“Therefore, do not be anxious for tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Let the day’s own trouble be sufficient for the day.” Matthew 6:34
Jesus had more to say about trouble, anxiety, worry, etc. in the Sermon on the Mount than any other single topic. 6:25-34 focuses exclusively on this theme and 6:19-24 serves as a foundation to describe the causes and solutions.
An aside here: somewhat surprisingly we do not find in the Sermon on the Mount much material that constitutes what might be thought of as "traditional theology." Jesus did not discuss God's nature and attributes, or the Spirit's activities, or even His own atonement. His topics were very life-centered, aimed generally at the things that get between us and God.
Trouble is certainly a common obstruction. Whatever the trouble is we tend to think of it as a referendum on God or ourselves. That is, if God cared enough for me He would remove the problem. Or because He has not removed the problem then perhaps He's not all He's cracked up to be. Or because the problem remains I must not have enough faith. These three options are all very bad, but common, theology. Perform a little soul-searching right now and see if any of these bad ideas have taken hold. If so, it’s time to be free of them and this section of the Sermon shows the way.
This topic of being less susceptible to worry can take volumes to address, but let me try to shed a little light on the most important ways we can positively approach trouble and be more free from worry. The teaching in 6:16-24 sets the foundation for Jesus' extended treatment of worry. He used three illustrations to make the same point.
First, we are to store up treasures in heaven as opposed to earthly treasures (6:16-21). We surely know this is true, but having a roof over our heads, a car that starts, and the latest smart phone clamor so loudly for our attention. Jesus always emphasized relationships over things. Finding a way to serve someone today will be far more eternal than purchasing another gadget.
Physical needs always shout louder than spiritual necessities. An unfortunate side-effect is the accompanying anxiety over our things or our lives or the people we care about. All of these, by the way, almost always work out. Of course some truly bad things happen, but don't live your life by the exceptions. Give too much power to your problems and you will soon lose sight of the solution. God gives enough blessings to get through each day and these blessings are almost always found in the people around you. God is relational, and all good theology is founded on our relationship to Him and others. So serve someone, or ask God to help you be aware of the people He sends to serve and encourage you.
The second illustration concerns having a "sound eye" (6:22-23). The word literally means single, so the focus is literally on focus. Our main spiritual task may be summed us as becoming “aware.” God is active. Father, Son, and Spirit are always loving, always smiling, always there. Again in a terrible irony, the world screams, God whispers. Or to change the analogy to light: the world is Vegas, God is a starry night. Spiritual listening and watching requires some quiet and stillness.
The final illustration concerns dedication and obedience (6:24). The choice is binary: God or mammon. Nothing in life makes sense without a primary commitment to serve God. The great fault of American Christianity is that we try to mix in a little mammon with our faith, or more often a little faith with our mammon. Then we wonder why we still feel so unsatisfied.
So if we can now we give our highest and best to God, then we’re ready to respond to trouble and the worry that accompanies it. According to so many teachings in every strata of the Bible, God simply will not allow trouble to overtake you. As He provided manna daily (and only daily) He will provide a grace that is sufficient for the trouble you face today. There is simply no way around this immutable fact.
Our problem, in the main, is stretching our cluttered minds into the future and envisioning countless scenarios in which God is effectively absent. Again, on the one hand our imagined apocalypse almost certainly won’t happen, and even if it did it certainly will not be beyond God's ability to provide help. If we live by faith then we are running in a race that we've already won.
So you will have a trouble today, a little or a lot. Focus on God, take a deep breath of the Spirit, and reach for the hand of Jesus to get through. You will.
Dr. Terry Ellis
July 31, 2016