HOW TO CONQUER WORRY Based on Matt. 6:34
By Pastor Glenn Pease
John D. Rockefeller Sr. made his first million dollars by the time he was 33. By constant work every waking moment he controlled the world's largest business, which was Standard Oil Company, when he was 43. By 53 he was the richest man on earth and the world's only billionaire. But can you imagine making a million dollars a week and having a digestive system so bad you could only eat crackers and milk? His grocery bill was only about $2.00 a week. Rockefeller's shoe shine boy ate better than he did. That is the richest man alive he was also one of the most miserable. He had no happiness or health, and he could not sleep. Few if any loved him, and many hated him, for he was ruthless in his climb to the top, and many had to be crushed to do it. His own brother so hated him that he removed his children's bodies from the bodies plot. He needed hired body guards at all times.
Worry had turned this powerfully built farm boy into a walking mummy. His hair fell out and he was an old man when he should have been in the prime of life. The newspaper writers had his obituary already written and ready in their files. Worry is a powerful foe, and Rockefeller was an expert at worry. He once shipped a $40,000 shipment of grain on the great lakes, and he took out no insurance because it cost too much. He was so worried about it, however, that he paced the floor. He finally could stand it no longer and sent a partner to get insurance. When he heard the shipment arrived safely he became sick because he had wasted $150.00 on the insurance. He got so sick he had to go to bed. With his level of income that was equivalent to any of us getting sick because our nickel didn't make the parking meter register. He had developed the ability to make mountains out of mole hills, and keep his nerves on edge over trivialities. He never laid his head on his pillow without worrying about losing his fortune.
Then something happened that changed Rockefeller into a happy worry free man who made millions of others happy. He learned the joy of giving. Instead of worrying about losing his money he began to give it away. He poured millions into schools and medicine. His millions enabled the South to stamp out hook worm that handicapped that part of the nation. Every time one of our children is saved by penicillin we can thank Rockefeller, for his money contributed to its discovery. He spent hundreds of millions in helping other people solve their worries, and in so doing he overcame his own. So free was he from worry that when the government ordered Standard Oil to pay the heaviest fine in history for violation of the anti-trust laws, his lawyers were fearful of telling him, but when they called him he said, "Don't worry, ...I intend to get a night's sleep. And don't let it bother you either. Good night!" This was the same man who went to bed sick over a $150.00 loss. He had conquered worry, and the result was the newspaper never got to print his obituary until he was 98 years old.
I began with this true story about Rockefeller, not because he was a great Christian, although he did give much to missions and the church, and he did teach a Sunday School class for many years, but rather, because there are few lives that demonstrate so dramatically the power of worry to destroy, and also the tremendous blessing it is to be free of it. No matter what the coming year holds in store it will be a better year if we can face it without worry. Jesus knew that worry was one of the major problems of life, and in the Sermon on the Mount he devotes this lengthy paragraph to its cause and cure.
Jesus implies clearly in verses 24 and 25 that worry removes God from the throne of our lives, and it places things there as our master. Worry is a sign of the worship of things, and it leads to a self-centered rather than a Christ-centered life. Jesus says you cannot not serve two masters and so if your nervous energy is being burned up in worry over the material things of life you have nothing or little left for the service of God. Therefore, a Spirit-filled life is only possible in a worry free life.
All of us know that freedom from worry is not an easy goal to gain or maintain. Worry is a lot like the common cold; the world is full of advice and suggestions, but no cure. Hardly a soul alive has not given some other soul in distress those deep words of wisdom-"don't worry." Most everyone reacts to this advice like Sir Walter Scott did. He was ill from worry over a large debt he had. His doctor told him to stop worrying or he would die. He responded, "Why, doctor, as long as that debt is hanging over my head, I cannot help worrying. I know the worrying is killing me, but you might as well go and tell my cook to order the water in the kettle not to boil, as to command my brain not to worry." The problem with telling people not to worry is that it is advice they already know, but cannot apply. We all know the folly of worry, but how in the world can we stop?
