Let’s talk about Tom Selleck this morning. You know who he is, don’t you? He’s the photogenic star of the TV series Magnum P.I.. Tom Selleck is, as they say, a hunk. A few years ago he was unknown and then overnight he became a huge star.
A few years ago he made his first movie—High Road to China. Although panned by the critics, it grossed $50 million. He has appeared in several movies since then, including the big hit Three Men and a Baby.
In just a few years he has made millions of dollars. Plus the TV series was filmed in Hawaii. Plus he is so popular that he can’t go out in public without being mobbed by his adoring fans.
His crowning glory came a few days ago when the results of a new survey was released. Tom Selleck has just been named the sexiest man of the 1980s. He beat out Sean Connery, Tom Cruise, Robert Redford, and a few other notables for that honor.
So what do you think Tom Selleck worries about? A while back I read an article in the Dallas Morning News in which Tom Selleck talked about what worries him.
—He worries about his hectic schedule.
—He worries about his overnight success. That perhaps it may change him somehow, or that perhaps it came too quickly, or that perhaps people will forget him as quickly as they found him.
—He especially worries about the movies. Will he miss the one great role that would turn him into a superstar?
Everyone Worries About Something
That’s what Tom Selleck—sexiest man of the 80s—worries about. Somehow, I found it all very reassuring. It’s nice to know that even millionaires have problems. Money and fame bring their own set of concerns. The lesson, I suppose, is this: Everyone worries about something. You might not think so, but it is true.
Even the best of us … and certainly the rest of us … have worries and concerns. For most of us, the worries are more mundane and closer to home. There is sickness. There is mental pressure and stress. There are family problems. There are job problems. There are difficulties we have with other people.
And for most people, it’s not just one thing. It’s many things wrapped up together. It’s a job, school, money, work, health, bills to pay, your husband, your wife, your ex-husband, your ex-wife, the in-laws, the kids, and on and on it goes. Any one thing we could handle or even two things, but when you get three or four together, your knees start to buckle.
One of baseball’s greatest pitchers was Satchel Paige. For twenty-four years he pitched in the Negro leagues and then joined the Cleveland Indians and later the Saint Louis Browns. In 1971 he was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame. While he is justly famous for his exploits on the mound, he is also remembered for his Six Rules for Staying Young. I share them with you for your enjoyment.
1. Avoid fried meats which angry up the blood.
2. If your stomach disputes you, lie down and pacify it with cool thoughts.
3. Keep the juices flowing by jangling around gently as you move.
4. Go very light on the vices, such as carrying on in society. The social ramble ain’t restful.
5. Avoid running at all times.
6. Don’t look back. Something may be gaining on you.
(Source: The Baseball Reader, p.101)
All those things will definitely help and at the beginning of a new year most of us need all the help we can get. But some of our problems run a little deeper than fried meat.
The Big Question For 1990
This is the last Sunday of 1989. What will the new year bring? The cover story of Friday’s USA Today discussed that very question. Tim Willard of the World Future Society predicted that the 1990s will be “the most worry-filled decade the world has ever experienced.” Is he right? In less than 15 hours we’ll begin to know the answer.
This morning I would like to bring you some good cheer for the new year. My sole purpose is to be an encourager. There is plenty of pessimism going around. I would like to dispense some biblical optimism.
What we really need to know can be summed up in one sentence—Will God take care of us in 1990? Will he or won’t he? If he will, then we don’t have much to worry about. If he won’t, then we’re in a heap of trouble.
Let’s be perfectly honest about that question. With our heads, we know the answer is “yes.” Of course, God will take care of us. With our hearts we wonder about it. Does God know about my situation? Does he really care about me? Will he take care of me in the new year or do I have to handle things all by myself?
This is not an academic question. This is the question. Will God take care of us in 1990?
Jesus’ Advice To Compulsive Worriers
Fortunately, Jesus answered that question for us. He did it so clearly that no one can miss it. For our Lord’s answer, turn with me to Matthew 6. This is the middle portion of the Sermon on the Mount. It sounds like it was written for the beginning of a new year. Look at verse 25: “Do not worry.” And verse 27: “Who of you by worrying?” And verse 28: “Why do you worry?” And verse 31: “So do not worry.” And verse 34: “Therefore do not worry.” Five times in ten verses Jesus mentions “worry.” And the whole point is to tell us: “Don’t worry. Don’t get anxious.”
What is worry? The word itself comes from the Old English wyrgan, which means to strangle or to seize by the throat. Let me give you a simple definition. Worry is excessive concern over the affairs of life. The key obviously is the word “excessive.” Worry happens when you are so concerned about the problems of life that you can think of nothing else. It is an all-consuming feeling of uncertainty and fear.
And it is a sin. Worry is a sin for two reasons: First, because it displaces God in your life. When you commit the sin of worry, you are living as though God did not exist. And you are living as though you alone can solve your problems. Second, because it distracts you from the things that really matter in life. As long as you are worrying, you can’t do anything else. You are strangled by worry.
