"Do not be anxious about tomorrow." Matthew 6:34
The main conference room in our church serves as the study hall for all our staff kids after school. Well, I'm sure they at least occasionally study. Often we find messages left on the white board after the day's activities. It may be a simple "so and so was here!" Followed by several "so was I!" Occasionally they get more creative and draw a picture.
Last week we found the following: "Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Let the day's own trouble be sufficient for the day" (Matt. 6:34). It was then signed by one of our thirteen year old staff daughters.
I thought it was an interesting selection. At first, an adult might think a thirteen year old really doesn't have anything to worry about, but that simply means you're too old to remember what it was like to be thirteen. This verse obviously was important for that young lady, and it's not too hard to imagine why.
First, trouble is a part of every day. You'll have trouble today. You'll have trouble tomorrow. And no amount of prayer, good works, tithing, or denial is going to change that plain fact. A thirteen-years-old's trouble is just as real to her as a 55 year-old's trouble is to him. Each of us has a burden to bear in life and striving to get to a trouble-free life is simply unrealistic. It's not going to happen this side of heaven.
While I'm on the subject, I don't think that "finding someone worse off than me" is a good solution. You know the line: "I wept because I no shoes until I met a man who had no feet." That sounds vaguely like you're taking courage in someone else's pain. Besides what about the man with no feet? Does he have to find someone with no legs in order to have a better outlook on life? Again, this line of thinking is no solution.
Which brings us to the real solution: keep God first. That may sound trite and completely predictable, but I'm not writing this to win a creative writing contest. I want to draw attention to the context of Jesus' teaching about the day's trouble. Before this section of the Sermon on the Mount we find a string of teaching about priorities. "Lay up treasures in heaven." "Keep your eye focused." "You cannot serve God and mammon" (from Matt. 6:19-24). The verse preceding our text this week is "Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness" (Matt. 6:33).
The Greek word for anxiety has a root-meaning of division. That's a good description of what worry and anxiety do to us, they divide us internally. We are spiritually fractured, and the only source of wholeness is the peace that comes through God's presence.
The surest way to mute the personal transforming power of Christian faith is to make it an addendum to your life. Keep it on Sunday morning only. Don't allow it to affect the way you think, speak, or act during the week. Try to control all events around you. Make the pursuit of your own happiness your goal in life. These are just a few of the ways to ensure a divided and fractured life.
The only way to real peace is a relentless devotion to God that gives us a solid foundation and a strong superstructure. After we daily, even hourly, give God priority in our lives, then we can "add all these things" in appropriate and satisfying way. The focus on God suffuses our lives with a fundamental trust that God will provide. Sometimes He will provide a solution. Other times He will help us find acceptance. Either way we have peace.
Life can be a murky mess sometimes, no doubt, but Jesus' words on focusing on today's trouble alone makes life a little clearer. God's light cuts through the mess, one day at a time. Focus on His light today and trust that same light, maybe even a little brighter, will be there tomorrow.
Dr. Terry Ellis
February 11, 2013