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Our Father Overcomes Our Anxiety, Part 1

Tuesday, November 13, 2012 | Comments (16)

by John MacArthur

One of the most hopeless aspects of unrepentant sinners’ lives is that they have no answer for anxiety. They’re forced to put their hopes in flimsy, fallible plans and institutions. They aren’t able to rest firmly in the unchanging promises of God—they have to ride out every wave of calamity, every unexpected disaster.

Our relationship with the Lord is one of the best guards we have against descending into crippling anxiety. Because of who our heavenly Father is, we don’t need to worry about finances, the basics of life, and what we eat, drink, and wear. Have we forgotten what He’s like?

If your concept of God is right and you see Him as owner, controller, and provider, and beyond that as your loving Father, then you know you have nothing to worry about. Jesus said, “What man is there among you who, when his son asks for a loaf, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, he will not give him a snake, will he? If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give what is good to those who ask Him!” (Matthew 7:9-11).

Because of God’s sovereign control and His fatherly love, we can rest assured that He will faithfully provide for His children. In Matthew 6, Jesus illustrates God’s care for us with some observations from nature.

God Always Feeds His Creatures

In Matthew 6:26, Jesus says “Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they?”

Let’s consider the birds for a moment. They don’t possess self-consciousness or the ability to strategize or reason. In fact, all they have working for them is their God-given instinct to survive. And incredibly, they do! The Lord doesn’t just create life; He also sustains it. Job 38:41 and Psalm 147:9 tell us that baby birds cry out to God for their food. Jesus tells us that even though they don’t sow or reap or stockpile surplus, their heavenly Father hears and provides for them.

Now that isn’t an excuse for idleness. You won’t see birds standing out on limbs with their mouth open to the sky, waiting for it to rain worms. God feeds them through the instinct that tells them where to find worms. He’s instituted a system that involves their working hard for their sustenance. Birds are always busy searching, gobbling up little insects, preparing their nests, caring for their young, teaching them to fly, pushing them out of the nests at the right time, migrating with the seasons, and so on. All that work is to be done if they’re going to eat—that’s how the Lord sovereignly designed them.

And because of that design, birds don’t worry about where they are going to find food. They just go about their business until they find it, and they always do because God is looking out for them. Birds simply have no reason to worry, and if they don’t, what are you worrying for? Jesus put it this way: “Are not two sparrows sold for a cent? And yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So do not fear; you are more valuable than many sparrows (Matthew10:29-31).

Are you not much better than a bird? No bird was ever created in the image of God. No bird was ever designed to be a joint heir with Jesus Christ. And no bird ever had a place prepared for it in heaven. If God faithfully sustains the life of a bird, don’t you think He can and will take care of you? Life is a gift from God. If God gives you the greater gift of life itself, don’t you think He will give you the lesser gifts needed to sustain that life? Of course He will.

Keep in mind, of course, that like the bird, we have to work because God has designed that man should earn his bread by the sweat of his brow (Genesis 3:19). If we don’t work, it is not fitting that we eat (2 Thessalonians 3:10). Just as God provides for the birds through their instinct, so He provides for man through his effort.

Tomorrow we’ll look at two more biblical examples from nature of God’s fatherly care.

(Adapted from Anxious For Nothing.)


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#1  Posted by Adaeze Agada  |  Tuesday, November 13, 2012at 5:19 AM

What if my anxiety is not concerning the basics of life? What do you do when your anxiety is a physical or mental issue? I wake up with a tight knot in my stomach, a feeling of anxiousness, but I couldn’t tell you why. How do I address it? I literally have anxiety daily.....about nothing. It's a heavy angst, but it is not in relation to anything going on in my life. It is simply this nagging feeling that latches on to my emotions and exhausts me endlessly. I’ve tried medication, but feel like I am being faithless. How should I deal with this? We take medication for headaches and viruses, is it reasonable to take medication for anxiety when it is not related to life events, but perhaps a mental problem? I guess I could take prayer but taking medication seems to work faster, and praying about it seems trivial, like praying about being hungry....just eat. I feel the same about my anxiety....just take the medication. If not, I spend hours fighting off the feeling with bible scripture and prayer, but I would rather spend time reading the bible for knowledge pertaining to anything other than my anxiety everyday. Sigh…more than anything, it’s simply annoying. I’m sure I could link it to my childhood and go for counseling and all that rubbish, but I’d rather take a pill in the AM/PM which handles the anxiety within minutes and allows me to carry on with the rest of my day.

