Why Worry Is A Waste of Time
I got the idea for this sermon on a portion of Matthew chapter six after experiencing an 11-day period in which my server, and then my Internet access, both failed in the same week. After replacing the power supply and main logic board in the server, it took my Internet Service Provider (a certain Fortune 100 company who shall remain nameless lest I get sued) 5 agonizing days to correct a malfunction in some newer and faster hardware that I ordered and installed. Although I was furious with my ISP and their inept response to my problem, I realized there was nothing I could do about it, at least for that day. So I made several trips to the local library to stay caught up on my emails while I worked on another book back home in the evening. My point here is that I had a choice – I could either waste time and grow more frustrated waiting for my problems to be fixed, or I could take a proactive approach and use the down time for other projects. We can either sit around and serve time waiting, or we can make the time available to us serve us. Life has taught me that chilling out and hoping things get better is a cop-out because it’s tantamount to taking the easy way out. Anybody can do that, but being lazy and idle, or feeling defeated, will only make the situation worse.
I ascertained early on in my situation of being off-line and temporarily unable to get much work done that worrying about my inability to access my websites wasn’t going to solve anything. That got me to thinking about some sensational things I’ve seen on the Internet lately – the possible collapse of the dollar, the possibility that the Occupy and 99% Movements of which I am proud to be a part could be targeted for prosecution for political reasons, and the constant reminder that the Middle East situation as it currently stands could explode into all-out war any day. Then there is the more far-out stuff people worry about such as all the conspiracy theories, claims of space aliens, the fictional planet Nabiru, insistence that the world will end on December 21st, 2012, and let’s not forget comets and asteroids while we’re at it. Then again, there are millions of good people out there who have real stuff to be greatly concerned about, such as being unable to find suitable work – or any work at all – or who may be facing the loss of a vehicle and a home as a result of unemployment. If people waste time worrying about this and all other things over which we have little control, is it any wonder that so many people take anti-depressants and mood-stabilizing drugs? It’s time for us all to pause for a moment and take a deep breath and then slowly exhale. See? That’s not so bad. Now let’s all take the next step together and put all this into perspective from Jesus’ point of view. Worrying is a waste of time. This sounds simple enough, but it can be hard to do in the world in which we live today. It is easy to get stressed out by all the things going on around us. The cure for all this can be found in Matthew chapter 6, verses 25 through 34.
“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink, or about your body; what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or stow away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life? And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will He not much more clothe you, oh you of little faith? So do not worry, saying ‘what shall we eat’, or ‘what shall we drink’, or ‘what shall we wear’? For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own” (NIV)
There is plenty to worry about in life, and all to varying degrees. We take a chance every time we drive a car, or even when we simply step out of our homes. The chances of being in a traffic accident are higher then, say, being in a plane crash or struck and killed by a meteorite falling from the sky. Worry is based on fear of the unknown. It is one of the most basic human emotions. But worry and stress can be brought under control by using the methods that Jesus taught from the scripture I quoted above. “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life; what you will eat or drink, or about your body; what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes?” The message Jesus was giving us here is that we need to prioritize correctly and understand what is most important. We can stop worrying when we start getting what is most important in its correct order in life. He is putting first things first. Life is more important than food. Better to be alive and hungry than to be dead. Jesus goes on from there: ”Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?” To call this a profound question would be an understatement.
Worrying is useless! Stressing out is pointless! There is documented medical evidence that this is so. It raises your heart rate, your respiration and your blood pressure. Stress and worry can give you a heart attack or a stroke. I should know, I was fortunate enough to survive a stroke several years ago and I learned my lesson. I can truthfully say that I am at a point in life where I just don’t let things bother me like I did when I was younger. Doing so can only make each of us die a little younger, so why go to such trouble? Worry is a negative emotion. Negative emotions produce negative symptoms like anxiety. Anxiety produces all kinds of ailments including physical, emotional/psychiatric and spiritual. Anxiety and worry can make you go crazy. They can literally make you sick.
The thing to do instead is to replace all the negativity associated with worry and turn it into something positive. Take the anxiety, the worry and the stress and replace them all with the peace of Christ, understanding that worrying can’t change the outcome of anything. St. Paul wrote that the peace of Christ was “a peace that surpasses all human understanding”. Once we occupy ourselves with the task of attaining this Peace – and yes, it is definitely a reachable goal – you will find that the worry and stress you’ve been suffering from for God-knows-how-long, is suddenly not worth the time it’s been taking up. There are simply not enough hours in the day to be bothered with one single minute of worry, stress and anxiety.
But what did Jesus say to do instead? “Seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these other things will be given to you as well”. We need to get our priorities straight. God first, above all else. If we’re not taking this crucial first step then we are missing the mark. This means letting go of our hatreds, our fears, our anger, and our irrational need for material possessions. Why do we need a bigger house, faster car or new clothes? Remember what Jesus said: “Look at the birds of the air. They neither sow nor reap nor stow away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?” Indeed we are, in God’s sight. Just knowing this can alleviate a lot of stress and worry. For example, does it scare you to think about what might happen if things in your life were to get completely out of control, even through no fault of your own? Hey, that’s normal for a lot of people, and it’s nothing to be ashamed of. The key is to learn to let go of our pride and the notion that it’s up to us to solve our own problems, and let God take charge. He can do so much more than we can anyway.
“Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own”. This is what I call the pure genius of Christ. You may not hear of Jesus being spoken about like that, but it’s the truth. Jesus wants us to stop worrying about things that don’t matter and to focus on the things that do. He wants us to not be anxious or stressed out about things that may be beyond our control. The things that matter the most are the things that matter to God. The things that matter only to us are the things that matter the least. Don’t worry about tomorrow. Tomorrow will worry about itself. Instead of worrying about bad things happening, take whatever steps you need to take to make sure good things happen in their place. We need to keep in mind that God is in charge. Paul wrote in the New Testament, “If God is for us, then who can be against us?” This is the ultimate antidote to worry and fear. We really need to stop being so fearful, especially when it is to the point where fear prevents us from becoming all who we are meant to be. Fear can actually prevent us from succeeding and can hold back our development as individuals. That’s why replacing worry with the peace of Christ is a crucial first step towards banishing worry from our lives for good. I have simply made up my mind to stop wasting time worrying and to start living well. God has already given each of you the power to do the same. To tap into this power, just follow the example of Christ. To learn how to do that, get a Bible and start reading it. All the answers are right there. Knowledge of God, wrote King Solomon in the Book of Proverbs, is the beginning of all wisdom. So if you want to be smarter or if you simply want to enrich yourself, there is a very good place to start.
Worry is a negative emotion. It eats us up inside and keeps us from growing. We waste our time worrying about whether something bad is going to happen or not. In 99% of the cases it turns out that what we worried about never occurs anyway. We can all fight worry with anticipation. Join with me and follow Christ’s example by anticipating the future as a series of opportunities, expecting a positive outcome rather than a negative one. You will be surprised at the difference this makes. Besides, anticipating the future in a positive way is so much more fun than sitting around worrying. Banish worry from your life today. It’s an important first step towards personal growth. Follow Christ’s example and He will guide you, pray for guidance and your prayers will be answered. Until next week, keep this in mind in your everyday living and live without worry.