The Diagnosis and Cure for Anxiety (Matthew 6:19-34)


Sermon Manuscript . . .

Anxiety–The Diagnosis

Matthew 6:19-24

Seven years ago, I had a sharp pain in my stomach. The pain started small, kept increasing, and eventually became unbearable. I couldn’t identify the cause, so we went to the emergency room. I was a 21-year-old man, curled into the fetal position on the hospital bed. The physician came in and asked, “Where does it hurt?” I whispered, “My stomach.” He asked, “Where on your stomach?” I answered, “I don’t know.”

Then he started doing what all doctors do, touching different areas. “Does the pain worsen when I touch here?” No. “How about here?” No. “Here?” . . . “YEAH! And if you touch there again, I’ll kill you!” He said, “Yep, it’s the appendix! Order a CT scan, but I guarantee you, it’s the appendix.” Sure enough, got a CT scan–my appendix (normally the size of a small pinky finger) had swelled up to the size of a golf ball, and was likely to burst. They rushed me into surgery and removed it.

Often, people who struggle with anxiety feel a similar way. The pain they feel is difficult to identify. I’ll never forget sitting across from someone I love–he was having an anxiety attack, crying uncontrollably. I asked him, “What’s wrong?” He said, “Fear.” I said, “What are you afraid of?” With tears in his eyes, he looked up at me and said, “I don’t know.” Medical professionals don’t know either. Sure, they can mask the symptoms of anxiety with medication, but they can’t fix the problem, and they know it.

There is a popular theory today called “the theory of chemical imbalance.” There have been many studies done on the “theory of chemical imbalance.” Is anxiety caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain? The results are still inconclusive–there is no substantial biological evidence.

• https://www.health.harvard.edu/mind-and-mood/what-causesdepression

• https://www.health.harvard.edu/mind-and-mood/generalizedanxiety-disorder

Is there any hope for the anxious? All of us deal with anxiety–none of us are exempt. Some are predisposed toward the obvious physical symptoms . . . regular attacks, immobilizing fear, racing heart rate, diagnosis of a disorder. Others express their anxiety differently–some isolate during stressful times, some get angry and take out their stress on others. Some channel it into “workaholism” and work harder to try to overcome it. Others become overprotective (children, spouses, friends).

We all deal with fear–some are more rational than others. But  it is fear nonetheless. And we all deal with worry. We just handle the symptoms differently. Is there any hope for the anxious? Yes, I’m here tonight to tell you there is. I believe there is a better physician than any Harvard could produce. There is a physician who can diagnose the problem and provide the cure. It is none other than our Savior, Jesus Christ–He is the Great Physician. Like other physicians, he might press on some pain points tonight–but He will provide us an accurate diagnosis and an eternal cure.

Turn to Matthew 6. Verses 25 to 34 is where Jesus directly addresses this issue of anxiety. Many turn to this passage and read it alone to provide answers to anxiety–and it does provide the answers, the cure for anxiety. But if you just read this section, you miss the diagnosis work He does before this, identifying the cause. The two sections are linked with this phrase, “For this reason.” So there are two parts to this passage . . .

1. The diagnosis (the cause of anxiety) verses 19 to 24

2. The cure (the solution for anxiety) verses 25 to 34

1)  The Diagnosis

Let’s go back to verse 19 to see the Great Physician’s diagnosis, asking ourselves the question, what is the cause of my anxiety? Matthew 6:19 to 21, “ ‘Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; 21for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

The principle is simple–don’t place so much value on the earthly. Invest in the heavenly–it is a more secure investment. People say, “Invest in precious metals because they last forever and value is increasing.” James commands the rich to weep and howl because their gold and silver will rust before God in the last days. Earthly treasures fail, they are temporary, they are easily taken. Heavenly treasures fulfill and they are eternally secure.

What are the treasures of your heart? (And it doesn’t have to be money.) I’ll confess mine. My wife (Kingdom treasure), my kids (Kingdom treasure), my ministry (Kingdom treasure), financial security (earthly treasure), opinions of others–my reputation (earthly treasure), control over my own future (earthly treasure). What are the treasures of your heart?