#2  Posted by Mark Tanner  |  Tuesday, November 13, 2012at 6:38 AM

Hello Everyone and Pastor MacArthur,

What about people who are fairly young (mid 40's) and suffer chronic pain from a variety of sources and cannot work? (on disability and praise God we won our case) Do we not eat? This is part of my problem because I am in that situation and everything has been reversed where we have young children and our (wife and I) roles have been reversed. On top of that I am a perfectionist and OCD and find it hard to forgive myself although I know certain things are beyond my control, but I have a tendency to "beat myself up".

As I mentioned before, the hardest person to forgive for the sin we see in ourselves and hate is yourself even though we know that God has already forgiven.

I pray and have shed many tears that God would break this cycle because it impacts everyone around me and time with children goes by fast. I'm not mean and will speak to anyone concerning the Lord and His salvation with joy! Unfortunately, many people do not want to speak about pain or the Lord, the two things I know.

I love the Lord and I love His word, but feel as though I have let everyone around me down and the cycle repeats itself.

I am the one in the previous blog (yesterday) who feels like I am hanging on a bridge by my finger tips and loosing grip and have shed many tears over the past few years in prayer to the Lord and He seems to be silent; so I figure I am either not one of His or I am in some continual sin that only God can break, which I continue to pray he will if I am. If for no other reason; for the sake of my godly wife and wonderful children. Lord help me for their sake and bring glory to Your name.

God bless all of you.

#3  Posted by Angela Lambright  |  Tuesday, November 13, 2012at 7:08 AM

I am enjoying your series on anxiety. In my life God has always provided everything I need, sometimes is awesome and unusual ways where you know it was very much a God-thing! However I struggle with these verses in the context of the fact that people, especially children, are starving to death all over the world. Why does it seem like He more often meets the needs of those of us blessed to have been born into a 1st world country as opposed to those born into a 3rd world country. Even if these verses are meant for the believer, it seems presumptuous to think that every person/child who starves to death wasn't a believer. I was hoping you would have some thoughts to share on this. Thank you! And thank you for your ministry!

#4  Posted by Alan Smith  |  Tuesday, November 13, 2012at 11:44 AM

I too suffer from anxiety brought on by my thoughts and thought patterns and these can be troubling and disturbing to me. But the word does tell us 'to be anxious for nothing'. NOTHING! I pray and continue to read my Bible. I really do not know what else to do. I just keep going and believe that in due time I can replace the anxious thoughts with that of truth. I do believe that Satan can gain a foothold in our thinking and that maybe I have opened myself up this area of my mind. I just continue to believe Heb. 4:12 and keep reading and filling my mind with the word.

#5  Posted by Tania De Carvalho  |  Tuesday, November 13, 2012at 1:07 PM

Hi brother, if you already know the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ it may be helpful to perhaps do a study (word study - you and His Word only) on pride and fear. Prayerfully consider this. It will require work but I am sure that His Word will bless you.

May He enlighten your understand and give you wisdom into your own heart and into the knowledge of the glory of Christ who frees us from the bondage of sin. Amen.

#6  Posted by Mark Tanner  |  Tuesday, November 13, 2012at 1:09 PM

In response to post #3 by Angela Lambright

I believe Scripture infers that in God's tender mercy and grace that anyone who has died before the age of accountability is with the Lord and John MacArthur has preached to that effect. You can look at it from the reverse; what send people to hell? The rejection of the gospel of Jesus Christ and since children, mentally ill, and others have no mental capacity to affirm or deny Christ, then by default they will be in Heaven.

Also, too who much is given (knowledge and freedom of religion in the US), then much is expected and as MacArthur has preached that he has met Russians now living in the US and they say it is much easier to follow Christ there, then in the US because of all the materialism and other things (I would add many false teachers fleecing flocks).

Also, real missionaries like Paul Washer will tell you the same thing that it is easier to be a Christian in a 3rd world country than the US. Why? Because there you don't have all the distractions and ALL you have is Christ or you have nothing. Of course that statement is true everywhere.

Live long enough and we will know what it is like to suffer prosecution and do not be shocked when the Bible is banned as a hate book and biblical preaching will be called "hate speech" and those who practice these things will face prosecution. This will purge the church of many false teachers and false professors of our Lord.

Expect to see in the near future the anxiety levels of all people in our nation to rise; it is already a nation of people full of anxiety - greater than most if not #1 all 1st world nations.

