that? Well, seek after the things that honour and glorify God. Try to understand what this kingdom is about.
As we meditate on scripture, we will start to see a kingdom that is breaking through.
I recognise that perhaps all of the negative stuff that dominates our news might obscure our view of what God is doing, but amazing things do happen. We see lives change. We can see miracles happen. We can see prayers answered.
Look for where God is moving, and then join in.
This is how you are going to seek first his kingdom. Not in trying to manufacture it yourself, but in being where God is moving.
But remember, it’s not just seeking his kingdom, but also his righteousness. Your actions matter. Seek the way of Jesus - and if you’re not sure what that is, then perhaps a revision of the passages immediately before this one would be good.
When we seek after God’s kingdom first, what we then find is that all of that essential stuff, like eating and having clothes… well, that will be added as well.
But it doesn’t have to be our focus. Because seeking after God, is to seek after the God that provides.

Heavenly focus

There is a little saying which is actually a bad saying and obscures the truth of all of this.
You see, sometimes we’ll describe someone as being so heavenly focused that they are of no earthly good.
Perhaps in mind we have some sort of monk living in a monastery, always praying but doing little of any practical value.
But straight away we’re betraying our value of prayer.
You see prayer is so vital to all of this. We don’t pray to earn God’s favour. We pray because this is our connection with him. If we are to seek after his kingdom, we need to be in prayer.
But to be constantly in prayer is not to be of no earthly good. In fact, it is the very opposite. Prayer will actually lead us to be of the most optimum earthly good.
Through prayer, we will see where we can be making the biggest impact. Through prayer, we’ll see where God is working, which will then tell us where to join in.
It is only as we have this heavenly focus, that we actually see how it all fits together. And it is only as we see how it fits together that we can actually start to get a bit of control on our worry.


So when it says: “do not worry”, this is not just another empty trite comment that’s really just a useless thing to say. It will be if we don’t understand the bigger picture of what Jesus is saying. But when we cultivate a heavenly mindset, we’re going to be in a much better position to control your worries.
Now don’t get me wrong. You’re going to still worry.
If worry is a big issue for you, then even trying to do better at cultivating that heavenly mindset, you’re still going to have a lot of worries.
Don’t let that get you too down. Controlling your worries is a difficult thing. But I do believe you can start to make a difference.
But just don’t focus on the worries themselves. This passage is telling us to do the exact opposite. It is telling us instead to focus on the kingdom and how we can join in on what God is doing.
There are going to be many concerns. And being concerned about someone or something is okay. As long as you do it in the context of seeing the bigger kingdom perspective.
Let me end with the last verse which I think is a truism we can all agree on.
“Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough troubles of its own”.
I think this is a verse we can probably all give a hearty amen to.
But it’s true. There are troubles. But there is also a God who is looking after us and getting us through them. So focus on him, and his kingdom.
Let me pray...
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