Isn’t it interesting–when my marriage is wanting, when my kids are rebelling, when my ministry is declining, when my savings is depleting, when my reputation is shrinking, when control over my future I’m losing–I become anxious, stressed out? Jesus, the Great Physician, is onto something here. When treasures/idols have our heart and they don’t meet our needs, we become anxious. He’s moving closer and closer to the pain point.

Matthew 6:22 to 23, “ ‘The eye is the lamp of the body; so then if your eye is clear, your whole body will be full of light. 23But if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light that is in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!’ ” This is another simple illustration–eyes are lenses that allow light in. If your eyes are set in the light, light enters the body. If your eyes are bad, or set in darkness, darkness enters the body.

The object of your spiritual sight is important. Are your eyes set on the Light, the truth, the eternal? Or are your eyes set on the darkness, the lies of the world? “Money equals happiness” . . . “relationships provide security” . . . “recognition gives fulfilment” . . . “self-love equals true love” . . . are your eyes set on the darkness? “How great is the darkness” inside of you?

Those who have been overcome with severe anxiety recognize that great darkness, desperate, helpless, hopeless–the lies that captivate our eyes fill our heart and circle in our minds–and we begin to believe them, no hope, no light, great darkness. How are your eyes? What is the object of your spiritual sight? Is it the light of God’s truth? Or is it the darkness of the world’s lies?

Maybe the great darkness that you feel in times of anxiety is related to the object of your sight. Verse 24, “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.” Earthly masters are opposed to God. We know that we cannot serve both–it is idolatry. But what does this have to do with anxiety? Can serving earthly masters result in anxiety? Let me give a few practical examples.

1. John works really hard–he regularly works 60 to 70 hours a week. He is willing to do whatever is necessary for the bonus in the paycheck. Despite his best efforts, he loses his biggest client, resulting in the loss of tens of thousands of dollars. This news sends him into a tailspin of stress and frustration. The anxiety follows him home and he takes out his frustration on his wife and kids.

Could he be serving “financial gain”–a master that can never be pleased, no matter how much money is earned?

2. Sally has social anxiety–she has a difficult time in any social environment. She feels insecure, like everything she says is dumb, like everybody is evaluating what she is wearing, like she is either the center of all negative attention or absent from any positive attention.

Could she be serving the “fear of man”–a master that loves to remind her that the opinions of others are far more important than anyone else and she won’t ever be comfortable until she feels accepted by them?

Earthly masters, like financial gain and fear of man are ruthless, constantly pursuing what they promise without ever being fulfilled–of course this causes anxiety. Anxiety is painful, and it is hard–but to get to the core issue, you must evaluate the heart. Who or what is it that I am choosing to serve over God? As the Great Physician moves closer over pain points of our anxiety, the diagnosis becomes clearer. Finally he makes His diagnosis–here it is.

Diagnosis–anxiety comes as a result of idolatry. Anxiety is a symptom of pursuing, following, and trusting the idols of our heart, rather than trusting God. Jesus is the Great Physician, not just because of his incredible diagnosis work, but because He provides the cure for our problems. Praise God that He doesn’t point out the problem then leave–He isn’t a surgeon that leaves the patient open on the surgery table. Jesus fixes the problem, even the problem of anxiety.

2)  The Cure

Cure #1  Trust God because He provides

Here is a better Master–one worthy of your trust, one who is eternal, will not fail, loves you, and cares for you.

1.  God provides PURPOSE  Verse 25

Matthew 6:25, “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?” The implication is yes, life is more than food, and the body more than clothing.

Survival is not our end–which is evolution. Praise God, He did not throw us on Earth at random. We have a Creator who gives us greater meaning, and His Kingdom is greater than this world. “Seek His Kingdom and His righteousness.”

2. God provides WORTH  (Verse 26)

Matthew 6:26, “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?” Think about the maturation and growth of animals. How do they figure it all out? Instinct–who put it there? Maybe a Creator. Jesus, your Creator, says you are worth more than the birds to me!

Genesis 1:26, “Then God said, ‘Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” Don’t let the world sell you short–your Creator defines your worth.

3. God provides CONTROL  (Verse 27)

Matthew 6:27 (NASB95), “And who of you by being worried can add a single hour to his life?” Funny, is that anxiety helping you to live longer? 10 simples steps for a longer life . . .

