The Resistance Against Worry (Advent week 3)

The Resistance Against Worry (Advent week 3)


Sunday, December 11, 2022  Brad Barrett

Advent:  The Resistance Against Worry

Series:  “Resistance of Light Against the Dark”

Whenever we pastors teach on a topic, it is common that we are tested in our own souls on that area.  Last week Matt talked about hurrying vs. resting in Jesus.  He was tested in that.  Today’s topic is about worry.  Anxiety.  I’ll let you guess what I have been tested in this week.

When that happens, it makes a pastor wonder if there are topics he should avoid preaching on.  Like the topic of patience.  Do I really want to be tested any more in patience than I already am?

I’m kidding.  Teaching helps us to grow, and we value that.  Our sermons are given in real time.  We never want them to be theoretical.  We strive to walk in what we teach.   So as you pray for us, pray for things like that:  for our growth, our obedience. 

Our sermon series this month is focusing on the Advent of Jesus Christ.

You’ve heard us say for several weeks now that “Advent” means “Coming” or “Arrival.”  Specifically, we mean the arrival or coming of Jesus Christ. 

There are two arrivals.  One is in the past, the other is in the future.  Both are pictured in this passage.

40 days after his resurrection, Jesus spoke his final words to his disciples, and then we see this: 

Acts 1:9–11 CSB After he had said this, he was taken up as they were watching, and a cloud took him out of their sight.  While he was going, they were gazing into heaven, and suddenly two men in white clothes stood by them.  They said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking up into heaven? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come in the same way that you have seen him going into heaven.”

Both Advents are in view here.  In the final minutes of his First Advent on earth, Jesus ascended literally and bodily into heaven.  Then two angels prophesy of the Second Advent saying, “He’s going to come back in the same way some day.”

A key doctrine of the Christian faith is that Jesus has come once…and he is coming to earth again soon.  This is the constant message of the NT.

This morning, we’ll connect all that to our topic of worry.

Our Advent series this month is entitled, “The Resistance of Light Against the Dark.”

This title implies some sort of conflict.  We could even call it a war.  The NT consistently speaks of life in terms like this.  Light fighting against dark.  Light represents God and righteousness.  Dark represents the devil and evil.

Every person on this planet, including us, has darkness pressing in on us, fighting against us, trying to pull us away from the light, that is, God, and pull us into darkness.

For those of us who have embraced Jesus Christ as our Lord, we now belong to a new kingdom.  A kingdom of light.

Yet as long as we are in this world, the NT repeatedly tells us there is a conflict in three ways between the light and the darkness. 

One:  a conflict within us, called the desires of the flesh.  The flesh is part of our humanity that is broken and flawed. 

And then two conflicts from the outside pressing in on us:  the lies of the devil and the alluring desires of the world and its system. 

One example:

1 Peter 2:11 CSB Dear friends, I urge you as strangers and exiles to abstain from sinful desires that wage war against the soul.

We have sinful desires that press in on us in a way that Peter describes as a war against our souls.  If you know Jesus, you already know this struggle.  You want to do right, but wrong presses in at times so strongly that the word “war” sounds about right. 

So, thus, the call of our series title:  “The Resistance of Light Against the Dark.”

Last week, Matt spoke of one aspect of darkness we must resist:  Hurry.  Busyness.  Today, we will look at one other aspect:  Worry.  Next week we’ll talk about Despair.

Our goal is to help us draw near Jesus Christ and see how both his First and his Second Comings are our hope in this struggle.

So on today’s topic of worry, I don’t think I have to persuade any of us how pervasive “Worry” is in our lives.  But we may need reminders to know just how spiritually debilitating worry is.  And we may need help to know how to fight against it and win.  How to find a place of peace instead of anxiety. 

In Jesus’ much loved Parable of the Sower, he speaks of one type of soil that does not bear fruit.  It’s a soil that is filled with thorns.

Matthew 13:22 CSB Now the one sown among the thorns—this is one who hears the word, but the worries of this age and the deceitfulness of wealth choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful.

The worries, the anxieties of life, along with the deceitfulness of wealth—like weeds and thorns in the garden—choke out the seed of God’s Word that is sown in our lives.  You gardeners understand this quite well. 

Surely every one of us has worries and anxieties at least occasionally.  Some of us feel like we have worries constantly.  When we worry, the growth and the fruit that God wants to bring out of our lives is being choked.  Stunted. 

Defining Worry

Let’s begin with defining worry.  We use other words that can mean the same thing:  anxiety, stressed out, panicking, fearful.

