It is a great song. I remember when that song first came out we were living in Truro at the time. Now I have a confession to make I prefer two types of music, either country music or stuff from the seventies. “Don’t Worry Be Happy” doesn’t fit into either one of those categories. So, I was ignorant of the song at first, I mean I heard people humming the tune on the street or other people singing little snippets from the song but it wasn’t until I heard a guy in my church by the name of Ken MacDonald singing it one night while we were working on our new church and I was shocked.
I wouldn’t have thought that Ken MacDonald even owned a radio, let alone listened to one, and yet here he was singing a pop song. And so, I thought to myself, “Self, you’d better find out what this is all about”. And I discovered that this song written and performed by a virtually unknown artist by the name of Bobby McFerrin was the number one song on the American and Canadian pop charts.
Maybe you remember the song, it begins, Here’s a little song I wrote You might want to sing it note for note Don’t worry, be happy. In every life we have some trouble But when you worry you make it double, Don’t worry, be happy. Don’t worry, be happy now. And so it goes, and then if the song wasn’t enough Bobby went and wrote a book with another 200 verses.
A cute song, but not a completely new concept. That same philosophy was espoused by Jesus of Nazareth 2000 years ago when he was preaching on the Sermon on the mount. As a matter of fact, when Jesus wasn’t saying “Don’t worry” he was asking “Why do you worry?”
In the scripture that was read this morning Jesus was basically saying, “Don’t worry, be happy.”
But that is a lot easier said than done, I mean, even though millions of copies of Bobby McFerrin’s record were sold around the world, it didn’t seem to have a major impact on how people live. Sometimes we think “Great as if I didn’t have enough to worry about now I have to worry about worrying”
This is week five of our Mental Health Series at Cornerstone. When the preaching team met back in February to discuss what we would be speaking on in the weeks following Easter, we all agreed that with the recent pandemic that Mental Health would be a helpful subject.
And of course, at that point we had no idea that we would be facing our third provincial lock down.
On the CDC website I read this, “The COVID-19 pandemic has had a major effect on our lives. Many of us are facing challenges that can be stressful, overwhelming, and cause strong emotions in adults and children. Public health actions, such as social distancing, are necessary to reduce the spread of COVID-19, but they can make us feel isolated and lonely and can increase stress and anxiety.”
During the first three weeks of our series, the team spoke about depression, narcissism, and renewing our minds. Last week I looked at strategies for reducing our anxiety during COVID-19. And we are going to park on the topic of anxiety, worry and fear for the next few weeks.
So, let’s go back to our scripture, where Jesus told those who gathered that day on the hillside to hear him preach, Matthew 6:25 “That is why I tell you not to worry about everyday life”
The first thing that I want to note this morning is the word that Christ used, for worry, in the original language actually meant “an anxious worry”, and it conveys a sense of anxiety. When your child walks to school, you may be concerned about their safety on the way there, that’s not a problem. As a matter of fact, if you didn’t have some concern, that might point to another problem.
But if you become consumed with that worry to the point of not being able to function, or where you don’t allow them to walk to school, then you have a problem. There is a world of difference between concern and anxious worry. And so, Jesus spends the next ten verses explaining why we shouldn’t be consumed with anxious worry.
Jesus finishes his statement by saying, Matthew 6:25 “That is why I tell you not to worry about everyday life—whether you have enough food and drink, or enough clothes to wear. Isn’t life more than food, and your body more than clothing?
Sot the first thing that Jesus tells us is that Worrying is Needless
Jesus starts by talking about the most basic concerns of mankind. The need for food, the need for clothing, and the need for shelter. Now these aren’t frivolous concerns.
You might be able to run around bare tailed and live under a tree in Australia, but in most of the world that just isn’t an option. And so, Jesus starts by getting right down to the nitty gritty, right down to brass tacks, right down to where the rubber meets the road. Have I left any metaphors out?
He doesn’t start by saying, “Don’t worry about where your next car is going to come from”, he says “Don’t worry about where your next meal is going to come from”.
He doesn’t say “Don’t worry whether you have Levis or Reeboks to wear” he says, “Don’t worry if you don’t have anything to wear.”
Now that is not to say that we shouldn’t be concerned with the material things of life, or with providing for our families. But listen up, will worry provide the things that we need? Nope, not at all.
A wise man once said, “Worry is like a rocking chair, it gives you something to do but doesn’t get you anywhere.” Worry is essential wasted energy, energy which could be used a lot more productively somewhere else.
