I love birds. I’ve been interested in them ever since I was a kid, and I’ve had quite a few different birds over the years. The thing about birds is that collectively, they always seem to be in a pretty good mood. They start the day singing their little songs.
I think we can actually learn something from birds. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus uses them as an illustration to give us some very clear words about how to deal with our worry and our anxiety.
He said, “Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?” (Matthew 6:26–27 NIV).
Although Christ delivered these words more than 2,000 years ago, they still resonate in our culture today – a culture gripped with worry, filled with fear and crippled by anxiety.
Of course, the Bible tells us we should plan for the future. The Bible tells us that we should work hard, that we should save our money. It’s a very practical book. But Jesus was saying, “Don’t worry about these things. Don’t let these things become something that distracts you from what really matters in life.”
Birds don’t get stressed out, even though no bird has ever been given the hope of Heaven. Yet they get up every morning singing. They gather their food every day. Some birds get their food from the sea. Others get it from the ground. The rest hang out at McDonald’s and wait for the fries to hit the concrete. But birds get out there and get their food. They do their due diligence.
Jesus wasn’t saying that we shouldn’t think about these things. He was saying that we shouldn’t get stressed about them or obsessed over them, especially at the expense of spiritual things. The birds aren’t stressed. Why should we be?
If you let worry get hold of you, it actually can cause deep depression in your life. It can cause a lot of problems in fact. Proverbs 12:25 says, “Anxiety weighs down the heart, but a kind word cheers it up” (NIV).
Before scientists figured it out, before psychologists figured it out, before the so-called experts figured it out, the Bible warned that anxiety can lead to depression.
So how do we overcome it? One way is to focus on the needs of others. Try it for a day. You might be surprised by the outcome. Experts have actually found that when you volunteer your services or time to help others, it actually elevates your mood. It’s been dubbed by experts as the helper’s high.
We can’t control what will happen to us externally, but we can control our reaction to it. That is what Jesus was talking about. Don’t let your life be filled with worry and anxiety.
All too often we try to justify worry. Sometimes we might even think it’s a virtue to worry. But it isn’t. Actually, I think it can be a sin to worry. And if worry is a sin, then it’s a sin that I’ve committed on more than one occasion.
Really, what is worry? It’s a lack of trust in God. In fact, the very word comes from an old German word that means “to choke.” That is what worry can do to us.
Worry is sort of a mental and emotional strangulation that can harm our lives, because it’s really a failure to trust in the providence of God. And what is the providence of God? It’s the simple belief that, as a Christian, God is in control of my life and in control of everything that comes into my life. So when I worry, I’m actually doubting God.
Also in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said, “And if God cares so wonderfully for wildflowers that are here today and thrown into the fire tomorrow, he will certainly care for you. Why do you have so little faith?” (verse 30 NLT).
Notice that Jesus didn’t use the term “no faith.” Rather, he spoke of “little faith.” Because some people are weak spiritually, or have little faith, they’re prone to worry and anxiety. They’re always stressed out. They’re always worried and defeated. They’re perpetually nervous.
Yet we don’t have to live that way. If our faith is small, then we need to make it big. We need to make it stronger. How?
We grow in faith by studying and believing the Word of God. When I listen to God’s Word, it puts everything in perspective. I see God for who he is. I see life with all of its challenges for what it is. I see everything as I ought to see it.
Instead of worry, put God and his Word, the Bible, first in your life. Trade your worry for worship. Jesus said, “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well” (verse 33 NIV). To “seek first” means to seek principally above everything else. Give it priority.
If you don’t want to live in anxiety, fear and worry, then put matters into God’s hands. Often we turn to people for help, but we forget that we need to turn to God for help. So the next time you’re tempted to worry, pray instead.
Maintaining personal peace involves both the heart and the mind. The prophet Isaiah said of the Lord, “You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in you, all whose thoughts are fixed on you!” (Isaiah 26:3 NLT) What we think about ultimately affects what we do.
Everyone has troubles in life. Tragedies happen to nonbelievers, and tragedies happen to Christians as well. But we have God to turn to, and he wants to hear our prayers. He will help us in our time of need.
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