A monthly column by Michael Cassidy, evangelist, author, Christian leader and founder of African Enterprise whose ministry in Africa and the world has spanned more than 50 years.
“Therefore, do not be anxious about tomorrow” (Matthew 6:34). The injunction of Christ could not be plainer. Yet tomorrow and the future remain a perennial source of anxiety to many people.
The variety of causes for anxiety is endless. Money, education, exams, health, marriage prospects, job opportunities, the stock-market, the international scene, the political future, etc. Basically, when all is said and done it is anxiety over tomorrow. The problem is faithlessness. The solution is faith. “Do not be anxious about tomorrow,” said Jesus. How hard we find this.
Yet, one of the great biblical principles is that life is so arranged by God that it comes to us, His creatures, in manageable units known as days. We cannot manage more. Nor can we plan for less. We are to pray “give us this day our daily bread.” The great concern of scripture is that we should live neither in the past nor the future, but in the present. For the man with his eye fixed on failures of the past or fears of the future is incapacitated for the demands of living today.
Of course, the very capacity to think reflectively and plan self-consciously for tomorrow is one of the things which distinguishes us from the animal world where future planning is done by instinct and therefore without anxiety. It is imagination – man’s special glory – which is also the cause of his special problem – anxiety – unless faith steps in to anchor his imaginings about the future in a sovereign, merciful and omnipotent God. The fact is that, true faith and self-surrender to God counteract our fears of tomorrow and enable us to fulfil our true glory as human beings which is to imbue today with the content of eternity – by kindness, forgiveness, compassion, and courage.
But it is just this tyranny of tomorrow which prevents most of us so effectively from letting the eternal into the temporal. We normally think it tragic to hear that someone has been sentenced to prison ‘for life’. But the person who sentences himself to the prison of anxiety over the next day, sentences himself to anxiety ‘for life’, even though the self-imposed life sentence comes only a day at a time.
In fact, the tyranny of the next day can be broken in one of two ways – either by truly dying, or by truly living. For the dying man there is no next day because he will not be alive to see it. For the ‘truly living man’ there is, in a sense, no next day either because his grasp of the eternal has superseded the temporal and rendered the next day powerless. Like one who rows a boat with his back to the goal, so the man who is eternally absorbed in ‘today’ can turn his back on the future goal towards which he is seeking to move. He shuts out and safeguards tomorrow by concentrating on today.
Jesus lived this way. He crammed each day with the values of eternity so the future had no power over him. No doubt He thought of it – but with total faith in His Father, and therefore not with fear. His challenge to us in our anxieties is to live utterly absorbed in the present, with our lives anchored in Him.
We hold Him and He holds tomorrow, thereby freeing us for today. The result when we succeed is that today becomes well lived. As a wise person has said: “Today well lived makes every yesterday a dream of happiness and every tomorrow a vision of hope.”
So “do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Let the day’s own trouble be sufficient for the day.” — Matthew 6:34.