Three different times in my life, I worked at Tip Top Tailors, and then for a while in the eighties I sold Toyotas, both of those jobs paid commission. We used to say that you ate what you killed. If you didn’t sell, you didn’t get paid.
And every once in a while, we’d get a new salesman on the floor who just wasn’t cut out for commission sales. It wasn’t that they couldn’t sell, on straight salary they were terrific. But when their next pay cheque depended on their performance, they spent so much time worrying about when the next sale was going to come that they usually missed it.
And so, Jesus begins by drawing a couple of examples from nature to illustrate his point. Matthew 6:26 “Look at the birds. They don’t plant or harvest or store food in barns, for your heavenly Father feeds them. And aren’t you far more valuable to him than they are?”
Now the problem here is the person who looks at this and stands back and says, “Great, I don’t have to do anything but wait for God to provide me with all my needs, and all my wants.”
But let’s recognize that Christ wasn’t teaching people about their work ethic and employment. He wasn’t talking about working, he was talking about worrying.
I wonder if that is what Paul was correcting when he wrote to the early Christians in 2 Thessalonians 3:10–12 Even while we were with you, we gave you this command: “Those unwilling to work will not get to eat.” Yet we hear that some of you are living idle lives, refusing to work and meddling in other people’s business. We command such people and urge them in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ to settle down and work to earn their own living.
You don’t have to watch a bird very long to realize that theirs isn’t a life of ease. With building nest, hunting for food and avoiding kitty cats, but I would suspect that your average bird doesn’t agonize over whether or not there will be another worm to catch tomorrow, or whether he’ll be able to find enough twigs and such to build a new nest.
In the same vein Jesus tells us in Matthew 6:28-29 “And why worry about your clothing? Look at the lilies of the field and how they grow. They don’t work or make their clothing, yet Solomon in all his glory was not dressed as beautifully as they are.”
One of the things that I missed while we were living in Australia were the wildflowers. They had some really neat flowering trees like Jacarandas, and Bottle brushes, and Illawarra Flame Tree but, in Queensland anyway, there were very few wild flowers. Probably the spiders and snakes ate them.
Here in Nova Scotia, we have incredible wildflowers, and obviously they had the same thing in Israel. Christ is drawing from nature, perhaps the hill that they were sitting on was covered with flowers, I don’t know, but Christ is saying “Look around you, look at the beauty that God has created and yet it doesn’t worry!”
If we can concede that God created everything around us, and if we can concede that God created us, then we should be able to concede that the same God who created us can take care of us.
Christ came to the point in Matthew 6:27 “Can all your worries add a single moment to your life?”
Worrying is Useless Pretty much sums it up, doesn’t it? You see, worry is not only needless for a believer, it also useless. Worry doesn’t change a thing. Everything that you worry about will fall into one of two categories. It is either something you can do something about, or it something that you can’t do anything about. Am I right? Does that make sense? If it does make sense, then the secret is this, if you can do something about it then do it. But if you can’t do anything about it, then worrying about it isn’t going to solve the problem.
It won’t go away if you worry about it, and it’s not going to get any smaller. If anything, it’s going to get bigger and bigger. My Daddy used to tell about getting tangled up with a piece of steak that was so tough the longer he chewed it the bigger it got until it was too big to swallow and too big to spit out. I never did ask him what he did with it. But worry is like that, the more you chew on it, the bigger it gets.
It’s kind of like the guy who had a flat tire on a back road late at night and then discovered that his jack was missing. And as he starts down the long dark road to a farmhouse in the distance, he gets to thinking, “What happens if there’s been a lot of break-ins around here lately? And what if the farmer hears me and thinks I’m a burglar? And what if he’s bought himself a couple of pit bulls for protection? And what if when I arrive he doesn’t give me a chance to explain who I am and when I knock on the door he turns the dogs loose on me?” Well the closer he got to the farm the more he had convinced himself that the very worst was going to happen. So, when he finally got to the house he beat on the door and when the farmer answered the guy shouted, “I didn’t want your dumb old jack anyway” and stormed back to his car.
Worrying is Dangerous Not only is worry needless and useless, but it’s also hazardous to your health. Worry is detrimental to your health. They say that worry kills more people than work does, and maybe that’s because people spend more time worrying than working. The two illnesses that most typify our society today are ulcers and coronary disease. Both of which have stress at their root.
There are Christians who shun alcohol and tobacco because they are harmful to their bodies, and yet the very same people are worrying themselves into an early grave.
