The Cure for Anxiety

By Ernie and Mary Kroeger

Jesus came to His people, the Jews; they were God’s chosen people, taught and schooled in the promises of God, but they needed to be introduced to the kingdom of God. They knew a lot of things about God, but they did not know Him as Father, so they were full of anxiety. Anxiety was also common in the apostle Paul’s time, for he wrote, “Be anxious for nothing.” (Phil. 4:6) What about today? Do Christians worry? Why of course they do! It is so common for them to do so that it is not even considered to be an evidence of “little faith”.

Jesus addressed this problem in Matthew 6:24-33. “For this reason I say to you, do not be worried about your life, as to what you will eat or what you will drink; nor for your body, as to what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his life’s span? And why are you anxious about clothing? Observe how the lilies of the field grow; they do not toil nor do they spin, yet I say to you that not even Solomon in all his glory did not clothe himself like one of these. But if God so arrays the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, will He not much more do so for you, O men of little faith! Do not be anxious, then, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or, ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘With what shall we clothe ourselves?’ For all these things the Gentiles eagerly seek; for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first His kingdom, and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added to you.” (NASB)

First of all Jesus addressed the uselessness of worrying by pointing out the greatness of God’s ability and the futility of humanity’s attempt to change what God has ordained. He then introduced God to them as their Father! They knew they were God’s people but they did not know Him as their Father who cared for their daily needs. In fact they prided themselves on being God’s chosen people. and considered the Gentiles as dogs in comparison. Jesus then told them that by worrying about their daily needs they were lowering themselves to the level of Gentiles who were seeking these things instead of desiring righteousness. Next, He told them what they needed to do.

Anxiety questions God’s ability or desire to provide the necessities of life for us. It measures the circumstances as being beyond God’s ability to overcome. We remember so well the story of Abraham, and how God told him to offer up his beloved son Isaac. In obedience to God’s command, Abraham raised his hand that held the knife that was destined to kill Isaac. God stopped him, and provided a lamb for the sacrifice. God proved that He was completely in charge of all the circumstances. This incident revealed the greatness of God in His ability to provide, and we now know Him as our Jehovah-Jireh—the God who provides! Abraham believed that God would resurrect Isaac in order to fulfill His promise to bring forth a great nation through Isaac, for as he left to sacrifice his son, Abraham said to his servants, “We will return”. He did not doubt God’s ability!

Anxiety is rooted in the fear that our needs will be greater than the supply. We look at the circumstances in the seen realm and see impossibility. Corrie Ten Boom wrote, "Worry is a cycle of inefficient thoughts whirling around a center of fear". That fear is rooted in the limitations of the seen realm and of self-effort. When all our circumstances point to insufficiency, and we do not see our Father God as our supplier, fear settles in. This fear is not from God, for God has not given us a spirit of fear. (2 Tim. 1:7) The seen realm presents limitations; faith looks beyond the seen realm! It looks into the unseen realm of our Father God’s unlimited resources, ability and faithfulness in keeping His promises!

Faith is rooted in the revelation knowledge of who our God and Father is. Our natural tendency is to put faith in the things we can see and the things that look reasonable to us. Our Father God wants us to have faith in Him and in His ability because we know Him as our Father—the supplier of all our needs!

Jesus did not point out their lack of faith as a put-down, but in order to give them the solution to their problem. If we don’t recognize our need, we won’t look for a solution, not will we accept one. If we think our philosophies will be the power to bring us into the righteousness of God, we will be satisfied with self-effort. If we do not have a love for truth, we will be satisfied with the lies that have become our truth!

It was very difficult for the Jews to accept a teaching that countered their indoctrinated idea of a great future earthly kingdom. They expected God to send them a great leader who would reestablish the kingdom of David. They did not understand that the historical kingdom was a shadow of the great spiritual kingdom that would be established in Christ. The teachings of Jesus were to open their hearts and understanding to some entirely new spiritual concepts!

Have you ever noticed how difficult it is for us to let go of a concept that we and those around us have always believed? At one time it was very shocking to hear that the earth was round - not flat. It often takes an earthquake or two to remove the lie we have embraced as truth. Religious ideas are even harder to remove! The Jews were entrenched in their idea of a great earthly kingdom, so the things Jesus said about a spiritual kingdom were not understood by them. They wanted a king and material prosperity. Have you ever thought that we may have the same heart condition? Jesus said that He is the truth, and that His words are spirit and are life. Since His words are spirit, they have to be understood spiritually. If we do not see them spiritually, we are downgrading them into the carnal realm.

Food is so important to the sustenance of life! In times of drought and disasters this becomes a major concern. For the poor and jobless this is a constant concern. To overcome the anxiety for the sufficiency of food Jesus told us to look at the birds in order to learn a lesson from them. Birds don’t toil at producing food, yet our heavenly Father supplies them with food. This reminds us of the Israelites in the wilderness who only had to pick up the manna that God provided for them daily. Birds too, only have to pick up the food that our heavenly Father supplies for them! Jesus is not promoting a life of laziness, but a life of trust!