Does Jesus give us any more than this superficial advice? Does he give any insight that makes this universal advice practical? Yes he does. Almost this whole chapter is devoted to the practical principle of handling worry successfully. Verse 34 just sums it all up. Listen to some modern versions.
Phillips-"Don't worry at all then about tomorrow. Tomorrow can take care of itself! One day's trouble is enough for one day." Today's English Version-"So do not worry about tomorrow; it will have enough worries of its own. There is no need to add to the troubles each day brings." The Living Bible-"So don't be anxious about tomorrow. God will take care of your tomorrow too. Live one day at a time."
Jesus does not give superficial advice about not worrying. He does not pretend that it can be eliminated from life all together. Such an unrealistic false hope is what drives people batty because they cannot attain it. Jesus was the master realist. He recognized that life has its problems. Everyday has trouble enough, and, therefore, worry and anxiety will be a real part of everyone's life, including his disciples. The way to cope with it is not to fight a futile battle to get rid of it, but to simply take it in small enough doses. If we would just pay attention to the prescription of the Great Physician we would be able to handle the problem of worry. Verse 34 is a precise prescription with a quantity measurement. When you pay no attention to the quantity you can get into trouble. One teaspoon of a medicine can help you, but a cup full of the same thing can make you seriously ill, and even kill you.
Jesus is saying that if we handle worry in the proper doses it can be helpful rather than harmful. It becomes destructive because most people take an overdose. An overdose of worry is as destructive as an overdose of drugs. If we can weigh our worry well, we will be wise. How much can we take? Jesus says, one day at a time. To worry and be concerned about the problems of any one day motivates us to solve those problems. Man was so built emotionally and psychologically that he can handle worry in daily doses. David Seabury in his book How To Worry Successfully answers the question, shall I try not to worry like this. "No, not unless you wish to stay in bed and be nursed. Worry is the process of working your way out of annoying situations into to satisfying ones; and essential method of growth; a means of achieving happiness. It is over-anxiety that injures us."
Jesus says to handle your troubles a day at a time and all will be well. Don't borrow tomorrow's worries, and you won't have to worry about the dangers of worry. In the Lord's Prayer he taught his disciples in verses 9-13, he emphasizes this principle. Give us this day our daily bread. Don't worry about tomorrow's provision. If that is a problem, you can worry about that tomorrow. Just take care of today and leave tomorrow alone until it comes.
God built man and created the world to operate on this principle. We are made to live a day at a time. Each day we rise again to live, and each night we die in sleep. Everyday is a light in itself. We experience a new beginning, or resurrection, and an end, or a death everyday. Sleep is designed to break up life in small chunks so we can handle it. We are not built to take more than a day at a time. We break down in body, mind, and spirit when we try. When we reach into tomorrow and pull its burden back into today we are abusing and misusing the equipment God gave us. Hospitals and institutions are human junkyards for the wrecks we make of the machine God gave us.
If God intended us to carry tomorrow's burdens today, he would have made us so that we only sleep every other night. The nature of creation, and the studies of modern science, both confirm the truth of the principle Jesus teaches: Handle one day at a time and life's worries will not be destructive, and you can live a basically worry free life. Worry free does not mean you never worry, but it means you are free from its destructive power because you never take an overdose. The overdose comes when we add tomorrow's worry to today. This is foolish because it is playing at prophecy without the gift of prophecy. We cannot know the future, and so to worry about it is to build on guess work, and this leads to jumping to many false conclusions.
It is like the man who was driving in the country and ran over a dog. He got out and examined the poorest mangy old critter he ever saw. He was dead and so he pushed him into the ditch and got back into the car. Just then a farmer appeared carrying a gun. Anxiety gripped the motorist. What could he do now? Nervously he reached for his billfold and produced a hundred dollar bill and held it out to the farmer. "I'm sorry to have killed your dog and interrupted your hunting. Will this be enough?" The farmer took the bill and stuck it in his pocket and said, "That's plenty. I wasn't goin hunting anyway. I was just goin into the woods to shoot that old dog." Worry made his imagination create a disaster when, in reality, he had done the farmer a favor. Worry has a tendency to manufacture problems that do not exist. That is why it is so harmful to health. Worry is constantly preparing us for fighting battles which never come. An unknown poet wrote,
Some of your hurts you have cured,
And the sharpest you still have survived,
But what torments of grief you endured
From evils that never arrived.