Here’s my shot at defining it:

Worry is “a fearful concern or interest”.

It’s an apprehensive uneasiness in our minds and hearts over some issue or need.

It’s completely appropriate that we have concern over something or someone.  But that can easily cross a line where it becomes fear.   If worry and fear are not synonymous, they are certainly close cousins.  (Jesus indicates this in Luke 12:32.)

I was fascinated when I looked up in the dictionary the definition of worry.

Worry is from an old word in English and in German that means to strangle or to choke.

And the dictionary said this:  Worry is “to harass by tearing, biting, or snapping especially at the throat.”

I read that and I immediately thought of our dog, Maximus.  Once he had a baby rabbit in his mouth and was shaking it violently back and forth.  Our dog was “worrying” the rabbit.

That’s what worry is like to us:  It is a concern—even a real, genuine concern—that has gone ROGUE.  And that “rogue concern” has us by the throat and is shaking us.  Harassing us.  Choking us. 

Worry chokes our souls because something in our life is not in our control.  And when we can’t control it, we grow afraid.

One author said this:

“Central to worry is the illusion that we can control things”

Anxiety and control are often two sides of the same coin.  When we can’t control something, we worry about it.

What kinds of things do we worry about?  The list is very long.

  • Pressures of Final Exams and Final Projects.  (Any college students here this morning?)  J
  • Stresses of finances. 
  • Pressures from our jobs, our bosses.
  • Stresses of health problems. 
  • Relationship strains. 
  • Of watching someone suffer, but there is nothing you can do.

You can add your own anxiety to the list.

Prince of Peace

So at this point, we need to back the truck up.  How does the Advent of Christ relate to worry?

I want to begin with the beautiful name ascribed to Him:  The Prince of Peace. 

In a marvelous prophecy through the pen of Isaiah, we read:

Isaiah 9:6 ESV  For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

Reflect on that last title.  The Prince of Peace.  The Ruler who IS peace.  The One who has come to bring us peace.

One way he brings peace is through our salvation.

Romans 5:1 CSB Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.

This is the gospel message and the center of what it means to be a true Christian.  By our faith in Jesus—our trust in him and what he has done—we are justified.  Declared righteous before God.  No more wrath.  No more condemnation for our sins.  We are no longer enemies but friends.  Not because of our righteous efforts.  Because of Jesus’ righteous efforts.  God is now at peace with us.  The Prince of Peace has done that.

We might be tempted at this point to say, “Yeah, I know that.  That’s good and right for my salvation.  For eternal life.  But that doesn’t help my stress level today.”

I say that it should help us today.  Right now.  Even in the midst of the pressures and stresses we feel this week. 

So how possibly does the gospel message help me today in my worries?

When we consider our salvation, there is no trial we will ever encounter that is worse than the situation we were in before we knew Jesus.  And in great contrast, there is no better outcome we can ever imagine than the outcome of our salvation.

So since God has already shown you more grace and kindness and power than you can ever imagine, surely won’t he take care of you today?

This is Paul’s point in Romans 8:

Romans 8:32 CSB He did not even spare his own Son but gave him up for us all.  How will he not also with him grant us everything?

Our faith—our trust in God for today’s worries—is built upon the unshakeable foundation of our salvation—all because of the First Coming of Jesus.  Paul doesn’t write this merely for light reading material and a nice “feel good” pat on the back.  Rather, he writes this that we would be transformed.  That our thinking would radically change.  Our faith would powerfully grow.  And our anxieties would diminish. 

So right now, let each of us consider one pressure we are facing right now.  One worry that is strangling and harassing our minds and strength.  One thing that is out of our control, and we are afraid.

Now let me ask, “Is God a part of your equation in that worry?  Is he a major factor in the equation?  Or is he absent?”  With Romans 8:32 in mind,  God has already given us his Son to save our souls from hell and to grant you glorious, beautiful, never-ending life with Him.  Do we really think that he cannot and will not give us what we need in our trials?

When we worry, we are really saying, “Maybe God can save my soul for all eternity, but he can’t (or won’t) help me in this situation.”

Does this make sense?  Do we see how connecting the dots of our salvation to our current circumstances can change our lives and diminish our anxieties?

Jesus is the Prince of Peace, and he has come to bring peace between us and God and peace in our souls during our trials. 

Matthew 6:25-34

Let’s look at perhaps the longest and best passage in the Bible that addresses worry.  It is from Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount.  In this section, his focus of worry is about necessities of life.  Will we have enough food to eat and clothes to wear.  And I think we can easily recognize the application from this in about any area we are worried about. 

