Lessons From the Master
In His Sermon on the Mount (Matt. 6), Jesus Christ enumerated several principles or guidelines for beating stress, anxiety and worry. Let’s notice what they are.
First, you must decide not to worry. Jesus said: “Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment?” (Matt. 6:25).
Think about it. The advertising industry would like us to believe that if we don’t have a swimming pool in our backyard, a shiny new car, new clothes and a two-week vacation at the beach every year, we’re really missing out on life! Buying into that illusion can easily turn us into workaholics or discontents, or bury us in debt. Happiness is not synonymous with riches. We ought to be thankful for what we have, rather than anxious or stressed about how we can get more. Here, Christ is helping put our values in perspective.
Second, you must discover your worth to God. Christ says, “Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they?” (v. 26). Due to our incredible human potential, God values human life infinitely more than any animal’s life. And those who turn to God and seek to walk in His ways should never doubt that He will always provide for our every need and even give us many of our desires. Remember, however, that it is only when you “[d]elight thyself also in the Lord” that “he shall give thee the desires of thine heart” (Ps. 37:4).
Third, realize that worrying doesn’t help. Christ’s next comment on the topic of worry and stress was expressed in the simple question: “Which of you by taking thought [worrying] can add one cubit unto his stature?” (Matt. 6:27). Worrying is not constructive; rather, it can be destructive, compounding anxiety and causing further stress. If you have an issue on your mind, ensure your thought patterns about the subject are constructive, leading toward a solution, a conclusion. If they are not, or if your thoughts only cause added stress over the issue, get control of your mind and discard the fruitless thoughts.
Another principle to recognize is the fact that God knows our needs. Jesus continued, “And why take ye thought for raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin: And yet I say to you, That even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which to day is, and to morrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith?” (vv. 28-30). Even though God already knows our needs and problems, He expects us to talk to Him about them! Apply Philippians 4:6: “Be careful [anxious] for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.” Moreover, we should cast all our cares and anxieties on God (i Pet. 5:7). He still wants us to ask for His help in tough situations.
Christ’s next statement is one of the most meaningful verses in the Bible: “But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you” (Matt. 6:33). When we make that our number-one goal, God will take care of the other, less-important details in our lives. This principle is one of the surest cures for the anxiety, worry and tension that can afflict all of us. When our focus is on God’s Kingdom, all other material problems will seem insignificant and unimportant by comparison.
A final principle from the Sermon on the Mount having to do with stress is to concentrate on your problems a day at a time. Christ said: “Take, therefore no thought [do not worry] for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil [trouble] thereof” (v. 34). Prioritize. Take care of first things first. Handle the troubles that need immediate attention first; don’t be overly concerned about problems that might (or might not) crop up. Plan for the future, but live your life positively one day at a time, dealing with responsibilities as they arise.