Bible Studies for Life
Matthew 6; Psalm 23
Matt Ward, associate pastor
First Baptist Church, Thomson
Wouldn’t it be nice if 2020 just stayed in 2020? If all of those worries and concerns could just be put to bed because it’s now 2021? We all know that worries don’t pay attention to our calendars, and so here we are with worries about the lingering fallout from 2020 and worries about what 2021 will bring.
But Jesus warned us, “Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to your life?” (Matt 6:27). What did worrying accomplish for you in 2020? Did it give you answers? Did it give you comfort and joy? Did it give you energy and optimism? My guess is that it didn’t.
Worry is by definition anxiety over actual or potential problems. It is closely related to fear, which we covered a few weeks ago. And once again, Jesus makes this so easy and clear: Do not worry about your life; your heavenly Father knows what you need (Matt 6:28-34). What we worry about is what we do not trust God about. Psalm 23 is a beautiful illustration of what life lived according to Jesus’ words looks like.
The opening verse of Psalm 23 forces us to ask a powerful question: if we know that we have what we need, what do we have to worry about? Ask yourself – what do you tend to worry about? David, from his years as a shepherd, knew that sheep “worry” about needs. Protection from danger. Water and food and shelter. Healing from parasites and injury. If you read Phillip Keller’s wonderful, short book "A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23," you can learn all the ways David described those needs being met in this amazing psalm.
Not coincidentally, people need those same things that David provided for his sheep, and the Bible is clear that God provides us what we need. Unfortunately, though, we tend to worry about things that are not directly related to our needs. And that’s when we get ourselves into trouble. Worry leads to anxiety, which has a myriad impact on us, from our sleeping to our eating to our social interaction to our mental health. But if God has given us what we need, why do we worry about those things?
From the perspective of a sheep, these verses are easy to understand. When the shepherd is present, the sheep will go down paths that might otherwise seem too threatening. That’s not very different from our experiences as people. Think of times you have been “braver” when someone else was around (particularly someone you knew could help you if you got into trouble). God made us to draw courage from the presence of others, and He is the ultimate provider of that courage.
Why might that be? Why is God’s presence the ultimate overcomer of our worry? Because there is nothing we can experience that God does not already know the outcome; there is nowhere we can go where God is not already and always with us. From the unknown of tomorrow to the very specter of death itself, there is nothing that God has not conquered. And when He is with us, we have nothing to fear (or to worry about). David turns that fear on its head in verse 5 – not only does God not hide us from our enemies, He publicly flaunts His love for and protection of us.
This word for “pursue” is almost always used of enemies, like those mentioned in verse 5. But it is not the enemies that pursue David; it is God’s relentless, unfailing faithfulness. What worry can drown out that devotion from the God of the universe?
In my experience, this verse has been one of the most called for (and relied upon) at a funeral. And it is so very comforting! But while we know that God has a home in heaven for every follower of Jesus Christ, David experienced that love and assurance in this life. He lived in the presence of the Lord all of his days. Freedom from worry is not something we die to experience; God makes it available to us now.
What are those worries you dwell on? How productive has your worrying been? In what ways have you focused more on your worries than on God’s presence in your life. Write your worries down. Then search the Bible for times God has spoken about or acted on worries like them. Turn your worries over to God and believe the promise that He will take care of your needs.
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