If we would only pay attention to how God made us, we would see how wise and obvious the principles of Jesus are, and how easily they can be applied. We have all heard stories of the little mother who lifts up a car to save her child. Numerous experiences of life tell us that we are made with reserve power to handle emergencies. This is common knowledge, but we don't use common sense in applying this knowledge to life. If God built us with reserved power, then it is sheer folly to worry about an emergency before it happens. The reserve power cannot be set free until it does. It we try and cope with a possible emergency of tomorrow, we are forcing our mind to handle an emergency without reserve power, but with only normal power, and this overload is bound to blow a fuse if we persist.
We are made so that a real problem can be handled when we must face it, because of the reserve power that is available. But when we try to cope with it before it is real and starring us in the face, we only hurt ourselves and fail to solve the problem. The folly of this is like a mother worrying that she one day may have to lift a car to rescue her child. Her foolish worry will only weaken her so that if the emergency ever did happen, she couldn't, because her worry had burned up her reserved power.
Dr. Earl Carlson of the Neurological Institute of New York City was a cripple as a boy. He could hardly walk across the street. One day as he was hobbling along the street on crutches, a team of horses ran away and headed right for him. He dropped his crutches and ran like a boy with perfect legs. He then realized he had untapped reserves within himself he never dreamed of before. This led him to master his own problem, and then go on to help many others. Just imagine if he had sat around and worried for years about what he would ever do if he got caught in the street by run away horses. He would probably would have added ulcers to his problems, and possibly have been too weak to run. Worry about tomorrow's problems only assures that the problems, if they do come, will have the advantage over us. Jesus says, don't do it. Even if the worst comes tomorrow, the best preparation is a restful today.
A worry free future depends upon our trusting God and not on our prophetic abilities. If we trust our own moods and fears, and pessimistic worries, the future will be a harder battle than God intended it to be. On the other hand, if we trust God and take what each day brings as enough to handle at a time, we will have a good year ahead, however, many problems we must face. The poet says,
Tomorrow's plans I do not know,
I only know this minute:
But He will say, "This is the way,
By faith now walk ye in it."
And I am glad that it is so,
Today's enough to bear;
And when tomorrow comes His grace
Shall far exceed its care.
What need to worry then, or fret?
The God Who gave His Son,
Holds all the moments in His hand
And gives them one by one.
Bob Harrington writes, "Worry distorts our thinking, disrupts our work, disquiets our soul, disturbs our body, disfigures our face, destroys our poise, depresses our friends, demoralizes our life, defeats our faith, and debilitates our energy. That is a lot of destructive D's, so the best thing to do is don't." If we decide we can defy the principles of Christ, and the laws God has built into our system, we will be taking on burdens that are not his will, and we will not be covered by the promises of his sufficiency. When a Christian breaks a law of God and nature, he will pay the consequences the same as anyone else.
Alexander Maclaren wrote, "God gives us power to bear all the sorrows of his making, but he does not give us power to bear the sorrows of our own making, which the anticipation of sorrow most assuredly is." In other words, when you carry tomorrow you carry it alone. I use to lay out large reams of paper for a paper cutter. In any one day I lifted tons of paper. How can a person lift tons in one day? It is easy if you take it a little at a time. Jesus says you can handle life's problems the same way. Handle them a day at a time.
President Truman lived and served in a time of terrible tension in the world. Norman Vincent Peale once sat in the White House and asked him how he could keep calm under all the pressure. He replied, "I come to this office each morning and I stay for long hours doing what has to be done to the best of my ability. And when you've done the best you can, you can't do any better. So when I go to bed at night I turn it all over to the Lord and forget it. I say, "Lord, I did my best today. Now you take over from here," and I go to sleep." Truman, like Rockefeller, lived to a ripe old age, and in both cases one of the factors in their longevity was obedience to the principle Jesus taught. Don't worry about tomorrow, but live one day at a time.