I had just written a booklet on worry. It was helping a lot of people and I was glad. I was reminded of this as I rose to meet a new day of challenges and mused that I should probably read it again! The older you get, the more booklets on worry you need to write!
That day, I read Matthew, chapter six, and was struck with how negative Jesus seemed to be. There were so many “do nots!” We think of “no” as negative, don’t we? However, Jesus was saying we have to be negative on some things in order to be positive! Let me highlight some of the “do nots” of Jesus. You can look up the verses over a cup of coffee.
When you give to the needy:
So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full (Matt. 6:2). And, But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing… (Matt. 6:3).
When you pray:
And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him (Matt. 6:7-8).
When you forgive:
But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins (Matt. 6:15).
When you fast:
When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show men they are fasting. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full (Matt. 6:16).
When you store up treasure:
Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal (Matt. 6:19).
Next, take a colored pencil and go through these verses again and write in the “dos.” For example, in Matt. 6:2-3: “Do your giving in secret and your Father will reward you.” What do you think that reward will be?
But it was the next lot of “do nots” that especially got to me that day. Verse 25 starts, “Do not worry.” Oh dear! Then it follows with a list, just in case I’m using the excuse that my particular worry isn’t mentioned in so many words. However, these “do nots” cover the waterfront don’t they?
Do not worry about:
- Your life (You can’t add or subtract one birthday!).
- What to eat and drink.
- What to wear.
Jesus gives an example of the birds that do not worry but let God do the worrying for them. He says: “So, do not worry about all these things” (Matt. 6:31). He then gives us three reasons we shouldn’t’ worry:
- Pagans worry like this, and we are not pagans.
- Our Heavenly Father knows our needs. (Not wants…needs.)
- Anxiety will hamper our Kingdom work, the main reason He has left us in this worried world. Read John 17:18! AGAIN Jesus said, “Therefore DO NOT WORRY about TOMORROW for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own” (Matt. 6:33-34)!
My eye went to Matthew 7, which starts with a “do not” about judging others. I hastily returned to the chapter in hand. I had enough to keep me going for the rest of my troubled day! I knew if I read on, I would feel worse than I already did about all my disobedience. You see, a “do not” is serious business. It’s not an option for the believer. Jesus said, “If you love me, keep my commandments.” In other words, “Do not the ‘do nots!” Does Jesus count our worry as disobedience? Yes! Well, now we must deal with this. Do you know we grieve the Spirit when we are willfully disobedient?
So how do we “do not the ‘do nots’”? Consider the birds! Get on with building your nest, hatching your eggs, watching out for predators, singing a song, and generally flying around in grand abandon to the will of God that you know to do for the day at hand. And every time you begin to do a “do not,” DON’T! Stop wherever you are and whisper, “I won’t go there in my mind. I’ll go to the commands and promises of God instead. My Heavenly Father knows what to do, so I’ll just sing on.”
You mind your mind, and God will mind your heart. Philippians 4 tells us we can choose what we think about. Which reminds me of another “do not!” “Do not be anxious about anything, but by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God” (Phil. 4:6). And the God of peace will be with you.
So how do we tackle worry?
1. Have a plan for today. “Sufficient unto the day.”
One of the things that helps me the most is to have plan when worry appears on my mind’s radar screen, calls me on my cell phone, or sends me an email. I try to identify which part of time this worry belongs to – past, present, or future. Then I tackle the part of the worrisome situation that has to be tackled that day and ONLY that part. I harness my mind, which keeps bolting out the door of today into either the past or the future, and give Him the reins.
In The Message by Eugene Peterson, Matt. 6:34 says: “Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don’t get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes.”
2. Memorize Scripture. “Think on these things.”
Memorize a verse or verses that have helped you today. For example, Peterson’s paraphrase of either Matthew or Philippians. I committed both to memory. You can do this – however old you are! Scribble the verse out on a piece of paper and take it with you. Put it above your mirror in the bathroom or in your kitchen, or over your work desk. Chew it over. That’s what meditate means.
3. Don’t steal the worry back. “Pray about it, commit it to Him, and then don’t steal it back.”
Enjoy. Be a bird. “Look at the birds, free and unfettered, not tied down to a job description, careless in the care of God. And you count far more to him than birds” (Matt. 6:25-26, The Message).
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