1.  Go outside more often

2.  Hang out with friends

3.  Daily exercise

4.  Floss daily

5.  Have more sex

6.  Eat vegetarian

7.  De-stress (get rid of anxiety)

8.  Get more screenings and tests

9.  Turn off your TV

10.  Avoid risks

Worrying about stuff like this every day is going to kill you. Who is ultimately in control of my days? Psalm 139:16, “Your eyes have seen my unformed substance; and in Your book were all written the days that were ordained for me, when as yet there was not one of them.” Don’t be reckless, but don’t be so anxious about the number of your days–God is in control.

4. God provides NEEDS (Verses 28 to 32)

Matthew 6:28 to 32, “And why are you worried about clothing? Observe how the lilies of the field grow; they do not toil nor do they spin, 29yet I say to you that not even Solomon in all his glory clothed himself like one of these. 30But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, will He not much more clothe you? You of little faith! 31Do not worry then, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear for clothing?’ 32For the Gentiles eagerly seek all these things; for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things.”

If he can clothe the dead, brown, Southern California hills with poppies, will He not much more clothe you? Do not doubt the providential goodness of our Heavenly Father!

James 1:17, “Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow.”

Psalm 127:2, “It is vain for you to rise up early, to retire late, to eat the bread of painful labors; for He gives to His beloved even in his sleep.”

1 Peter 5:7, “casting all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you.”

How small is our faith! R. Mounce says, “Worry is practical atheism and an affront to God.” Jesus says the same thing–that worry is the business of Gentiles who don’t know God. They seek comfort, provision, satisfaction and fulfillment in things that do not provide. God our Heavenly Father is the ultimate provider–He knows our need and is faithful to provide it. The question is, “Do you trust Him?” We can, because He provides our needs.

Cure #1:  Trust God, because He provides

Cure #2:  Focus on the mission

Matthew 6:33 to 34, “But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. 34 So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” God’s Kingdom is bigger than your paycheck, your social security, your pension, the square footage of your house, your kid’s GPA, your kid’s athletic stats, your popularity at work, your social media following, your anxiety! Set your sights on something more secure–His Kingdom and His righteousness.

Don’t bet against the kingdom of God. It is a secure investment–buy shares quickly, go “all in” for Jesus. God will save sinners and judge His enemies. Who are you? It is most important that you are in the Kingdom and covered in His righteousness. Don’t let the worry for food or clothing distract you. Priorities, priorities–Jesus says, “You need a righteousness that exceeds that of the Pharisees.”

The Pharisees were good–Jesus says you’ve got to be better. This is not a righteousness that you can earn. If the Pharisees couldn’t, you can’t. You need a substitute righteousness, a righteous life outside of yourself–you need the righteousness of Jesus Christ. Jesus lived the perfect life you couldn’t.

He died on the cross bearing the weight of all your anxiety, all of your unnecessary worry–He took it to the grave. He rose again from the dead, declaring victory over (among many other sins) anxiety. He opened the gates to the Kingdom, providing a way for men to be right with God. He’s coming back to gather all His people to Himself, all the Kingdom citizens, and establish His earthly Kingdom here. We will be with Him–our faith will become sight.

Why are we here? Why is there this gap between Christ’s life, death, resurrection and return? Because God initiated an incredible assimilation plan for His Kingdom–it’s the Church. We have a mission to make disciples for the King! We must get our eyes off earthly treasure, off our needs and “seek God’s kingdom and His righteousness.”

Vine’s dictionary defines “merimnao” (anxious) as “a distracting care”. Worry and anxiety are a major distraction from your mission. Why don’t you distract yourself from your anxiety and focus on your mission? Don’t be immobilized by fear–but be mobilized for mission!

So . . . what are the treasures of your heart (verses 19 to 21)? Are your eyes set on the light or the darkness (verses 22 to 23)? Who or what are you choosing to serve over God (verse 24)? This may point to the cause of your anxiety.

What is the cure? Trust a better Master, the Heavenly Father who provides for you. “Seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness.” Focus on your mission.

Discussion Questions

1.  Why are people so anxious today?

2.  What are the most common “trust idols” that anxious people deal with?

3.  If anxiety is a proclivity, what are some practical ways to prevent it?

4.  How do I counsel a friend or family member who has been diagnosed with Anxiety Disorder and is currently taking medication for it?

About Morgan Maitland

Morgan is the high school pastor at Faith Bible Church.

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