I expect John MacArthur sees the writing on the wall with the upcoming economic changes to this country and the world and the upcoming changes to Biblical preaching and is ready to prepare God's people as best he can with God's grace to help us to understand and I thank the Lord for Grace To You; it has ministered to our family and strengthened me in the Lord and I know more about ancient history than I ever would otherwise.

We need to pray daily for GTY and other faithful ministries and support them financially as well in my opinion as times are going to get very hard. I looked at the major coal companies today - just messing around because I know that some in our gov't are going to unleash a war on that industry and it was unbelievable that 65 of 69 plus companies stock prices were down and most more than 60% of their value - now that will cause a lot of anxiety for those miners, their families, owners and people in our country who depend on that industry and these are located in some of the poorer areas.

Lord I pray for these people that we, as a nation, would subdue the earth as you have commanded in a way that demonstrates good stewardship. Bless and keep those who will be affected and grant Salvation to our leaders..amen!

#7  Posted by Mark Tanner  |  Tuesday, November 13, 2012at 1:22 PM

In response to #5 Posted by Tania De Carvalho

I assume you are speaking tome, but I could be wrong. If not for the daily reading of His word, listening of His word (I have the entire Bible on CD), listening to sermons throughout the day, then I would hate to see where I might be.

I do know that God works in and through these things with us and the devil helps to add doubts, but with chronic pain and small children you loose most of your friends and physical life and as having smaller kids you cannot do the things you did and want to share with them. Add the perfectionist mentality, hatred for sin, and OCD and you beat yourself up routinely. With OCD/perfectionism the smallest sin you see in yourself is enough to drive you nuts, but your desire to be with the Lord is greater than one can imagine - a perfectionist haven...LOL.

I would do anything to go back to work and rid this body racked with pain.

Thanks for the encouragement and the specific suggestion. MacArthur has a sermon titled "Breaking Sins Grip" and I have listened to that a few times over the past few days. I need to learn to forgive myself and learn to live with pain that gets worse each year.

Pray for those things for my family and I - anyone who reads this please pray for us. This is much a spiritual battle as it is a physical and I believe it is more a spiritual one.

Thanks and God's best to all, which is Christ!

#8  Posted by Alan Smith  |  Tuesday, November 13, 2012at 2:12 PM

Thank you, Can you please explain what you mean by pride and fear being related to anxiety. Again, thanks for your help.

#9  Posted by Tania De Carvalho  |  Tuesday, November 13, 2012at 7:16 PM

Well, I found out that in my case when I started looking into the root of my anxiety in light of Scripture the answer were either pride or fear. So I recommended just looking it up and letting the Scripture be a mirror to you, revealing the thoughts of your heart and renewing your mind. I don't want say much about it because I don't want this to become by any means one of those cases where the Bible is used as a self - help book. That is not my intention. We study the Word so we know how to walk in a manner worth of our calling, for the renewing of the mind, to grow in the knowledge of our Lord. We struggle with many things at time, but it seems to me that the root goes down to one or two things. So I just suggested that if you are struggling with anxiety, prayerfully consider looking into what God says about pride and fear and how they are manifested in your life. Then, bring every thought captive to what you learn, meditate on it. That is all, just a suggestion based on my belief on the sufficiency of Scripture to guide you even in your anxieties. It will be more profitable to you if you let the word explain to you how they relate to anxiety than me trying to. It requires time and work but I still feed on and guard my heart based in what I learned years ago. May the Lord draw you even closer to Himself and bless you with the knowledge in your soul that in the Prince of Peace you have all that you need for life and godliness indeed. Amen. :)

#10  Posted by Tania De Carvalho  |  Tuesday, November 13, 2012at 7:22 PM

sorry brother, perhaps the way I wrote was not good - it was not meant to offend. I am sorry to hear about your pain and I will have you and your family in my prayers for sure. Blessings!

#11  Posted by Brad Kennedy  |  Wednesday, November 14, 2012at 10:56 AM

If only this were printed as a warning on all prescription bottles:

"If, after receiving wise counsel from faithful ministers of the gospel according to God's will for you, you are still determined to remian (and wollow) in your present state of spiritual affliction, see Mark 4:11-12 before opening"

And this were printed over the header above the threshold of every ungodly counselor's den of confusion: Psalm 19:7

#12  Posted by Shauna Bryant  |  Wednesday, November 14, 2012at 11:04 AM

I am not speaking to any particular comment. I love the title to this: Our Father Overcomes Our Anxiety. Oftentimes, we have anxiety because we are either internally focused on ourselves/situation or we externally focus on events/issues, instead of being wholly focused on Christ, what He has done for us and how we are to live in light of that. We can often be our own worst enemies in dealing with things. Anxiety is a mental/emotional state that is manifesting itself in a physical way and that in turn effects other systems in our bodies and continues in what is known as a downward cascading effect. But oh what a deal our minds play in this beginning of anxiety! And ought not our minds be captivated by and even enslaved to Christ? I do believe that meditating on God's Word and living for Him keeps the focus where it should be and guides us in all things and overcomes all things. Does that mean it is easy or of no hard/sustained effort on our parts? Of course not. But God is Sovereign and He is able to overcome. Tania - post #9 - good thoughts!

