Archive: Winning Out Over Worry

Some helpful thoughts on a universal human problem

by Philip E. Worth, Pastor, First United Methodist Church, Collingswood, New Jersey

On the editorial page of the New York Times an article appeared that is typical of the anxiety that grips the hearts of hundreds of thousands of men and women across our nation. Let me just give you the feel of it in a few words: Ed Furey is a 52-year-old, recently fired, middle-management executive in one of America’s top 500 companies. He has sent out over 150 resumes. Less than ten percent of them have drawn a response; five percent asked for additional information. None resulted in a job.

As a World War II veteran of the South Pacific, he knows what fear is and how men deal with it. He doesn’t scare any easier than the next, but to be 52 years old, jobless, with a wife, nine children, and a mortgage is to be frightened! Now, for the first time, his family is not covered with medical insurance. The bank warned that foreclosure is being considered. Bills to utilities are overdue. He lies awake at night and wonders if he is going to lose the home he worked for all his life, the home that represents the only equity he’s been able to accumulate in 30 years of working and raising a family.

As believers, we face the fact that we are living in a time of financial crisis … of social upheaval … of social and moral changes which, for the most part, are unique to our generation. Some are going through situations which their wildest imagination would not have thought possible. An undercurrent of anxiety has penetrated even into the hearts of God’s children.

Worse, perhaps, is the fact that the anxiety of the heart of the individual believer is contagious. Many churches have been affected adversely by individuals who, because of pressing problems in their personal lives, have become bitter and cynical concerning the things of God. I do not believe we fully comprehend the price we pay for anxiety.

In studying the Sermon on the Mount we come to that portion where Jesus sets forth a strict commandment to His followers: “Therefore I tell you, do not worry … ” (Matthew 6:25).

The word “worry” comes from the Greek word merimnao, which is a combination of two words—merizo, meaning to divide, and nois, meaning mind. What a clear description of the result of worry in life—it divides the mind!

John Haggai has written concerning worry. He pinpoints this problem of the divided mind as it results in abulia—the loss of power to decide. He illustrates this extreme indecision with the story of the old mule who stood between two haystacks and starved to death while trying to decide from which to eat. In the extreme form, the victim just gives up—becomes depressed and never again makes a decision. We call it, I believe, incorrectly, a “nervous breakdown.”

Dr. Tim LaHaye, in his book, How to Win Over Depression, describes a person who is seriously depressed in terms of what he calls the depression formula. It is this: injury plus anger plus self-pity equals depression.

Most of us have seen this worked out in terms of life. Here is a man who has been injured greatly. Once he feels the initial impact of the injury he becomes angry at his circumstances. He begins to reason this way: “I was doing a good job. I was an effective worker and yet I was fired—laid off—somebody must have had it in for me.” As that man begins to think about how unjustly life has treated him he begins to feel sorry for himself. Dr. LaHaye suggests that that kind of self-pity leads to deep depression, which no change of circumstance will alter. It is my conviction that the reason we are seeing so much depression today is because we have a nation of worriers.

But Jesus says, “Do not worry.” Some of you right now are saying, “It is my nature to worry. If I didn’t have something to worry about, I’d think of something.” However, I believe that right here in Matthew, Chapter 6, there are three definite steps which can help you move out of negativism, depression, and self-pity to become God’s liberated person.

The first step may seem negative but it is absolutely essential: (1) Recognize worry to be sin. Let me say it another way. Understand that when you worry, you are sinning. There are men and women today who are scrupulously moral. Good men who have never even entertained the thought of any immorality. Godly women who are good wives and good mothers. Teenagers who are determined to live their lives for God. Yet perhaps the sin that is holding them back from God’s blessing is worry.

God says in Romans 8:28: ” … in all things God works for the good of those who love him. … ”

Worry answers: This cannot be, because I sense that I am about to be replaced at work.

God says in Philippians 4:13: “I can do everything through him who gives me strength.”

Worry answers: I cannot face another day now because my strength is failing.

God says in Philippians 4:19: “And my God will meet all your needs. … ”

Worry answers: The mortgage payments are more than I can manage with inflation.

God says in Hebrews 13:5: “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.”


Worry says: I am going to be left alone—I know it and I will not be able to cope with it.

God says in I Peter 5:6: “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.”

Worry answers: If He cares for me, then why did He allow this to happen to me?

God says in Mark 7:37: “He has done everything well.”

Worry says: Then why did my husband leave me?

When we answer God like that we are really saying, “God, you are lying. You do not mean what you say.”

Recognize your worry to be a sin. We Christians need to stop joking about it, to stop making excuses for it in our lives and blaming it on circumstances or events. Recognize it to be sin. Confess it daily. Satan is a great deceiver and one of his cleverest tricks is to convince believers that it is a good thing to worry.