Spiritually speaking, we also have to pick up the food that is supplied by our heavenly Father.

At the same time He is warning us that there is food that does not come from our heavenly Father. Birds symbolize our imaginations. There is always ample food for our imaginations that does not have its source in God. Instead, they come from our love of self and for the promotion of selfish desires. Their fulfillment depends on self-effort. Paul tells us that we are to cast down every imagination that does not have its source in God. Our imaginations work against the promises that our Father God has given us.

What about clothing? Why did Jesus tell us to look at the lilies of the field? We marvel at their whiteness and fragrance! Even Solomon with all his riches was not clothed as beautifully! Why? The lilies have been given clothes of white, symbolizing purity and righteousness. Solomon was not clothed with purity. His riches could not buy purity!

After teaching us that a life of faith includes trusting God’s ability to supply our physical needs, Jesus then gave us the basic principle for living a life that is free from anxiety. He said, “But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” (v. 33) Instead of first zeroing in on our earthly needs, we are to focus on the righteousness that is in the invisible kingdom that is ruled by God! This has to be our top priority! When our central focus is that of living in the righteousness of God, the fear of insufficiency loses its appeal and centrality.

A wonderful promise is given to those who obey this directive. Their worry and anxiety about food to eat and clothes to wear will be over, for all these things will be added or given to them. What a reversal of priorities this presents for most of us! Instead of relying on our own wits and ability to supply our needs, we now rely on the Holy Spirit to lead and guide us, and we know that we can trust Him!

But some questions still plague us. Does the kingdom of God exist at the present time, or do we wait for it to come in the future? Is it a physical kingdom that will be established in the future? If it is a spiritual invisible kingdom, does it run parallel with a physical kingdom? Is it for now? If we are to search for it, we also want to find it; we are not satisfied with only the search. For example, if I am looking for my watch, I want to search for it where it can be found. I am not satisfied with an unprofitable search.

The kingdom of God must exist at the present time, for God would not tell us to search for something that does not exist. How can something that does not exist be our priority? That would be a search in futility. But how do we search for something that is invisible? How can God’s kingdom and His righteousness be central in our every day living?

Jesus was very knowledgeable of our ignorance about the kingdom of God, so much of His teaching centered on this truth. In Mark 1:14 we read that “J esus came preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God.” His teaching astonished the Jews and angered the Pharisees. It may even astonish us. “ And when He was questioned by the Pharisees, as to when the kingdom of God was coming, He answered them and said, ‘The kingdom of God is not coming with signs to be observed; nor will they say, “Look, here it is!” or, “There it is!” For behold, the kingdom of God is in your midst.’ (Luke 17:20-21) Jesus wanted the Jews (and us) to know that the kingdom of God is not like other kingdoms with their outward show of power and magnificence. Since it is not in the seen realm, we don’t look for it in a certain seen location. Jesus answered that question by saying that the kingdom of God was in their midst. Who was in their midst? Christ was in their midst. God’s kingdom is Christ, and Christ now lives in us, the believers! Christ is the King, and His reign is one of righteousness! His kingdom is a spiritual kingdom within us, and He governs us by His Spirit! He is the truth, and His Spirit leads us into all truth!

In order to establish an earthly kingdom, we need a king and people over whom he rules. A government rules with laws that are put in place and then enforced. The king has a throne, and when he takes his seat on the throne his words become the rule and government. The throne symbolizes the authority of his government.

The invisible kingdom of God is very different from the earthly kingdoms we are acquainted with. Earthly kingdoms have laws that are forced upon its citizens. To maintain the king’s power and position, it is quite common that lies, deception, bribery, and sin of every description are used. God’s kingdom is NOT like that. God has given us Christ, and He lives within us. He is our rule and government in the Holy Spirit.

In His kingdom truth and love reign! Its citizens are not forced to obey; they obey because they trust their king; their obedience is a voluntary submission to His rule because they know that their king has all wisdom and that everything He plans and does is perfect and rooted in love! The immature have to learn how to hear the voice of the Spirit. The disobedient have to learn the folly of disobedience and thus learn obedience. Those who will not learn do not belong to this kingdom, for they are without faith.

The most important thing in this life is to become a citizen of this spiritual kingdom! Jesus Christ said that entering this kingdom is first in importance! But how do we enter an invisible kingdom? Do we have to die physically before we can find it? Jesus told Nicodemus that we have to be born again. This new birth does not take place through the will of man but by the Holy Spirit. To enter the invisible kingdom of God we have to be born of the invisible Spirit of God.