Matthew 6:25–34 ESV “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? 26 Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?

Pause here before reading further.  First, Jesus commands us to not be anxious.  He is not offering suggestions.  He is not asking for the impossible.  He commands us to be at peace, and he gives us a way to do that:  Be an observer.   Go outside.  Look at the birds.  Seriously.  Go look at them.  Doesn’t God provide for them?  Doesn’t he?  He will do the same for you, and even more, for you are created in the image of God.   You are infinitely more valuable than a bird!

27 And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?

 28 And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, 29 yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 30 But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?

Again pause.  He’s saying the same thing as before. Stop and consider. 

Vs. 27:  Does your anxiety add any time to your life?  Seriously, we need to answer this question:  How is my worry helping me??

Then vs. 28:  Look around at the flowers in the field.  Consider King Solomon in all his glory—even he couldn’t compare to the majesty and beauty of God’s creation.  Won’t he provide for you even more?  Jesus wants us to answer the question. 

And then Jesus startles us in the last words:  “O you of little faith.”  We may not connect our worry and anxiety with faith, but Jesus does.  He is saying that when we’re being strangled and harassed by our circumstances, the root problem is that we have “little faith.”

Since faith means trust, Jesus is saying, “Your trust in God is too small.  Too little.”  We don’t know God well enough.  we haven’t considered God and what he has done in this world—even providing for birds and clothing fields with flowers.  We haven’t connected the dots between God’s attributes and our difficult circumstance. 

When Jesus says we have “little faith,” he is not diminishing our trials.  Rather, he is elevating God.  God is bigger and better and stronger and wiser and more caring than we are believing.

Does this make sense?  This is so important. 

31 Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. 33 But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.

 34 “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.

Your Father—who loves you so much that He sent his Son to save your soul— knows what you need.  He is attentive.  He is not asleep.  He has not forgotten.  He is cares about you.  He is for you more than you are for you.

So what should you do?  What is the first priority of your life to be?  Seek first…first…first.  Not second.  Not with our leftover time and energy.  Seek first the kingdom of God.  The things that concern our King.  The things that bring good to Jesus’ kingdom.  Do this, and God will take care of you.  This doesn’t mean that every circumstance will turn out the way we want it to.  But he will take care of us.

Consider Jesus.  When he was in the Garden just hours before he was going to be murdered, he was enduring more pressure than any of us will ever encounter.  Without exaggeration, the weight of the world’s sins were going to be thrust upon his back.  A humiliating and horrifying moment beyond any human comprehension.

What did Jesus pray?  “Father, if possible, take this cup (of suffering) from me.”  He wanted out of the trial.  He wanted to escape the impending pain.  This is normal and expected for us.  I think, generally, we can pray for our trials to be taken away. 

But then so importantly, what did Jesus pray immediately after that?  “Yet not what I will, but what you will.”

Jesus walked by faith.  By faith.  He trusted in our unseen heavenly Father.  He yielded his own control (remember that anxiety is often based on our lack of control)…. He yielded control over the situation to his good, gracious, powerful, attentive, loving heavenly Father.

That .is the place where we want to land.  To make our request to our kind heavenly Father. 

  • To ask for the trial to be taken away. 
  • To have the cancer removed. 
  • To pass our Final Exams. 
  • To have adequate finances. 

Such requests are good and right before our attentive heavenly Father.

But may we finish that prayer also in faith by saying, “Yet not what I will, but what you will, dear Father.”  We yield control.   We don’t have control, and it frightens us.  Lack of control awakens our fears into a choking, strangling worry.  But we yield by faith….in TRUST…in confidence in our good Father. 

When our trust in our Father is small, it is because our knowledge of Him is small.  Or incomplete.  Or simply inaccurate.   Or we have simply forgotten about him.

Are we growing in our true knowledge of Him? 

In the middle of overwhelming and agonizing trials in his nation Judah, the prophet Jeremiah prayed this:

Lamentations 3:22–24 CSB Because of the Lord’s faithful love we do not perish, for his mercies never end.  They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness!  I say, “The Lord is my portion, therefore I will put my hope in him.”

Throughout Scriptures, we find men and women like Jeremiah enduring incredible hardships, and though they are in anguish, they find that God is good.  That He is enough.  And they trust him. 

We cannot cast off anxiety and find God’s peace by some formula or four easy steps.  A self-help book may have some nice suggestions, but we need so much more.

We must know our God.  The more we know him truly, the more we will trust in him.  Jesus Christ—our Creator and our Savior—commands us to not worry.  He commands us to trust our heavenly Father.  And he does not command the impossible.