For instance, a mother who has two sons confides to another Christian in the church, “I am worried about my two boys.” When she says that, inwardly in her heart she is really saying, “I am a good mother because I worry. I am working hard at being a mother because I worry.”

Do you know what the Bible calls a person who worries? When the worrying of Old Testament people is described in the New Testament it is called a “sinful, unbelieving heart” (Hebrews 3:12). Have you committed your financial situation to God? Then you are not worried. You see—faith and worry are mutually exclusive.

Some of you are saying in the quietness of your heart, That is very idealistic. You don’t understand all the things I have to worry about. Worry is only natural. May I repeat what I said before? “Worry and faith are mutually exclusive.” If you are worrying, you are faithless. I didn’t say it—God did! (Matthew 6:25-34).

Wednesday mornings we have a prayer fellowship for teenagers at our house. Once in a while during the prayer requests, someone will say: “Pray for me today. I’m taking an exam. It is an important one.”

Nine times out of ten our youth leader will look directly at the person asking the question and will ask: “Did you study?”

The kid will say, “Yes, I did.”

Then he will answer, “O.K. then we’ll pray that you will pass.”

That is what Philippians is all about: “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.”

Jesus says in Matthew 6:28-30: “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, O you of little faith?”

Jesus Christ gives here one great overwhelming truth, which presents us with the second step: (2) Realize the provision of God for all your needs. God controls all material things and He distributes them in His sovereignty. It would be pointless for Jesus to say to His disciples, “Now stop worrying” without giving reasons. So He lists how God demonstrates His ability to care.

Dr. James Boice points out that Peter, in the early days of his association with Jesus, was worried about many things. Walking toward Jesus upon the water, Peter began to look at the waves and became so worried that he began to sink. He worried that Jesus might not pay taxes. At one point he was worried about who might betray the Master. He was worried that Jesus might have to suffer and so rebuked Him on one occasion.

Yes, Peter was a great worrier. But after he came to know Jesus better he learned that Jesus was able not only to take care of Himself but also to take care of Peter. Thus, toward the end of his life, he wrote in his first epistle telling other Christians how to live: “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you” (I Peter 5:7).

This applies directly to those of you who know Jesus Christ as Savior, who can say, “I have been redeemed.” Paul replies, “You yourselves are God’s temple … God’s Spirit lives in you” (I Corinthians 3:16). Day-after-day as you struggle along and worry, you are destroying the physical body in which God has chosen to dwell. Think of how many times you have heard someone say, “I am worried sick.” They mean it quite literally! How many thousands and thousands are suffering physically from a host of symptoms because they have indulged themselves in the sin of worry? Jesus says, “Therefore I tell you, do not worry” (Matthew 6:25). Why? Because in so doing you are denying the provision of God for you.

The book, Hudson Taylors Spiritual Secret, tells of a life with all of the trappings taken away. The spiritual secret that Hudson Taylor, the great missionary to China and founder of the China Inland Mission, learned was simply this: Just as he had trusted Christ and His promises for eternal life through faith, he could mix the promises of God with faith and find God’s perfect rest right here in this life. He was the first white man to enter inland China. He was alone with no human to depend on. He simply trusted God for the needs of each day.

While Taylor was at school studying medicine, preparing for the mission field, he gave away everything he had. He said, “Lord, give me this day my daily bread.” God gave it to him—and even more than he needed. Taylor gave away the rest. He started out every day with absolutely nothing but faith and the promises of God, who had promised to supply all of his needs through Christ Jesus his Lord. During week after week, month after month, and year after year of preparation he found that God was absolutely trustworthy for every need of life. This was his “spiritual secret.” The secret of learning to trust Christ for the daily, practical things of life.

Finally, (3) Begin giving thanks for all things. More than 500 times in the Word of God we are commanded to give praise and rejoice. David said in Psalm 34:1, “I will extol the Lord at all times; his praise will always be on my lips.” Praise was a habit built into David’s life.

You will remember that David had many problems … many difficulties. He had one son who broke his heart. Another son tried to steal his authority. He had an enemy who persecuted him and sought to take his life. He went through great testings and great temptations and he did not always triumph. But he made praise a way of life.

In Greece there was a man who appeared on the stage with the Greek name Titedios Amerimnos. This was a proper name plus a descriptive name, such as Philip the Great, James the Just, and Thomas the Doubter. Titedios was his proper name. The descriptive name was “the man who does not worry.” Titedios, the man who doesn’t worry. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if you could take your name and add that to it? The person who doesn’t worry. It can be yours if you are willing to listen to the message of Jesus and by faith reach out and appropriate it for yourself.


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