Let’s take a little test. I’ll give you pairs of like-sounding words. What do you think of first? Here are the pairs: dye or die, sleigh or slay, fowl or foul, pane or pain, mown or moan. Rather than thinking of pleasant things such as newly mown grass, we groan over the bad behavior of fellow workers. Our hearts fill with anxious thoughts. As already outlined, anxiety is a control issue. Things are out of control at the office. We do not know how to regain control. We worry and fret. Since anxiety is a control issue, to overcome worry, we don’t center our thoughts on food, clothing, and the future. “Seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you” (Matthew 6:33). We must learn submission to the sovereign, gracious control of God.
We do so through God’s word given in the Bible and through preaching and teaching. But look at Matthew 13:22. “The one on whom seed was sown among the thorns, this is the man who hears the word, and the worry of the world and the deceitfulness of wealth choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful” (Matthew 13:22). The word is the message of the kingdom. It is the message about the sovereign rule and reign of Christ. Christ died, rose, ascended, and reigns. “Christ is Lord” (Romans 10:9). Redemption, freedom from the anxiety of sin and guilt, comes to us through Christ.
However, anxiety chokes the word Christ gives us. Crowds press, surge and push us, and the close quarters frighten us. We find ourselves at the mercy of others. Likewise, weeds choke plants in a garden and prohibit growth. The word of God is a precious seed. Anxiety is a weed. Anxiety chokes the life from the tiny plant.
Jesus couples anxiety with the deceitfulness of riches. Adequate food, clothing, shelter, and comfort concerning the future yield a measure of contentment. Eagerness for riches undermines contentment. We think more money will quell anxiety. Greed works with anxiety to choke the word. As a result, we lack the fruit of peace and contentment. We are anxious.
Here is a danger. We need the message of the kingdom, the message of God’s control over all of life, to overcome anxiety. Yet this very anxiety chokes out the word in the gardens of our lives. We become too distracted to read the Bible or listen to a sermon, the very things we need. This reaction is nothing new. God knows. For this reason, is why He instituted the church and gave us His word as a means of grace. Anxiety signals our need.
We are “like a tree firmly planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in its season and its leaf does not wither; and in whatever he does, he prospers” (Psalm 1:3). We dwell on what we see, the leaves, and the clothing. But the leaves drop off in winter, and we mourn their loss. We must cultivate the hidden, the root. We must root ourselves in Christ. We must seek first the kingdom. Without the root, the tree dies. With the root, even when the leaves are gone, the tree remains strong. When we are deeply rooted in Christ, we gain contentment. Our priorities change. We learn contentment. We grow in our service to God and our faith in God.
We seek freedom from anxiety indirectly. For example, anxious children find security in the arms of their parents. Similarly, our safety is in God. We seek Him. We seek His Kingdom, first of all. As we do so, the things unbelievers seek, contentment, and freedom from anxiety are ours.