This post is a supplement to the sermon, “Overcoming Anxiety By God’s Grace.” You can listen to it here.
Luke 12:22-34 At A Glance
In Luke 12:22 Jesus commands us “do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat, nor about your body, what you will put on.” In verses 24-28 Jesus gives us 3 reasons why we should fight the sin of anxiety.
- We were not created to live for basic needs. Life is more than food and clothing. We were made for a greater purpose (v.23).
- God takes care of things of lesser value, like birds and lilies; therefore, we can be assured that he will take care of Jesus’ disciples (vv.24, 27-28).
- We are unable to control the smallest things in life. Recognizing this frees us from the sinful desire to control our lives (vv.25-26).
In conjunction with the command “do not be anxious,” Jesus commands us in 12:29, “And do not seek what you are to eat and what you are to drink, nor be worried.” I take the word “seek” to mean “to live for” something/someone as the overarching purpose of our lives. Jesus is saying, “Don’t live for your basic needs like food and drink and clothing” which could also be understood as “Don’t live to preserve your life.”
“Whoever seeks to preserve his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life will keep it” (Luke 17:33).
If we think life is food, drink, or clothing and we live for that, we will lose our life in the life to come. Self-preservation leads to eternal destruction. Self-preservation feeds anxiety also. Anxiety serves as a foretaste of the loss to come. It is no wonder that those who live for themselves are also the unhappiest.
“Instead,” Jesus says, “seek his kingdom, and these things will be added to you” (12:31). God has given us life and a body (v.22) for this overarching purpose: To seek his kingdom – to live for his purposes and glory.
The deeper issue underlying our anxiety is a lack of faith; “O you of little faith!” (v.28). George Muller said “The beginning of anxiety is the end of faith, and the beginning of true faith is the end of anxiety.” Oh, how hard it is to believe and how easy it is to live a life of self-preservation! God calls you to seek his kingdom but what if your faith is weak? What if your will is weak?
“Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom” (v.32). Do not fear and despair. Though you do not have the strength to believe, it is God’s good pleasure to give you the grace that you need to believe. Think on this – the very thing you fear you lack is the very thing that God is happy to give to you!
Therefore, let me suggest 4 simple practical steps of faith in order to fight anxiety and to seek God’s kingdom purposes.
Read the Bible every day
Make the daily reading of Scripture a non-negotiable. Let everything that you have to do in our day be secondary to the careful and prayerful reading of Scripture. God is faithful to pour out his grace upon you through his Word and strengthen your faith. “But the word is very near you. It is in your mouth and in your heart, so that you can do it” (Deuteronomy 30:14). He is glad to do it!
Prayerfully confess & repent of habitual sins
I believe that the vast majority of our anxiety comes as a consequence from unrepented sin. If the Holy Spirit resides in us we will experience conviction for sin. Even this is a gracious gift from God, for the anguish of conviction drives us to confess our sin in prayer and to petition God for grace to repent. “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). He is glad to do it!
Patiently cast your worries and anxieties upon God in prayer
Notice I said “patiently cast your worries and anxieties upon God in prayer.” God has not ordained prayer to expedite an outcome. Prayer is meant to humble us before Almighty God and to teach us how to trust in him. And when you pray, pray with great emotion. Heap those heavy anxieties on his broad shoulders. Trust God to be your strength. “Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you” (1 Peter 5:6-7). He is glad to do it!
Be a faithful and joyful church member
Draw near to the people and the ministries of your church. Fellowship with brothers and sisters. Be intentional to get to know them and to pray for them. Ask God to give you a love for them and joy in serving them. Spend time in the community surrounding your church. Prayer walk the neighborhood, asking God to move. Look for opportunities to share the gospel with people who live in that community. If possible, move into that community. Self-absorption and self-love are pillars of an anxious heart. Living for others and the gospel ministry will take your eyes off of yourself and put a strangle hold on anxiety. “Whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it” (Mark 8:35). He is glad to do it!
Anxiety is great and our faith is weak, but Almighty God is happy to give us the grace that we need to fight anxiety and to live for him. Be strong in the Lord, friends.