Overcoming Sin Through Christ – Anxiety or Worry

Overcoming Sin through Christ

A Comprehensive List of Sins

(Alphabetically Arranged)

Richard Hollerman

The plan of this study is simple.  We will look at a large number of sins, one by one, alphabetically.  We will define the sin, describe it, and comment on it, along with noticing Scripture references on the particular entry.  Some illustrations will be offered along with the description.

Anxiety or Worry

It would seem that worry is a modern pastime.  People worry about not having money, worry about their car breaking down, and worry about grades in school.  They worry about their health, worry about their children, and worry about the weather.  They worry about the national economy, worry about terrorism, and worry about their clothes and food.  They worry about the past that they can’t change and the future which is totally unknown.  But it is not just a problem for those in the 21st Century, it has always been prevalent.  People of the past had much to worry about: bad weather, plagues, illnesses with no cure, lack of food, terrible employment, heating their house, attacks by enemies, and much more. 

Worry comes from the Greek verb merimnao, which means “to worry, be concerned about something,” and the noun merimna means “care, anxiety, concern.”[i]  Mounce says that worry generally “refers to an unhealthy and unproductive concern or worry about events and circumstances.  This is especially true of a focus on physical and temporary matters rather than spiritual matters.”[ii]  Vine thinks that perimna is connected with merizo, which means “to draw in different directions, distract,” thus merimna signifies “that which causes this, a care, especially an anxious care.”  The verb merimnao means “to be anxious about, to have a distracting care.”[iii]

The idea of anxiety or worry is brought out in various ways.  Jesus said that when the apostles are brought before authorities for persecution, “Do not worry about how or what you are to say; for it will be given you in that hour what you are to say” (Matthew 10:19; cf. Luke 12:11).  When Jesus was visiting Mary and Martha in Bethany, Martha rebuked Mary for not helping with the preparations.  Jesus replied, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and bothered about so many things; but only one thing is necessary, for Mary has chosen the good part, which shall not be taken away from her” (Luke 10:40-42).  He said that Martha was too “distracted” by her food preparations (v. 40). 

Even legitimate matters such as marriage can bring anxiety or worry.  Paul says, “I want you to be free from concern,” then he says that the unmarried is “concerned about the things of the Lord,” whereas “the one who is married is concerned about the things of the world” (1 Corinthians 7:32-34).  There is a legitimate “concern” to bless one’s mate and fulfill one’s rightful duties, but the marital relationship and family responsibilities can also bring worry.

Worry or anxiety is generally viewed negatively in the Scriptures.  Jesus describes the third type of soil in the parable of the sower, saying that “the worries of the world, and the deceitfulness of riches, and the desires for other things enter in and choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful” (Mark 4:19; cf. Matthew 13:22).  The Lord spoke of the people likened by the third soil as being “chocked with worries and riches and pleasures of this life” who “bring no fruit to maturity” (Luke 8:14).  Does this describe you or me?  Do the “worries of the world” bring unfruitfulness to our spiritual life?  Do these worries and anxieties overwhelm you so that you don’t go on to spiritual maturity?  In light of His second coming, Jesus warned, “Be on guard, so that your hearts will not be weighted down with dissipation and drunkenness and the worries of life, and that day will come on you suddenly like a trap” (Luke 21:34).  Will we be so consumed with the worries of life that we won’t be prepared for our Lord’s glorious return?

Because our well-being, and the well-being of our families, is never completely secure for the future, we are never secure from attacks of worry.  Usually we feel sorry for ourselves, because we think we have so many things to worry about and they irritate us. . . . Worrying means that our hearts are not rooted in the Kingdom of God, because we are not captivated by it.  Rather we are captivated by things that are more important to us: a steady income, good health, recognition, well-being of body and soul for ourselves and our families.  These are the center of our thoughts. . . . If we are influenced by the spirit of worrying, the reason lies in our disbelief, in our discouragement.  We worry because we do not believe that God as a Father will take care of us.[iv]

The Lord Jesus addressed the propensity to worry in His Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7) and the Sermon on the Plain (Luke 6).  He said, “Do not be worried about your life, as to what you will eat or what you will drink; nor for your body, as to what you will put on.  Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?” (Matthew 6:25).  The Lord then shows that we should have faith in God and not worry about our daily necessities that God knows about already (vv. 26-30).  He said, “Do not worry then, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear for clothing?’  For the Gentiles eagerly seek all these things; for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things” (vv. 31-32).  We are not even to worry about the future: “Do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself.  Each day has enough trouble of its own” (v. 34). 