#13  Posted by Vickey Singleton  |  Wednesday, November 14, 2012at 11:16 PM

Everyone has made great comments about anxiety so that I am somewhat hesitant to write more. My problem with anxiety started about a year after my husband died. I could see God's sovereignty and providence immediately before and after his death so strongly that I had no problem trusting the Lord. It was only after things settled in to a routine that I started having anxious thoughts. I found it much easier to trust when God was so obviously a part of what was going on in my life, but trusting Him to be sufficient for my emotional and physical needs on a day to day basis seemed almost impossible. This is when I realized that I did not necessarily need to study His commands to not worry or be anxious, but to understand who He is and why He can promise me peace. I had too small a view of His love for me. It finally occurred to me that my Lord loved me enough to come to this cesspool of a world, be rejected by those He came to save and then die a shameful death on the cross. As a result, I could say NO to those nagging emotions and thoughts that were all lies. I realized that in everything else in life I am able to logically understand the truth, but when it comes to things of the Lord, I want to operate on emotion. I found what I needed was not His commands to trust Him, but His promises of love and comfort. After I realized that His commands come from His love for me, I was then able to repent of my mistrust and to rest in the thought that He will take care of me not because I obey His commands (which is important) but because He loves me and will do what is best for me. In other words, my desire to obey came from my overwhelming gratitude rather than fear of retribution. He is indeed my FATHER who lovingly cares for me. I hesitate to even quote this verse because it has become to so many just a cliche, but it is so true: Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will make your paths straight. (Pro. 3:5-6)

#14  Posted by Hanna Morton  |  Thursday, November 15, 2012at 4:17 PM

Thanks Pastor MacArthur! I'm so blessed to hear God's Word being accurately handled and preached! I also struggle with this worry...For me, I always look ahead ...Like I worry about what people think about me or why do people don't like me and ect! And I always have to remind myself, by reading in the Scripture about Paul...He went thru a lot...He went thru persecution, turmoil, beatings, hatred, without food, and also was mocked, ridicule, and laughed at. I remind myself that God is in control! And I should rest in that! Thanks GTY!!! And God bless your ministry!

#15  Posted by Greg Wesson  |  Thursday, November 15, 2012at 8:40 PM

Although you wrote a lot of words in answering Angelas' question in post # 6. You did not answer her question at all. She mentioned people (especially children) that starve to death, as an example of how not everyone is provided for by God & how that our faith is tested when we see these kind of tragic realities in this world. God does indeed feed the birds & every other life form everywhere. But on an individual basis, many suffer through a very hard & painful life right to the day they die! Suffering, I believe, was the question she was addressing (and wanted you to address). Suffering is a reality & the fear of it, can bring about the anxiety that the Lord commands us to not engage in. To not fear the very real possibility that some serious suffering can happen to our self or those close to us, may be the best example of Very Great Faith! I'm afraid my faith is not like that. I pray that God will make me like that, but it is obvious to me that He uses that very suffering to bring about that kind of faith. Johnny Mac preaches a lot about this subject & I really appreciate his insight. God bless this ministry!!

#16  Posted by Vickey Singleton  |  Friday, November 16, 2012at 12:02 PM

Pastor John helped me in my perspective on why it almost seems like God is not fullfilling His promise to provide, especially to those who seem to suffer their entire lives. At the end of one of his sermons dealing with anxiety he said something like this.

"God promises to supply everything I need all of the days of my life. And, I don't know about you, but I don't want even one extra day of life than what he has ordained for me."

I realized that my life is all about what God has planned for me and my questioning what He provides is simply me forgetting these words:

"Therefore, we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day. For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal" (2 Cor. 4:16-18).

This encourages me to look at my challenges in life from God's perspective or as "momentary, light affliction" that produces the future eternal glories of heaven. Heaven becomes more appealing to me each and every day.