We, as children of God, are called upon to live in the midst of an age and world that is permeated with the sin of anxiety. That such is the state of the world is clearly manifest in the unrest which the world exhibits at every level of society. In the midst of wars and rumors thereof, peace efforts are headline news. In the midst of crime and evident lack of justice we hear the cry for law and order so as to have safety in the streets.
In the midst of the breakdown of the family unit, teenage rebellion against authority and all its logical repercussions, parents throw up their hands in despair. And regarding all these the world is full of worry and anxiety. In the midst of such a world the people of God must not be swept along by the current of this sin. Yes, we do not hesitate to call anxiety a sin. And for God’s children it is a very devastating sin that undermines a very essential characteristic of our lives. Anxiety and worry are to the detriment of faith! This will become eminently clear to us when we let the Scripture shine its light of instruction upon this sin.
We find this instructive light in the very words of the Savior Himself. First of all, He strongly admonishes against the sin of anxiety. This admonition is found in the sixth chapter of Matthew. As Jesus instructs the multitude in His Sermon on the Mount, we find the recurring phrase, ” . . . take no thought for . . . ” Now, the old English of the King James Version somewhat obscures the meaning here. But let it be known that when the Authorized Version went to press in 1611, the words ” . . . take no thought for . . . ” designated undue anxiety or worry. This is illustrated very clearly inI Sam. 9:5. You recall that Saul was providentially brought into contact with the prophet Samuel while searching for his father’s asses. And in this connection, when the asses were not found, we read these words of Saul to his servant, “Come and let us return; lest my father leave caring for the asses and take thought for us.” That is, lest he worry about us. So the admonition of Christ is, do’ not worry or be not anxious, because that constitutes a littleness of faith.
Let us further attend to the Savior’s explanation. We turn to the visit of Jesus to the home of Martha. Mary, the sister of Martha, sat at Jesus’ feet and attentively listened to the words of His mouth but Martha was cumbered about much serving. In fact, Martha was so engrossed in the problem of serving the guests that she said to Jesus, ” . . . dost thou not care that my sister hath left me to serve alone?” And what does Christ answer? “Martha, Martha thou art careful (anxious) and troubled about many things; But one thing is needful and Mary hath chosen that . . . ” Or again as Christ instructs His disciples in Luke 12. “And when they bring you (the disciples) unto the synagogues, and unto the magistrates, and powers, take no thought (be not anxious) what ye shall answer. . . For the Holy Ghost shall teach you in. the same hour what ye ought to say.”
But what is Jesus trying to say? This becomes quite plain when we understand what constitutes anxiety. Properly to be anxious means to be drawn in different directions or to be divided. That was exactly the case with Martha. She was drawn away or distracted from the one thing which was needful. Martha’s concern about the unimportant thing of setting the table kept her from the necessity of listening to the words of Christ. This is also the lesson in the instruction of Christ to His disciples. They were not to be distracted or divided from a complete trust by worrying about the speech to be made before the magistrates.
Has it become clear to us why Christ equates anxiety and worry with littleness of faith? Perhaps an example will aid us. Let us call to mind the occasion of Peter’s walking upon the water after Jesus bade him to come. It was when that disciple saw the boisterous wind and was afraid that be began to sink, beckoning the Savior for His help. And after Jesus had stretched forth his hand to grasp him He said, “O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt?” Peter was of a divided mind, he was torn in two directions. As long as he kept his eyes upon the Savior in faith, he was able to walk with Him. But when he was distracted by the boisterous wind his feet sank beneath the surface of the water. It was the distraction that caused his faith to falter. Worry and anxiety denote a littleness of faith, while their absence points to a strong faith.
It is no wonder that the world is earmarked by anxiety, for they have no God nor do they desire His Christ. But the sad truth is that all too frequently these earmarks of the world also become those of the child of God. All too often the words of Christ, “O ye of little faith,” are apropos for the Christian. On the one hand we speak in boldness while standing on the mountaintops of faith, saying that we are completely confident in our God, trusting absolutely in His all-wise, providential care. We confess to have the comfort that we commit our entire life to Him. Yet on the other hand, we are often so carnally minded. We are distracted by the mundane carnalities of this earthly life. We are burdened and weighed down with unnecessary anxiety and worry. Sometimes this is true to such an extent that we attempt to run ahead of God by planning things in such a manner so as to have carnal security apart from trust in Him.
Oh, we may become very concrete. We worry about our life. And when the Lord brings sickness we become anxious about our health, about how long we will live, whether we will have to suffer through the agonies of a prolonged illness, or whether the Lord will take us home suddenly. And, who will take care of my family in my absence? We even become anxious regarding the things with which God has blessed us. The trouble is that we often consider all these things apart from God and His providing care! All this ought not to be!
Let us listen once again to the simple and clear, yet profound words of our Savior. We turn again to His Sermon on the Mount. Here Christ brings forth a line of argumentation against anxiety by pointing us to the realm of nature. “Behold the fowls of the air.” Christ beckons us to consider carefully the birds that glide through the sky and to take them as exemplary. He points out to us, “. . . they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns.” They are creatures of instinct and have not the capacity to worry. Yet, our Heavenly Father feedeth them. God providentially holds even the fowls of the air in His hands and cares for them. If He so provides for these insignificant creatures, how much more will He take care of us, who are His children for Christ’s sake!
Or again, “Consider the lilies of the field.” And the Savior points out to us that they do not toil neither do they spin fine yarns. Yet, God clothes the flowers of the field majestically, so that their beauty is unsurpassed. Even Solomon and all His glory was not arrayed like one of these. When Solomon sat arrayed in his royal garb amid all the riches with which God had blessed him, he could not compare to the splendor of the flower of the field. If God so arrays the flowers of the field which today stand in all their glory and tomorrow are used to fire the ovens to bake bread, will He not much more give us, who have eternal life, all things in Christ?
All too often, we are too much conformed to the mind of the world as they are preoccupied with all manner of carnal worries and anxieties. And they are so preoccupied because they have no God in Whom to trust and no Savior in Whom to find comfort. But it is quite different with us because we do have a God Who is a strong tower, our refuge and strength. And we do have a Savior Who is the object of our faith.
Then, why do we worry? Why are we so often anxious? It is a lack of faith. It is sin, because we have a Father in Heaven. Who knows and supplies all our needs. We do well to consider the birds and the lilies of the field. If God so wonderfully takes care of them, His hand will certainly never wax short unto us who are His children!
Shall we put worry and anxiety behind us and walk in the strength of faith? That is walking in His fear!