Worry is not a harmless pastime; it will make you old before your time, and it will kill you before your time.
And whether you want to believe it or not, it is a reality, eventually your mind will convince your body that it has to carry its fair share of your worries.
And on WebMD, is this statement, “If it sticks around long enough, something as small as a nagging concern in the back of your mind can affect your heart. It can make you more likely to have high blood pressure, a heart attack, or a stroke.”
Worrying is blind. One thing that I remember from High School History was something my grade ten teacher was fond of telling us, and that is “The one thing we learn from history is that we don’t learn from history.”
And that applies equally to our worries as well. If we were to chart the various things that we worry about, we would discover that most of them are repeats. That is to say that we’ve already worried about them once or twice or three times. And if the truth was known, they probably didn’t happen, then and they probably won’t happen now.
Time and time again the people of Israel are reminded of God’s faithfulness throughout the Old Testament. Over and over they are reminded “God saved you” or “God rescued you.”
There are a lot of things we can’t do during this pandemic, one thing we can do is stop and be thankful for all that God has done for us. God didn’t forsake you yesterday, and he won’t forsake you today. God is faithful, and we only need to look at how he fulfilled our needs in the past to see that he will fulfil our needs in the future.
So, I suppose that what we need to do is to look at all the things that we’ve worried about in the past and say, “Well I’ve already worried over those things so it’s useless to spend anymore time on them now.” God has been good and there is no reason for us to suspect that he is going to change, right? We need only look at the blessings of yesterday to see the blessings of tomorrow.
Look around you, Jesus says and see how God takes care of the flowers and the birds. And then reflect on how much more important you are to him than they are. Realize that God loved you so much that he sent his only begotten Son, Jesus, to die on the cross for you. And if he loved you that much, then he’s not going to forsake you now.
Matthew 6:32 These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers, but your heavenly Father already knows all your needs.
Worrying is Blasphemous. Christ says it’s the heathen who worries. And that’s true, because to say that we need to worry is to say that God won’t take care of His Children and to say that is to commit blasphemy.
Has God ever let you down? Has God ever failed you? To begin to doubt Him now is to ignore all that he’s done for you in the past. Our friends, our family, even our earthly parents may disappoint us and let us down, but God never will.
And so, Jesus gives us two solutions to worry. The first is to seek after the kingdom of God, funny how that keeps coming up. Jesus keeps coming back to this principle of putting God’s Kingdom first. And it works; you ever notice that when you’re busy, you’re too busy to worry.
As followers of Christ, our main objective is to be the Kingdom of God. No matter how noble the other pursuits of our life may seem, the major pursuit of our lives needs to be the Kingdom of God. The great thing is that when we make that our priority, we can be sure that God will be taking care of the details.
The second thing that Christ tells us to do is to take life one day at a time. The rest of our life is enormous, but today only has twenty-four hours in it. And if we try to map out what is going to happen over the next 40 years, the next 480 months the next 2,080 weeks, the next 14,560 days, the next 349,440 hours, the next 20,966,400 minutes the next 1,257,984,000 seconds then you will become certifiably insane somewhere along the line.
When I was growing up my mom had a plaque on her kitchen wall. It actually went through 3 kitchens, and it said and I quote, “Yard by yard life is hard, but inch by inch it is a cinch.”
And that is gospel because in Matthew 6:34 “So don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today.
In the Talmud, the Jewish book of wisdom it says “Do not worry over tomorrow’s evils, for you know not what today will bring forth. Perhaps tomorrow you will not be alive and you will have worried for a world that will not be yours.”
Singer and comedian, Mark Lowry said, “I don’t worry because whether I worry or not, everything is either gonna get better, worse or stay just about the same.”
The two questions that it all boils down to are these “Does God care?” and “Can God be trusted.” Now I don’t know about you, but I know he cares about me.
And somewhere along the line I decided that while I couldn’t come to the place that I could stop worrying all together that I could come to a place where I could limit my worrying. It was Dorothy M. Neddermeyer who observed, “Life is ten percent what you experience and ninety percent how you respond to it.”
And so, my goal in responding to worry is that I try not to worry about one thing for more than one day, it doesn’t always work, but it’s my goal.
During that day I may fret and stew and imagine the worst, but tomorrow I won’t.
Can you trust God, just for twenty-four hours? Can you trust God to take care of today, not tomorrow and not yesterday, but can you trust him to take care of today?