But how can we tell when the legitimate concerns of life have become sinful worries? Here are three practical guidelines. You are probably well into worry …
1. When the thing you are concerned about is the first thing you think about in the morning and the last thing you think about at night.
2. When you find yourself thinking about it during every spare moment.
3. When you find yourself bringing it up in every conversation you have.
Seen in that light, most of us worry a lot more than we would like to admit!
But Jesus said, Don’t worry. Don’t be anxious about the affairs of life. Don’t let your legitimate concern turn into sinful worry.
Let me tell you from this passage three things you shouldn’t worry about in 1990.
I. Don’t Worry About Where Your Next Meal Is Coming From
Verse 25 says, “Do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink.” And verse 31, “So do not worry, saying, ’What shall we eat?’ or ’What shall we drink.’” Now that sounds okay if you’ve got food in the pantry; it sounds crazy if you don’t.
But let Jesus explain himself. Verse 26 says, “Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father takes care of them. Are you not much more valuable than they?”
Very few birds go into farming. You hardly ever see a red robin planting some corn. But God feeds the birds. And aren’t you worth more than the birds to God?
I suspect that the problem lies right there. Deep inside we wonder if we are worth anything to God. Psychologists tell us that behind nearly all emotional and mental problems lies a poor self-image. If you feel bad about yourself, if you see yourself as a loser and a flop, if you regard yourself as never quite measuring up, then you are going to have a hard time trusting God, because you will not see yourself as worthy of his love.
The truth is, our self-images are formed in our early years. And that’s why what happens at home is so important. Erma Bombeck said that good children are like sunsets. They disappear every evening and we take them for granted. Few adults realize how desperately our children want to please us and how crushed they are when they think they have failed.
I began thinking about my own boys and how proud I am of them and how the time is slipping away from me. Just recently we started a new deal where each week I will take one of the boys out for a special treat—just me and him. Joshua and I went out to Portillo’s and then Mark and I went to McDonald’s and yesterday Nicholas came and said, “Can we go miniature golfing?” I said, “Son, there’s ice everywhere.” He grinned and said with perfect five-year-old logic, “So? Let’s go anyway.”
Now, I’m a very imperfect father but I love my sons. Do you think God loves me any less? No, he loves me far more. I’m his son. And if I love my sons when they do wrong, am I better than God? No, he loves me even when I fail him. Let me say it this way. There is nothing you can do to make God stop loving you. Nothing. You can hate him, you can turn away from him, you can curse him to his face, but you can’t stop him from loving you. Nothing can make him cease caring for you, nothing can stem the tide of his mercy toward you, nothing can hold back his kindness. And he has promised to take care of you. You are worth more than a million birds to him. After all, the birds are God’s creatures, but we are God’s children.
Does that mean we will never miss a meal? No. Does that mean we will always have food on the table? No. Does that mean we will never go hungry? No. It means that God has promised to take care of what we eat and therefore we don’t need to worry about it.
II. Don’t Worry About What You Are Going To Wear
Isn’t it interesting that Jesus mentioned clothing? He knew all about the 1990s. It’s so important to wear the right things today—like Dockers or Bugle Boy jeans. Listen to his words in verses 28-30: “And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?”
The lilies don’t even work for what they have. God gives it to them. And do you think the flowers worry? You never see a lily going to the psychiatrist because he can’t get his head together. Only humans do that.
And here’s the point. The flowers don’t even last very long. You buy some today and by Wednesday they’ve started to wilt. Little helpless flowers that pass away so quickly. Yet God takes care of them.
But we are not flowers. We are living souls. Your body is not you. It’s part of you, but it’s not the whole you. The real you is more than the sum total of your blood, muscles, bones, fat, nerves and skin. You are not just a piece of gross anatomy. You are a living soul living in a body made by God. And you are going to live forever somewhere. That’s makes you infinitely more valuable than the lilies of the field. If that’s true—and it is—than you don’t have to worry about what you are going to wear. God will pick out your wardrobe for you. He will make sure that you have what you need.
Why Food And Clothes?
Suppose we stop right here and ask, “Why did Jesus specifically mention food and clothes as things not to worry about?” The answer is that they represent the basic elements of life. They stand for all the things we need to get along in the world, such as money, jobs, housing, transportation, and so on. By mentioning food and clothes, Jesus is really saying, “You are not to worry about any of these things.”
And the reason we are not to worry about them is because worry inflates these things all out of proportion. Verse 25 says, “Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes?” Food is important—and you need to eat some from time to time—but it is not the most important thing. Clothing is valuable—and you ought to wear some—but it is not the most valuable thing. The whole point is, in God’s economy food and clothing are of minor importance. They are so small that God is saying, “You think about the big stuff and I’ll take care of the details.”
There is one final thing we don’t need to worry about in 1990.