Our new birth makes us a new creation! (2 Cor. 5:17) Since it is a new creation it does not have a past! Our new birth takes us out of the old Adam man and transfers us into the new spiritual humanity that is in Christ! This new creation has the mind of Christ, and does not have any sin, for there is no sin in Christ. But our physical body still has that natural mind that cannot understand spiritual realities, so it is always against the mind of Christ. It focuses on the seen realm, on reasoning, on pleasurable feelings that have their source in the lusting of the eyes, the lusting of the flesh and the lustful pride of life. It focuses on the preservation and advancement of the self-life.

The self-life with its laws and regulations does not have any part in the kingdom of God. The kingdom of God is governed by a new law—by the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus! Every law in this kingdom brings forth life, for all are rooted in love—in the very essence of God. The old law of sin and death is rooted in the outward observance and obedience to its many decrees. Every act of disobedience carries with it a punishment that ultimately leads to death. The old law has no part in God’s kingdom.

There are two types of righteousness - the righteousness of the law and the righteousness of Christ. The righteousness of the law is produced by self-effort. It requires the strict adherence to the doctrines and decrees of the religion, organization or club of your choice, and the strict observance of its rules and regulations. This may look quite impressive. It may include regular church attendance, daily scripture reading, regular prayers, commitment to ministry, kind deeds and keeping the commandments of the denomination or organization of which you are a part. These things are all good, but when produced by self-effort, they do not measure up to God’s standard of righteousness.

The righteousness of Christ cannot be produced by self-effort. His righteousness can only be obtained by faith! Christ never sinned; He fulfilled the law; He only did what the Father showed Him to do. His obedience to the Father’s desires, even in the midst of the most horrible torture, was perfect! Our righteousness can never measure up to Christ’s righteousness, so the Christ in us has to become our righteousness by faith. The righteousness of Christ has to be first and central in our thoughts and actions!

In God’s kingdom everything is in the unseen spiritual realm, and it can only become ours by faith, and then it is manifested in the natural visible realm. Even our food and drink are spiritual. That may present a problem to us. Jesus said that we are to eat His flesh and drink His blood. How do we do that? Jesus said that He is the way, the truth and the life. His body is a body of truth. So to eat of Him we have to take in the life and truth that He is. How do we drink His blood? The correct translation of Lev. 17:11 states that the soul (not life) is in the blood. The soul is our sense of being that is derived from our mind, feelings and emotions. Christ’s sense of being was perfect. He knew who He was—the sinless Son of God! He only desired to do what the Father showed Him to do! As we take in and absorb the sense of being that Christ had, we too will only desire to do the will of God!

Another question that we often ask is, “What shall we wear?” Just as the physical body needs to be covered, so the new creation that we are needs to be covered. Will clothes that are fashioned by our righteousness do? No, we need a garment of righteousness that is given to us! In the parable of the wedding feast, the man who was not wearing wedding clothes given to him, was thrown out. In symbolism, he needed a garment that was not produced by his own righteousness. The Laodicean church in Revelation 3 was naked, and because she was blind, she was unaware of her nakedness! Adam and Eve were not aware of their nakedness until after they had sinned. Their self-effort to produce their own clothing made of fig leaves was not enough, so God made garments of skin for them. These garments were given to them. In Revelation we read that a white robe was given to them, and white symbolizes the unspotted garment of righteousness! In 1 Cor. 1:30 we read that Christ is our righteousness! His righteousness is pure and undefiled! Christ’s righteousness is the white clothing that is given to the citizens in the kingdom of God!

To those who first seek the unseen kingdom of God and the righteousness that is given to us in Christ, is the promise that they will be free from need! In the kingdom of God there is obedience and abundance. There is no evil. The serpent’s kingdom focuses on disobedience by making the counterfeit good look desirable. The knowledge of good and evil makes us think that we can choose the good and shun the evil. Adam and Eve received that idea when they listened to the serpent instead of listening to God and obeying Him. God said that they were not to eat any fruit of that tree. The good and evil of disobedience are one fruit! Christ never ate of that tree, for He always functioned in obedience!

In seeking first “the kingdom of God and His righteousness” our first intense desire is to become a citizen of God’s kingdom and be under His government! Obedience to His rule has to be central in our lives. The world offers so many substitutes—good things like family, health, honor, business expertise, fulfillment in a career or in good works, an extreme focus on success, sports, pleasures and relationships, and also many negative things. Everything that is not rooted in Christ is rooted in self, and everything that is rooted in self has to be rooted out!

The question is, do we accept Christ’s teaching, or do we do what is right in our own eyes according to our own good judgment? Do we exalt our own ideas above God’s wisdom? If we walk in self-reliance we are limited by our own resources for our supply. This opens the door to worry and anxiety. The obedience of faith and trust in God’s provision for us spiritually and physically opens a new door of unlimited provision, and this frees us from all anxiety!

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