What is the key?  Jesus said that we are to “seek first His [God’s] kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you” (v. 33).  As we read this section, we are impressed with one thing that Jesus said.  He says, “You of little faith!” (Matthew 6:30).  Worry is not needed since God is our Father and He knows what we need and will provide according to His will.  If we believe that God cares for us, loves us, and is our Heavenly Father, we can be assured that He will provide what we need.  There is no need to worry.

Paul gives a further key to overcoming the sin of worry.  He wrote, “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything, by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.  And the peace of God, which passes all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6-7).  Since God is our Father, we can approach Him in prayer about every trial and problem in our life.  Marvin Vincent believes that v. 7 should be understood in light of verse 6: “Humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time.”  Vincent says, “Humble yourselves and cast all your anxiety.  Pride is at the root of most of our anxiety.  To human pride it is humiliating to cast everything upon another and be cared for.”[v] 

When you begin to worry about physical problems, material concerns, relationship difficulties, that is the time to take your needs and concerns to God in prayer and supplication.  Paul says that this is to be done “with thanksgiving” since we should not only be concerned about our needs but also our blessings.  The result is that God will place His divine “peace” in our hearts in Christ Jesus (see also John 14:27)!  Paul writes that you should cast “all your anxiety [merimnan] on Him, because He cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7; cf. Psalm 55:22; 68:19).

There are times when anxieties will weight heavy on us.  Paul said that he experienced this himself: “Apart from such external things [his many sufferings for Christ], there is the daily pressure on me of concern [merimna] for all the churches.  Who is weak without my being weak?  Who is led into sin without my intense concern?” (2 Corinthians 11:28-29).  Paul was deeply concerned about the welfare and growth of brothers and sisters. Like Paul, we may have “concern” for the spiritual welfare of other believers.  This may bring a “daily pressure” in our hearts when we realize that another brother or sister is in spiritual need or faces shipwreck of the faith (cf. 1 Timothy 1:19-20).  Paul commended Timothy for his “concern” for the welfare of others: “I have no one else of kindred spirit who will genuinely be concerned [merimnesei] for your welfare.  For they all seek after their own interests, not those of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 2:20-21).  But even in times like this, we can trust in God our Father to work in difficult situations and struggling people for our good and His own glory.

It has been said that worry is not needed.  If we are worrying about matters of the past, those are already past and we can do nothing to change them.  If we are worrying about matters of the future, we don’t even know what will happen tomorrow (cf. Proverbs 27:1; James 4:14-15).  And if we are worrying about the present, this is unproductive.  If we can do something to change the situation, let us do so along with prayer.  If we can’t change the situation, let us trust in God to work in and through it for our own benefit and the benefit of others.

One way to overcome the plague of anxiety is to commit ourselves to suffering for Christ’s sake:

The root of worrying is our fear of the cross.  Worrying is nourished by the fear that we can lose some of the benefits we possess for body or soul, security or comfort. Then we would have to suffer—and we cannot commit ourselves to this suffering.  We want to protect ourselves from the difficult things that lie ahead of us.  So our worrying thoughts center around how we can avoid the difficulties.  In our pride we often think we can master our lives alone, independent of God’s help. When we come to the end of our possibilities, our worries, nourished by our fear of suffering, begin to captivate us.

Therefore, the way to begin to overcome this sin of worrying is to commit ourselves to suffering!  We must say “Yes” to all the difficult things that are in our hearts.  In spirit, we must lay upon the altar of sacrifice everything that we want to hold on to at any cost and say:

“Take my life and everything that makes life worthwhile and precious for me, my health, my dear ones, my security, my wishes and whatever else I have and would like to keep for the future!  I surrender my will to You, if You want to take everything from me.  I will not cling to anything any more, because I trust You, my God and my Father, and You will take care of me and my family and give us everything we need in the future.  I will only expect help from You.  You will not disappoint me.  Up until now You have always sustained me, and because You are always the same, You will also sustain me in difficult times.”

If we picture in our minds who our Father is, and declare His wonderful traits, then every worry must yield in the sight of His omnipotence and love.[vi]

 



[i] Mounce, Expository Dictionary, p. 809.

[ii] Ibid.

[iii] Expository Dictionary.

[iv] Schlink, You Will Never be the Same, pp. 185-186.

[v] Word Studies in the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1887), p. 669.

[vi] Schlink, You Will Never Be the Same, pp. 186-187.


 

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