So let’s get practical.  How can we move from worry to peace?

Talk to your Father.

Jesus in the Garden poured out his anguish to his Father.  We must do the same.

Tell him your burdens.  Make your requests.

Philippians 4:6–7 CSB Don’t worry about anything, but in everything, through prayer and petition with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.

Ask Your Father to help.  And ask others to pray with you.  And for you.   After this service, if you are weighed down by your burdens, have the courage and the humility to ask someone here to pray with you right here.  Before you leave.    

After we ask, we ought to give thanks, Paul says.  What do we thank him for?  Everything!

  • We thank him that he loves us enough to send his Son.
  • That he is powerful and faithful and caring and merciful.
  • That he has been faithful to us in the past.
  • That our eternal future is secure through the indwelling Holy Spirit.
  • That even if his answer to my prayer is not what I wanted, God is still good.

We ask.  We give thanks.  And we yield control to him.  Jesus:  “Take this cup, yet not what I will but what you will.”

In addition to praying and having others pray for you, you may want to write out or talk to someone about the specifics of your anxiety.

In September my wife and I flew to North Carolina to see our new grandson.  I was anxious about traveling.  Flying can be an adventure.  But I wasn’t anxious about some vague “Traveling thing.”  I was anxious about a few specific things.  So I wrote out 6 specific things I was anxious about, from the most difficult to the least.  It was helpful to articulate specifically what I was anxious about.  So I looked at each of the six things I wrote.  I prayed that they would go well.  But then I looked at each thing, and I asked, “Even if it doesn’t go the way I want, is God still good?  Is his grace enough?”  So for our trip, writing out and praying through that list…. plus asking my Community Group to pray for me resulted in a very peaceful travel. 

So we offer up our burdens to our heavenly Father.

1 Peter 5:7 NIV Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.

 He loves you.  He really does.  The Advent of Christ proves it.

God does not tell us such things as nice theory.  He tells us so that we will trust him.  That we will find the peace found in the Prince of Peace.  So talk to your Father.

Fill your mind with good things.

Often our thoughts start spinning out of control.  We fixate on potential negative outcomes, and we become basket cases.

We have to make some choices here as to what we are thinking about and filling our minds with.  Jesus told us that in Matthew 6 to consider the birds and the flowers of the field.

Paul tells us to fill our minds—not with wild, speculative thinking that spirals out of control—but instead to think about true things.  Holy things.

Philippians 4:8 NIV Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.

The list is long what we can fill our minds with.

  • God’s Word.  We can read stories of God’s people—like Jeremiah in Lamentations—and our faith is strengthened. 
  • Christ’s Advent and its implications for me.  Like in Ephesians 1 that loudly trumpets our identity in Christ. 
  • Good music
  • Make a list of things we can thank God for
  • Serving other people, getting my mind off my own problems and be a giver. 
  • If my worry has paralyzed me, I may need to simply get up and do something.  Get busy and accomplish what I need to do.
  • On and on.

Fill our minds with good things. 

Focus just on today.

We read this verse earlier, but I haven’t commented on it yet.

Matthew 6:34 CSB  Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.

Jesus’ instruction here has been a life saver for me in the past 5 to 10 years. 

Many times my mind can go racing ahead to tomorrow and next week and 20 years down the road.

  • How will this situation work out?
  • How will I have enough time next week to accomplish what is on my list?
  • What if the economy crashes next year?
  • Will I have enough money in retirement in 20 years?

Jesus’ command here is immensely practical.  “Don’t fret about tomorrow.  Focus on today.  Trust your Father today.  Then when tomorrow comes, do that again.”  He gives us the grace we need for today…today.  Tomorrow we will need a fresh batch of grace.  It’s like oxygen.  We need oxygen today to breathe.  But we cannot store it up for tomorrow.   Tomorrow we will get a fresh supply of oxygen. 

Jesus’ words here have kept me from falling into the deep end of the pool and drowning from all my worries.


Worry can strangle us.  It can shake us like a dog with its jaws clamped on the throat of a small rabbit.

But the Prince of Peace calls us to himself.  He call us to Himself and find peace with God Almighty.  He calls us to his loving, powerful, attentive Father.

The First Advent of Christ places us in a glorious position of peace with God.  And it reveals the extent of God’s care for us.

The Second Advent gives us hope that even when life is very hard… and it threatens to crush us….and it tempts us to fret and worry… our future hope in glory is guaranteed and brings a stability and a peace that is incomprehensible.