III. Don’t Worry About How Long You Are Going To Live
Notice what Jesus said in verse 27, “Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?” In the Greek the phrase “a single hour” actually refers to a cubit. In ancient times a cubit was a measurement equal to the length from the elbow to the middle finger, a distance of about 18 inches. It is like saying, “Who by worrying can add an inch to his height or a single moment to his life?” The answer is, no one can. That’s the funny thing about worry. It can give you an ulcer or a stroke or a migraine headache or a heart attack. But the one thing worry can’t give you is a longer life. A man can worry himself to death, but he can’t worry himself into a longer life.
Think for a moment about some of the people who died in 1989—Lucille Ball, Abbie Hoffman, Robert Penn Warren, Ferdinand Marcos, Gilda Radner, and just this week, Billy Martin. And there were millions of other who died who were not so famous. How many of them knew in advance the time and place of their death? Hardly any of them.
The Bible says, “It is appointed unto man once to die.” (Hebrews 9:27) That is one appointment we all must keep. It cannot be postponed or rescheduled. Perhaps you’ve heard the story of the two baseball players, George and John. One day they were talking and John said, “Do you think they play baseball in heaven?” “I don’t know,” said George, “But if I get there before you do, I’ll try to come back and let you know.” Well, the very next week George died suddenly. A few days later John was out walking by himself when he heard a voice call his name. He looked around but no one was there. The voice called his name again. “Is that you, George?” he whispered. “Yes, it’s me,” said the voice. “Well, do they play baseball up there?” The voice answered, “John, I’ve got some good news and some bad news about that. The good news is, they play baseball up here all the time. The bad news is, they’ve got you scheduled to pitch next week.”
That’s the way life is. One day you’re shoveling snow; the next day you’re pitching for the Angels. But it could happen to any of us. You may die in 1990. Nothing you can do can change that fact in the least. The whole matter is in God’s hands. So to worry about terminal illness or a freak accident is pointless. Nothing you can do makes the slightest difference. You cannot by worrying add a single second to your life.
That lifts a tremendous load off your shoulders, doesn’t it? You’re going to die someday. Maybe today. Maybe tomorrow. Maybe later this year. But maybe not for fifty years. Maybe suddenly. Maybe slowly. Only God knows how it will happen.
But that means you are living on borrowed time. Only God knows when your time is up and your appointment has come. That means you don’t have to worry about dying. That’s out of your hands. Therefore, you are free to relax, enjoy life, live each day to the fullest and go for all the gusto you can get. And let God worry about how things turn out.
Worry Less And Trust More
So what kind of year will 1990 be? The man from the World Future Society says this will be the most worry-filled decade in world history. He may be right. In times like these, our temptation is to worry more and trust less when exactly the reverse ought to be true. We ought to worry less and trust more.
Will God take care of us in 1990? Yes, he will. So we don’t need to worry about food or clothes or how long we will live or anything else. God is going to take care of us. Maybe not exactly the way we expect. But he will take care of us.
In light of that, what should our attitude be? Let me give you exactly what Jesus said.
I. Remember That God Already Knows What You Need
Look at verse 32, “For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly father knows that you need them.” What are “all these things?” Food, clothes, shelter, money, a job, and all the other necessities of life. God already knows about them. When you say, “Lord, “I’m out of a job,” it isn’t news to him. When you say, “Lord, I can’t pay my bills,” he checked your bank account before you did. He knows you are broke.
That’s a wonderful incentive to pray. He already knows the details of every problem in your life. So go ahead, tell him the whole story. He won’t be surprised. And pray with confidence … He’s waiting to hear from you.
II. Put God First And Your Worries Second
This is just a way of paraphrasing verse 33: “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” This means, let God solve your problems. Keep on praying. Keep on trusting. Keep on believing. Keep on doing good. Keep on serving the Lord. Keep on helping others. Keep on sharing. And God promises to take care of you. Let God be God even in the hard times. And everything else you need will be added to you.
III. Don’t Worry About The Future
This is Jesus’ final piece of advice in verse 34. “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” Don’t borrow trouble. There’s plenty to be thinking about right now. So many people are frozen with fear over what might happen two or three months down the road. Listen, if God could create the world in seven days, he can surely handle your problems in March or April.
Each day has enough trouble to keep you plenty busy. You take care of today and God will take care of tomorrow.
Cheer Up, Ye Saints Of God
And that brings us to the end, doesn’t it? Be encouraged, child of God. Look up, Christian. Rejoice, ye saints of the Lord. Your heavenly Father has promised to take care of you in 1990. That’s good cheer for the New Year.
When we were first married Marlene taught me a little chorus that we sometimes sing at our house. It seems like a fitting conclusion to this message:
Cheer up, ye saints of God, there’s nothing to worry about.
Nothing to make you feel afraid, nothing to make you doubt.
Remember, Jesus never fails, so why not trust him and shout,
You’ll be sorry you worried at all tomorrow morning.
Forgive us, Lord, for doubting your Word. We say we trust you … and then we try to manage our own affairs. We believe that you have the answers … but often we forget to consult you. Forgive us for our lack of faith. Please, Lord, reach down and change the gears within us, that we may go forward with you. Amen.